Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
email credit istockphoto.com
email

credit istockphoto.com

On leadership: boxed in your inbox?

The Life: Email appears to have ushered in a new management style, causing some disruption in the workplace.

I wonder if email has become a replacement for good old-fashioned leadership.

Being a fan of my iPad and smartphone and addicted to email like the rest of society, there is no doubt it has definitely changed the way we work. It appears to have become a core business activity as executives regularly speak of going to "do email" as if it were a critical action. Whenever I hear that I pause and wonder what do they mean. Do they mean "emptying" their inbox? Or filling up someone else's?

Nevertheless, in reality, business life has accepted the task of email and allowed it to replace the essence of management - communicating, assigning work, providing accountability and developing people.

It seems email has ushered in a new management style - so out with MBWA (management by walking around) and in with MBEA (management by emailing around). We used to manage face-to-face. In that environment, we knew our employees much better than we do in this email era.

It may be speedy to pop off a couple of words rather than pick up the phone or go see someone but this change in leadership style is causing some disruptions in the workplace.

No longer is the leader and the her diary in charge of the rhythm of business. Now, the inbox is as important as most leaders keep one eye on their email inbox or the little blinking light on the BlackBerry. When the "you've got mail" indicator illuminates, the temptation is to respond immediately. The speed of the inbox filling up and the desire to be prompt and keep the message count to a minimum has become a vicious game.

I wonder what started that off - the desire to respond in a timely fashion or to have a clean inbox?

Many times when pressing send, leaders forget about the emotion of work and the distraction an email can bring to a motivated worker. While unintentionally hiding behind the keyboard, leaders type words in ways they would never speak over a phone or face-to-face - whether they are one-word answers, bullet points or contentious phrases. Before you press send, think about the impact the email will have on the motivation of your employees.

Email is like any other form of communication and should focus on making the message clear for the recipient. When a leader looks at a computer screen and sees a reflection it is his or her own, often representing the thoughts of the sender. This reflection reiterates the need to see the other person and imagine you are speaking with him or her face-to-face. What would you say if you were face-to-face?

There is no doubt leaders intend to be clear and the message they are communicating is clear in their heads - but somewhere between pressing send and the message opening up in the recipient's inbox it gets stripped of context. I am curious how clear are the majority of emails employees read.

When relied on as a primary communication tool, email can be very dangerous. Open and honest two-way communication is one of the top drivers of employee engagement. Perhaps it is time we walk away from the keyboard and go lead.

Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging market leadership, an advisor and the author of The CEO Shift. He is the founder and managing director of the Emerging Markets Leadership Centre

twitter: Follow and share our breaking business news. Follow us

iPad users can read the digital edition of business section as it was printed via our e-reader app. Click here


Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 The Greens, villas: Q1 no change. 3BR - Dh210-250,000. 4BR - Dh210-260,000. 5BR - Dh220-300,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 5% rise. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Where Dubai rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Dubai have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 The cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Tyn nad Vltavou in Czech Republic. The country wants to continue expanding nuclear energy capacity despite cancelling a tender to build two new units. David W Cerny / Reuters

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 17, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 17, 2014.

 Three generations of the Hakimi family tend to their stall Crawford Market in Mumbai. Subhash Sharma for The National

In pictures: Shopper’s delight at Crawford Market in Mumbai

Crawford Market is an old British-style covered market dealing in just about every kind of fresh food and domestic animal imaginable. Later on renamed Mahatma Jotirao Phule, the market remains popular among locals and visitors by its old name, taken from Arthur Crawford who was the first municipal commissioner of the city.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National