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Monday, October 25, 2010

"Etiquette" versus "Getting the Job Done"

There’s an interesting new book out on workplace etiquette, which I read about in Forbes. It shed some light on new discourse between managers and employees… though I’m not sure I completely agree.

The author, Vicky Oliver, advises that when it comes to communication, be it by phone, text or e-mail, many of us managers need to be more mindful of business etiquette. Apparently, leaving a voicemail message when you know the recipient isn't there to pick up the phone is bad form. Seriously? Well, then why do we have voice mail at all?

Oliver also advises managers to never send communications late at night. She says: “If you get a brainstorm at midnight, go ahead and write that note, but put it in your draft folder and then hit send at 9 a.m. It's bad boss etiquette to harass your employees with notes after hours or on the weekend."

So here’s my issue: I have no problem with employees setting boundaries and not feeling obligated to work 24/7. But in my role as a leader, responsible for innovation, my creativity does not always come during “formal” work hours, which are mostly booked solid with client and staff meetings. So when I have some time to think, reflect and ponder, it often spurs creativity and it’s more efficient for me to share these ideas with my team when they come to mind. And my team is globally dispersed. So when it’s 9:00 a.m. in Philadelphia, it’s midnight in Sydney. How does Oliver’s etiquette fit into this scenario?

I don’t advocate using technology as a collar to keep employees “on call” 24 hours a day. But I do expect to use technology as a way to enable my team to accomplish more, getting it done better and faster. My perspective is that if you want to be highly valued as a member of the team, you need to be available, flexible and responsive. These are some of the values that separate average employees from the star performers. Not everything fits neatly into a 9 to 5 box. Sometimes it just comes down to getting the job done.

I believe that my employees will perform better if they have a clear understanding of where we are heading, what is expected of them, if they are empowered to do what they do best and if they trust me to lead them.

Which side of the fence do you sit: being up on the latest etiquette or getting the job done?

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