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?

The Two Best Bosses You’ll Ever Have – Continuing Lessons From My First Sergeant

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was sitting with another G.I., commenting about my commander in the military.  The animated discussion I was engaged in was with a non-commissioned officer – a “NCO” –  commiserating about actions my commander had taken and how I wish he could somehow be different.

The NCO, a U.S. Army E-8, listened intently and heard my complaints – and my venting – for long minutes.  When I finally stopped, he simply smiled and asked,

“So who are the two best bosses you’ll ever have in your career?”

Non-plussed by the question, I sat there in silence, not really knowing what to say.  By then I had spent enough time in the Army, though, to realize that a senior NCO draws on a lifetime of experience leading people.  For those open to learning, top sergeants are always ready to provide perspectives, often in the form of parables or aphorisms.

The First Sergeant let his question sink in and then restated the question more succinctly:

“Who are the two best bosses you’ll ever have?”

As he continued to smile, he provided an ample pause for thought and then slowly offered this answer:

“Think about this, it’s simple:

The guy who just left and the one who’s coming next.

We hardly ever see the current boss as the person who meets all of our needs.”

My first reaction was that the first sergeant was playing games with me.  I laughed and told him that it didn’t make sense.  He grinned and just stared back, challenging me to think about what I had just heard. He slowly sipped on the black coffee contained in his favorite mug, stained from years of use, patiently letting his message sink in.

The meaning of that first sergeant’s message came to me slowly that day.  And I’ve often thought about it in the years since.  Our perspective as human beings is so often shaped so much by the wish of what we really want or need that we don’t take the time to appreciate what we have.  And we spend so much time wanting our boss to change (or our co-worker, our friend or even our significant other) that we don’t realize that while we can’t change others, we can always change how we react to them.  We can become so hardened in our position that eventually we come to believe that the best solution is that the boss simply “should” change.

I know that many readers have examples of “yes, but” that includes their own “impossible bosses,” who make life miserable for others or just don’t know how to lead.  There are indeed situations that may well be untenable.  In such cases, there are limited options for a person, including suffering through it or, if possible, leaving the job.

And yet so often it is valuable to realize that the boss has his or her own capabilities, just as we do.  And his or her styles might well work for most people.  Understanding how our boss approaches the world is indeed the most important step we can take.  To do that, we must first “meet them where they are.”  That involves making human contact and connection with the coworker who happens to be your boss.  And that may well be the most difficult step, especially if we are fundamentally different in our approaches to the workplace and the communication inherent in it.

An important thing to remember is that we can feel resistance in ourselves when someone is different from us.  That resistance must be met with curiosity about what we are truly feeling.  By naming it – be it discomfort with communication styles or even values – we can help ourselves name that discomfort.  And understanding that the boss can feel resistance towards you is of equal importance.  Again, curiosity is our best approach to lean into the resistance we think we feel from the boss.

I have worked with clients who avoid their supervisor or manager because they feel their boss doesn’t understand them.  Initially, this might help us cope, but it can’t help us understand how we can change the way we react to them.  It’s best to lean into what we feel as resistance and use curiosity as our best tool in such situations.  Think carefully about how you word questions to anyone and especially your boss.  The open-ended “What communication style works best for you?” opens up possibilities, while something binary like, “You don’t like my emails do you?” can foreclose any connection or growth.  So too, the statement “I’d value time with you,” is an opening to a larger conversation that can be filled with development of the relationship.

There will always be bosses with whom you just “click.”  And there will be others where you have to work hard in establishing how you react to them.  My guess, based on that old first sergeant’s advice, is that one of those will be the best boss you ever had.  It’s your choice.

This article originally appeared on bostonexecutivecoaches.com.

 

Podcast: Mental Wellness and the Short- and Long-Term Impacts of the COVID Pandemic on Your Workforce

As the United States looks to begin a scaled approach to reducing pandemic restrictions in the coming weeks and months a hidden enemy lingers that is not getting much attention. While many healthcare workers are facing the brunt of the risks associated with supporting pandemic response, they are certainly not alone in shouldering stresses associated with the last few months. The acute and chronic stressors during difficult times may have negative repercussions for many people and organizations for years to come. During this episode, we talk with Joe Smarro and Jesse Trevino of SolutionPoint Plus, advisor to healthcare systems, education systems, first responders, and corporate clients in the areas of mental health, wellness, and resilience.

Released June 5, 2020

Show notes: Below are links to mental health information and resources mentioned in the show:

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. 

Stepping Away From “Hurry Sickness”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my attempts to take a day off from being busy. Since that post, a lot has changed, and the challenge of unbusying is harder than ever for some.

Between the shift to remote work, increased responsibilities to care for the kids, a spouse/significant other, aging parents, etc, and the need to plan and adapt, I know for many of you, time is still a very scarce resource.

In fact, despite having fewer commitments due to physical distancing requirements, I’m still not doing a great job of being less busy. For all the really hard things this season is bringing, I’ve decided to commit finding some good by taking advantage of the opportunity to reset my schedule.  Here’s why I think, for me at least, now is a perfect time to make the shift to being less busy. Read More…

Virtual Onboarding For Remote Employees

virtual onboarding

Last week OPM issued new guidance providing flexibilities for agencies to onboard new workers using remote tools. The memo lays out a few key activities that agencies can now perform using teleconferencing tools and encourages HR and IT leaders to work together to find the most effective ways to complete the administrative requirements of onboarding.

The new options are intended to enable agencies to continue meeting their staffing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, while the memo addresses remote delivery for the administrative elements of onboarding, agencies may be struggling to effectively connect new employees to the new organization. And, with one recent study suggesting that a negative onboarding experience makes new employees two times more likely to look for a new job, it’s clear that effective onboarding must be a priority.

Here are six things to consider as you are working to quickly shift to virtual onboarding: Read More…

Why Are We Still Investing In Engagement & Self-Actualization At Work?

For over two decades, since the concept came into awareness, many managers have been working to improve employee engagement. Historically, though, you can trace the roots engagement back to the work of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. When Maslow’s general theory of motivation was translated into the world of management, self-actualization became the goal for all employees — an idea that many authors (e.g. here) have since related to employee engagement.

Since Maslow entered management, managers have pushed for engagement, finding fulfillment, or simply “doing what you love” on the job. But, this is a narrow interpretation of an already pretty narrow view of human motivation.

A quick look at global employee engagement suggests that the way we’ve been pursuing self-actualizing work is likely misguided. Despite massive investments over the past two decades, we’ve seen little change in global employee engagement. In fact, a recent report from Gallup celebrates a 1% increase actively engaged members of the workforce with no change in the percent who are actively disengaged — and says nothing about the consistent majority of workers who are neither actively engaged or disengaged.

All of the effort and investment in driving engagement and self-actualization typically ignores what we really know about motivation. Motivation at work, and beyond, is deeply individual. We know that work motivation isn’t simply a linear progression toward self-actualization, engagement, or happiness. What then should a well-intentioned manager who’s been overdosed with Maslow do to help improve employee experience and performance?

Read More…

The Culture Hack You’re Not Seeing

“Take this pill and all your weight loss and fitness dreams will come true! No workouts needed!”

“Get that summer 6-pack in 30 days!”

…if only that were true.

We’ve all seen products that claim to have the “key” or the “hack” to the magazine-cover physique. We also know there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work and dedication to achieve your fitness goals. So, be wary of those tactics, because looking for shortcuts doesn’t always work out.

However, there’s a difference between claiming to have found a way to “beat the system” and uncovering something that’s been under your nose the whole time. In this context, we’re talking about your company culture. Regardless of how “healthy” (or unhealthy) it may be, there is one thing you can do to make an immediate impact.

 Disclaimer: This definitely won’t burn off that Hungry Man Chicken Dinner you just popped into the microwave.

Read More…

Is Your Business Working on Purpose?

By Shawn Parr, Guvner and CEO of Bulldog Drummond

When I misbehaved as a young lad, my mother was the one who almost always reprimanded me. After lecturing me on the rights and wrongs, she’d ask, “Did you do that on purpose, son?” and then hand out the punishment. My actions were almost always spontaneous episodes of teenage stupidity—not premeditated acts of dissent. While I was definitely a rebellious teenager, my mother’s inquisition always made me think about my actions, and to this day, “Are you doing that on purpose?” is a question I ask myself regularly about my impact on others.

Purpose and people are the new frontier.
For most businesses today, the most valuable asset they manage is their people—and employee engagement and satisfaction are strategic imperatives that every leadership team should understand. People who turn up to work each day and aren’t actively using their talents to pursue or connect to their purpose don’t operate at their full potential. People who find their reason for being, who uncover their purpose and connect with it passionately, become more engaged and significantly more effective at work and in life because of a clear sense of fulfillment. Helping your employees discover and define their purpose represents a significant opportunity to improve “people” engagement and, therefore, overall business performance.

Companies that find their purpose are no different when they define or rediscover their reason for being. Working closely with executive teams at large corporations to reposition and refresh their brands, we encounter many who ask for our guidance to explore and define their purpose. This is not just vision and mission work, it is deep strategic work that can impact every facet of a business, both inside and outside of a company. Read More…

The Pros And Cons Of Internal Company Podcasts

Internal company podcasts

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself in a conversation with a client, potential client, or team member about the challenges they face with actively engaging their employees. The topic of employee engagement is certainly not new but the tactics associated with engaging employees continues to evolve. This evolution is spurred on by a variety of factors, including technological innovation, and people’s ability to repurpose existing methods in the employee engagement arena.

Take, for example, the prominent use of video conferencing applications in the workplace. Technological advances in both video and in internet bandwidth have created an opportunity for many businesses to capitalize on remote work options for employees that would have never been possible just mere years ago.

Another such reinvention of a popular communication vehicle in today’s society is the use of podcasts by corporations as a way to engage their employees. Take, for example, the wildly popular Trader Joe’s podcast. Originally intended to be a limited, five episode, release, the popularity of the effort evolved into an ongoing phenomenon that customers love as well.

Podcasts may be all the rage, but they might not be the silver bullet your organization is looking for to engage your employees. In an effort to dive a bit deeper into the topic, I spoke with two experts to understand their opinions on when and why an internal, corporate podcast may be the right solution for you.

Read More…