In the last few weeks, I’ve been working with a lot of clients who are unhappy with the communication technology at their disposal. In some cases, the complaints have reached the point where they aren’t just a cause for griping, but people have just thrown their hands up and let it interfere with team productivity. Maybe you hear similar things from your team:
“Why are we stuck using this old software?”
“Our technology sucks.”
“It would be so much easier/better if we used (insert cool new tech product here) instead of what they give us.”
To be honest, some people just like to complain, and we often need to let them vent. Also, technology DOES kind of get annoying, especially when it doesn’t work the way we want it to. But beyond momentary relief, complaining doesn’t really solve the problem. When your team comes to you with complaints about their tools, here are some things you can do to help them work past the problem.
ASK what the problem is
When people struggle with a platform or software, there’s a way to identify the source of the problem. Eighty percent of people use 20% of most software, so the problem may not (completely) be with the technology itself. The acronym ASK stands for Attitude, Skill, and Knowledge. To help trouble shoot, you should take those from last to first.
Do they know what the tool is supposed to do, and the features of the product? Many people, for example, complain that Teams doesn’t do what their old product does, when in fact it does, they just don’t know how to access it.
Knowing that a tool CAN do something doesn’t mean they know how to make that happen. It may just be a matter of training. And by that, we mean real training, not a fly-by webinar. Real training is hands-on, just in time, and relevant to the way the tool will be used in the real world. If you really want your team to succeed with a particular platform or technology, the best thing that can happen is to get either outside training or use your internal experts. Likely there’s someone on your team who is using the tool way better than the rest of you. People frequently learn better from peer coaches than someone who doesn’t know your particular environment. And don’t look to IT to solve your problems. They don’t always know how you’ll use a particular technology on a given day, and often they aren’t experienced trainers.
People might know what a tool can do, even use it to some level, but still resist. There are plenty of reasons for this. Maybe people feel this new tool is the “flavor of the month,” and will only be replaced sooner rather than later (remember the move to Windows 10?) Sometimes, people are feeling so overwhelmed by work they fear losing productivity while they learn the new way of working. Usually, it’s because “the way we do it now works just fine,” and people just plain resist change (even though it didn’t work that well, and all they did was complain.)
Before upgrading, changing, or ditching your existing tools, discover what’s really going on. Are the complaints valid? Could the existing product, even if it was used optimally, get the job done? Are there specific tools they have in mind, and what does it do that your current technology doesn’t? Who do you have to talk to in order to make that happen?
Technology is not a binary choice
Remember, none of this means you shouldn’t be learning about new ways to work, or that you shouldn’t request tools that will really help you and your team. The paradox is you can try to improve your tools AND get better and do better work with the ones you have at the same time. There are things in your direct control, things you can influence, and things you can’t do anything about. Knowing which is really which can help your attitude and determine your actions.
When working remotely or in a hybrid environment, you rely on technology. Sometimes, those tools are a barrier to success. Sometimes, they’re a convenient excuse. Usually, the answer lies in the middle.
Often organizations invest in new technology without knowing whether they’re even using what they have. That results in a waste of money and a continuous cycle of failure and frustration. Take our free Team Tech Assessment and see if your team is getting the most out of what you already have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.