May 11 / Helen Bryant

Are Your Digital Skills Holding Back Your Team?

As a leader, you play a critical role in your team's success. You set the vision, allocate the resources, and make the tough decisions that drive your organisation and team forward. But what about your digital skills? Are they holding back your team's productivity?

It's a question worth asking.

In today's fast-paced, technology-driven work environment, digital skills are essential for success. Work is being reinvented right in front of our eyes, driven by changes in remote work and technology solutions to help us.

Yet many leaders struggle to keep up. They can lack confidence in using today’s digital tools or may not fully understand their benefits. Most default to email and use MS Teams only as a meeting app.

The problem with this is that culture rolls downhill, if leaders work and communicate this way, it becomes the default way of doing work for everyone else.

And I get it, I am Gen. X, forever chasing the next technology trend, left in awe as my teenage children point out yet another quick shortcut to do something, seamlessly playing around and teaching each other until they are totally proficient. It’s exhausting at times trying to keep up.

But leaders must embrace the role of describing a vision of what they want to achieve (goals and strategies) and how work should be done, and the style of teamwork they want, especially as, at its core, you are describing your culture.

The missing piece for many is Asynchronous Collaboration.

The missing piece for many leaders is actively leveraging and encouraging asynchronous communication and collaboration alongside synchronous methods. 
Synchronous collaboration and communication happens in real-time, with everyone working together simultaneously. This is most obvious in meetings, whether they are face-to-face or virtual. 
This way of working is great for team building, problem-solving, decision-making, and personal conversations. However, if overused, it becomes inefficient and ineffective communication and collaboration.
I often ask clients how many meetings do you have. The answer is normally “too many”.
Asynchronous collaboration is a collaborative working style in which team members can work together without being required to work in real-time or at the same time.

This type of collaboration allows team members to work independently while also allowing them to collaborate and communicate effectively through various digital channels, such as MS Teams, Slack, email, instant messaging, task management tools, and shared documents.
And here is the challenge, if leaders are unaware of how this could work or lack confidence or knowledge in how the digital tools work, they tend to pull work to the synchronous end by default.

There are valuable benefits to using asynchronous collaboration, they include:
1. Increased productivity: Asynchronous collaboration reduces the need for real-time communication and meetings, which can often be time-consuming and inefficient. This approach allows team members to focus on their individual tasks and priorities.

2. Better communication: Asynchronous collaboration can help to improve communication between team members. They have more time to think about their responses; and can often provide more thoughtful and well-crafted messages, resulting in clearer communication and better understanding. It encourages all voices to be heard, not just those that speak up in meetings. Topic-related communication using MS Teams or Slack is also transparent, which in turn improves accountability.

3. Flexibility: Team members can work at their own pace and in their own time or even timezone, which can help to reduce the stress and pressure of deadlines.

4. Improved work-life balance: It can help team members achieve a better work-life balance, as they can work on their own schedule and have more control over their time.

4 tips to improve digital collaboration 

For leaders understanding how different working methods might improve their team's productivity and having the confidence to explore different solutions with their team can unlock new ways of working. It can take a little time to establish, but wherever I have seen it done well, the high quality of collaboration is noticeable.
If these challenges seem familiar within your organisation or team here are four tips to help you unlock the opportunity.
1. Assess How You Do Work Now
Start a conversation with your team on how you could work better together. 
 - Start by clarifying how work is done now. Turning the implicit working methods into the explicit shines a light on what works and what is silently accepted, even though individuals know better ways of doing work.
 - Are there successes and lessons to share within the team that would help everyone?
 - What are the main communication challenges that, if fixed, would improve team efficiency and effectiveness?

2. Encourage Experimentation
One of the best ways to learn is by doing. Encourage your team to experiment with new digital tools and find what works best for them. This experimentation can lead to new, more efficient, and productive ways of working. Plus, it can help build confidence and a sense of ownership over the digital tools you use.

3. Invest in Training
Digital tools are only as effective as the people using them. So, investing in training is essential to ensure your team has the skills they need to succeed.

This investment can take many forms, the key is to make sure your team has access to the resources they need to develop their digital skills. Examples include:
 - Budget Needed: Online courses and in-person workshops
 - No Budget Needed: Create a Buddy system to help each other learn, or a digital tool learning session when your team teach each other how they use it.
 - YouTube can be very helpful here if you don't have the budget right now, there are some brilliant How-to Videos covering all of the Microsoft Office Suite, especially Teams.

4. Lead by Example
As a senior leader, you set the tone for your team. To lead the way for your team, try these:
 - Share your vision for how you want the team to work together and the successes and challenges you encounter with your team. You do not need to know all the answers or exactly how each digital tool works, but you do need to understand and communicate how working this way could improve the quality of teamwork.
 - Embrace new digital tools, and use them regularly. Be visible online. I encourage my clients ‘to walk the digital floor’, comment and give positive feedback in Teams Channels
 - Adopt asynchronous communication for your updates rather than email, e.g. Video record yourself and share on MS Teams. This transparency can improve the clarity of your communication, help build trust and encourage your team to do the same, and is way more impactful than yet another email.
Looking forward, successful leaders will need digital literacy and vision for their team as standard. 
I recommend you jump in. A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of explaining to a young colleague how to do a particular task in MS Teams, proving most old dogs can learn new tricks!

If you need specific support, book a discovery call with me to see if my Group Coaching programme could help you.

Discover how 10 minutes a week can step change your leadership impact.

Write your awesome label here.

Subscribe to My Leadership Accelerator Newsletter

Get 1 high-impact leadership lesson every Friday.  Advice, actionable lessons and tips for ambitious managers on how to reclaim your time and lead a high-performing team. 
    We value your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
    Created with