Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Role Of People Managers In Enterprise Collaboration

As part of my enterprise collaboration research work, I spoke to several people about their participation in enterprise collaboration systems in their companies. I asked them about their managers' role in their participation and collaboration with colleagues. I learned about two types of managers.

The first type of managers participated, acknowledged performance and gave feedback. They participated closely in most of the activities their team members were involved. They kept an eye on what is going on so that they acknowledge and, if necessary, give inputs to improve their team members' work. Manager participation also helped team members course correct early. Transparency of work led to feedback and conversations that may not have taken place otherwise. Such participation and feedback from the manager not only encouraged people to share and contribute more but also helped them to improve their level of performance. They executed better towards the goals of the company and became better professionals as a result of this participation from their manager. Thankfully, I work for such a manager.

The second type of managers were insecure, highhanded and thus ineffective. They did not participate or contribute to the team members' work. Instead they monitored and discouraged their team members from participating and sharing content and views even in private collaboration work spaces. This did not motivate the team members to collaborate and share. Instead their performance suffered. They started looking for other jobs  or other managers. The manager did not benefit in any way either, because the team members started mentioning this unprofessional behavior of the manager privately with others colleagues and even with other senior officials within the company. Naturally, almost everyone I spoke to was eager to leave such managers.

I think the level of openness, participation and contribution of a team can be an indicator of the effectiveness of a manager.I think enterprise collaboration software tools need to help managers understand this and overcome the insecurity that some of them have. This can be done by surfacing certain pieces of information. What if team participation in tracked the same way team contribution is tracked today? What if a team's participation and contribution in enterprise collaboration systems is available for senior executives, succession planners and internal job candidates to see?  What if the managers know that such information is tracked and can compare their performance with the performance of other managers in the company and the industry?

Another interesting thing I observed is that even managers who do not actively participate in enterprise collaboration tools, go there to monitor what is going on, if they know their team members are there.

By the way, managers can even acquire new knowledge and develop themselves by observing and participating in the activities of his or her team members.
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