Transitioning to Supporting Remote Workers in a Hurry? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Right now, schools and offices around the country are sending people home to try and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Fortunately, modern technology gives us the capability to work remotely fairly successfully. However, the task of transitioning entire workforces to working from home poses some serious challenges for business owners. 

Aside from the basic challenges that come from managing and leading a remote workforce, it becomes exponentially harder to do so without having a lot of time to prepare. While it would be impossible to transition a previously on-site workforce without setbacks and challenges, by doing their research, business owners can decrease the potential for costly mistakes.  

Start by asking the right questions 

If you’ve never lead a remote workforce before, you probably have a vague idea of the challenges that come with working remotely. To properly prepare your employees, you need to answer several questions:  

  • Do you have communication channels available for your employees to use? If so, how robust are they? 
  • Do you have a way to track and collaborate on team projects, specific tasks, and weekly/monthly goals and progress?
  • How do you deal with storing and sharing documents and files? Do you have a way to access files remotely? 
  • How do you plan to promote employee wellness, community, and culture among your remote workforce? 

While these questions may be obvious, they’re also essential to ensuring your workforce stays on task and productive. Making remote work work for your business doesn’t just require employees who can manage themselves to a certain extent, but an infrastructure—provided by you—that promotes and supports their ability to do so effectively.  

Communication 

First and foremost, your employees need to have the capability to communicate with their team efficiently. If you’re thinking that you’re covered by just using email, you’re gravely mistaken. Email is not robust enough to support your employees’ needs. Think about it. How many emails get lost in your inbox every week? How difficult is it to sort through piles of messages in your inbox coming in from your team, clients, and service requests? And how much time does it take to find the discussion you’re looking for?   

Take the time to ask yourself what your company needs specifically.  

  • If you want to give your employees the ability to chat with each other directly in a fairly casual way, you may want to provide instant messaging options. Apps such as Slack or Teams allow your employees to talk directly with each other or in curated groups and teams.  
  • Are there teams in your company that need to meet with each consistently? Conference calls can be confusing and hard to direct. Consider using video messaging apps like Zoom, where your employees can meet face-to-face, share screens, and provide presentations with visual aids.  

You may decide you want to go with more than one communication channel. To ensure they are used efficiently, train your employees to use them properly and set up systems and expectations around how and when they should be used. 

Organization 

There are many tools your teams can use to stay on track with projects, and access and share files and documents. Online project management tools like Asana and Monday.com are great ways to organize your teams online, provide assistance, accountability, and coordinate team efforts.   

Saving and sharing documents online is also a necessity to minimize the risk of losing important documents due to a malfunction on someone’s computer or human error. You also want to ensure that certain materials are always available to your employees, like their employee handbook, or other important resources. Online file storing options like DropBoxOneDriveand Templafy are useful tools your company can use to manage files.   

Again, you must create a system-wide infrastructure that is accessible to your employees. 

  • Clarify how and where files should be stored 
  • Create a company-wide nomenclature system 
  • Organize your communications, projects, and documents systematically

Culture 

Maintaining a healthy company culture during a time of transition is especially important. Take extra care to ensure your teams are provided the support they need to comfortably and efficiently move to a different format than they’re used to. Understand there will be a learning curve, and give your employees the encouragement and patience they need to adjust without the added pressure of fear of failure.  

Coach your managers in how to effectively support their teams from a distance. Adjust your meeting and communication policies to fit the changing needs of your workforce. This may mean additional one-on-one check-ins between managers and their teams or increased daily communications.  

However it is you end up moving forward, make sure you’ve done your research. You must understand the needs of your company and find the best solutions to meet those needs. Be patient, give your employees the grace they need to adjust, and always be willing to adjust your methods. With the right effort and preparation, you’ll do just fine.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

 

 

Growing Backwards: Reactive Managing

If you’re a business owner or manager of a team, you very likely wear many different hats. Especially for small businesses, owners often find themselves needing to go in different directions every day. If this sounds like your days, ask yourself when you were last able to sit down and think ahead? What about actually plan ahead?

All too often, leaders get wrapped up in moment-to-moment tasks, allowing their time to get sucked down the drain of immediate crises. Working in a constantly reactive state can feel good, though. You may be thinking:

I’m a fast and efficient problem-solver!

I’m a doer. I get s**t done!

I don’t let problems bring me down—I face them head-on!

Yes. You probably are all of those things. But when you spend 100% of your time being all of those things, you miss out on time spent being a strategist, a planner, a thinker, and a visionary! How do you expect your business to grow if you can’t think farther ahead than the next problem brought to you?

Reacting to every little thing that comes across your path can feel like you’re getting a lot done. But while you’re focusing on what’s right in front of you, more significant problems will grow in the background, and you may not even notice them developing. And when they catch up to you, you won’t have the time or energy to manage them.

Getting back on track

Although reacting to urgent problems is part of every leader’s job, it’s critical they also make time to manage for the future, not just the current moment. Get a handle on your reactive managing style and start building a foundation for the future.

1. Delegate

One of the major issues with reactionary managing is allowing unimportant, but urgent, tasks eat up your time. Start practicing handing off some of these tasks to your team. It can feel scary to delegate, but hopefully, you’ll soon find that your team is more than capable of answering phone calls and emails, calling that cranky client, or fixing a botched order. Save your time for issues that really need your attention specifically—not just attention in general.

2. Re-think your calendar

If you’re wondering where you’re supposed to find the time to plan, look at your calendar and pinpoint areas that can be re-prioritized. “But I don’t have the time!” isn’t an excuse.

Yes, you do have the time. You’ve just decided it’s better spent elsewhere. But is it? Really?

It’s a safe bet that you’ve got 30 minutes, or even an hour, every day you could re-allocate to a different activity. If you’re not sure where to start, try tracking your time throughout a week, detailing exactly how you spent each moment at work. Chances are, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by how much time you ended up spending on unnecessary tasks that don’t require your energy.

Block out designated time on your calendar to spend looking at the big picture of your business. Give yourself an opportunity to identify those background problems that are much more easily dealt with before they grow, rather than after they’ve boiled over. Hold boundaries around this time. Tell your team you are unavailable during these blocked-out times and give them time to develop their independence with your newfound delegation.

Treat this time like it’s sacred—because it is! You need it to make sure your company grows smoothly and efficiently.

3. Process, process, process

A common issue among businesses that are run reactively is a lack of clear processes for employees to follow. If your management style is running around putting out fires, you probably haven’t had time to build an organized system for solving problems and dealing with spontaneous change.

Every leader, team, and organization will face roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours. But if you don’t have a map for your team to follow to their destination, the efficiency with which they’ll arrive at a solution will take a big hit.

It is time well spent to work out and document processes for your team to follow when issues arise. Proactively planning for potential challenges that your team may face will save you a lot of time and energy when they do arise.

A sustainable leadership strategy

Being quick on your feet and always moving to the next shiny new challenge may be fun at times, but it’ll eventually burn you out and leave you with larger problems. If you want to grow your team or business in a sustainable direction, prioritize time for strategy and proactively planning for your future. It’s the only way to win.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

Photo by Rabia Elif Aksoy

Productivity: What’s Mine is Yours

Every day, the average American is interrupted 50-60 times, adding up to approximately three hours of wasted time. Every day. That leaves five hours a day a person gets to concentrate at work.  

Now add in the time it takes to prepare for and participate in meetings, take breaks, and eat lunch, and you’re left with a relatively small window of time for uninterrupted productivity.

This is not merely an issue of meeting the bottom line. Being able to work productively and actually accomplish projects and tasks is a significant part of avoiding workplace burnout. When people are flustered, trying to accomplish too many things at once, and having difficulty prioritizing and managing tasks, they’re going to work themselves to exhaustion. 

Remember that kid in school who would arrive with a backpack full of loose papers and assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers? They’d miss homework deadlines and could never seem to find anything. When your schedule is unstructured and disorganized like that kid’s backpack, you’re going to feel completely overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. You’re less likely to enjoy your work, and more likely to build up accumulated stress. No one wants to be that kid.

Learning to take accountability for your time is essential for managing stress, staying on top of deadlines, and growing in your role. Whether it’s you who needs some ideas to become more structured, or people on your team, here are a few great tips to help you along the way. 

Block it out

As small as it sounds, setting time aside on your calendar for specific projects or tasks is a great tactic to stay focused. 

  • It forces you to intentionally think about your priorities and time in advance.
  • If you share your calendar, others can see you are busy and avoid communicating with you during this time.
  • It helps you stay accountable to your commitments and priorities and pinpoint potential disrupters that get in your way.
  • It can offer insight into how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks, which will help inform future planning.

Answer your own questions 

How often do you ask others for help? When you come across a problem, what is your first instinct? If you’re in the habit of first asking for help, think about how you might become more self-sufficient. When you stop what you’re doing to ask a coworker, you’re not just halting your own creative flow; you’re asking someone else to do the same, so be sure your questions are targeted and necessary.

Take consistent breaks

There are many schools of thought around the best way to break up your day, but it’s safe to say no one can focus for eight hours straight. Learn to identify when your mind begins to wander, or when you reach for your phone. Watch the clock and see how long you go between these moments. Schedule breaks that correlate with when you naturally begin to lose focus.

Learn to listen to your inner clock and adjust your day around it. By personalizing your schedule, you can set more accurate expectations, reduce stress, and develop greater confidence. Everyone is different. Some people need music to concentrate, and some people like noise or absolute silence. Your attention span is the same.

Keep meetings on task 

Whether you’re running or participating in a meeting, make sure you’ve clarified the agenda and stick to it. If you have something you need to talk about, but it isn’t on the agenda, hold it for another meeting or manage it outside of the meeting through other appropriate discussion or project-tracking channels. The more efficient and precise you can keep your sessions, the more productive they will be. And the happier the participants will be. It’s a win-win.

Cleanliness is focusedness 

The average person who works at a messy, disorganized desk wastes an average of one and a half hours every day attempting to locate things or being distracted by what’s in front of them. Take the time to clean your area. It will help you focus on what needs to be in front of you, allowing you to prioritize the focus of your attention.

It’s a group effort

Remember, not every day is the same. Be kind to yourself. Take each day as an opportunity to learn and improve. Regardless of your role as a leader or a team member, the way you manage time will create a ripple effect among those you whom you work.  

Either by setting an example or creating some simple boundaries around your availability, you empower others to do the same. When you take the time to develop a schedule that enables you to be at your most productive, you bring your team one step closer to that goal.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Theeraphong Khamsawat

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Breaking Up With Toxic Company Culture

Your company culture is at the center of whether or not your business runs successfully. It sets the stage for the level of success your employees will have collaborating, accomplishing goals, and pushing your company forward.

However, just because your culture is a critical factor influencing the success of your business doesn’t mean it can rely on importance alone to maintain its health. In fact, workplace culture may be one of the most fragile and easily damaged components of any business. 

With just one bad hire, you can derail a once quiet and synergistic atmosphere, right? Not exactly.

All too often, leadership is quick to point to bad employees as the source of toxic workplace culture. The reality is that company culture comes from the top down, directly set by leadership and the expectations created by those in charge. So it’s actually more common for a company culture to turn toxic from poor leadership than anything else.

Blaming toxic workplace culture on an employee is merely shifting the responsibility from those who have a duty to protect the culture to someone who is there due to a poor hiring decision. Or who is being allowed to contribute negatively to company culture. For an employee to truly damage a culture, they have to have been given the opportunity to do so by leadership. 

So what’s the first thing a leader should do when they face a toxic workplace culture? Take ownership. 

It’s not you, it’s me

As uncomfortable as it sounds, it’s vital for leadership to take full responsibility for the state of their company culture. If they want to make any difference, they’ve got to start with themselves and move forward from there.

If your team is suffering at the hands of a workplace bully, incompetent managers, or poor communication, it means that somewhere down the line, someone got away with doing something they shouldn’t have. And as a result, the bad behavior continued until it became too much to ignore. It means that someone let them get away with it

The key issue here is that what could have been stopped at the beginning was left to grow and fester. For a culture to be protected, there must be an expectation of immediate corrective action if someone acts in detriment to it– without excuses or hesitation.

Here’s an example

Rose owns a small business with a handful of employees. She hires a new employee, and within their first couple weeks, the employee becomes involved in several disagreements with other employees. The owner listens to all sides of the stories but doesn’t take any action, hoping it will just go away.

A month goes by, and there is no positive change. Instead, the disagreements have escalated to bullying. The owner of the store tells the employees to work it out themselves and scolds her staff for not getting along better.

Before Rose realizes the significance of the interactions, half her team has quit. 

By not responding to the toxic behavior and attempting to put the responsibility of fixing problems on those who are experiencing the issue, Rose made a statement with her lack of  leadership: she valued one employee over the psychological safety of the rest of her team.

The employees didn’t quit on account of the bully; they ultimately quit because they weren’t being protected or valued by leadership.

The moral of the story? What you tolerate at your workplace might as well be what your business promotes.

Time to make a change

So you may have issues with your company culture, and you’re ready to take accountability, but you’re unsure of the next step. Do you fire everyone? Or give everyone bonuses because you want them to stay?

No. The answer is a little more complicated, but a whole lot cheaper. 

Thankfully, your company culture is as resilient as its leadership. Which means you have the power to guide it back to where you want it to be. Here’s where to start.

Clarify and promote your values. If you haven’t already create a values statement for your company. (If you have a values statement already, then you need to ask yourself why it hasn’t helped you so far.) Identify the core values you want to use as a foundation to guide your employees toward the culture you envision.

This isn’t something you put at the top of your employee handbook and forget about. Make sure it’s top of mind and visible to your team, all the time. When you onboard new employees, use it as a reference for everything you do with them. Your values statement will be the basis for all the ways you seek to improve and protect your culture as your business grows and changes.  

Set clear expectations and boundaries. Using your values statement, design a transparent system for holding employees accountable. Make it clear you will not tolerate behavior that goes against your values. Create a well-defined path for your employees to take when they are experiencing issues with other employees. The idea is to make it as obvious and easy as possible for employees to address problems they are experiencing, without fear of retaliation.  

Don’t think of this in terms of punishment. It’s about protecting something you love, not punishing something you don’t. When you create a culture that values happy employees, they’ll be your first line of defense against misconduct. Over time, protecting your culture becomes a team effort.

Don’t be afraid to make moves.  It can be extremely difficult to untangle workplace conflict, which can make finding a fair solution seem unattainable. But there are ways to identify the sources of conflict. Look for the common denominator in the issues you see. If one person keeps popping up, they are most likely playing a negative part.

If you keep coming up against the same person (or people) who are responsible for damaging workplace behavior, it’s time to let them go. Chances are if someone keeps causing problems, they aren’t happy anyway. And if they aren’t satisfied working for you, then you shouldn’t want them on your team. 

Don’t be shy

It’s your company. Do you really want the legacy you leave behind to be of frustrated, betrayed employees? Obviously not—you’re not the bad guy.

But hiding from facing difficult facts, uncomfortable conversations, and, most of all, change, isn’t going to help you or your company. Be proactive. Be confident. Take accountability. Remember that leading people to a healthier, happier environment is only going to gain you a more engaged, loyal, and dedicated team. And that only means one thing: good business. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by lucid_dream

Five Signs It’s Time to Re-Train Your Managers

Employee engagement and satisfaction can make or break a business. Everything from company culture to benefits to schedule flexibility can affect the employee experience. Companies to go great lengths to maintain a happy population of employees, but what is the one thing with the most power to influence the employee experience? Managers.   

Frustratingly, many managers are placed in their position without being trained. Often high performing employees are selected to become managers because they’re great at their job. However, just because someone is excellent at organizing and executing their own work doesn’t mean they’re ready to manage a whole team of people  

When you have a manager who needs training, your employees are going to know it. But will you?  

How to know your managers need some help

1. Employee frustration at seemingly small internal hiccups  

If you’re finding that group morale dips when relatively small issues need to be addressed, you might be seeing a symptom of poor leadership. Employees that are already at the end of their rope dealing with poor communication or direction, due to lack of leadership, are going to get easily frustrated when issues arise, even if they’re relatively small.  

There is a threshold for the amount of juggling and direction change a group can take, and if their manager is adding to it, they’re going to have a much lower bar for what frustrates them. Are you familiar with the term “the straw that broke the camel’s back?” Then you get the gist. 

2. Confusion about role clarity 

As a team is organizing a project, do you see confusion around responsibilities? Do things slip through the cracks?   

If employees are unclear about their responsibilities, it could mean they aren’t getting enough direction from leadership. Or it could mean their manager isn’t following a consistent plan when delegating projects. If you have a manager assigning projects and tasks based on whom they prefer, and bypassing employees’ job roles, it’s going to create confusion at bestand downright resentment at worst. 

3. You don’t hear new ideas from your employees
 

If you’re wondering why your employees aren’t offering up new ideas and solutions to streamline processes, fix issues, and strengthen your company, you’ve probably got a problem with management. The fact is, everyone working at your company is going to have opinions and ideas. They just won’t share them if they’ve been shut down in the past, or if they’re afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes.  

Your employees are your best resource because they’re on the line doing the work. Your managers should be doing everything in their power to engage them and get them thinking about how to improve the company. If your managers are critical, dismissive, or even uninterested in their team’s ideas, all you’re going to get is a lot of silence and wasted opportunity.  

4. You get pushback when things change
 

Company culture comes from the top down, and if you have a manager or leader who is resistant to change, you’re going to see that translate to the way employees handle change. Lets face it, you can’t run a successful business without continually looking for ways to improve and grow, which means you have to be open to change.   

Managers who resist change are working against the natural flow of any company and ultimately end up stifling innovation and growth. Train your managers to expect change as part of the job, so they take it in stride and see it as an opportunity for growth. By doing so, you’ll develop a more agile and robust company.  

5. You only hear about the same few people on their team
 

If a manager only ever reports on the same people, this could mean one of two things. Your manager has favorites among their team who get special attention and recognition. Or your manager is failing to properly coach and lead their entire team, leaving people to become isolated and lose support.   

Either way, your manager likely isn’t looking at their team holistically but is picking out (either subconsciously or consciously) people they more readily connect with. This favoritism is detrimental to promoting diversity, which has proven to be an excellent resource for building teams. Plus, you never know what Shy Sam from tech might have to offer if he isn’t coached into being more comfortable sharing his thoughts.  

If any of these are hitting home for you, don’t lose hope! There are countless ways to train your managers and help them learn the skills they need to become great leaders. Chances are, you just need to give them the opportunity. When you provide your leadership team with development and learning opportunities to help them grow as leaders, you’re investing in them, in everyone they manage, and in your company 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Rachata Teyparsit