The 5Ps of Distributed Leadership – The 5th Will Surprise You

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Yesterday, as I was finishing our newest video course THE DISTRIBUTED MINDSET, I had an epiphany. A pattern that I have always sensed acting in the background of the whole conversation about flexible remote-first and hybrid, aka distributed, work was now all of a sudden staring me in the face.
Before I tell you what that pattern is, allow me to tell you that, until yesterday, I thought that quality distributed work and leadership were a factor of 4Ps: platforms, processes, people, and performance.

Let’s take a look at them one by one.

 

  1. PLATFORMS

To work flexibly you need to have access to the right digital tools – both hardware and software.

In terms of hardware you need to have a mobile office that includes a quality laptop, external camera, microphone, and light, an external keyboard and mouse, a mousepad, an extension cord long enough and with several sockets, a docking station, and – most importantly – a pair of quality noise cancelling headphones.

But the rubber meets the road when we start talking about your software – all the platforms and tools that you are using to get your work done.

Few of us stop regularly (by-annually, yearly) to take stock of all the platforms we are using, from our simple phone and WhatsApp to the more recent AI tools that we are so eager to bring into our portfolio without actually giving ourselves time to see how they are meant to serve our business goals or interconnect effectively with other tools we already use.

So, as the pile of tech is growing, it’s so easy to get lost. More and more (inefficient) interconnections are being created and our tech stack overflows even for individuals, not to speak of organizations.

In a distributed world of work, the key to success is taking full stock of our tech stack, understanding it, and optimizing its interconnections in a way that will save us time, energy, money and – sometimes – our jobs.

 

  1. PROCESSES

The second key to success in a distributed world of work are processes.

You see, in a traditional office-centric organization processes were often replaced with a fake sense of security given by the presence of others.

It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a properly documented processes as long as we could always shout across the cubicle and get the info we needed fast from a colleague.

The problem is: we never wondered what would happen if that colleague, often the sole proprietor of a key piece of information and insight, would leave without sharing it with anybody.

According to research, traditional organizations lose up to 95% of their tacit knowledge – knowledge trapped in people’s experience and minds - because they never bother to document their processes in the first place.

On the contrary, in a distributed organization processes are religiously documented.

This means that a distributed company and its people get to:

  1. Preserve their know-how even when people fluctuate;
  2. Onboard new people easier;
  3. Accelerate the performance of new hires faster;
  4. Go faster through compliance audits and save time and money in the process etc.

All in all, distributed organizations are corporate governance champions, and a religious discipline in terms of process documentation is the key to their success.

 

  1. PEOPLE

The third factor of success in a distributed organization are well trained and highly skilled people.

That’s why so many organizations struggle to embrace a fully distributed model of work today: because the real volume of money put behind people skill development in this area has been modest to say the least before, during, and after the pandemic.

In a distributed world of work people need constant reskilling and upskilling. They need access to micro-learning formats that would help them own new platforms fast, and thus increase their performance. They need access to quality virtual and in-person training sharpening their human skills, from conscious communications to feedback, coaching people in a distributed environment and more.

The case for human development in the new era of work is tremendous, mainly now, in the light of the AI deluge getting ready to downpour on us in 2024-25.

But how many companies are actually truly ready to put several percents of their profit behind people development?!

 

  1. PERFORMANCE

Last but not least – performance.

Genuine, well lead distributed companies are performance-obsessed.

Performance is well defined at individual and team level, it is communicated transparently, it is measured properly with the help of adequate platforms and tools, and it is rewarded with raises and promotions based on real results, not bias in the workplace.

This right here is the reason why distributed organizations are the way of the future – because they are able to understand the real value of technology and put it to good use while leaving humans do what humans are good at: connection, creativity, vision, and innovation.

But here is the epiphany I had yesterday, which concretized in the fifth P in my model of distributed work.

 

  1. PERSONALITY

It goes like this: one of the most important reasons we lag behind in the adoption of more flexible distributed work and leadership is a terrible lack of emotional intelligence across the board in organizations, from employees to managers alike.

Emotional intelligence, which according to Prof. Daniel Goleman is grounded in four major building blocks – self-awareness, self-mastery, empathy, and social intelligence – is what has been holding us back significantly and at so many levels after the pandemic.

The lack of self-awareness – understanding and respecting our own needs, seeing and being able to keep our egos in check - combined with a lack of self-mastery – discipline, focus, respect for boundaries – plus a lack of empathy and goodwill towards others and a horrendous lack of social skills brought us where we are today: a weaponized discourse around one of the most precious transformations of our generation: flexible work.

Therefore, the outcome of my yesterday’s epiphany is the 5th P joining the essential components of success for distributed work and leadership: PERSONALITY.

Unless we learn to develop our personality – aka our collection of mental, emotional, and behavioral patterns that help us navigate the world – and unless we develop our emotional intelligence firmly and consistently, we will never be able to embrace the opportunities that the future of work holds for us in an ethical, sustainable manner.

Yet, the future of work is already here. Many successful organizations are already living it, and so many employees are asking for it.

So, what exactly is holding us back?

If you resonate with the ideas and questions in this post, please drop me an email at Cristina.muntean@vornica.com and let’s talk. Better yet, follow the steps below and let’s see how we can work together.

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