Knowledge Hub

How to lead a team split by technology?

By Dale Pearson

Technology can be a huge boundary for many teams—and not just because Mike forgot to attach the document to the email ...again. Knowledge gaps are one thing, but differing attitudes towards technology, if left unaddressed, can be a silent source of destruction within a team. We asked Common Purpose alumni: what should you consider if you have to lead across technological boundaries? Here are five of our favourites:

Danny 10.28am

Did he just say that?

Cassie 10.28am

lololololololol!

Danny 10.28am

Make sure you ‘tweet’ it to Instagram as well

Cassie 10.29am

…and LinkedIn

Danny 10.29am

don’t forget Myspace

Alex 10.29am

and friends reunited - LOL!!!

Danny 10.30am

...

Danny 10.30am

...shut up, Alex.
Load more

Not everyone is social

This is a big one. Attitudes to social media are the source of no end of problems in many organizations.

If you’re the social media-savvy one in your team, it can be frustrating to work with other people who are sceptical. Vice versa, there can be nothing more disquieting than constantly being pressured to ‘get involved’ when you just don’t want to.

At least part of the problem is the way the two camps perceive each other. It’s easy to view social media usage as a competency gap, but often, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Your attitude towards social media likely has more to do with your attitude towards privacy in general. Private people are more likely to see using social media for work as an invasion of their personal space—especially if they’re the type of person who brings more of a professional persona to office and cringes at the idea of blurring the lines.

If social media is proving a problem, take positive action. Pick a platform everyone feels comfortable using (no-one should have a problem with the more corporate-focussed LinkedIn); set goals for the team as a whole; and get them to coach each other. The frequent users will perhaps start to understand their colleague’s reluctance and the stragglers will begin to see how they could make social media work for themselves.

Cassie 11.32am

Alex, where is the project plan saved?

Alex 11.32am

I filed it

Cassie 11.33am

Really? I can’t find it on the system.

Alex 11.33am

It’s in my special filing space

Cassie 11.33am

...

Cassie 11.33am

u mean the project plan is in your head don’t you, Alex?

Alex 11.34am

Cassie 11.36am

Do you remember when phase 1 starts?

Alex 11.36am

no

Cassie 11.36am

I despise you.
Load more

Project management can be hell

In theory, project management software is a no-brainer - a centrally held workflow which everyone can feed into and draw upon. But sometimes when teams take up these digital tools it can cause fractures. And again, like social media, the problem goes beyond just who has the skills to work it.

For some people, their to-do-list is sanctuary; a crossed-off task using a good biro is nothing short of catharsis. So when you say: “you will be organizing your time with this widget, from now on”, it can feel like an affront to their own personal autonomy. On the other hand; don’t underestimate just how much Molly will silently seethe because her urgent request got lost in Jim’s post-it note eco-system.

If you think PM software is the answer, get your team to choose the software themselves and get them to determine how they will use it. This will help create buy-in. For many, it will be just as much about how software looks and feels, more than its functionality.

And communicate. Don’t let software replace conversations and common courtesy. We use technology to make life easier - not so we don’t have to talk to each other.

Danny 12.54pm

Hey guys check it out…

Danny 12.54pm

Label label = new Label("Name"); TextField name = new TextField(20);

Cassie 12.54pm

Hahahahaha

Alex 1.00pm

I don’t get it…

Cassie 1.00pm

try it in CSV mode!

Danny 1.01pm

okay...

Danny 1.03am

class NameHandler implements ActionListener { public void actionPerformed(ActionEvent evt) {

Cassie 1.03pm

Hahaha, even better!

Alex 1.03pm

I don’t understand what’s going on
Load more

Speaking tech

If you’re a techie, you learn to speak the lingo: CSS-this and dynamic tessellation-that. But what if you work with people that aren’t? Tech-speak (...or finance-speak, or marketing-speak or any-speak for that matter) can be baffling to the uninducted.

This is a tricky question and inevitably there’s no easy answer. Most multi-national football teams make a point of having only one language spoken in the dressing room and there might be something in that.

Wherever you find the balance, often the key is making sure both sides of the language barrier realize they have a responsibility to cross it, and to assist each other in crossing it. Be patient; if someone gets scoffed at for mixing up their http from their HTML, they will be unlikely to make the effort again.

Cassie 3.20pm

Alex, did you follow up on yesterday’s client meeting?

Alex has left the conversation

Cassie 3.21pm

Alex, I think you just closed our chat. I was asking, did you follow up on yesterday’s client meeting?

Alex has left the conversation

Cassie 3.22pm

This is incredibly unprofessional, Alex.

Alex has left the conversation

Load more

Draw the line somewhere

I have a friend who serves on a board of governors at a school. One of her fellow governors doesn’t have an email address.

You did read that correctly.

He insists on all documents being posted out to him, and he responds with his feedback in the same snail-mailish way. At worst, he slows down the whole process; at best he’s just an unheard voice: vainly annotating documents that are always 3-5 working days out of date.

It’s okay to not be a tech-whizz, but at the same time, you do have to change with the world around you. This governor's refusal to make even the most basic of concessions, if nothing else, shows a lack of empathy for his peers, the school and its pupils.

Take people’s concerns seriously when they say that technology is a struggle, but do question them when their reluctance becomes a barrier to creating a better product, or delivering a better service.

Danny 4.50pm

Cassie, the website only got 12,000 views last month

Cassie 4.51pm

12,000?!

Cassie 4.51pm

Amazing!!

Cassie 4.51pm

This is incredible!!!

Cassie 4.52pm

We should celebrate!

Cassie 4.52pm

I deserve a raise!

Danny 4.53pm

The month before, it got 84,000 views

Cassie 4.53pm

So?

Danny 4.53pm

So that’s much more

Cassie 4.53pm

… I really feel like you’ve misinterpreted this data
Load more

Data

For many industries, the data revolution is changing everything; from the way we measure performance to the way we generate business. But within a team, data can cause boundaries. Who will interpret the data? Who will misinterpret the data? Who trusts the data completely? Who would still rather rely on instinct and intuition?

Listen acutely whenever data enters the conversation. Who feels overly vindicated? Who drops away? Who is talking at cross purposes? As a leader, you have to bring people around to a common vision. And data can strengthen the vision but it’s not the end in itself. Data might be king but don’t let it end conversations if you think they need to continue.