How to Actively Engage Your Remote Team Members

gothamCulture’s Kate Gerasimova discusses how to actively engage your remote team members on the Working with People podcast.

Host Harrison Kim and Kate address these questions:

  1. What are the most common reasons for employee disengagement in the remote workforce (are these reasons different than in non-remote workforces)?
  2. What are some tell-tale signs of employee disengagement in the remote workforce?
  3. What are some initiatives to engage disengaged, unmotivated remote employees, and maintain a positive company culture?

How to Stay Creative While Working Remotely

When we meet in person, something absolutely magical happens. We look each other in the eye, share a story or two, then something may just click and we may even bond! Enforced remote environments for those of us that can stay home and work remotely may not seem as magical, but we can look at it as an opportunity to redesign the way we work and improve upon what doesn’t. We can begin by finding creative ways to do our work and incorporate it in each day.

1. Put yourself in a creative mood.

Even in such an unprecedented, ambiguous, and tough environment like we are in right now, I try to see positive changes where they exist and create the energy of excitement in my day. What helps me is setting the right mood by looking at silly pictures of my family, imagining myself where I’d rather be, or getting inspiration from leaders who are stepping up during this pandemic. As a very visual person, I also like to do an analog activity with myself. For example, I imagine a moment in life that brought me a positive feeling, I visualize the moment like it is happening now, and cultivate that feeling.  Only then, I am ready to continue while keeping that feeling alive… You can also recall any moment that brought you a positive feeling, the last time you moved to a new, exciting place, gathered with family, or played with your dog in a park while throwing a frisbee.  You can create your own ways of getting into the right mood by focusing on bringing that right energy, maybe by going on a morning walk/run, or reading a few pages of a new book or doing a mindfulness exercise.

2. Find inspiration by exploring communities with similar or different interests. 

You could join a professional association related to your career, search an online site like Meetup https://www.meetup.com/ for a group that interests you personally or professionally, or ask your friends and colleagues for a recommendation. To further your creative journey, explore groups with different perspectives.

Personally, I draw inspiration from the ATD NY Chapterand Women in Innovation communities.  At ATD Gabrielle Bayme and I run remote Learning Labsfor talent practitioners to experiment, practice, and take risks by trying their own hands-on projects in a safe environment and get feedback. It helps me be more creative by getting inspired by others and try a few things myself.  At Women in Innovation (WIN), a strong and creative community of women leaders in innovation, I learn so much from attending the online events and being part of the engaging community on Facebook. I constantly draw inspiration from their blog

I also read stories from leaders, listen to their interviews, and attend virtual design workshops to learn from our community and share them back. There are a myriad of events out there and ways to learn how to stay creative while working remotely. I’d recommend narrowing it down by listening to what your heart calls for. What clicks for you?

3. Develop creative ways of working in a virtual space. 

At gothamCulture, we use the digital participatory design workshops model we developed and presented last year at the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). The main challenge was whether we could create the same energy as it would be in person but in a virtual space. 

When designing these workshops, we took these things under consideration to remain creative and collaborative virtually at the same time:

  • Open Space Technology: We wanted a giant group of people together from various locations and functions in a virtual room and to ask them to contribute the most relevant ideas. 
  • Participatory Design: We wanted to get people to collaborate hands-on while developing a prototype together. 
  • Future Search: We wanted to find a way for people to connect the dots across the entire system. The workshops had to be interactive and built upon each other. 
  • We built the model with three different groups one built on each other. The difference between the groups considered would be the audience, various roles, and locations, or the angle of the opportunity participants are trying to solve for. For example, one group would be responding to “what”, another to “who and how”, and another to “when”.
  • We wanted to be able to tell the story through technology: video conferencing and mind mapping tools. We use Zoom to facilitate these sessions, particularly because of the virtual breakout functionality where we can send people in smaller groups to collaborate. We used diverge/converge to develop solutions that were grounded in the same “shared” reality:

 

How it Works: Group 1

When we facilitate these sessions, we:

  • Enforce participants being on camera and ask beforehand and explain why. We need to be able to engage and hear all the voices. 
  • Engage multiple facilitators and a video conferencing producer to move the group forward and ensure technical support.
  • Use facilitation techniques to make focus groups collaborative and assign roles between facilitators.
  • Build trust upfront by giving just enough context, setting up ground rules with participants, ensuring confidentiality, and using powerful ice-breakers.
  • Incorporate debrief after each session to bring the learnings into the next session.

Finding new approaches to do work and inspiration from communities keeps me creative. This is the time like no other to be experimental, explore different avenues, learn from each other, create an open, sharing and supportive environment to help each other and continue looking for that magic together while working remotely. This is also a time to be kind to yourself and take a moment to breathe, and I hope the suggestions above can help our readers draw a few ideas on working creatively in a virtual environment. 

Why Articulating A Clear Vision Is Critical For Entrepreneurs?

observation deck

A few years ago I used a phone app, called Shapr, to expand my social circles, to make new connections, learn new things and enjoy a conversation or two. I met aspiring artists and entrepreneurs who were looking to start a business or were already working on one. They shared their stories and inquired into pro-bono consulting to help them with building their ventures.

In many instances my initial question was, “Where do you want to go with this idea and what are you creating?” Oftentimes, my Shapr’s friends could not clearly respond and this, initially, left me somewhat confused. If I was confused from the start, how would their customers (or potential customers) react?

Compelling vision and mission statements have the ability to provide clarity and direction with regard to why a business exists, what purpose it serves and what value it brings to its stakeholders. Not being able to clearly articulate this can obviously make it difficult to get people on board with your ideas.  Read More…

3 Powerful Ways to Improve Diversity of Thought on Your Team

When I moved to the U.S., I started working at the community college library in Santa Fe, NM.

Some students only came to the library to see me, because a new foreign person was working there. I felt so special that they wanted to talk to me and ask for my opinion. As some students told me, it was interesting for them to get a fresh, diverse perspective and to learn more about me.

Coming from Moscow, which has a population of more than 12 million people, I was not used to a lot of attention for being “different.” But in Santa Fe, my diversity of thought set me apart.

Diversity of thought, also known as cognitive diversity, refers to the notion that each of us is unique; that we are raised and brought up differently, and we have different personal and professional experiences which influence how we think and interpret information. And this acknowledgment has become a core part of many companies’ efforts to drive innovation in their organizations and industries.

Diversity of thought has been found to be helpful to:

  • Avoid groupthink
  • Overcome subjective overconfidence
  • Listen to underrepresented opinions
  • Be aware of unconscious biases and look beyond stereotypes

While cognitive diversity is “defined as differences in perspectives or information processing styles” and is less visible than racial or cultural diversity, it shouldn’t be ignored. Recent research by Alison Reynolds and David Lewis found a significant correlation between cognitive diversity and high performance. They have run the execution exercise more than 100 times over the last 12 years with groups comprised of senior executives, MBA students, general managers, scientists, teachers and teenagers. In their research, teams with greater cognitive diversity performed faster, irrespective to their gender, ethnicity and age.

How to Increase Diversity of Thought

There are a number of different ways that leaders can increase diversity of thought in their organizations. Some of these include:

Hiring outside of the box

Once not known as a place that promoted a diverse talent, Silicon Valley is now thinking ahead by embracing neurodiversity. Many people with autism and/or dyslexia have higher than average abilities and can “bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics.” Everyone to some extent is differently abled, we are all born and raised differently. Our ways of thinking result from both our inherent “machinery” and the experiences that have “programmed” us. Companies like SAP, Hewlett Packard, IBM, UBS and others are starting to adjust their policies to meet a broader pool of neurodiverse talent. Hiring diverse talent creates a major shift, and leaders are trying to adopt a new style of management or provide accommodations to cater to their needs.

Managing differently by facilitating open dialogues, creating a safe environment and assessing your employees:

  • Values and styles
  • Ways of thinking (divergent and convergent thinking)
  • Ways to approach a problem

Brainstorming: To diversify our thinking, consider using the six hat exercise which has been an effective way to approach a problem.

White Hat Thinking: Focus on the data available.

  • What data is available?
  • What information do you already have? What is missing?

Red Hat Thinking: Look at problems using reaction, and emotion.

  • How do other people react to this area?

Black Hat Thinking: Look at all the bad points of the decision. Look at it cautiously and defensively.

  • What could go wrong with approach in this area?
  • What are the biggest challenges?

Yellow Hat Thinking: This is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it.

  • What gets people excited?
  • What are my team’s strengths?
  • What would success look like?

Green Hat Thinking: This is where you can develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas.

  • What are the possibilities?
  • How would an outsider approach this area?

Blue Hat Thinking: ‘Blue Hat Thinking’ represents process control. Mostly used when there is at least one other leader involved in the decision making process to determine when you need to “put on another hat.”

  • What is the next step?
  • What is our decision?

In The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson suggests breaking barriers to create innovation by learning a new field, breaking out of your network and reversing your assumptions. But, as illustrated in my personal example, even small changes can make a big difference. By adding socially diverse people to a group, people learn from different perspectives and experiences.

To increase a diversity of thought in organizations, leaders need to keep asking questions and challenge what’s in front of them, whether it is their talent, management style, or approach to a problem. That way they could see an opportunity where others won’t to stay ahead of the competition and to keep an inclusive workplace.

How to Challenge Your Mental Models and Think Differently

challenge mental models and think differently

Early in my career, I hesitated to speak up on client calls with senior leaders. I thought my opinions were wrong and needed strong validation from my team in order to share.

After sending several messages about it to my manager, she finally told me, “Just speak up and tell them what you think!” That emphatic comment got me thinking, WHY was I behaving that way?

Only when I challenged my assumptions and way of thinking was I finally able to change my behavior and speak up in meetings with these leaders, even in the same room. It was a big step in realizing that I needed to break my old mental model.

Read More…

The Critical Role of Ethics and Culture in Business Globalization

The Critical Role of Ethics and Culture in Business Globalization

I saw the impact of unethical behavior firsthand when I grew up in Moscow during the late 80’s and early 90’s. As a result of the establishment of the Russian Federation, private businesses were created. And during the transition, economic inequality, increased corruption, scandals, and bribery became the new norm.

I moved to the U.S. in 2006 for my own freedom and an opportunity to have more than two pairs of jeans in my wardrobe, and I immediately recognized differences both in geography and culture.

Read More…