Do These 3 Things and Transform Your Virtual Workforce

Image-of-working-at-home

The shape of organizations worldwide is changing. The virtual workforce is almost more common than not these days. In fact, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, published in 2017, “…from 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39 percent to 43 percent, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so.”

There are plenty of reasons for this rapid growth–extended market opportunity; increased efficiency, productivity, innovation, and synergy; access to a broader pool of talent; better effort, performance gains, and job satisfaction; and more cost savings.

But for all the positives, certain negatives come with not sharing a physical space with your team and colleagues. “When it comes to virtual teams, if you’re out of sight, you’re also out of mind. While more and more people are working remotely, our recent study suggests that unless we take extra measures to build trust and connection with colleagues, we pay dearly for doing so,” write Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

The truth is, no one has truly figured out how to lead a dispersed team smoothly, but we’re getting closer. Leaders are discovering innovative ways to rally and connect remote teams no matter how far away they are from each other.

Here are three actions successful leaders are taking to manage the virtual workforce efficiently–no matter how far-flung.

1. Create context.

Context is the foundation from which we derive meaning from what other people say. In the past, members of a team would see each other every day, know what was going on in each other’s personal and professional lives, and be aware of each other’s thoughts on happenings large and small. In today’s virtual workforce environment–not so much. Often, team members are mostly strangers to one another and may feel disconnected from the overall team or company vision.

So leaders need to help individuals and teams in the virtual workforce see the reason why they need to care about the project and their part in it. They need to be sure to voice the overall vision and share the company, team, and individual goals. They need to be explicit about why the team is working together and how it aligns with business goals.

Leaders need to pinpoint how each team member will collaborate and what’s in it for each region, area, or individual. If the leader doesn’t know, they need to hold a conversation and ask their team members why this project is important to them. What benefit do they see to themselves and others? And, then they need to ensure needs and desires are being met.

2. Cultivate community.

People work harder when they feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Thus, an effective virtual team leader works to create a team community and identity. This can be done with physical objects, like T-shirts or pictures. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. I had a colleague in San Francisco who had a dressed up banana for the team mascot. People loved it!

Or it can be done with more creative concepts, such as developing a project slogan or name. For instance, if your project is dealing with the government or is particularly sensitive, you could call it “Project House of Cards.” Or people could be given nicknames based on their roles or strengths.

It’s also essential for leaders to create expectations around communication. What’s going to be your primary mode of talking with one another–chat, Slack, phone, or email? Will you always use video for conference calls? Do you have contact hours to accommodate team members who work in different time zones? Is the team expected to meet face-to-face once a quarter?

Leaders also should provide guidelines to support the team’s well-being. For example, don’t schedule meetings in the middle of the night for those who live halfway around the world. Or don’t ping a teammate with an urgent request on the weekend. This is very important for fostering a culture of respect, as well as one that supports a balance between work and life.

3. Celebrate successes.

Unfortunately, in a lot of organizations, you only hear from others when there’s bad news or criticism. But this type of culture is a death knell to morale and productivity. An effective way to lead virtual teams is to ensure all successes are celebrated. You can even devise a systematic approach to honor them with a weekly award or special meeting.

In addition to creating an environment where successes are shared, effective leaders also make clear how to advocate for these wins. They promote their team members to others within the organization and help their teams learn how to promote themselves.

The positives of leading virtual teams far outweigh the negatives–and by taking these three actions, you and your team will experience far fewer bumps along the road. And, if you need help with your team? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: “Working at Home,” Michael CoghlanCC 2.0

 

Top 3 Reasons Why Your Team is Underperforming

image-of-bored-man

One of the things that keeps a manager up at night is wondering why the team is underperforming. The well-known secret to success is a high-performing team–one with members whose talents and skills complement each others’, challenge one another, and collaborate to achieve a common goal. But creating and sustaining a high-performing team isn’t easy.

In my work with clients like LinkedIn and SAP, I’ve discovered the three components absolutely necessary for developing this essential unit–no matter where the organization is, its size or function.

If your team lacks these three things, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve the results you want.

1. Open communication.

Communication is vital to any relationship, and a cohesive team is, really, a network of close relationships. Research from MIT shows that 40 percent of creative teams’ productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others.

So, regular open and honest communication at all levels is a must. Give frequent and specific updates to all members, so no one is left out of the loop.

You must educate your team members on what other parts of the unit are doing and are responsible for to ensure their work is supporting other functions. Make everyone feel included, and the floor should be open for anyone to contribute to discussions at any point. Boundaries and territories don’t exist in successful teams.

Also, address any conflict immediately. An exercise one of my clients uses with her partners includes a “conflict circle” held at the beginning of every team meeting so the team can discuss issues before they bubble up into crises.

2. Shared goals.

All high-performing teams know what they’re working for. Goals are outlined and clearly defined ahead of time. Questions high-performance teams answer before pursuing a project include–what are the objectives? How do they align with the organization’s mission or strategy? And, what is the team’s vision?

One study by Accenture found that high performing teams that are aligned with business strategy will achieve superior results in key business performance drivers.

3. Defined roles.

One of the reasons why there is such low engagement in the workforce (just 32 percent in American according to Gallup) is because people don’t feel like their jobs or roles have a purpose. Defining how one’s part is integral to achieving the shared goals negates this.

So, along with defining the goals, you must work with the team to define everyone’s function. People feel pride and ownership when they have real responsibility.

When outlining professional roles, it’s also important to understand personality types. By this, I mean, everyone brings a different perspective to the table. It’s important to honor and respect these different viewpoints and to use them to the team’s benefit.

Does someone always see the silver lining? Is someone typically a worst case scenario person? Does someone like to talk through solutions while another needs quiet time to digest and problem-solve?

Understand these personality traits and be sure to allow these team members to share their perspectives in their preferred way so you can get a clear picture of what may be happening on the project–and within the team.

Leading a team can have its challenges, but, if you have these three things, you’ll be able to head off issues quickly and continue on your path to success–and real results. And, if you need help with your team? Contact me.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: David Nichols, CC 2.0

 

5 Traits That Make Women Better Global Leaders

More and more women are rising up the ranks to lead countries and global organizations worldwide. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, published in 2015 and updated in 2017, since 2005, the number of world leaders who are women has more than doubled. A fact that is not surprising since women possess certain traits that make them better global leaders.

Having said that, a lot of work still needs to be done. In the U.S., women hold less than 5 percent of the C-suite top spots. And, in regions like Latin America or Asia, women leading large organizations is pretty uncommon.

But, in my work helping women around the world develop advancement strategies, I’ve noticed traits, unique to women, that set them up to be influential leaders–particularly in a global environment.

Here are the top five traits women possess that make them strong global leaders:

1. Women empathize.

Being able to wear other people’s shoes is very important when leading in a global environment. Leaders need to try to understand different perspectives and empathize to be effective.

While I’m always the first to teach the premise that agility and empathy are not exclusive to either gender, it’s hard to ignore the research. An in-depth white paper by Caliper states:

Women leaders also were found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts.

“These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial,” said Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper.

2. Women communicate.

Communication is key to effective leadership, particularly when it comes to communicating across cultures, write Deborah Blagg and Susan Young in an article for Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Working Knowledge. And, according to HBS professor Nitin Nohria, author of Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management, communication is the real work of leadership. “Great leaders, he notes, “spend the bulk of their time communicating, and they know how to employ all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical elements.”

Multiple studies over the years have consistently indicated that women are better communicators than men. Some suggest that women use many more words than men (anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words a day to a man’s 5,000 to 10,000). One study, by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, attributes this to female brains possessing more of the “language protein.”

3. Women listen.

The female leaders I’ve worked with seem to have an innate skill for listening. When one woman is sharing a problem or challenge, the others seem to give their undivided attention instantly. They listen, ask some questions, and then share their thoughts.

Listening is a skill that’s necessary and appreciated across all cultures and particularly useful when leading teams of people from different backgrounds.

4. Women collaborate.

When managing cross-cultural teams, leaders need to understand that team members work, assess problems and come up with solutions differently.

Women seem to genuinely enjoy working with others. They enjoy learning new perspectives and coming up with solutions together. The women in my workshops always ensure each person in the room has a voice and is a part of the conversation. This means that everyone’s opinion and skills are included, allowing for stronger and more creative outcomes.

5. Women learn.

As I mentioned, women enjoy learning about other’s perspectives. They’re also very interested in discovering new ways to improve upon themselves and sharpen their skills. This focus on development makes women self-aware–crucial for both improving leadership skills as well as emotional intelligence.

McKinsey and Catalyst found that more gender balance at the top produces better financial results than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. However, there are still many challenges that keep women from leading global teams and companies. But as we continue to chip away at these barriers, both internally and externally, our organizations will only become stronger.

Do you need help creating gender balance on your team? Or, are you a woman who is hoping for a leadership position in your organization? I can help. Contact me.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo Credit: Elwynn/123RF