Monday, 9 February 2015


Imagine you were a child and you had two mothers who lived in different countries in neither of which you lived yourself one of whom wanted you to be a musician and the other wanted you to be a long jumper. They called you on the phone from time to time and sent you texts and e-mails. Occasionally you met them at big Mothers of the World meetings or saw them on Skype.

It would be my guess you might end up a bit screwed up.

But this pretty well describes the world in which the modern international executive lives. And as things within their organisation changes he could keep on getting new mothers with different agendas or worse his old mother might be removed in a “Mother Delayering Programme” to be replaced by a Super-Mum who’s located the other side of the world and doesn’t speak the same language as you do.

The reality of course is that most of us are learning new ways of working. Some people I know work mostly from home apart from meetings and travelling. The old concept of clocking in (mentally if not really) to an office where your status was measurable by the square feet of your room and the looks, personality and popularity of your PA and where you focused on your own country as opposed to operating in regional clusters, is over.

But does it really work? Or like that virtually orphaned child with their matrix mums are we creating a world devoid of the real interpersonal management and mothering skills that involve real human contact and seeing the whites of people’s eyes?

An HR Director I talked to last week believes remote and matricised management is causing all the problems that he’s encountering in implementing a big change programme. At Yahoo when a new CEO was appointed she found virtually everyone worked from home. They were all very miffed when she insisted they came in to the office and talked to each other. She patiently explained that the business was in crisis and that the only way she could see them sorting it out was together.

If we really believe that our people are our most precious asset we’d better spend more time with people making them work better.

Increasingly the competitive differentiator is in the quality of people and the service we get from them. If you own a restaurant there’s no point in improving the food if the service is terrible. The Ivy in its good old days was like eating in a good friend’s home where the food was OK but it was the style, service and ambience that made you feel really good.

People are needy. We just are. And it’s the way our bosses mother us and coach us that will make us better at what we do and the company we work for become more successful. Time we spent more time together talking, listening and collaborating.

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