The Digital Divide in Corporate America

By August 20, 2014 No Comments

Today we’re pleased to have Zackarie Lemelle back to discuss the seeming disconnect between being “connected” digitally and being truly “connected” to your network, the people right in front of you every day.  Zack is a CPC, CBC and Managing Partner of Leadership Engagement Services at The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).  He is also an expert in leadership and business re-engineering and over the years, he has been instrumental in driving organizational transformations for numerous high-profile clients.  We hope you enjoy his insights on this “digital divide.” — Maurice Gilbert

binary peopleAs you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to say you’ve got an extensive digital network. On any given day, you’re leaving the house armed with your cell phone, iPad, laptop or Kindle. Then you arrive at the office only to find the computer server is down. And the truth is, you feel you’ve come to a standstill.

When there are “glitches” in the system, technology has a funny way of slowing down the pace, making all of us pay attention to what’s really going on in the background, and how to find a solution. It may even force us to be more aware of our actual surroundings, including our other network: the people we interact with, face-to-face, on a daily basis.

The fact is, we’re connected by technology; it’s a natural component of our lives. But, when that IT server shuts down the office, we almost can’t function. We are dependent on it. Why aren’t the people – the employees of an organization – viewed in the same way?

In Mila Baker’s book, Peer to Peer Leadership: Why the Network is the Leader, she states that “leadership models are stuck in a top-down, command-and-control, Industrial Age mentality.” She makes a plea for executives to stop issuing commands and to start what she calls an “organic workflow.” Just like a computer network, organizations need to find a universal algorithm where information flows freely, transparency is readily available and authenticity is valued.

The fact that we’re a rapidly changing society should tell us that becoming more nimble – more flexible – is no longer limited to our computers and handheld devices. It’s us, as people, that need to move with the times and revolutionize our approach to communicating, relating and channeling our energy (the way we show up to the office.)

As a leader, how many times a day are you sending employees unintended (or unconscious) messages? How might you be speaking from an authoritative place, rather than being equal parts supplier (talker) and consumer (listener) during a conversation? How can you encourage peer-to-peer leadership in order to break down barriers between you and your network?

You see, when you don’t take into account a person’s principles, values or beliefs, then your network will be stagnant. When you do value these “inner” qualities, the glitches you’ve endured diminish significantly. I’ve seen this firsthand when working at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) during a critical period. Our leadership model was completely revamped, to grow with the times, and the outcome resulted in a 92 percent customer satisfaction rating. It’s so simple: people relate to people.

Staying connected is a part of our lifestyle. The question is…how will you cross the divide combining the digital age with the “relationship” age?


Zack LemelleZackarie Lemelle has over 35 years of experience working in firms from start-ups to Fortune 500s. Most recently, Zack spent 18 years with Johnson & Johnson. Early in Zack’s tenure, he served as Vice President/Chief Information Officer of J&J’s largest pharmaceutical company and later as Worldwide Vice President/Chief Information Officer of J&J’s largest global medical device company. Zack also spent five years in human resources as Director of Business Re-engineering. Zack’s final assignment was as Vice President/Chief Information Officer for J&J Corporate Systems. Zack is an iPEC Certified Executive Leadership and Business Re-engineering Coach. He has spent years working with senior executives and management boards, developing leaders to forge new strategies and relevant operating models in sales, marketing, manufacturing, distribution, information management, human resources, finance and research and development. Zack provides the unique expertise of combining people and process coaching to drive transformational change.


Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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