Leading from a distance

(Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

“Leading remotely makes the complex role of leading even more complex”.

(Kevin Eikenberry)

The year 2020 started with a bang for us all and the promise of a fantastic year. 

The term 2020 Vision was used to highlight the promise this was going to be the year where vision became reality and positive things were coming.

2020 has been a lot tougher than most of us would like but there have been positive things to be thankful for.  We must remember tough times now can lead to positive outcomes in the future.

One area of my Walk into the Future where I really needed 2020 Vision was after accepting my role in Fort Pierce and discovering my entire team was working remotely.  Imagine moving to a new city during a pandemic, taking over a work environment and meeting your entire team on your laptop.  Strange times but quickly discovered all my leadership training, speaking, and consulting experience were needed for me to make positive things happen.

I have read a lot of leadership books and written multiple articles on authentic leadership.  There is not a manual on how to come in on day one and begin to lead a remote team.  Trust me, I searched for that book for days! 

You always want to make a great first impression, but it is tough to gauge your direct reports via a laptop screen.  Things are progressing but I continue to learn new tools and techniques daily.  2020 Vision has morphed into a new mantra to remain focused and control the controllable.

Teambuilding

A first step to build a great team is to ensure teambuilding is a central focus to get everyone on the same page and moving in the correct direction.  I have written about several teambuilding exercises we have completed (MBTI, The Energy Bus) and the need to help each team member grow professionally.  We completed these activities in a complete physical distancing environment where staff members engaged each other via computers from separate offices.  Let’s repeat that…we were together via a Zoom like application (Blackboard Collaborate), in different locations, and working on our teambuilding activities.  Not ideal but it can be done.

Never imagined this was possible but got the 2020 Vision to try this and tweak as needed.  We have been able to enhance team dynamics and maintain our physical distance from each other.  I continue to look for interactive ways to engage the team using computer technology and ensure we have fun with the process. 

Work schedules

2020 Vision allows me to understand the traditional concept of work schedules went out the window earlier this year.  Not saying people do not have to work but the COVID-19 pandemic created a huge work from home dynamic.  Jobs traditionally done within the office environment were rapidly transformed to work from home.  This was a major change for everyone, and work schedules had to change as well.  Gone were the typical 8 am – 5 pm work schedules since people had to juggle work, childcare, home schooling and a myriad of other tasks daily. 

I learned quickly when staff needed time to take care of their home life.  Also learned the work from home mindset is not the same for everyone.  Some folks are just as motivated working from home as they were in the office.  I came to understand that some are not as motivated working from home—human nature kicks in for these folks.

My role has evolved to ensure everyone can use the technology we have available to complete work assignments.  We needed to create communication channels to check in without being overly connected daily.  I am still learning and evolving in this area, but we are getting things done.

Mental well-being

My initial thoughts for this section was to write about helping my staff with their mental well-being.  We do that daily but one aspect I continue to focus on is my mental well-being.  My workouts and running program are great escapes for me from the daily grind of leading a team from a distance.  This new world of work seems to always have someone trying to schedule a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Blackboard Collaborate meeting—they never stop! ☹😊

Finally had to tell some coworkers to ask before just jamming a virtual meeting on my calendar.  This is a constant reminder the world of work has changed—mostly for the good but there can be a bad side to always being connected.  I work to connect with my staff daily to make sure they are doing well.  I do not email, call, or text them after work hours to model behavior that honors a true work and life balance.  Small steps!

I am still learning how to operate in this new world of work. 

What techniques do you use to not be connected all the time?  How has your 2020 vision changed from earlier in the year?

 “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”.

(Plato)

Zoom into the Future

zoom

(Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay)

“When in doubt, zoom out”.

(Reggie Watts)

I like starting Walk into the Future articles with a quote to inspire my thought process and get me going.  Well, the quote above is the best I could find with zoom in it but has nothing really to do with this article.  Forgive me but thought it was funny and had the appropriate word (zoom) I needed to move forward.

The last several months have been productive, exciting, and frustrating (COVID-19) but progress has been made daily.  The Zoom application has become a popular way for the workforce to keep making positive things happen considering the COVID-19 pandemic.  More people are using this platform to ensure daily operations and tasks are completed in this new way to go to work.

Zoom interview

My first foray using the Zoom application came back in February when I was introduced to it for a first-round interview.  I have used Skype to interview for past positions and to interview candidates for openings on my team.  Did not know much about Zoom but found the process a lot more seamless than the Skype application.  Simply receive an email with a link, click on the link at the appropriate time and you are meeting with the folks on the distant end.  Zoom provides the capability to host multiple people in multiple locations so this appears to make getting a team together to interview candidates a bit easier than Skype.  I am sure there are still uses for the Skype platform but thought Zoom took pressure off me as the candidates since I did not have to test my computer/software as in the past.

Zoom team meeting

Leveraged my newfound appreciation for Zoom by hosting my first team meeting with my new team at Indian River State College prior to starting work.  Again, COVID-19 has most organizations working remotely to avoid large meetings and practicing physical distancing.  I wanted to get a head start on teambuilding prior to moving to Fort Pierce and Zoom was the perfect application.  We were able to host 10 people in 5 different locations (physical distancing) and build a team foundation to help us find ways to ensure students, faculty/staff and employers continue to receive world class customer service.  I have talked with tree branches who are using Zoom but found it to be an even better platform than described.

Zoom work process (onboarding, team meetings, teambuilding)

Realize there are several who will read this article who have been using Zoom for a while.  I am just getting my feet wet and see so many useful ways to use this platform even after we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Staff on satellite campuses can continue to participate in meetings, workshops, and teambuilding activities without having to drive to the main campus.  There will be times when they need/want to be present, but Zoom can save time and driving to and from the main campus.  Also, see the benefits of conducting one-on-one sessions with distant students, employers, and staff.  Just getting my thoughts together but I am sure I will leverage Zoom to find ways to ensure our students have the best employment opportunities available.  Zoom appears to be setting the pace for a new world order!  Stay tuned as I will continue to share how I am zooming into the future. 😊

 How does your organization use the Zoom platform?  Do you have tricks of the trade you can share?  Thanks!

NOTE:  Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Blackboard Collaborate are three platforms I am actively using at work.  The three platforms are easy to navigate and provides similar functionality.