As collaboration tools and apps become more commonplace in the digital workplace, how can we balance their pros (team mindset, connection) with their cons (burnout, inefficiency)? Our guest tackles this issue in his latest book “Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being.”
For more than 20 years, Rob Cross has studied the underlying networks of effective organizations and the collaborative practices of high performers. Through research and writing, speaking and consulting, and courses and tools, Rob’s network strategies are transforming the way people lead, work and live in a hyper-connected world.
Rob is currently the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts and the co-founder and director of the Connected Commons, a consortium of over 150 leading organizations accelerating network research and practice.
This episode covers communication analytics, cultivating managerial talent, burnout and changing the norms of workplace communications & interactions.
Creating office guidelines to communication
So I found an incredibly easy thing to do that yields far more time. People are surprised by this all the time - is you get a blank piece of paper, you draw three columns down it. Or put it up on a virtual space, so you can get your team together if that's how you're doing things today.
And you list in the first column, here are all the ways we're collaborating. So it's, email, it's instant messaging, it's the teamspace, its zoom calls, whatever it may be. Then the second column is identify as a group, writefour or five things we want to do, like positive norms we want to follow against each of these things.
And then the third column is four or five things you don't want to do, the things you want to stop, it takes no more than an hour to do. You have consensus in it, and you get efficiencies back really quickly.
How the pandemic has shifted time & work schedules
Part of the problems with the pandemic right now, we're going through is, pre-pandemic we had, let's say eight one hour meetings, and then somebody through the pandemic got a great idea, let's just do them 30 minutes. That sounded great for a minute until we suddenly have 16, 30 minute meetings in that same day, and it's exhausting, right? You're more intense in that moment. The switching costs are harder for us mentally, and we end the day with a to-do list based, not on eight meetings but 16, and it doesn't work.
The real culprit of overwhelm
Probably the one that surprised me the most that I didn't see coming was the degree to which we're our own worst enemy is way more than I thought in this game. So when I started all these interviews, I was absolutely convinced that overload, the enemy was out there. It was emails, time-zones nasty bosses, demanding clients.
And I came out the other end, completely convinced that we create our own problems and it's actually not what we think sometimes.