2020

We have for ages talked about working more remotely and more digital, but with Covid-19 apprearing, it suddenly became a reality for all of us, sometimes without us having time to prepare properly do make this an efficient way to work.

Leading your employees remotely involves certain challenges. From one day to the next, you as a leader no longer see your employees, not eveninformally at the coffee machine, so you do not have the same opportunity to observe what might be going on and see what support your employees may need.

So what do you need to think about now that you have your team spread out?

  1. Trust and confidence. To remotely lead efficiently requires that you have and build trust and confidence, something you that is built over time and can be built up through interaction, being fair and keeping promises. With that solid trust, cooperation will improve.
  2. Clear communication. When we communicate digitally, there is a greater risk of things being misunderstood or misread. Be sure to check that your information is recieved in the same way you have intended it to be as well as you make sure that you have understood information correctly.
  3. Set goals, be clear with expectations and follow up. Clarity and structure become even more important when we do not see each other on a regular basis. Clear individual goals give employees the opportunity to plan and prioritize their work - something that becomes more important when people are sitting at home and must on their own take responsibility for their work.
  4. Be present and available. Of course, you do not have to be available all the time, but make sure that your employees know how best be reach you and you can even block time when you will be most easy to reach you.
  5. Plan team meetings and build team spirit. With your team, you can both have digital and informal coffee breaks - just to check in and see how everyone is doing. However, make sure that your also have booked team meetings and make them meaningful by having a clear structure. Unstructured digital meetings risk becoming inefficient, cluttered and will be frustrating for people.
  6. Schedule regular individual meetings with all your employees in order for you to be able to capture what is going on, follow-up on set goals as well as to understand what support may be needed from you.
  7. Decision-making with involvement. When we do not work closely together, there is a risk that employees do not feel involved in the decision making process, as they are not naturally involved in all discussions. use your team meetings to discuss decisions and makre sure that your employees have material to go through in advance.
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If you do what you have always done you will get the results that they always have gotten! Recognize it?
 
We often try to find proof that confirms what we already believe, and we seek patterns and correlations even though they might not be any (just because two things seem to have a correlation it does not need be so).
 
In a creative process general and accepted truths can mislead us. We do not want to seem ignorant therefore rather rely on established facts, perceptions and beliefs in order to pretend that we know it.
 
Daring to challenge accepted truths, admit to ignorance and not being afraid of testing and potentially failing is a good basis for daring to think differently – outside the box. There are clear benefits training the brain to think differently regarding both small and larger problems. One problem that no one has succeeded in cracking can be resolved if it is addressed from a new angle. How we define a problem is often affected by others’ views and it affects our ability to find solutions. If we ask the wrong questions, we will most likely get the wrong answer.
 
Experiments are unusual in the corporate world – to dare to have a place to test new ideas, ask unconventional questions and challenge the ingrained perceptions. It requires that we dare to say – “I do not know, but I will do what I can to find out“.
 
What if we just focus on the available facts and ignore accepted beliefs and perceptions? What if we could challenge each other in how problems are defined and dare to think new and differently. What if we dared – think of all the wonderful and smart solutions and ideas we could come up with!

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The next best thing to knowing something is knowing how to find out.
 
Life is about a constant learning journey and a large part of the learning that takes place in our workplace today is the informal learning – it is even the largest part of how employees learn new things today. Informal learning is about everything from knowledge and insights obtained through coaching and mentoring or when we observe how others do thing or when reading blogs, articles, nonfiction or looking at different video clips to us having talks and discussions with others.
 
A continuous learning is something that is more or less required to be successful in the workplace as well as in our private sphere. The knowledge and skills that we receive through informal learning are often invisible to our employers though, as there are no formal diplomas, degrees or certificates to show up. (The challenge of validating informal learning is even up for discussion within the EU, as it is an important part of all learning takes place today). So how can we make this more visible and even more useful in organizations? How can we find ways that allow, for instance colleagues to share their new skills and knowledge in a simple and smart way that will benefit more people?
 
Some things that employers could do are for instance to:

  • Actively encourage their employees to share their new skills/knowledge by creating and using internal wikis, message boards, social networks and blogs etc. where knowledge easily can be shared with others. In addition, this information can then be easily searchable by others within the company later on.
  • Have a formal or more informal way to share knowledge between colleagues through for instance different ways of mentoring.
  • Review what information and knowledge are being sought out among the company’s employees and thus obtaining a good foundation to develop and refine more adapted and blended training within organisations.

To learn new things is something we choose, whether it is through a formal training or through informal learning. To have a constant level of learning is a must for companies in order for them to continue to develop. We need to find ways to capture the amazing power and engagement that exist in all the learning taking place informally. An employer who can capture this will be in the forefront – both by being able to build on this knowledge and engagement but also by being perceived as an attractive and responsive employer.

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To be fair is seen by most of us as a fundamental right and managers and companies strive to treat everyone fairly. If people in an organisation feel that they are treated unfairly in the workplace it reduces engagement and motivation according to research.
 
However, there is a risk that we think that by treating everyone the same way we treat them fairly. Fairness does not mean you should treat everyone the same, it is more about providing each and every one in your team equal opportunities and conditions to perform and succeed. The same thing also relates to acknowledgement and reward – it is not about rewarding everyone in the same manner, even though the process must be fair and logical. Furthermore, do not expect that people appreciate the same reward and acknowledgement that you do.
 
Therefore, as a manager you need to:
 

  • Think about what drives and motivates every single individual you have in your team.
  • Dare to go against an innate desire to treat everyone equally and by that take for granted that it is therefore fair.

 
So what can you do?
 
Take the time to see and get to know each individual. You are probably not a mind readers, so make sure you ask questions and really listen to your employees so that you can get a valid picture of what he or she wants and needs regarding support, challenged, reward, feedback, etc. By coaching your employees you can also get an understanding of how you, in the best way possible, can support each individual and thereby create favourable conditions for increased commitment, motivation and performance.
 
So dare to treat your employees differently – just to be fair!

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Why don’t we have more meetings? How often have you heard someone say that? Probably not that often. It is more likely that people have been frustrated about too many meetings to attend – they need that time to work!
 
What if we instead would really think that our meetings were something that drove the business forward and that would help us to increase our competitiveness? What if we could ensure that every meeting gave added value and that everyone who attended a meeting really knew why they were there, what they want to get out of the meeting and what they could contribute with.
 
Various studies show that managers use on average one third of their time to lead or participate in various meetings. A majority of executives felt that many meetings lacked a clear purpose and goal and that too many of those who attending were not sufficiently prepared. In one survey around 40% of the managers said that they thought the meetings additionally dragged on for too long.
 
When we work together with other people, we need to have meetings. It’s a fantastic way to get information out to the organization, make necessary decisions and get a chance to discuss solutions and important things important to the business and the organization.
 
So what do we need to do, especially as someone who is leading a meeting, to ensure a good meeting? A meeting takes place after all both before, during and after the meeting itself, so in addition to spending more time on good preparation itself, there are some simple things to get in place as well:
 

  • Have a clear purpose and objectives with the meeting (also when it takes place for instance every week)
  • Have a clear and communicated agenda and ensure that everyone knows the purpose of each item and how much time you will spend on each item.
  • Be thorough when selecting who should attend a meeting and how they need prepare for each meeting.
  • Summarize, communicate and document what and who has committed to do something and by when
  • Follow up on decisions and activities so that each item/area develops
  • Evaluate what worked well with the meeting and what might work even better

 
Although these points may seem obvious, it is often the basic things that slowly but surely make the meetings inefficient and boring. In addition to achieve effective meetings, we need to ensure that the technology works before the meeting, that meetings start and end on time (people also need to have enough time to get to their next meeting in time).
 
Many meetings will be large (in time and amount of people) although part of the content probably do not concern everyone. Rather have shorter and more meetings with the right/appropriate people so that everyone wants and can be engaged, listen and participate actively throughout the meeting. Even dare to challenge the form of the meeting – if it benefits the purpose of the meeting better by changing the format, changing location/setting, changing the start of the meeting, having the meeting standing up or walking around gets test it. All ideas are welcome as long as they benefit the aim of the meeting and pushes them to becoming more effective and rewarding.
 
We should look forward attending our meetings. So let us have more great meetings!

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“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth...that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way. 

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”   

(Scottish Himalayan Expedition quote)

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We live in a working world with many and frequent changes. More and more of the work is done in different projects and people involved in those projects come from different parts of the business, both from different functions as well as geo’s. It seems that the fixed team that most of us are accustomed will be less common going forward and will instead be replaced with different type of project teams. Amy Edmondson, professor at Harvard Business School, argues that what we traditionally have seen as a team is a dying concept. The new way is to set up teams on temporary basis which are assembled for each project and consists of experts from different parts of the organization and occasionally also externally. When the project is completed, the members of this team are dispelled and will then be transferred to new teams.
 
By operating this way we can create flexible organizations that can take advantage of individuals’ different strengths and can have focus on speed and innovation. Employees’ autonomy and development increase, which can contribute to both increased commitment and motivation. In addition, cooperation between different departments improves and this cross-functional collaboration can both enhance the understanding of the business as a whole, for each other as well as provide an even greater focus on the customers.
 
However, this is not without challenges. This change requires that managers and employees develop their skills in order to manage constant change and be part of continuously newly formed teams. We need to be able to build trust and understanding with new people fast and share knowledge and experience in an effective way.
 
It is also important to develop managers’ leadership skill so that they can lead projects, set clear goals and follow up effectively, and have the skills and tools needed for remote management. Managers need to have the ability to delegate decision-making as much as possible. In terms of knowledge and understanding of how team’s functions as well as being able to handle different potential conflicts we need, both employees and managers, to enhance our knowledge and understanding in these areas in order to effectively operate in this type of environment.
 
Companies also need to develop strategies and have tools to put together effective teams consisting of the right individuals from within the organisation as well as by external people when the skills and expertise needed is not available within the own organisation. This, while we make sure to retain and develop key personnel we already have within our ranks.
 
So yes, we will continue to have teams, maybe not as we traditionally imagine them, but it will require that we, both managers and employees, will become even better at dealing with what is required to operate in such an environment.

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Quite a few international studies show that one top priority for management is engagement among employees. So if this is so important, how can we create engagement? Some things to contemplate could be the following:
 
Firstly – in a constantly changing business world stability in vision, values, goals and principles are essential – things that drive companies. Engagement is something that builds long-term but that can be destroyed in a second.
 
 “I like my boss, therefore I like my job!” As a leader it is important to make employees feel important and successful. It is widely known that people got to companies but leave because of managers. Managers have a very important role in trying to create a good work place as well as listening and taking time for their employees. To create engagement is not an HR matter but rather a manager issue. All managers have though not a natural talent for creating engagement. Then we, as a company, need to assist with training for those managers so that they can become better in encouragement providing feedback, coaching, challenging and inspiring mm.
 
Saying that the employees are the company’s most important resource is all very well but then it needs to be meant in practice too. Employees are not just resources (just any) but people to whom we need to provide the right conditions for, based on their own motivation and preferences, enabling them to work and develop in a good way. For every individual to have clear goals, which shows that they are important and contributes to the company overall goals also creates engagement and involvement.
 
Employees need to feel important and that their ideas and thoughts are being utilized. We need to create a culture and systems that can capture such ideas and where we have a belief that people capable and want to contribute. Employees want to feel involved, seen and listened to, and they expect to be consulted on matters concerning them. To have clear and delegated responsibilities and the resources to implement the ideas, creates engagement and commitment.
 
Delegation and employee involvement does not mean that management can abdicate. Richard Berglund, who has done a thesis on the topic creating engagement, concluded the following. “On the contrary, the difficult task of coordinating the initiatives from the entire organisation as well as driving business from  the “top “, requires presence, communication and understanding and definitely for managers “to walk the talk”.

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