Working and Managing Remotely



This month’s Professional Development webinar was on the topic of Working and Managing Remotely.

If you missed it you can download the recording.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

working managing remote

How to show up when you can’t be there

Learn how to exert your presence, build your brand, and influence others, whether or not you are there!

Managing effectively when your team is spread around the world (or you are the one who is away from headquarters) is a topic that comes up frequently on our member Coaching Hour Calls.

I have come up with a really useful model for assessing and improving your ability to work or manage effectively from afar, so I created a webinar to share it with you.

This is a very useful webinar to download if you need to:

  • Build your brand as a remote employee
  • Motivate and engage a virtual, remote team
  • Communicate more effectively across sites, or globally
  • Improve performance planning and management at a distance
  • Get your virtual team operating better as a team

In this webinar: Working and Managing Remotely I gave you structured approaches and practical ideas for how to exert a strong presence when you are not there, build motivation, improve performance, and deal with distance, language and culture issues.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

If you are not a member, you can learn about membership and join, or you can purchase this individual webinar below.

The webinar

In this webinar you’ll learn how to increase effectiveness and motivation for everyone on your team, where ever they are.

We’re all global

In business today, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just our companies that are global. We each, as individuals are global employees.

Think more about your remote colleagues

We need to invest extra time and energy on sharing information, communicating, and including them in our day to day conversations, decisions and work processes.

In the webinar I covered the following scenarios:

1. When you are the remote employee
2. When you are managing a remote employee
3. When you are managing a geographically dispersed team
4. When you are managing an intact, outsourced team

Here is the model I shared: There are 4 big items on your checklist to see if you are doing everything you can to improve communicating, team building, and performance management

1. Presence

Just because you are not physically present, does not mean you can’t exert your presence.

We talked about ways to replicate physical presence by optimizing limited face time, using video, photos, and better managing conference call behaviors.

Remote team building is possible.

We also talked about the fact that you can still do team building activities even when people are not in the same room. We covered some great techniques and best practices to do this.

You must find ways to exert your presence whether you are the remote employee or the remote manager. I talked about ways to make this a habit and to think of exerting presence as a fundamental part of your job.

2. People

Sadly, “out of sight, out of mind” often takes hold in remote working relationships.

It is vitally important to treat people like people in business, even if you can’t see them — especially if you can’t see them!

We talked about how to increase the personal connection so that the distance, and the lack of physical presence does not make remote people and teams feel like they count less.

Managers need to reach out personally.

Making the effort to connect the dot’s for people about why their work matters increases motivation and performance.

We talked about ways to get inputs and include people in different locations, and how to participate personally in outsourced or remote team events and celebrations.

Individuals need to build a network of support.

We also talked about different ways that remote relationships go bad and make people feel powerless and cut off. We shared ideas for remote employees to take initiative to connect with their peers and manager in a personal way to build more visibility and support.

3. Communication

Clear, regular communication is important in any organization. But when dealing with dispersed teams, time zones, languages and cultures it becomes even more critical. So you need to put extra effort into an on-purpose communication program.

Augment your communications to reinforce connection and progress.

We talked about how workflow can stall, slow, or go in the wrong direction with time-zone and language issues, and how to create a highly effective and inclusive communication plan for remote colleagues to keep everyone in the loop.

4. Performance Management

While individuals can be more productive working remotely, teams can’t.

It’s vital in remote working relationships, that you get very clear and outcome-oriented with performance objectives and expectations for individuals and teams.

Distance is not the problem. Fuzziness in expectations and lack of follow-through is the problem.

You can’t really get away with sloppy performance management in person either, but it’s even worse if you let performance expectations get fuzzy at a distance. You won’t stand a chance keeping on track.

We covered a few different examples of the problems that crop up and how to deal with them at a distance.

Taking action and improving

We covered a lot of stuff in this webinar!

If you are leading or participating in a remote team, this webinar will help you think through your strategy to improve team performance and motivation. It’s also loaded with ideas and practical techniques you can use.

Want some help?

To get some help with this and learn the specific ideas and techniques that we talked about, download the webinar: Working and Managing Remotely, now.

Members: Download the webinar for free.
Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

Here are some additional, useful webinars related to building your personal brand and increasing the effectiveness of your team when geography is an issue.

Members get these additional webinars for free:

So if you are not yet a member, you might as well join and get them all for free!

Let me be your mentor

Members of Azzarello Group basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

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ABOUT PATTY:

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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

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Free eBook Download

Making your work-from-home policy work

Now that the dust has settled a bit about Marissa Meyer’s controversial “no working from home” policy at Yahoo!, I thought I’d weigh in.

Many companies provide work-from-home options. Employees love it.

But many managers struggle with it. They ask me about this all the time — How do you optimize motivation AND productivity?

There are two important thoughts here:

1. Individuals can be more productive working at home, but TEAMS can’t.

Teams are always LESS productive when people are not together.

2. Productivity declines, more often than not, because because management is unclear on expectations and measures — it’s not just that people at home are slacking off.

Have a specific plan for both individual and team productivity

If you want your work-from-home policy to work, get very clear about both individual and team goals.

Figure out what things the team must be together to work on, and what things will be optimized by individuals working from home.

Establish clear desired outcomes, schedules, and priorities both for the individuals and the team.

Here are some ideas that work well for me:

1. What does the team need?

Have your team work together to define clear team goals. What things does the team need to work on together as a team? How often? What does the team need to learn as a team?

Plan and structure in-person meetings and office days around achieving those specific outcomes.

Team time is important for collaboration and idea generation. It’s important for problem solving and process improvements. Team time is also important to have discussions about what people are worried about, answer questions, and calm uncertainty. 

2. Productivity comes from clearly defined outcomes

If you define clear desired outcomes for content, schedule and quality, and employees deliver, it should not matter where they do the work.

If you’ve given an individual clear direction on required outcomes and defined stretch goals, you never have to make a personal judgement about whether someone is working hard or slacking off.

Clearly defined and measured results tell the whole story.

But if you are vague on expectations, productivity will decline. You get what you measure.

3. Approve specific work-from-home days

Designate specific work-at-home days of the week, for specific people, to optimize the right people being in the office together at the right times.

Require pre-approval for specific work-at-home days vs. people having the expectation that they can just send an email on any given day saying “I’m working at home today”.

4. Avoid Fridays

Here, I realize I am risking an unpopular point of view…but if you are a manager worried about general productivity — it can help to designate fridays as an in-the-office day.

If people are getting the work done, you shouldn’t care if they stop early on Fridays. But if performance is suffering, you might want to consider treating Fridays as a team day. 

You can always separately offer to your top performers to go home early on a Friday.

Don’t confuse achieving business outcomes, with giving perks.  Do each on purpose.

5. Consider Mondays

Monday can be a great day for people to take advantage of undistracted thinking and planning time away from the office.

If you have a staff phone call first thing on Monday mornings, you can kick off the week, and reiterate strategic priorities and specific expectations. Then people can get a less chaotic and more purposeful start to the week, instead of just getting swept into a stream of tactical activities.

6. Providing flexibility is a good thing

One of the reasons people like working at home is that they feel in control and they feel trusted. That is good for productivity.

I am a big believer in treating people like humans (not “resources”) and acknowledging that they have a life that matters outside of work.

If you give people schedule flexibility to deal with daily daycare drop-offs and pick-ups and school events, or allow them time away to care for sick family, in my experience they become much more motivated, loyal, and productive.

People will move mountains for you when you really need them to, if you respect them as people, and don’t force them to be in the office on a very specific, lock-down schedule when it doesn’t matter.

7. Is your team never in the same building to begin with?

You can’t let a lack of physical presence keep you from establishing team camaraderie, and building team performance. There are some specific ideas for you here.

Back to Yahoo!
I would assume that Marissa Meyer, who has a big turn-around to execute, is advocating for more team time and clearer measures. A more specific, and individually targeted, work-from-home policy that supports both team productivity (in the office) and individual productivity (at home), with clear goals and measures for each, will most likely evolve at Yahoo! over time.

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About Patty
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

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Free eBook Download

Succeeding with Virtual & Remote Teams

The Webinar:

This month’s Business Leaders’ webinar was on

SUCCEEDING WITH VIRTUAL & REMOTE TEAMS

If you missed it you can
Download the Podcast
or
Download the whole Webinar
(which includes the presentation, and useful worksheets and templates.)
(more information below)

Here is what we talked about:

We’re all global

In business today, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just our companies that are global. We are each global employees.

We need to remember to think more about our remote colleagues.

We need to invest extra time and energy on sharing information, communicating, and including them in our day to day conversations, decisions and work processes.

This webinar was loaded with specific ideas for improved communicating, team building, and performance management.

We covered the following scenarios:

1. When you are the remote employee
2. When you are managing a remote employee
3. When you are managing a geographically dispersed team
4. When you are managing an intact, outsourced team

Here are the 4 big ideas:

1. Presence

Just because you are not physically present, does not mean you can’t exert your presence.

The best way to solve a remote or virtual problem is to think through how you would make it better if you removed the remote issue. What would you do in person? Then find a way to do the same thing (or as close as possible) from a distance.

We talked about ways to replicate physical presence by optimizing limited face time, using video, photos, and better managing conference call behaviors.

Remote team building is possible.

We also talked about the fact that you can still do team building activities even when people are not in the same room. We covered some great techniques and best practices to do this.

You must find ways to exert your presence whether you are the remote employee or the remote manager. Think of this as part of your job.

2. People

Sadly, “out of sight, out of mind” often takes hold in remote working relationships.

It is vitally important to treat people like people in business, even if you can’t see them — especially if you can’t see them!

We talked about how to increase the personal connection so that the distance, and the lack of physical presence does not make remote people and teams feel like they count less.

Managers need to reach out personally.

Making the effort to connect the dot’s for people about why their work matters increases motivation and performance.

Going out of your way to get inputs and include people in different locations in key decisions increases the effectiveness of the whole team.

Finding ways to participate personally in outsourced or remote team events and celebrations makes remote people feel like they count.

Individuals need to build a network of support.

We also talked about different ways that remote relationships go bad and make people feel powerless and cut off. We shared ideas for remote employees to take initiative to connect with their peers and manager in a personal way to build more visibility and support.

3. Communication

Clear, regular communication is important in any organization. But when dealing with dispersed teams, time zones, languages and cultures it becomes even more critical. So you need to put extra effort into an on-purpose communication program.

Augment voice communications.

We talked about how workflow can stall, slow, or go in the wrong direction when English is not the first language of everyone on the team, and how to use blogs, and IM to optimize understanding and efficiency across time zones.

Too much information just gets lost across geographic distance. We talked about how to create a communication plan for remote stakeholders and colleagues to keep everyone in the loop.

4. Performance Management

While individuals can be more productive working remotely, teams can’t.

It’s vital in remote working relationships, that you get very clear and outcome-oriented with performance objectives and expectations for individuals and teams.

You can’t let people hide just because you can’t see them.

It’s not the distance that is the problem as much as fuzziness in expectations and lack of follow-through.

You can’t really get away with sloppy performance management in person either, but it’s even worse if you let performance expectations get fuzzy at a distance. You won’t stand a chance keeping on track.

We covered a few different examples of the problems that crop up and how to deal with them at a distance.

Taking action and improving

We covered a lot of stuff in this webinar!

If you are leading or participating in a remote team, this webinar will help you think through your strategy to improve team performance and motivation. It’s also loaded with ideas and practical techniques you can use.

Want more?

If you missed the webinar and you want to hear it in its entirety…

All downloads are free for members.

Become a member

Here’s how membership works:

Every month I do a webinar on topic of business leadership and success. Anyone can call into the live session for free.

If you want to get the podcast to listen at your own convenience, you can purchase it. If you are a member you get it for free.

As a member you get free access to all the podcasts, webinars and worksheets in the Member Library for 1 year.

You also get to participate in a monthly members-only Coaching Hour with Patty.

There are so many great resources available for free to members.

Do yourself and your career (and life) a favor and Join Now. Become a Member
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With your membership to the Business Leaders’ program you will get access to this webinar and podcast AND:

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  • Useful worksheets with each webinar to help act on what is most important to you.
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Managers: Provide membership to your team

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About Patty
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

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Free eBook Download

Work remote, stay visible

Remoteness

Many people have asked me recently how to build your personal brand and get positive visibility when you work remotely and no one can see you!

Change

Organizations are changing so much and so frequently that many people have never met their boss or their peers. Many companies right now have zero-travel policy for internal travel.

So many people find themselves trying to build their credibility and their career without every getting face time with their stakeholders.

If you are a remote employee trying to exert your influence on the business, you can feel invisible, isolated, and powerless. And no one can see how truly impressive you are in your slippers.

The big issue for you Presence

Any leader needs to make their presence felt –  in the room or from afar.

If you want to build credibility and influence you need to build up your personal presence.  It’s harder as a remote employee, but not impossible. And it’s even more important.

Face time first

OK, so there is no substitute for face time.

Every time I have had a remote assignment or managed a remote employee I required a 2-4 week break-in period where the person begins the assignment in the office with the team.

If you “live” with people for awhile first, you’ll do MUCH better later.

You will build up some social comfort with each other, and then remote is not nearly as distant.  I would not accept a remote assignment if this was not how it began.

With travel budgets frozen it’s not always possible to spend time with the people you work with.

Consider footing the bill for your air travel yourself.

Find someone to stay with. Tell your manager that you are going to be in town for personal reasons (at no expense to the company) and that you’d like to work at the main office for a couple of weeks while you are there.

This is a very worthwhile investment you can make in your career. After you get the face time, you will be more effective and respected forever after.

If you can’t establish the face time, the additional ideas below are even more important.

Don’t Hide on Conference Calls

Don’t dial in 5 minutes late, do your email and not speak.  Instead dial in 5 minutes early.  Greet everyone who joins.

I knew a guy who worked remotely who took a picture of himself every day, and when ever he was on a conference call with the group at headquarters, he would email the picture of himself with a note that said something like, “thought you would want to see what shirt I was wearing today”.

It may sound silly, but he was exerting his presence. He was well known and respected.

Exert your presence in words too. Tell them about the weather where you are at and what you have been working on.  Learn about their life. Then don’t check out during the call.

Participate, interrupt, contribute. Make your presence felt.

Make people feel like you are “in it”.

Use Video

I have to say that I am blown away by Skype video.  I have clients around the world who I have never met, but after a few hours of conversation with and skype video I feel like they are colleagues and new friends that I know personally.

Unfortunately many corporate firewalls do not allow Skype. 

If I were a remote employee, I would encourage all of my key colleagues and stakeholders to take a Skype call with me from home once in awhile (convenient in their time zone), so we could connect “in person”.  It makes a huge difference.

Video Mail

If you can’t arrange skype, try sending a video mail once in awhile. It’s easy and it’s free. Google “free video email” to find options. Eyejot.com is one that I have used and works well. A 30-second video can exert way more presence than a bunch of email.

Lead things

Step forward when things need to get done.  Take the lead.  Put yourself in the center of a project even though you are not there.

Of course it needs to be something you can succeed at remotely, but don’t fail to ever take the lead just because you are remote.

If you want to be relevant — be relevant!

Network More

As a remote employee you miss the company lunches and the discussions around the coffee machine.  But you don’t need to miss connecting with people.  Identify people in the company you need to have a relationship with, and build a relationship with them.

You should spend at least an 2 hours a week (if not a bit more) just connecting and talking with people at your company.  Live connections = presence.

Get Personal

Reach out to people. Get to know them as people beyond the work discussions. Learn what they care about and enjoy. Contribute things of interest. Where you have key relationships with people, invite them to connect with you on Facebook.  Keep yourself current and present in their thinking. 

When you become a full person, you are far more visible than when you are just a work conversation.

Share your ideas and knowledge

Become a thought leader in your area of expertise.  Consider writing an internal blog.  Share interesting news that people at corporate don’t see. Seek out external information relevant to your business and be the one to share it.  Have a point of view.

Just because you are remote, doesn’t mean you need to be invisible.

Don’t wait for people to find you

Be the one to exert your presence, build relationships, share information, and engage. You can build a strong personal brand, even if you are not there.

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About Patty
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…How to Be Really Successful at Work AND Like Your Life.

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Motivating Virtual Teams

Getting your whole team in the same room these days is rare.

So how do you create a sense of team?

And how do you motivate people you can’t spend time with in person?

Thank you for your ideas

This article includes some thoughts from my first blog post ever! But also, this is a topic that many of you have contributed great ideas to over the past couple of years, so I wanted to collect them all in one place.  Please keep your ideas coming!

1. Virtual Team Building (literally)

I always did team building exercises when I had my team in a room together. But somehow with a remote, virtual team, I never considered that it was possible.

This was a brilliant idea that a member offered on one of our coaching calls.

How to do remote team building

First, prepare.  Distribute a template ahead of time that each person fills out.  It should include a photo of them, and questions which help people get to know each other.

Some examples:

  • What is on your iPod?
  • What was your best/worst job ever?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your favorite book, movie, sport, animal?
  • What is something from your childhood that has stayed with you and you use in your work?

.
Then when you have your virtual meeting over a conference call, show each person’s template and photo, and have them talk about it.  It is an amazing way to help your team get to know each other as people, and build a much more productive working relationship.

Photos! Photos alone go a long way to build trust and camaraderie.  If your team is comfortable with photos, create a social media, facebook sort of page for your team to share non-work things with each other.

This is something you can easily assign to someone on your team who is inclined to set it up and keep it alive.  Refer to recent posts in your meetings.

(note: if someone refuses to submit a photo, let it go, don’t force the issue.)

2. Improve the Quality of Communications

Another issue with virtual teams is often that they are spread around the world, in different countries with different native languages.

Conference call communication is difficult enough, but if it’s not in your native language it’s excruciating.

Suzanne Pherigo created a brilliant process to deal with this.  (You may know Suzanne from Azzarello Group Webinar fame, as my Co-Host).  Suzanne runs an international R&D organization.

Add written reinforcemnent to conference calls

On all of their multi-country conference calls they use an additional IM window where people in each country type out the key points being made, translate any jargon, highlight questions and decisions, and clarify areas in the discussion that were moving fast, or unclear.

They also use blog updates which capture the key ideas and decisions from the conference call in writing, to re-inforce the key outcomes and have a record for later review and understanding.

Adding written communications to conference calls, improves understanding, relationships and productivity dramatically.  Brilliant, Suzanne!

(I would think these were good practices even if there were not language issues.)

3. Timing

Being sensitive to time zones can go a long way to make people feel like they count.

Use their time zone: Whenever I recommend a meeting time, I always note it in the time zone of the other person.

From their perspective, if they are not in the headquarters time zone they need to translate every single meeting. Just doing that one step for them makes a big difference.

Use GMT: Another idea that came from a member was to always note times in GMT so everyone has to translate equally.

Share the suffering: Also, if you need to get the US, Europe, and Asia on the phone at the same time, alternate the suffering.  Have the meeting on rotating schedule so that one time zone is always comfortable.

4. Individuals must exert their presence

As a leader, another thing you can do is let individuals who are remote know that part of their job is to make sure they are not invisible.  The more they step up to make their presence felt the more included they will feel and the more motivated they will be.

It just works so much better for the remote individual to own this.

5. Have Better Virtual Meetings

Finally, re-published from my original post…  How to have better meetings when no one is in the room.

When people are in a meeting I expect them to be “present” – listening, participating,
contributing, and NOT doing email. If people are not going to be present why have a meeting?

Here’s how I do it.

Insist on starting On Time.  Everyone is to call in 5 minutes prior and be ready to go on time.  If need be, start the meeting start at 5 minutes after the hour – sharp! No excuses. Being late degrades accountability for presence, and is a huge time waster.  Don’t tolerate it.

Start with a weather report (or another personal topic) from each person on the call.  This gives every person’s presence a chance to be felt even though you can’t see them around the table.  And it gives you an opportunity to treat people like humans, which always helps.

Insist that no one mutes their phone. I don’t care if I hear children or dogs.  This also makes it harder to type, or watch TV without getting found out.  Mute degrades presence.  And it’s another big time waster.  After a discussion has gone down the road a bit, someone will chime in and say, “sorry, I didn’t realize my phone was on mute and I need to go back to …”

Be there. Make it clear that if this is an important meeting you are supposed to have it on your schedule, be on a landline, and not be driving somewhere between more important things.  You need to set the example for this yourself too – or don’t have the meeting.

Have a clear desired outcome and the promise of a shorter meeting.  “We will finish this meeting at 9:45 so that you can hang up and do 15 minutes of something else before your next meeting.”

Reinforce the fact that you value each other’s time. “The reason we have a shorter meeting, keep our phones un-muted, and don’t do email is because we respect each other’s time and therefore commit to being present, even though we are not in the same room.”

Thanks, everyone!