How to seek and find opportunity

opportunity trainThe only door knocking you will hear from opportunity is the rattling of the train of success as it passes by. Opportunity doesn’t wait till you are ready, it’s here and gone. Only those that are in a position to grab hold of it get to ride it to success.

“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Seek out opportunity, don’t wait for it to come and get you – it won’t.

Here are the 4 steps to successfully seek and find opportunity:

1 – Trains have a sign that tells you where they are heading so you know which one to board – the train that takes you to your destination. This means that sometimes you are letting other trains pass you by as you wait for the right one. There are many opportunities in life – not all are equal. You need a dream of success in your mind at all times to recognize the right opportunity when it comes. Only grab hold of the opportunities that bring you closer to your dream.

“Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.” ­­– John Maxwell

2 – Trains leave from the train station. If you want to catch a train, you get to the station – sounds simple.   In the same way, opportunity comes where it wants to, not where you wish it would. Now that you have a dream of success clearly pictured in your mind, you should get to the place where your dream happens. If you want to be a professional musician – join a local band. If you want to be a writer – start writing and connect with other writers. If you want to be pastor – volunteer at your church. If you want to be a doctor – study hard and get good grades so you might qualify for medical school. Place yourself where the opportunity that brings you closer to your dream is likely to be.

“Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.” – Julie Andrews

3 – Trains leave at fixed times, from specific platforms and require the right ticket to board. When the right train comes you need to be prepared for all three of these. Do the work that needs to be done to prepare for when the opportunity comes that will lead you to your dream.

“The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck.” – Tony Robbins

I have heard it said that successful people seem to be in the right place at the right time. I find that lots of other people were in the same place and weren’t as successful – why? They didn’t recognize the opportunity because they didn’t have a picture of their dream or a plan to take action when it came.

 

Successful communication results in action

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communication the language of leadershipIt is the responsibility of leaders to communicate the vision that leads to success. It is also the leader’s job to ensure that their communication is heard, understood and implemented.

Some leaders believe that they only need to “Show and Tell” what is expected and it should be accomplished. Some leaders go one step further and think as long as people “Look and Hear” they are paying attention and success will follow.

What these leaders might not know is what Bill Cosby once said, “Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing.”

Showing and telling isn’t enough; looking and hearing isn’t enough either. What leaders need for success is seeing and listening which brings understanding and action.

Here are three roadblocks to seeing and listening that you can overcome:

1 – Your team members are not ready to accept your vision

Just like you prepare the ground to accept the seed, you must prepare your team to accept your vision. Similarly, once the seed is planted, you water the ground to encourage the plant to take root; you must also reinforce your vision.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” - Robertson Davies

There is a saying among presenters that goes like this: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” These three steps are the keys to success to ensure your message is heard and understood. These steps work for every form of communication, not just speeches.

Tell them what you are going to tell them: In this step you are preparing the audience to comprehend your message. Your goal is to make your message as understandable as possible. Tell the audience what they should look for in your presentation by outlining the points you are going to make.

Tell them: This is the step where you plant the seed. Following the points you outlined in the first step, you add stories, jokes, and quotes that support your premise.

Tell them what you told them: In this final wrap up, you are reinforcing your points to take root by giving a call to action to use what they heard today to make a difference.

2 – You are not at the level that your team members need

In his autobiography, Will Rogers said, “The fellow that can only see a week ahead is always the popular fellow, for he is looking with the crowd. But the one that can see years ahead, he has a telescope but he can’t make anybody believe he has it.”

By definition, great leaders look from the top of the mountain, always searching for the future success of the team. From the top of the mountain you see far and wide but without great detail. It is only from the ground that the detail becomes clear. If you want the attention to be turned from you to the vision, you have to come down from the mountain.

Yes, you may be smart and really know what needs to be done, but the goal here is not to show how smart you are, it is to communication that wisdom to your team.  William Butler Yeats gave good advice when he said, “Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.”

My advice to visionary leaders is: “Don’t just shout your vision from the top floor, live it on the office floor.”

3 – You have not managed expectations

When you ask people to follow you, what do you think they expect to happen? Great leaders are great because they have a history of being great. They have demonstrated time and again that following them leads to success to everyone on the team.

Without a history of success to draw upon, your team will set its expectations on the history they know – the past. You have to create success in small ways before you are allowed to ask for dedication in big ways. There is no better way to remove doubt or fear than through the observation of success.

“People see and hear actions and words that fulfill their expectations.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

There are three age old steps you should follow to build small successes and set the right expectations:

1 – Do it for them – Go ahead, jump in the water first and show them it’s ok for swimming.

2 – Do it with them – The first time you skydive it’s in tandem, strapped to an expert.

 3 – Watch them do it – So you can applaud and cheer.

Remember leaders, show and tell doesn’t guarantee success; only understanding and action can do that.

Planning for a successful career

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soccer planning diagramI have watched my son play soccer since he was young. I have to admit, all of these years it seemed like a lot of running and kicking but I never caught on to the planning that goes on before and during every match.

This last year was different. My son started playing high school soccer and his coach is a former international semi-professional player. This was also the year of the World Cup that is played every four years, and we watched every game we could. We attended several professional matches in person. My son even bought the Xbox version of the World Cup and began the arduous process of teaching me how soccer is really played.

Here is what I learned. The successful soccer teams plan for success.  They have plans for offense and plans for defense. On offense they position themselves across the field so they can pass and have opportunities to score a goal. They plan each play so that each player is in the right position to make or receive a pass, and if that plan does not work, they pass the ball back to the defense or the goalie and start a new plan. On defense each team plans the location of their players to provide opportunities to block the pass and switch to offense. In soccer this all happens very fast, but for the successful teams it is all planned.

I learned that this level of planning extends beyond each goal and each match. It is also done with an eye on the season’s rankings and for accumulating points to qualify for the next World Cup. I hadn’t realized how much soccer was like planning for a successful career. Small wins, lead to bigger wins, which lead to the biggest win.

I have seen first-hand in both areas now that Winston Churchill was right when he said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

How have you done planning for a successful career? Many find themselves out of school in their twenties with their first job and no plan; wondering what direction to take in their career. Or maybe you have been working for ten or fifteen years and don’t feel like you have your dream job. What can you do to get on track and have a successful career?

Here’s the secret to planning for a successful career:

Begin With the End in Mind  For soccer the end could be the World Cup. For Landon Donovan, all-time leading scorer for the U.S. National Team it was something more. He said, “Most of us are in this more than just for playing soccer. We’re in it for the bigger goal, to move it along for the next generation.” Donovan wanted to win, but he also wanted to broaden the popularity of the sport in the U.S.

You have to decide what your ultimate goal is so that you can make decisions that will help you reach it.

In his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey uses the analogy of climbing a ladder as activities we undertake. We often hear about people who are climbing the ladder of success. Covey’s main point in this area is before you begin climbing you have to define success.

If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.” - Stephen Covey.

A successful career begins with defining what you want to accomplish with that career. Do you want to have reached a certain position? Do you want to have worked for a certain company? Do you want to be known for having helped others achieve success? What will say success to you?

Plan short steps that move you in the right direction. In soccer, you only reach the World Cup if you win enough matches to qualify. To win matches you have to score goals and stop your opponent from scoring goals. Sounds simple.

But winning all you plan doesn’t always happen. That is why a good Plan B, is just as important as a good Plan A. James Yorke once said, “The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.”

So go ahead and begin planning for a successful career. It doesn’t matter if the first steps you take don’t necessarily work out. You will learn, adapt and move forward. Remember a goal without a plan is just a wish, and a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

You make progress towards a successful career when you take short steps to move you in the right direction. What do you need to know to move closer to your goal? Who do you need to know to move closer to your goal? What should you do first to move closer to your goal?

Commit to attaining the short steps.  Having goals and plans to reach them is just the beginning. You have to execute your plans every day. Argentine soccer great Lionel Messi said, “You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” Make a commitment to do what it takes to achieve the plans you decide on.

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” – Peter Drucker

You achieve a successful career by making the investment in hard work.  What are you willing to do to achieve your goal?  What are you willing to give up to achieve your goal?

Success in soccer or in your career or in anything you want to accomplish in life, only comes trough planning for success.

 

Leaders, when in doubt – ask the right questions

QuestionsLeaders: Are you confused and concerned? Do you lack the confidence to move forward?

Ask the right questions and you will understand.

As leaders we want to have all the answers all the time. Well that isn’t always possible. We don’t control everything so we won’t always know everything. We might not understand why our boss is assigning a project to us. We may be short on facts as to why our colleagues are making the decisions they are. These decisions may have an impact on how we lead our teams. You are confused, you are concerned, and you are unable to lead in confidence. The only sure way to resolve this dilemma is to ask the right questions.

 

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers….Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” – Edward Hodnett

When you are confused: You don’t understand why things are happening the way they are. You don’t think the decisions being made line up with the vision of the company. Relax.   It may be that all is well with the plan, but it hasn’t been explained in a way that makes sense to you – yet. Ask the right questions and you will understand.

“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not yet understood” – Henry Miller

When you are concerned: If your assumptions are correct and there is a new vision, a new plan, then there are impacts to you and your team. If there are new goals then you need to know. No need to worry. Once you understand you will adjust and lead your team. Ask the right questions and you will understand.

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” – Harold Stephens

When you lack confidence: You aren’t sure which road to take because you don’t know if the company is heading for the same destination as you once thought. If you knew the vision you would diligently pursue it. Rest assured, you will lead without fear once again. Ask the right questions and you will understand.

“Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.”-  Peter T. Mcintyre

If you are feeling confused, concerned and don’t have that old confidence anymore because things have changed, here’s what you do: Ask the right questions and you will understand.

What is the new issue that needs to be resolved?

What is the new plan for future decisions to be made?

What is the new end state look like?

What can I do to add value to the new process?

Leadership success is the success of those your serve

service to others, albert einsteinA true leader is the one who strives for the success of others. Tom Peters, bestselling author of In Search for Excellence said, “Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders live to serve. Period.”

Now your service to those you lead won’t make them successful. Your job as a leader is to provide the opportunities for success to happen. Your service is to open doors, encourage your team to discover and use their strengths, teach and mentor, and focus on the vision. Those on the receiving end of your service must work hard to use the opportunities provided to succeed.

 

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max de Pree

In the end, the leader who strives for the success of others will receive more in return than those who focus on their own success.

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, is and remains immortal.” – Albert Pine

Your success as a leader is defined by the success of those your serve.

Those who don’t serve aren’t successful in the long run: Regardless of their position Regardless of their authority Regardless of their responsibility

Those that do serve are successful in the long run: Because of their words Because of their actions Because of their results

It is all very simple. As Mohammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

INVESTING IN PEOPLE

The Secret allocate our resourcesToday’s post is from our guest author, Mark Miller.

Ten years ago Mark and Ken Blanchard wrote a classic business fable titled The Secret. Today they are releasing a new 10th anniversary edition which includes a leadership self-assessment so readers can measure to what extent they lead by serving and where they can improve. The authors also have added answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model in the real world.

As practical as it is uplifting, The Secret shares Blanchard’s and Miller’s wisdom about leadership in a form that anyone can easily understand and implement.  This book will benefit not only those who read it but also the people who look to them for guidance and the organizations they serve.

The forward is written by my friend and mentor John C. Maxwell who said, “My challenge to you is simple: learn The Secret—then apply The Secret. If you do, your leadership and your life will be transformed forever. “

INVESTING IN PEOPLE

In challenging economic times, one of the easiest items to cut from the budget is training and development. The rationale is understandable. Rarely will any organization see immediate negative consequences when training is discontinued. It looks like found money in the budgeting process.

Unfortunately, this logic is flawed. Learning and development is like time-released medication: the benefits are derived over time.

Imagine someone who believes they don’t need to save for retirement. This month, even this year, they see no ill effects from their decision. However, if you play the movie forward, many of these same people live their final years in poverty. The decision not to save was painless in the moment – the pain arrives later.

Today I want to respond to a question I received just last week from a business leader: “Why should we invest in learning and development for our staff?” There are many reasons. Here are some of mine…

  • Improve performance – Learning and development may not have immediate impact on the Profit and Loss statement, but it better have long-term impact. We help people grow so we can help the business grow.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of prepared leadership for the future – We’re trying to build a leadership pipeline. This will not happen without thoughtful design and construction. Pipelines don’t build themselves.
  • Increase individual and organizational capacity – Growth should generate capacity. Every organization I know of is asking their people to do more with less. Without new thinking and methods, this mandate is a prescription for disaster.
  • Establish common language and models – When people align their thinking, it’s much easier to align their actions. My favorite example of this is around the topic of leadership. Does your organization have a common definition of leadership? If not, you’ll always struggle to create a leadership culture.
  • Build cultural cohesiveness – Shared learning experiences create common bonds. These experiences also help us grow a small company. Doing life together, including learning, fosters a unified culture.
  • Help staff increase their level of contribution – If you’ve created a healthy organization, people want to contribute at a higher level. People want to add more value. Learning and development facilitates this.
  • Introduce new best practices – Left to their own, organizations can easily become insulated from the outside world. They settle into patterns of behavior that often do not represent global best practices. Investments in learning and development can mitigate this tendency.
  • Combat complacency and stagnation – Living things grow. Growth creates energy and movement. Investments in learning and development are like water on a plant. Without it, growth is stunted and death is not far behind.
  • Maintain people as a competitive advantage – Are your people a competitive advantage for your organization? If so, an on-going investment will be required to maintain that edge. If they’re not, you’ll never enjoy that advantage without investing in them.
  • For me, there’s one more reason to invest in learning and development. I don’t see our people as an asset… I see them as a gift. I want to steward that gift well.
  • Mark Miller believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

 

 

The road to success is paved with mistakes

mistakes - Thomos edisonHave you ever see a toddler become a success learning how to use a spoon to feed themselves? It all starts with mistakes: Miss their mouth -> Spill, Closer to their mouth -> Spill, Spoon in the mouth -> Spill, Spoon in the mouth -> Success -> Success -> Success…Once the toddler perfects the method of using the spoon, they continue the same process with all current and new food. They forget the mistakes, and remember only how to be a success.

This is the same process we should follow in every new opportunity: Allow yourself to do it wrong before you learn how to do it right, then keep doing it right.

You have to try things that don’t work to find what does work. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

This works for individuals and it works for teams. Leaders make the environment where their team can try new ways to find what works.   When they do find what works, leaders focus on the success, not the mistakes that led them there. A large part of success comes from what you focus on. Since the leader sets the vision for achieving the purpose of the team, they also determine where the team will be focused. Bruce Lee once said, “What you habitually think largely determines what you ultimately become.”

The first company that launched the combo gas and convenience stores found that in their first year of operation more than half of the stores exceeded expectations while the rest fell short. The company assigned a team to analyze the results. They produced a list of all the reasons that the underperforming stores didn’t succeed. For the next year, the company focused on not making the mistakes on the underperforming store list. At the end of the second year, more than half of the stores fell short of expectations.

What happened? Why didn’t they improve?

They didn’t improve because the focus of the company was to avoid mistakes instead of achieving success. There were no celebrations of what did work, only reprimands for what didn’t. They didn’t know that the road to success is paved with mistakes.

There’s leaders, and there’s everyone else.

leaders know the wayWhat separates leaders from everyone else? It isn’t the title, or the authority. It isn’t even a long history of successful projects, or even companies. It’s five simple things that most people do at one time or another in their lives, many people do frequently, and few people do consistently. Read on and see if you can identify yourself in these five traits:

Leaders seek the future. “What can this become?” Is a question that leaders ask of themselves every day. “I can do this if…” is a statement leaders make every day. “Step one is…” begins the plans of every leader reaching their goals. Leaders are always moving forward to how they envision the future.

“Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they’d like to create.”­ – Seth Godin

Leaders set the vision. Once the future is envisioned, leaders decide how they and everyone around them will get there. Leaders have a very clear plan on the direction to move, the role everyone will play, and the outcome at each step.

“Leaders make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is not leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to changes things for the better.” – Harry Truman

Leaders serve others. The ultimate goal in the life activities of a leader is to better the situation of everyone they come into contact with. This is all done in the pursuit of the future goals, following the visionary plan, however it is accomplished through helping others succeed to their fullest extent.

“True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.” - Bill Owens

Leaders develop future leaders. When one task is completed, one project achieves its objectives, one team wins the prize, or one company leads its industry, one moment of success is marked in time. But, the accomplishment of developing someone into a leader who also develops future leaders, sets in motion a series of successes that are endless.

“As we look out ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others” – Bill Gates

 

 

Building something to last – focus on the fundamentals

built to lastIn Jim Collins 1994 book Built to Last, he analyzed companies that were successful over the long term.  Not one hit wonders, not those that are remembered for a product, but those that transcended changes in technology, customer needs and wants, and changes in leadership. The basic tenant of building something to last is to focus on the fundamentals.

“In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever” – Jim Collins

Listed below are five main themes from Built to Last.  Let’s see how each of those applies to leadership today.

“Make the company itself the ultimate product—be a clock builder, not a time teller”

This is the difference between fulfilling one need one time, or building a company, process, or person that can fulfill many needs many times.   

“Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is time telling; building a company that can prosper far beyond the tenure of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is clock building.” – Jim Collins

Here is how you can use this theme in your leadership practices:

Companies – “We don’t have products we sell to customers, we have customers that we sell products to.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Processes – “We don’t use people to complete projects, we use projects to complete people.” – Denis G. McLaughlin 

People – “Don’t strive to earn a million dollars, instead strive to become a person capable of earning a million dollars.” – Paul Martinelli

“Build your company around a core ideology”

Change is the only thing that will consistently happen.  The economy changes, regulations change, customer needs change, and leadership changes.  To be successful over the long term, you must adapt to these changes.  According to Collins, the only way that this can work is for a company to “be prepared to change everything about itself except its basic beliefs as it moves through corporate life.”

Here are a few examples from the book:

-3M’s dedication to innovation

-P&G’s commitment to product excellence

-Nordstrom’s ideal of heroic customer service

Other leaders have viewed this theme in their leadership practices:

We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” – Dwight Eisenhower

Success demands singleness of purpose.Vince Lombardi

You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

“Build a cult-like culture”

Having a strong core ideology, or purpose, is foundational. But unless that ideology is lived out it is just words. You have to have a plan for establishing a culture that supports the ideology.  Leaders are responsible for defining the purpose, articulating the purpose, and rewarding achievement of the purpose.

Once you establish your vision, you must clearly articulate it, over and over, to maintain focus.

Theodore Hesburgh said, The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” 

People will naturally repeat the very things that they are rewarded for achieving. First, set goals that when successful completed, lead to achieving the purpose. Second, reward the employees who participated in the successful goals.  This is more than money.  Rewards come in many forms, all which should be used with regularity, as earned:  Public and private praise, increased responsibility, new challenges, more training,

“The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they’re working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different.”  - Rick Pitino

 “Homegrow your management”

I view succession planning with equal importance as setting the vision and strategy for the company or team.  I fact everything that I do is about succession planning, including setting the vision and strategy.  Leaders should use every opportunity to teach and grow leaders in the organization. 

One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.” – Anne Mulcahy

If you aren’t teaching someone else how you do what you do, you are letting opportunity pass you by. Your main role as the leader is to prepare a successor while you lead the team. It shouldn’t be something that is part of your long term plan to get to when you are near the end of your season – that’s too late.

“From now on, choosing my successor is the most important decision I’ll make.  It occupies a considerable amount of my thought almost every day.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, nine years before he retired.

Are homegrown managers effective?  Don’t we need new ideas from outside of the organization?  Collins summarizes the success in developing CEO’s in house with some examples from his book:

“Consider that the founders of Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott, Merck, Motorola, Nordstrom, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Sony, Wal-Mart, and Disney remained in the role of chief executive for an average of 37 years each. They were founder-entrepreneur types and manager-builder types. Not only that, their immediate successors—all homegrown insiders—remained in office for 24 years on average. 

“Stimulate progress through experimentation and continuous improvement”

Throughout this article we have stated that companies that were built to last were those that transcended changes in technology, customer needs and wants, and changes in leadership.  To survive change, one must be willing to change.  However, the willingness to change does not bring with it the perfect ability to successfully change.   

The secret to success in a changing environment is to allow for continuous improvement through small experiments that yield small successes in finding ways to take small steps forward. 

“The way to simulate the drive for progress is to create an environment that encourages people to experiment and learn—to try a lot of stuff and keep what works.” – Jim Collins

Companies that are built to last do not rest upon their current state of achievement.  Instead they are always looking forward to the next change, challenge, and championship.

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

The secret to leading virtual employees

leading a virtual workforceThe days where all employees work in one building with desks, cubes, offices right next to each other from 9 to 5 are gone. The advancement in computer technology has enabled everyone to be a virtual employee of some sort and the trends show that an increasing number of us are taking advantage of this ability.

The definition of a virtual employees has evolved over the years.  It used to be a select few that didn’t work in the office with all of the other employees.  The work they performed could be completed remotely, at their home for example, and their hours could be set differently to fit their personal situation.  Then it expanded to include the off-shore and on-shore workforce where certain specialties could be centralized for a lower cost apart from the office. Today it is common place to have a percentage of the workforce completely virtual and in most cases the entire workforce partially virtual.

Why did this shift to virtual happen? According to Global Workplace Analytics there are some compelling real-life examples of the benefits of virtual employees:

Costs. Forty percent of the IBM workforce operates without a dedicated office space. The employee to desk ratio is currently 4:1, with plans to increase it to 8:1 in field locations. IBM saves $450 million a year in reduced facility infrastructure and associated initiatives through telework.

Productivity. Ecolab, a Fortune 500 sanitation and food safety company, reported a 16% increase in the number of calls answered and a 10% increase in quick call resolution among its teleworkers

Absenteeism. British Telecom realized a 64% reduction in absenteeism due to its flexible work program

Lifestyle. More than a third of college student in the US (37%) say they would take a lower salary (up to $10,000 less) for the option to work wherever they are most productive and happiest. When the same question was put to existing employees, the percentage who would take a lower salary was 38%.

Employee engagement. According to a 2013 Gallup study, 39% of employees are virtual for some part of their work.  Those that are remote for 20% or less are the most engaged (35%) compared to those that are not remote (28%). 

What is the secret to leading virtual employees? The needs of a virtual employee are no different than those that work in an office.  Today’s leader needs to focus on the same leadership areas – Clarity, Communication, and Connections -  But using the technology that empowers the virtual workforce to keep virtual employees engaged – video conferencing, skype, gotometting, and some frequency of travel for the in-person connection.

Clarity. I think of clarity in very simple terms, “Get everyone on the same page, and keep them on the same page.” The importance if this simple idea can’t be stressed too much.  There are two main areas where clarity is needed: Purpose and Priorities.

Purpose:  If you want your virtual employees to be connected to the success of the team, they need to understand the big picture goals of the team.  Make sure you are talking about the purpose of the team and the success in achieving that purpose on a regular basis.

“Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought.”  - Napoleon Hill

Priorities:  Knowing the purpose of the team is very important, but what drives the achievement of that purpose is the tactical actions that each member of the team executes.  Everyone needs to understand the priorities for their work, for other members of the team, and how it all fits together. 

“It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

Communication. Whether your employees are virtual or in the office, they are people, and people need communication.  They keys to communication with your team is that it be planned and purposeful.

Planned: Communication is an important part of leadership.  I have found in my career that if something is not scheduled it is not done.  It is too easy for perceived fire-drills to overtake all of your time. So plan out your communication schedule.  Devote time every week for one on ones; get your leadership team together every month; meet every quarter with your whole team; and complete year end reviews on time.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” – John Wooden

Purposeful: As a leader you should never hold a meeting without a clear goal in mind of what you are trying to accomplish with that meeting.  Meeting just to meet is a waste of everyone’s time. When you do this right, your team will feel the impact of the positive outcomes.

-In the one on ones your directs, be available for them.  It is their time to update you on progress, ask questions, and maintain comfort that they are heading on the right track. 

-In the leadership team meetings it is time for a higher level of updates across your team leaders.  This is an education for your leaders so they are aware of all that is important outside of their direct responsibility.  This level of knowledge helps them to see where they fit in the big picture and how what they do impacts others.

-Each quarter you should meet with your entire team through conference calls, video conferencing, or sometimes visiting in person.  Here you need to re-present the strategy and give them an update on how the entire team is doing.  This is time to celebrate successes.

-And finally, while you may be meeting with your directs frequently, the year-end formal review is important. Take time to talk through what went well and develop a plan for ongoing development. 

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization.  The fewer meetings the better.” – Peter Drucker

Connections. All people need to feel connected personally to other people and professionally to a great cause.  There is no better proof of this than the world-wide success of Facebook and Twitter.  This is virtual connection at its finest. In business today, it is imperative that people are connected to learn from each other – the world is changing to fast not to take advantage of everyone’s expertise.

The obvious answer to fulfilling the need for connection with a virtual team is to use what has been proven to work.  Set up internal blogs, wiki sites, and other forums for electronic exchange of information, conversation and mentoring.  Of course the phone call now and again to just catch up works – like the coffee break conversations.

“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.” -Brian Tracy

What is the secret to leading virtual employees? The needs of a virtual employee are no different than those that work in an office.  Today’s leader needs to focus on the same leadership areas – Clarity, Communication, and Connections – But using the technology that empowers the virtual workforce to keep virtual employees engaged.

 

 

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