5 Robot-Friendly Tips You Should Never Use With Human Teams

Image courtesy: Tanya Hall, publicdomainpictures.net

Image courtesy: Tanya Hall, publicdomainpictures.net

Leading a team of robots can be both challenging and frustrating. You need special skills, attitude and instincts. Here are 5 tips to lead them effectively:

1. Watch out for emotions

Robots are notoriously unemotional. They are strictly logical beings. So, carefully avoid all emotions.  If any robot displays signs of emotions, immediately quelch it: it is unnatural. This may be a sign of malfunction. You should strive to keep your own emotions bottled up as well. Be strictly logical.

Alas, this approach will not work for leading human teams.   Neuroscience is increasingly discovering that human beings are not only emotional but emotions actually help in making the right decisions.   While uncontrolled emotions can have a downside,  emotions guide us in selecting the right information to make crucial decisions. Take emotions away, and humans display a pathetic lack of even basic decision making skills.

2. Avoid Humor

Mechanical, as they are, robots don’t appreciate humor. Don’t waste your energy by dwelling on the lighter side of life. Ditch those Dilbert cartoons and smilies.

If your team team is made up of human beings, on the other hand, recognize that humor is essential.  A timely senses of humor may make a difficult or embarrassing situation easy. Research is unambiguous — these days, work stress is high, engagement levels are plummeting. Humor comes to the rescue. Appropriate humor reduces stress, improves morale, increases creativity.

3. Give detailed instructions

When dealing with robots, merely defining what to do is not enough. Tell them ‘how’ to do the work as well.  Map out every step, every criteria, every detail.   Leave little room for thinking.

You guessed it! This technique does not work for human teams. People perform at their best when they are given a high level goal and are left to themselves to figure out how to achieve it. If you really want their greatest creativity, motivation and commitment, go a step further: tell them also ‘why’ the work is essential. Purpose unleashes hidden reservoirs of energy.

4. Keep them apart

Except where coordination tasks and touch points are clearly engineered, robots work well in isolation. So, don’t bother to encourage them to communicate with one another. In fact, if you find two robot getting together in an un-engineered situation, be suspicious. A sicence-fiction like situation may be on the anvil.

For humans, as scientists  are discovering, social connection ranks right up there with food and shelter. Collaboration dramatically increases ideas.  Having even one person whom you can trust and talk to at work can increase engagement, reduce stress boost well being. So, for your human team, the ‘keeping them apart’ does not work. Find ways to get people to work together, play together, create together.

5. Show them who’s the boss

Making robots independent may be dangerous. You need to be in charge, be in control. Otherwise, (who knows?) they may be planing to take over the planet! So, delegate responsibility but not authority. Keep the remote control with you…always.

Once again, research in unambiguous : human teams flourish when given autonomy. So, jettison this rule when dealing with humans. The more autonomy people have, they happier they are at work. Happy people are more productive, creative and engaged.

Robots vs Humans

What’s the obvious lesson? You need different approaches for leading robots and humans. Much of the agony at  work is due to leaders who apply robot-strategy to human teams. Perfect approach: wrong species! Fortunately, approaches to leading human teams can be learned.  Are you learning?