Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

How to Disassemble Robots

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Guest post by Amy Blankson

Have you ever seen The Matrix, Terminator, Minority Report or Ex Machina? All of these movies have one thing in common: they focus on the concept of transhumanism—the idea that technological innovation can help us surpass our human limitations, making us, literally, superhuman.

It may seem closer than we think in our Digital Era. We are constantly strapped to our technological devices—our phones, apps and laptops—answering emails, keeping track of schedules, updating social platforms and checking the news. Our technology has become our “transhuman” extension, but for business leaders, is this a good thing? Should our employees become robots?

Robot

The answer, of course, is no. As leaders, we must be able to pause and be intentional about the messages we are sending through our technology habits. We must consciously cultivate a set of healthy tech practices to ensure employee morale remains high—and independent of technology.

Here are three easy tech tips that business leaders can practice to increase employee satisfaction and disassemble robot behavior:

  1. Limit your information feeds.

In our Digital Era, it might seem like every business decision we make weighs heavily on the amount of time spent negotiating, responding and posting to online portals. The more time spent in front of screens, the more efficient we can be, right? Wrong.

Just like most things we do in life, everything is better in moderation. We need to focus on the quality of our technology use, rather than on the quantity. None of us needs to check our email every 30 seconds. We can set up boundaries that allow us to get updated without becoming drones.

Limit your checking of information feeds (email, social media, news, sports) to three times a day. A recent study actually found that checking email less frequently significantly decreased stress, which led to increased social-connectedness.

  1. Use tech to tune in, not zone out.

It’s easy to get frustrated by the constant pings of urgency coming from our devices. Studies have found that as we become more accustomed to communicating through devices, we are losing the ability to connect on a deep, personal level in real time.

Let’s pivot that finding. As business leaders, how can we use our technology to improve communication, rather than hinder it? Skype allows us to see and talk to clients that are miles away from us geographically. It also allows employees to work from home if their child is sick or if they can’t make it into the office. These digital modes of communication can provide additional inroads for dialogue and relationship building in the workplace.

Find apps that allow you and your team to communicate effectively, and get rid of everything else. There is no need for technology in our lives that isn’t serving a positive purpose.

  1. Model digital citizenship in the workplace.

When an employee enters your office to ask you a question or discuss a new idea, are you still banging away at your keyboard, or texting furiously on your phone? Multitasking may look productive, but it is in fact counterproductive for critical thinking. If you practice these poor habits, it’s quite possible your employees will pick up on them, too.

As a leader, set up rules for yourself to model digital citizenship. When an employee comes to you for help, put away your phone and don’t glance at your computer. Give them your undivided attention. Take out your earbuds to say hello when someone walks by your office. You’ll be surprised at how much of an effect your behavior has for office morale—before long, your employees will begin to model your positive digital citizenship practices around the office.

In this uber-connected vortex we live in, it is essential that we consciously utilize technology so that we don’t become codependent robot drones. We need to be able to not just coexist with technology, but to thrive with it. By following the steps I’ve outlined above, we as leaders can move toward a harmonious technology culture—one that will not allow our devices to turn us (and our employees) into robots.

Questions: How does your organization deal with technology interruptions? Do you work in a harmonious technology culture? Please leave a comment in the space below.

Amy Blankson has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two U.S. presidents for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era. Amy received her BA from Harvard and MBA from Yale School of Management. Most recently, she was a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course. Amy is the author of two books: The Future of Happiness and an award-winning children’s book called Ripple’s Effect.


The Product Management Perspective: As the product leader, you interact with many individuals form different organizations. You will be well-served by paying attention to you “digital citizenship” in the workplace.

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