Yorgen Edholm

Mobile management 101: Delegating to a distracted team

August 19, 2013 9:38 AM EDT

Does your management team have what it takes to lead and manage a mobile workforce?  With all the talk about the mobile workforce, the conversation often revolves around employee requirements, productivity, and IT infrastructure needed to securely support remote workers. What isn’t discussed often enough, and should be, is how leaders’ management skills need to evolve to fit into our mobile-enabled world.

When I’m looking to hire new people for my company the questions haven’t changed much over the years. I want people who are driven and who see an opportunity that they’d regret having said no to. If anything, the mobile workforce evolution has made my hiring processes more rigorous. However, the way that I manage people has had to evolve, because the way that people work has changed significantly over the past few years.

In the US, workers have increased their productivity by 25 percent over the past decade, largely due to mobile devices. This means my employees can sit down and crank out code, or come up with a new marketing campaign when the thought occurs to them, and send it off to the rest of the team without being in the office. Encouraging employees to work how they want, when they want, is boosting businesses bottom line while creating happy employees, a win-win for any manager.

Distraction

However, there is a darker side to mobile technology. Over the past decade I’ve seen my teams become more scatterbrained, because they’re multitasking. While having a mobile device constantly providing updates may increase worker productivity, it can also detract from the quality of a worker’s output, since they’re trying to do eight things at once.

In today’s mobile workforce my busiest team members are not necessarily the ones getting the most done, which is not a good thing for any organization. Mobile-friendly managers need to advise their team members to cut the cord to their mobile device when working on an intensive project, but embrace it when they need to work from the field. Finding that balance is key.

Delegation

Another issue that managers need to be aware of is the detrimental effect that mobile devices have had on delegation. In a mobile world it’s easy to always be on hand to make a final decision, but by doing so you’re not only decreasing your own productivity, you’re also not empowering your employees to make decisions. 

Mastering the art of delegation in a mobile workforce is essential.  In our age of total accessibility, delegation must be more deliberate, so that employees learn that just because they can contact their manager 24/7 doesn’t mean they should.  People are going to make mistakes, but they’ll then learn from them, and become better employees.

So how can you help foster a mobile-aware management culture within your own organization? By setting the right examples:

  1. Use mobile devices to increase productivity not just to keep busy.
  2. Encourage employees to cut the cord to their mobile devices when they are working on a task requiring focus, not interruptions.
  3. Discuss with all levels of employee the workflow that best suits them. Just as there are people who do their best work at 3 a.m., there are people that will be more productive working on a tablet, and others who will prefer to stick with their desktop.
  4. Make sure that you’re actually delegating work and that your always-on mobile device isn’t undermining your employees’ ability to make decisions on their own.

And finally consider allocating some time for management training on how to manage a mobile workforce  - but make sure to have everyone turn off their mobile devices if you want their full attention.