leadership

So what have I learned so far about remote working…

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For the past 5 months I have been looking into the area of remote workers…I have learned much and I know I have only begun to scratch the surface. So, as summer comes to a close I want to hit pause and reflect on what I have gleaned so far.

  • Remote work is alive and well across all industries, in all sizes of organizations from start ups to those that are well established.
  • Remote work is not a ‘fad’…it’s here to stay and will only grow in it’s reach and impact.
  • People are at the centre of a successful remote workforce
  • Many reasons exist for people to choose this form of work: freedom, flexibility, increased productivity, and greater opportunity for creativity to name a few.
Unsure of the destination, but the journey is delightful!
  • There are also challenges inherent to working remote: limited communication, lonliness, poor or limited technology, time management, self discipline, focus …however, each can successfully be overcome.
  • Trust is the key ingredient that will make or break a successful romote working arrangement.
  • Communication needs to be intentional and customized to each situation.
  • Face to face interactions still need to happen, even if only once every 6 months.
  • Distributed vs co-located work arrangements does not necessarily mean organizations will save money…that can’t be the motivation.
  • Organizational fears that remote workers will slack off is unfounded; research actually shows the opposite is true…remote workers have a tendency to over-work.
  • Great locations like Co-Lab in Kelowna are available around the world so that remote workers (and those amazing digital nomads) have a place to connect and collaborate.
http://okcolab.com
  • The resources available on this topic are excellent…people continue to learn, to perfect, to mentor, to share, and to dedicate their efforts to support others entering into this exciting world of remote work.
  • Working remote is not for everyone…and that’s ok.

So where do I go from here? I keep learning, keep experiencing, keep asking questions, and do whatever I can to share what I learn with those who want to know.

Some ideas? Continue to include this critical aspect of work with my business students (both in class and on-line); create a case study on the topic; be a resource to managers transitioning from supporting co-located teams to supporting distribute teams…pretty exciting from where I sit as a remote worker, business coach, and professor

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Remote Working ~ Intentional Communication

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According to Jeff Robbins with Yonder,

All communication needs to be intentional.

Seems fairly simply and straight forward…but is it?

Think about it…how much time do we honestly put into choosing our words? To be fair, some of us take time to measure and analyze our thoughts before giving voice to them while others are more apt to give voice and then reflect…or not!

In face to face interactions, even though our thoughts have been voiced, we generally have the opportunity to ‘take back’, or clarify as soon as we realize the message was not received in the manner intended. Not so easy to do when communication is shared through virtual channels.

Not only do we need to pay attention to the content of our messages, but also to the channel, the breadth of who receives the message, the frequency of communication, and the amount of information shared.

Working remotely, or virtually, calls for excellence – and intentionality – in communication. In fact, it can be our life line to clients, colleagues, contractors, and bosses! So how can we ensure that we are communicating to the best of our ability…and beyond? How can we be so intentional about our communications that ‘delete’ is not the first reaction when our name shows up on someone’s screen?

I believe this can be as simple as 4WH…yup, the old who, what, where, why, when, and how. Let’s build that out…

It's for you!
It’s for you!

WHO addresses the receivers. Who needs the information that I am communicating? Who really needs to be included in the communication? Do I honestly need to hit ‘reply to all’?

WHAT considers the core or content of the message. What is the most important information that needs to be communicated?

WHERE thinks through the location of both sender and receiver. Where should each be when the communication takes place. Does the communication call for interaction that is best suited for a phone call, FaceTime, or Skype? Is privacy of utmost importance? Is dependable internet vital? Should there be limited noise?

WHEN pays attention to the timeliness of the communication. When does this information need to be communicated? When does the receiver need to receive this material: Immediately? By the end of day? No urgency at all? I like this excerpt from Fried and Hansson’s Remote: Office not Required

Questions you can wait hours to learn the answers to are fine to put in an email. Questions that require answers in the next few minutes can go into an instant message. For crises that truly merit a sky-is-falling designation, you can use that old-fashioned invention called the telephone.

HOW thinks about the channel of communication. How can I communicate this information in the most concise manner without compromising the content, urgency, sensitivity, or clarity?

WHY…perhaps the most important question of all. Why am I sending this message? What is the purpose? What is the expected outcome? What is my motive?

When you think about it, we can think through each of the 4WH filters in a very short amount of time, but the result of doing so will have long term benefit. Ready to give it a try? Ready to be intentional in your communication?

A remote worker’s most important tools.

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As I have been traveling in Portugal, Finland, Spain and England these past weeks, I have once again been struck by the commonalities we share as humans…both in our need for meaningful work and renewing play time. This balance is especially important for those who have chosen the path of remote work. However, the degree to which cultures intentionally plan for playtime is varied.

While in Finland I was honored to be part of a Global Faculty Colloquium held at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyvascula; 18 individual from around the globe presented their practices related to applied research in the post secondary classroom. Inspiring, informative, and innovative ideas were shared, and each brought their unique culture and perspective to the conversation. However, the learning that left the strongest impression on me was the intentionality demonstrated by the Finnish people…our hosts. These people are hard workers, but take seriously their time to step back and enjoy the wonder of the country they are blessed to live in. Time and again, we heard guides and locals alike refer to ‘living room spaces’…spaces where people take time out of their work to simply sit, visit, get to know one another, and reflect on life. Time to be still, to think, to watch, to simply…be. I would suggest this is one of the two most important tools for a remote worker, the pre-cursor to innovative and creative thinking.

You may have intentional playtime all figured out, but for many this is a necessity that all to easily gets pushed aside. There is almost a panic that sets in if we are not doing something that contributes to existing contracts or to the pursuit of new business. While in Helsinki it was a treat to sit among the many people taking time out of their busyness to enjoy a pastry and coffee from one of the many sidewalk cafes, or simply sit on a bench along the city’s central linear park…intentionally taking advantage of the many ‘living room spaces’. But this is not a new concept…we are all keenly aware of the need for such ‘playtime’…aware, of , but perhaps not committed to .

I was also stuck by the intentionality of the Finns regarding building relationships in business. The value they place on taking time to create a foundation of trust before moving forward with business dealings is commendable; people first, business second. Read the rest of this entry »

Mental Health in the Workplace is everybody’s issue.

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I was asked by a friend to write something that normally would not have been a topic of choice, an area that feels very exposing. However, if I truly believe in integrity and transparency, I need to pull open the blinds of a challenge shared by many.

Time to take off the masks.
Time to take off the masks.

It all starts with volunteering… something I believe strongly in, not out of a sense of duty, but because I want to, and I know how rewarding it can be when you find the right fit.

The cause I am currently engaged with is the Canadian Mental Health Association; I believe in the work CMHA does, I can relate to the issues they deal with, and the folks at our local association deeply care about what they do, and who they do it with.

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘mental health’? Does it make you cringe? Is it something that only affects ‘other’ people? Or does it stir up feelings that are all too real…too close to home. You’re not alone! The specific area that I’m engaged with is mental health in the workplace, an issue that is very real to employers and employees alike. Did you know that everyday in Canada; over 500,000 people miss work due to mental health issues? That’s huge! Think of the impact those absentees have on the individual, their families, their co-workers, their organizations! And yes, the cost to business is in the neighbourhood of $33 billion each year. Take a read through this sobering Maclean’s article. These are people we rub shoulders with on a daily basis…and many of us are one of those people.

It doesn’t matter what you call it; stress, anxiety, burn-out…it’s the pile up of demands (personal, professional), expectations (others and our own), deadlines, conflicts, pressures that get us to the point of _______ … you finish the sentence. For me it looks like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and an inability to make even the simplest of decisions.

As a training and development professional and business professor, I speak with many people who feel like an elastic band that’s about to snap; these people are from a variety of industries, representing all generations, are male and female, formally educated (or not), experienced, and capable individuals. CEO’s, leaders, and managers be aware, these are the people who are the very core and life of your organizations…many are even sitting beside you in the boardroom.

CMHA’s Mental Health Voices represents the need for greater awareness to be brought to such matters in the workplace. If you are in a role of people leadership or run a business, this is a cause that begs your attention. If you live in the Okanagan, BC, I would invite you to attend our Mental Health Voices breakfast with Brett Wilson on November 4th. Check out the website www.cmhakelowna.com/mental-health-voices for both information on the event and ticket purchase.

No matter your location, I would invite you to take some time to think through how your place of business could be proactive about this growing area of concern and join the growing crowd of business leaders who are endeavouring to take the stigma out of the mental health issue.

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Time for the 3 ‘Rs’…Relax, Refresh, Rejuvenate!

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Next?

I am just about finished marking my final projects and exams for the term…my brain feels like mush! It’s amazing how tiring it is to read and mark the results of someone else’s work; perhaps it has something to do with the connection between how successful we have been as teachers and how much our learners are walking away from the term having learned.

The end of term is certainly bitter sweet. Having spent 4 months with various groups of students, I finally feel like I’ve have gotten to know them…then my time with them is done. One particular class so inspired me with their final projects that I want to keep them for another term!

As teachers we so much want to inspire our students to expand their learning, their worldview. We want to help them catch a glimpse of the exciting adventures ahead of them, and prepare them for that journey. We can set the stage for that learning, we can create the thirst for that learning, but as Maryellen Weimer reminds us in her book, Learner Centered Teaching, we can’t make them drink. http://www.facultyfocus.com/topic/articles/teaching-professor-blog/

So what can we do? Well, I think the first thing we can do is to stay thirsty ourselves, and continually work towards quenching that thirst. School’s out, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for our brains to vacate. True, we need to take time to relax, but we also need to be refreshed and rejuvenated…we need to be inspired so that we can be an inspiration. (The 3 ‘Rs’)

Summer session starts for me right away in May and goes until the end of June…not quite time to close the books. However, the full workload is greatly reduced allowing time to slow down, and fill up. This also means that I have time once again to contribute on a more IMG_0706regular basis to my blog. I continue to probe and ponder topics, issues and concepts, but for the next 4 months the focus will be on ‘How do I relax, refresh and rejuvenate’, so that when September hits, I’m ready to hit the ground running.

I invite you to journey along with me, add your own experiences, and then learn together.

Let’s explore…

Are teachers also leaders?

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What’s your favorite question to ask? For me it’s why? That’s it. It’s been the same question just about all of my life.

I find that it brings the greatest critical thinking challenges to me as I continue to work in the field of training and development. For most of my growing up years people told me what to do, I’m sure your experience was similar… we get an education and are advised what to take, then we start a career and learn the job with new rules and processes…sadly, asking why isn’t always encouraged!

This was the case until I was finally asked the question WHY DO YOU DO YOU WHAT YOU DO? What’s your purpose on this earth? Someone finally turned the table on me!

Let me ask you, have you ever written a personal mission statement? It asks the why of your life. I was at a leadership staff retreat a number of years ago when I was asked what my personal mission was …not only had no one ever asked me such a big why question…I had no answer for them. Thus started a grueling exercise of discover…and decision! The end result was…

 I want to be about equipping and encouraging others to realize their full potential.

This guided my thinking and actions in every leadership role I took on.

Over the past while I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between being a leader and being a teacher. I tend to believe that not only are they connected, but being one compels us to also be the other. So if this is true…we need to consider what kind of leader-teachers we should be.

Take a few minutes to consider this connection and perhaps open the door to look at teaching…and our post-secondary classrooms, from another perspective.

John Kotters describes leadership this way…

“Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen, despite the obstacles.”

 Can we see a connection to teaching?

 Learner centred teaching is all about putting the focus on what the learner needs in order for them to be successful. Consider how similar this is to servant leadership:

 “Putting the needs, interests and goals of others above your own and using your personal gifts to help others achieve their potential.”

 Is there a connection here to teaching?

 Our purpose should be to do all we can to help our students be successful.

Let’s assume that we are on the right track here. We all know that learning looks different for each student…the variables are endless.

So flashing back to leadership, what we are discussing is the type of leadership made popular by Blanchard and Hersey…Situational leadership. We know that this is a contingency approach that basically means IT DEPENDS. It depends on the readiness of the follower…the leader adapts his/her leadership style based on the needs of the person being lead.

  • Telling– Leaders tell their people what to do and how to do it.
  • Selling– Leaders provide information and direction, but there’s more communication with followers.
  • Participating – Leaders focus more on the relationship and less on direction. Decision making is shared with followers.
  • Delegating – Leaders pass most of the responsibility onto the follower or group. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_44.htm

 Can we connect these styles or stages to teaching?

 Let me ask one final question…Can you view yourself as a leader in the classroom? If so, what kind of leader do you want to be?

In preparing to teach a leadership class recently, I came across this question:

 If it is immoral to prevent those around you from growing to their fullest potential, are you being moral?

In other words, as a leader/teacher, am I doing all I can to help those around me to grow to their fullest potential? Hmmm!

Potential, Persuasion & Leadership

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Right now I’m sitting in a new little restaurant in Kelowna called Gratitude. Recently opened, it’s claim to fame is a menu that is gluten free, vegan, and safe for most allergies. Limited…but oh so tasty! I feel healthier just sitting here. My order…spicy root veggie soup and a toasted carrot bun with coconut butter. Very delicious.

When the server/owner delivered it to me, the salutation, ‘you are lovely and awesome’ was declared. That took me a little aback…to my shame, the first thought that came to mind was ‘now that’s a little phony…they probably say that to everyone.’ But then I thought, ‘so what if they do, how many people never get to hear those sentiments from anyone?’ Yup, slapped my own hand for that one.

So how does this connect with potential? Glad you asked. Let me guide you through my thought process. One of the courses I’m teaching this semester to third year business students is Leadership; I’m very excited to be working with these future leaders! In the first class we discussed the concept of leadership and explored the experiences of each person…interesting and often inspiring. One of the resources we included in the course pack is a Harvard Business Review called ‘Harnessing the Science of Persuasion’ by Robert B. Cialdini. The article summary states,

“No leader can succeed without mastering the art of persuasion. But there’s hard science in that skill, too, and a large body of psychological research suggests there are six basic laws of winning friends and influencing people.”

The article is adamant that this persuasion must be done in an ethical manner, and that mastery of the 6 Principles outlined can bring ‘scientific rigor to the business of securing consensus, cutting deals, and winning concessions.’

In class we watched a YouTube version of the article, and then spent time discussing it.

What we summarized from the discussion is that leaders need to setthe stage and create a reason for why people should follow them. The obvious danger is the ease with which a leader could cross over the line into manipulation…one good reason why the article stresses the need for ethical action and behaviour.

So, back to potential. I can see potential in my students, or in those I have been privileged to mentor, but if there isn’t a connection, if they don’t like me, they are less likely to give any credence to any suggestions I may offer for their growth and development. The same thing applies to any group of people or team you may lead…do they see evidence of the 6 principles demonstrated through your actions? Do you make it easy for them to follow you, or do you create barriers that in the long run will limit the positive influence you could have in their professional and personal lives?

While I initially felt like the greeting I received with lunch was phony, it did make me stop and think. If she really did know me would those be the words she would use to describe me; if not, would she maybe see the potential in me to come along side and help me grow into a person worthy of such a greeting?