Minding Manners

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 25 February 2015
Ella Nilakanthi Ford
Vision Consulting Ltd

NilaKanthi Ford writes:

Minding manners – why it’s important and why the rise of massive data analysis will affect decision making and leadership.

Being polite is essentially the ability to pay attention and communicate.  Add to today’s business mix, electronic technology, working across cultures and infinite new, faster means to communicate – then we all have even more ways to be rude but will it affect our organisations?

How many times have you been in a meeting when you realise that the people you are talking to are all looking at their smartphones?  What happened to people making an effort to observe and listen? Etiquette is about human interaction- the essence of everything that can be good or bad.  The art of reading a meeting is rapidly being lost.

Technology is even more intrusive in that it that makes interaction instant.  It used to take days or at the very least, the speed of a fax, to maintain a dialogue.  Today, it can happen in one simple click “Reply all”.  Before you become fully aware, you are engaged in an electronic ping pong interchange that can compound misunderstandings. 

Technology has enabled the creation of entire new categories of bad managers.  Twenty years ago no one would sit in a meeting without working at looking attentive.  So, why does using an expensive electronic gadget make it OK to ignore what is going on?  I can continue in this vein but I think you will understand my point?

Mobile phone manners are the worst.  There used to be a protocol of switching off your phone before a meeting.  Now it seems OK for people to keep their phone on and answer it immediately or leave the room as if they were completely indispensable.  The mobile has become a vehicle for posturing rather than staying in touch.

Email can be damaging.  The very instant nature of its use combined with the fact that you cannot “hear “the emotion with which the communication was issued can lead a raft of misinterpretations.  Combine this with differences in time zones and you could have the making of a major transatlantic breakdown!  

I have carried out countless interventions in companies where they maintain that communications have broken down between one location and another.   On so many occasions, this was triggered through the offence caused by a curt email sent overnight to a recipient who cannot speak to the sender as their time zone leaves them 12 hours or so adrift from each other’s days.

The art of composition is being lost in emails.  Replies can become scribbled one liners and even basic courtesies like addressing the recipient or signing off can be lost in the haste to respond.  Thanks to technology we are continually being interrupted – we even interrupt ourselves. Organisations really must put in place basic guidelines on technological courtesies before the technological era overtakes them. 

We are now living in a “big data” world.  Businesses are scrambling to cloud technology and instant demand data storage and services.  Big data analysis is becoming the norm.  The idea that with enough data and computing power the right answers or patterns inevitably emerge is likely to change decision making and planning.  Will it also alter the definition of what constitutes talent and leadership in organisations? 

Inevitability, the availability of prodigious amounts of data combined with statistical tools to make patterns of the information will enhance our ability to codify the world.  However, today’s leaders will need to work even more on discovering their individual creativity, inspiration and understanding.   In fact, I would suggest that intuition and experience will never become out-moded but learning how to use these skills effectively in this new era will require even more attention.

In conclusion, as the world is changing so dramatically, companies, law firms, all organisations must all put in place corporate guidelines on workplace etiquette as well as management and leadership skills to enhance the effects of the technological and data revolution.  Does your firm have such recommendations in place?

This article is correct at 13/10/2015
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Ella Nilakanthi Ford
Vision Consulting Ltd

The main content of this article was provided by Ella Nilakanthi Ford. Contact telephone number is +353 860 888 889 or email ENKFord@Vision.com

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