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If being a leader wasn’t already challenging enough, today’s constantly changing economy, multi-generational employees, and global environment make it even more difficult. There are advantages and disadvantages
leading teams that share your experience, skills, and background, however, having unique experiences, skills, and backgrounds helps improve diversity in the team’s thoughts and ideas.
When we share our personal experience or knowledge with our subordinates that allows us to grow and evolve. In a sense, we are able to grow to speak the same language. How does a CEO effectively lead his or her board of directors? The CEO may not have any background in finance yet is responsible for the
budget. How about marketing, logistics, and communications? Successful business leaders rely on the expertise of their functional managers and executives.
Consider this scenario
You are responsible for managing people that are remote from your physical location. If leadership is built upon setting the example, how does one do that if they are physically separated? Next, consider the cross-functional business teams in which each member brings unique expertise or specialized function. Can a manager with limited knowledge of each team member’s skill set successfully lead? We opened this discussion with the example of a CEO and how he or she can lead their diverse board members. Leading diverse teams is not limited to business but includes sports teams, military operations, and academia. In all of these examples, there are leaders that are responsible for diverse and multi-functional people and processes.
The majority of mid to large businesses span geographical distance. Even small businesses do not have the ability to receive, sort, catalog and ship goods from a single location. Companies strategically place facilities in locations based upon demand, advantage, future growth, economics etc. Large companies span beyond their own borders and may even have a global footprint! Consider being a manager responsible for employees that are thousands of miles apart. How can a leader make an impact when separated?
Thankfully, in the age of E-Business, the World Wide Web provides an unlimited number of tools that help make the world smaller. Whether in person or remote, leaders must ensure that they are communicating expectations. When remote, using video-conference, phone calls, and collaboration tools help us reduce the divide. The next important aspect is to measure your subordinate’s performance and provide feedback. If your employees know that you are actively monitoring their performance, they will likely be more active.
Now let’s consider the other side of leading “remotely” which is from the perspective of the team member. How can a leader make the remote worker feel that they are a vital member of the team? Why is that important?
The practice of remote work has become quite commonplace, particularly in IT environments where administrators can perform all of the functions of local/on-site engineers. Using remote support increase worker morale and decreases overall costs.
The primary objective for any leader that manages remote support is to ensure that they are a part of the team. To do this, leaders should minimize on-site only meetings and ensure that there is always an available dial-in phone line or video conference. They should also ensure that remote support is included in decision making or creative thinking exercises. The bottom line is not to leave them out just because they are not on the premise.
Leading cross-functional teams
With the exception of the autocrat, most leaders must rely upon the expertise and advice of their subordinates. Cross-functional team leaders must trust their team members if they want to be successful. Cross-functional teams consist of a mixture of functional areas. There are few leaders that are experts in every area of business operations which means that they must use other leadership skills to motivate and lead.
One of the most effective ways to gain trust from a diverse team is by listening and respecting differing opinions. Leadership styles such as Democratic or Inspirational would be the best fit for cross-functional teams. Managers can set goals and provide an environment that is inspired by pride in team-work. Team building encourages trust between leaders and subordinates as well as cross-functional team members. Most members of matrixed teams have direct dependencies to fellow team members. A good cross-functional leader encourages team-oriented results.
Although challenging, leading diverse teams can be very rewarding. Information Technology allows businesses the advantage of building teams from a global pool of talent. Remote employees give businesses great flexibility. The key to the success of diverse teams is the leader!
Advantages of Value-Adding Services
Information Technology has dramatically changed the landscape of business by providing the potential for in-depth knowledge of consumers. Most companies are able to profile their consumers based upon data points such as age, sex, location, interests, spending habits, etc. They are also able to track what you purchase, how often etc. MIS provides the mechanisms to translate raw information into useful knowledge. Customer service representatives can use this knowledge to serve their consumers better.
Most businesses realize that consumers have much more power than they did in years past. If customer service is poor, they can easily do a web search for another business and instantly do a transaction elsewhere. Using the World Wide Web, shoppers have hundreds or maybe thousands of options when shopping for the same product. That said, it is the customer’s experience that brings them back! Instant chat, service representatives after normal business hours, FAQ’s, intuitive navigation etc. are things that customers have come to expect.
How might a typical service firm take raw inputs such as time, knowledge, and MIS and transform them into valuable customer service knowledge? A hotel might use MIS to track customer reservations and then inform front desk employees when a loyal customer is checking in
the employee can call the guest by name and offer additional services, gift baskets, or upgraded rooms. The competitive advantage decision for the firm is whether to:
- Target highvalue-adding activitiesto further enhance their value,
- Target low value-adding activitiesto increase their value, or
- Perform some combination of the two.
Customer service is not just a policy but is cultural as well. Serving others is at the core of what customer service is about. Can this mentality be incorporated into all aspects of business? Let us consider an IT support team responsible for providing. A good policy might be to ensure that all end-users know exactly what to do and who to call if they experience service interruptions. How about posting a hot-line where it is very visible? What about posting the hours as well? Customer service might include a friendly voice that is eager to help. End users do not want to feel that their issue is not important. Why not provide an approximate time for resolution?
Since customer service is cultural, providing training and enforcing positive attitudes begins at the CEO level. Executives can create and emulate an environment that encourages working together to solve problems. How about role-playing as a training technique? This type of exercise not only provides a team building opportunity but also shines a light on how clients and stakeholders are served. The use of surveys or report cards can also serve as a means by which customer service can be measured. If you have ever called a customer service representative and was asked to take a quick survey afterward, that is an example of a company attempting to improve.
MIS adds value to both primaryand supportvalue activities.
One example of a primary valueactivity facilitated by MIS is the development of a marketing campaign management system that could target marketing campaigns more efficiently, thereby reducing marketing costs. The system would also help the firm better pinpoint target market needs, thereby increasing sales.
One example of a support valueactivity facilitated by MIS is the development of a human resources system that could more efficiently reward employees based on performance. The system could also identify employees who are at risk of quitting, allowing manager’s time to find additional challenges or opportunities that would help retain these employees and thus reduce turnover costs. Providing a high level of customer service is a “win-win” situation as it can help decrease the threat of new competition.
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