When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about what digital means to them, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. This interview is part of an ongoing series that offers real insights from real leaders on the ubiquitous topic of Digital.

Rich is Founder/President at Crawford Limited. He serves as a board member at T.P. Mechanical, Strategic Materials Inc and an board advisor at Anchor Glass Container. I recently sat down to talk to him about Digital and what it means to him.

Audrey McGuckin (AM) – Rich tell me about one of the trends you’re seeing in Digital?

Rich Crawford (RC)  – I immediately go to leadership and the paradoxes leaders face every day. In this digital world we live in, we all have an insatiable desire for instant gratification. It’s a dilemma for leaders to balance between the long term strategic focus and the immediate need for information in our world of digital. On the one had we have this thirst for real time, immediate information and yet on the other hand we have organizational performance, compliance and fiduciary responsibilities in our systems that require us to manage critical long term issues such as; succession planning, customer partnerships, capital planning and risk mitigation.

AM – Tell me more about this paradox Rich.

RC – The digital environment can cause people to focus on the immediate items that are hitting our desks, phones and other devices at a rate we’ve never seen before Certainly not in my lifetime. It’s really about the lost art of leadership. How do we leverage technology but at the same time really balance this with the interactions with our people? It’s a relationship challenge that manifests itself with the relationships with our employees and our customers.

AM – What does this mean for leadership capabilities in the future?

RC – There is a definitive gap developing.  In many cases companies are no longer providing leadership or management training for employees, which places them in a work environment without the necessary skills to effectively communicate or supervise others.  We now have a large percentage of leadership roles that are held by millennials and yet we haven’t prepared them for leadership roles. The skill sets required for leadership roles are becoming more and more complex and yet the focus on this area is dwindling.

AM – That’s interesting Rich. I just recently read an article published by Daniel Goleman on empathy. The problem is that there is a ton of research showing how Millennials and Gen z’s (those born in 1995 or later) are lacking in empathy skills, mostly associated with the use of their devices.

AM – How about culture Rich?

RC – In my experience, I’m seeing more of a culture of individualism and yet there is a huge need for teams to work together in a digital environment and break down typical silos. I also think about what country culture does to digital. In Switzerland for example there seems to be a high focus on a culture of work life balance and yet in other parts of the world cultures are deteriorating as they shift to instant gratification as the digital world develops.

AM – What does digital mean for you on a personal level?

RC – It’s another dilemma – on the one hand, digital relieves stress for me knowing I have unlimited access to information and technology, but on the other hand it creates a certain level of expectation that you’re “always on”. Often times the expectation is an immediate response, and I’m guilty of it as well. The real opportunity here is how to strike a balance.  It seems that we need to establish some boundaries and expectations with those key people and organizations where varying levels of response may exist.

As I interview Digital Natives, CHROs, CEOs and Board Members, the similarities in the challenges are strikingly similar! Watch for my next blog, where I’ll attempt to bring all of these insights into focus! Follow us on LinkedIn.

Audrey McGuckin consults with top CEOs and HR Executives to solve their toughest and most complex talent and leadership challenges. To connect with Audrey on how she can assist you and your organization, visit our contact page or message her directly at audrey@audreymcguckin.com.