Welcome to "Life as a Remote User" - Guide to the Virtual WorkforceThis blog is intended as a guide to your professional development in the virtual workforce. My goal is to introduce you to fresh thought processes, allow you to streamline your professional life and guide you in your vision as you forge forward as pioneer of new ways.
How are you possibly going to get everything done today? The answer is simpler than you might think. Focus.
We have all been there, it may be an mounting pile of work, a project needing completion, or a customer presentation you have not even started to put together. You may be thinking you are up against an impossible mission, but don’t give up – just stay focused.
Take time to clear your head and relax so you can start with a clean slate and concentrate. Many people find by allowing yourself a calm before the storm, it allows you to enter into your project with a clear head focused on the your desired out come. For me it could be reading a book and having a cup of coffee; others may go for a walk, hit the gym or read the morning paper. Do whatever works for you, but by allowing your mind to calm you are preparing it for what lies ahead.
Get in the zone
As you prepare to take on your day be sure:
- The location is free of disruptions.
- You have everything you need.
- You are prepared.
I will grab something to drink, go into my office, close the doors, tune to my favorite internet radio station, sit at my desk, clear away any distracting clutter and organize for the day. Do what works for you.
Sometimes all it takes is a change of location to really focus, there are times I have packed up my laptop and found a far corner of the local library for some distraction free concentration. Some people enjoy having music on in the background, others do not. I find music gets me in the zone and allows me to zero in on my task. Whether it be music, a change of location or something else determine what works for you and make it happen.
Task List: It’s best to keep a task list of some sort be it electronic, a note pad, or just a scrap of paper you write your “to do’s” on.
Prioritize and Schedule: Prioritize your task list by sorting them into urgent, important and non-urgent tasks. If you have trouble prioritizing, use the 80/20 rule (aka Pareto’s law) to determine what the important tasks are.
Staying on Track: Now you have prioritized your day and determined the first item on your list, break it into small pieces. As you do this it will make a large task seem less daunting and as you accomplish each piece you will build momentum as you move throughout the day.
“Your daily schedule helps to focus the mind, holds it steadily to one thing at a time and in the right order. Following a logical sequence tends to eliminate confusion.”
Keep a stringent schedule for your day. As mentioned, I take time in the morning for relaxation so I can come in the day focused. I move right into my projects and phone calls, check and respond email before lunch, come back, work on other projects and phone calls, check email an hour before the day is over, review my next day, prioritize, clear my desk of clutter and I am ready to start the next day with a clean slate.
Not everyone is the same, so when you find a method that works for you, stick with it. Soon you will see you will be getting more done in less time by using focused planning and execution.
- Only check email twice per day. This is not easy to do, but is productive.
- Let your calls go to voicemail knowing you can get back the callers when you decide to break or complete your task.
- Don’t multitask. Multitasking has been proven time and again to be the cause for lack of focus. When you multitask, you never do anything well.
- Inundated with random thoughts? Keep a notebook, task list, or sticky note pad near by. As I am working I have stack of index cards I use. If something pops into my head I write it down knowing the thought is saved there on the index card for later and I don’t mentally have to keep coming back to it.
- Schedule time for future tasks. As new tasks present themselves, put them through Pareto’s Law, prioritize them, and schedule them for the future.
- Rest, eat appropriately and exercise. It has been found these habits are contribute greatly to your level of concentration.
So many times we are thinking about the big win, the one deal that will save the day, help us reach our goals or make us look like hero to the rest of the company. And why not; it is great to focus on those sizeable achievements, but it also takes those several smaller feats too when you are looking at the big picture. Often times it can be those last few small drops that allow our cup to run over. After all without the constant flow of your day to day business, where would you be?
So where do you start & how do you determine what to focus on?
- Take a step back.
- Look at the big picture.
- What are your goals?
- Determine what would be the quick and easy slam dunks.
- Figure out what might take a few extra days to close.
- Plan and prioritize according to what will allow you to compile the largest sum before the end of your selling cycle.
All too often we get so busy, being busy, we don’t take the time to focus and strategize on what the big picture is and what needs to be done to accomplish the most. So be sure to take the time to assess your best strategy then move forward with a well thought out plan.
Get the big win’s, but don’t forget about your core business and the small feats. Take time to prioritize and strategize. Soon you will find your cup runneth over.
[Photo: K!T, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)]
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.
Poor Rudolph was different than everyone else on his team. There are a variety of reasons for not fitting in which include:
- Conflicts in personalities
- Gender disparity
- Ethnicity distinction
- Age differences
- Political stances
- Pre-conceived notions
All of these things can make one stand out from the herd and although the attributes may be inaccurate they can thwart relationships from materializing. In Rudolph’s circumstance he had a big red nose so he was physically dissimilar than the others, not much something he could hide.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.
All of the other members of Rudolph’s team used to exclude him, laugh at him and call him names because he was so different than everyone else. They disliked him so much, because his nose was different; they never let poor Rudolph join in any of the team activities–the team shunned him. In Rudolph’s case he let this disparity get him down, but he did not understand different is not necessarily a detriment. Being different allows you to look at things from an alternate perspective, it gives you strength where others have weakness, it helps to balance out the team making them more rounded.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
There came a time when things started to get challenging a fog rolled in and the vision of the team started to cloud over. If the outlook did not change and if someone did not step up to the plate soon, Christmas would be ruined. It was time for innovation! As everyone soon realized, Rudolph’s detriment turned out to be exactly the tool needed to get the job done. He was able to turn things around and he lead the way on a jubilant trip around the world. That night Rudolph brought his team out of the fog and successfully delivered toys across the world to millions of girls and boys. He was a hero.
Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!
In the end Rudolph prevailed He accomplished something no one ever thought possible, when everyone else had given up; Rudolph kept the vision alive, stayed focus and shinned a bright red light on the prize. His leadership rallied the troops, brought them through a tough time when it appeared to everyone there was no hope.
As we now know, Rudolph is the most famous reindeer yet he remains humble, as he knows it takes much hard work in order to keep his leading role, he knows to never give up and always remember it’s a team effort; not just one member can steal the show–it takes teamwork, Pulling Santa’s sleigh is a team effort and the reindeer must work as a team to succeed.
And let’s not forget about the leadership of Santa, it takes a true leader to recognize potential in people and know when to put the right player in the game. It takes a truly good captain at the helm to take the reins and steer the sleigh.
And as you know the rest will go down in history.
How are you dealing with disparities in the work place?
What changes have you made to strengthen your team structure?
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” lyrics by Johnny Marks- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Marks
(Image: Jason Christensen)
“Karma is a funny thing.” It displays itself in many forms, is caused by what you do and affects all that happens to you. The results of your leadership in part is determined by karma. How you lead your team establishes what you get back from them.
|This is the story of Paul a manager in a corporation. Paul lead a great group of people, this team could really put their heads together and produce results, the leadership was there and the followship was there. If one member of the team ever became distracted, any member of the team would help him to veer back onto the path and focus. Each gear was well oiled and everyone took satisfaction in their part of a bigger machine knowing they always did their best. When each project was finished, they would celebrate knowing they had completed a difficult task as a team and had done it better than the rest. One day while in a staff meeting, after overhearing his colleague’s boast of their accomplishments, Paul became envious and decided to take personal credit for a project his team completed so successfully as a unit. It made him feel good to reap the reward and praise for his team’s accomplishments; after all he was the leader of the team. News of this got back to Paul’s group and soon after it began to fall apart. The loyalty was no longer there, people started shifting departments and everything Paul had to put together as a leader began to crumble. Paul realized after the destruction of his team, it had been his egotism which caused the unit to fall apart and karma had struck him in a big way.
A display of loyalty to our team and acting with integrity reveals our character and lets people know if you can be trusted; it inspires others to treat you in kind. With karma, you get what you give, so why not give your absolute best?
Karma is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.
It is important in your role as a leader to keep yours and your team’s focus on the goal you are seeking and to not allow yourself be distracted by accomplishments going on around you. Forget what others are doing and strive to achieve your own results knowing you and your team have a clear vision and are doing your best to achieve a common goal. You get in return what you invest in your team, so invest well by creating good karma through:
- Instilling positive thoughts
- Implementing team building exercises
- Being a good listener
- Being approachable
- Appreciating and rewarding their efforts
- Training them with classes, workshops, seminars and books
Leadership is the ability to motivate and inspire others to take positive and sustainable action. Energy and enthusiasm are contagious, so surround yourself with as many optimists, go-getters and energetic types as you.
While you are at it don’t forget to invest good karma in yourself by:
- Maintaining a work/life balance
- Taking time to enjoy your family and friends
- Always being kind to others
- Taking time exercise both your mind and body
Investing good karma in your team and in yourself will garner the same in kind.
Remember to always do your very best. Don’t worry about what others are doing around you. If someone is boasting about something they accomplished do not attempt to outdo them. Take satisfaction in your team knowing you did well, after all this is how Paul got in trouble in the first place. If you take personal satisfaction in a job well done you will never grow tired of doing what is right. If you don’t get discouraged and give up you will reap what you sow by keeping the good karma flowing in and ebbing the bad karma away.
As a remote user you will often spend a lot of time traveling and as you know during travel people can be tense and angry for things well beyond their control. Take the higher road and don’t let these things get you down, instead be kind and generous to others and you will see they are kind and generous to you. Let somebody merge in traffic, and somebody lets you change lanes without tailgating or blaring their horn. Help somebody pick up the contents of their accidentally-spilt briefcase and somebody holds the elevator door for you. Good ultimately begets good. Instant Karma is a wonderful thing. Who doesn’t love a quick pay-off?
What karma are you putting out there? What are you getting back in return?
“Why aren’t they listening,” you ask? Because they want a message with purpose; something they can believe in, remember and take action on.
Generating a Message with Purpose
First your message must have purpose. Are you talking just to fill time or is what you have to say really going to be of importance to your audience? Be sure to consider your audience and determine if what you are about to discuss with them is really going to matter. Once you have done this it is easy to know the direction of your next steps.
“To talk or not to talk – be sure to ask the question!”
Getting their Attention
Once you have decided that your message is important enough to move forward with; how do you do it? How do you get your audience to listen? Start with something to get their attention. A riveting statement, a perplexing question, an amazing fact, a brief story; anything that will turn their head and bend their ear in your direction, just make it relevant and make it something you can circle back to in the end.
Developing your Message
Know your audience and keep your message in context. Now that you have their attention; will they understand?
Tailor your message to the level of your audience.
If you are talking to a group of children, then make it simple and easy to comprehend. If you are speaking with a group of specialists, use their language and terms they familiar with. So what is your message? What is it you want to say? What do you want them to gain from your message? Think about these points.
Include content pertinent to the idea you are trying to convey.
Create an outline formatted to help you step your audience through the message in a logical process. Point A leads to point B which leads to point C and so on. Now you have your message laid out; is it clear and easy to understand? Take a second look, take some time away and come back to it with a fresh mind and maybe even do a dry run with a peer asking them to give you some critical feedback. What’s your back-up plan? Always have Plan B in your back pocket. Get down to the brass tacks. If you had to cut your 30 minute presentation down to 10 minutes or less, what would you say? You know your speech, you know the message you want to convey and you know the key points you need to drive home with your audience. So if the unforseen happens and now you only have 10 minutes to get your message across be sure to hit on those key points. If you are compelling with the key points, your audience will come back to you for more.
Delivering your Message
Ok, you have your message ready to go. How do you get them to believe in your message? How do you get them to remember? First, you MUST exude confidence! If you don’t believe in what you are saying, why should they? Look at them in the eyes when you talk to them it builds trust with the audience and will reinforce your believability. When you talk, use clear and concise sentences; speak clearly and avoid being monotone. Keep them engaged. Whether you are delivering a speech or giving a sales pitch you can keep your audience engaged by asking questions and taking time for dramatic pauses. Ask them to visualize what you are saying, it helps with recall. Use repetition, the more you repeat it, the more likely they are to remember it. Use repetition; the more you repeat it, the more likely they are to remember it. Be passionate about the message. Deliver your vision, make it their vision, get them on board and compel them to act. When you are finished, ask yourself: Do they agree with it? Is it something they will put into action?
“I get it, I agree with it, I think I can do it, I’m willing to try it.” – Jeffrey Gitomer
Bring it full circle. You started out with something to get their attention. A riveting statement, a perplexing question, an amazing fact or a brief story; now it’s time to get back to that statement or question. This will bring relevance to that statement which got them to listen in the first place. It will help them to understand your opening statement really does relate back to the end result. Bottomline: Prepare. Be confident, clear and compelling.
(Photo: Sarah’s Blog)
“Always make new mistakes.” – Esther Dyson
“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” –Socrates
(Photo: Center for Nonverbal Studies)
- On virtual team everyone works together and depends on one another so be sure to provide your team members what they need on time.
- If there is an announcement or break through everyone could benefit from be sure the group is notified.
- Share success stories with your team; if something worked well for you and improved a process it is likely something similar will work for others on your team and before you know it, your point of interest has become a best practice for the entire group.
- For the most part people enjoy helping others to succeed, it makes you feel good inside when you help others in need. If someone helped you accomplish a task you could have not otherwise done your self or was just assisting you in meeting a timeline; tell the group, people appreciate the recognition and are grateful you recognize their efforts.
You can’t get what you want and still make everyone happy. . . can you? Yes, it is possible! I have always been a person to find a way to get things done, a method of accomplishing the goals I wish to achieve. Maybe it started in childhood when my mother said, “no,” so I went to my father asking the same question. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the line, “What did your mother say?” Lesson learned; if it doesn’t work the first time–take a different approach. Preparation
“Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.” – Karl Albrecht
- First you have to know exactly what you want, define it and determine acceptable variations–this will keep you focused and on track.
- Prepare carefully and research all aspects of the deal. This will ensure you are fully prepared for any counters you may incur.
- Negotiation is nothing personal so don’t make it a personal attack on the other party. And don’t take the other party’s actions as a personal attack upon yourself.
- Look at the situation from the perspective of the other party and show compassion toward their situation.
“If you can’t go around it, over it, or through it, you had better negotiate with it.” – Ashleigh Brilliant
- Listen to the needs of the other party.
- Be persistent.
- Don’t expect to “win” the first time. Your first job is just to start the other person thinking.
- Work through the terms, discussing multiple resolutions.
“The first principle of contract negotiation is don’t remind them of what you did in the past; tell them what you’re going to do in the future.” – Stan Musial
- Work together with the other party for a common resolution.
- Don’t be selfish; try to base a solution incorporating the needs of the other party.
- Negotiation is always best if both parties are happy and you can develop a win-win outcome.
- Put your bargain in terms of his or her needs, advantages, and benefits.
- Define and set a timeline for the transaction to take place.
Negotiation can bear a negative association so be sure to take the time to fully understand the situation, be a good listener, work to develop win-win resolution and never compromise your values. So dream the impossible dream, achieve your goals and gain a new confidence in life to go out and take the world by storm!
Has there ever been a time where you should count to 10 and relax for a bit? Well, I’m gonna count to NOW!
Are there ever times in your life when you should take a moment, count to ten and relax? Instead, you find yourself so infuriated you can only count to NOW! Let’s face it sometimes all we need is a little lesson in patience. Perhaps we should take a couple minutes right now to explore patience, before you blow your top.
“Serenity now!” -Frank Costanza (Seinfeld)
What is Patience?
Patience is the act of remaining calm and collected during times of stress, challenges or difficult circumstances.
Determining the Cause
What caused this turmoil, why are you so upset? Take some time to reflect and become conscious of the reasons you are so irritated.
- Generate an awareness of what brought you to this level of impatience.
- Are there any triggers prompting your irritation?
- Be conscious of reoccurring patterns causing your patience to be tested.
Counteracting Your Impatience
When you feel the tension of intolerance building here are some things you can do:
- Determine what got you to this point.
- Visualize what the appropriate action should be instead of loosing your patience.
- Exercise or perform a physical activity to exert energy and release the tension.
- Take slow deep breaths.
- Listen to some relaxing music to calm yourself.
- View calming photos which bring you fortitude (i.e. sunset, water, landscapes, etc.)
- Do nothing; take a moment clear your mind, relax and meditate.
- Remove yourself from the emotion of the moment; if possible take an hour and come back calm and relaxed.
- Enjoy the moment and smile clandestinely knowing you will get through this.
Stop Your Frustration BEFORE it Happens
What preemptive measures can you take to dissipate the emotion and ensure they don’t reoccur moving forward?
“Good things come to those who wait.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Slow down there is no need for immediate gratification, in fact most successes are achieved over time.
- If the situation is beyond your control; then why worry about it? There is no sense getting worked up about conditions you cannot influence, just take proper steps to prepare for the results.
- Expect the unexpected; quite frequently events will not go as anticipated the first time around.
- It is appropriate to have high ambitions, but stop holding yourself and the world around you to unreachable standards.
- Get organized everything runs smoother when you are prepared.
What to do in the Future
Take it each day as it comes with a vision for the future. To succeed you need to prepare a well thought out plan with a clear vision.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelius
- Research and exude positive convictions sharing your optimism with others. Doing so will generate confidence among the group.
- Remember what is important to you by having clearly defined objectives.
- Convey gratitude for the gifts you have in your life and career; be it your family, friends, employment, customers, etc.
- Act in a mature manner. Outrage is not the way to impress others.
- Understand and accept; what is the worst thing that could happen? Most times if you center in on the worst case scenario, it is not as bad as you first made it out to be.
Patience is an important factor to a well-balanced and harmonious life. As you progress through your life and excel in your career there will be times of great stress. Take the time to be patient and make calm rational decisions rather than quick disorganized reactions.
What are some tips you have for patience?
(Photo: Robert S. Donovan)
Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool? The answer may surprise you…
With so many virtual teams scattered and far flung around the globe we need to find a way to cultivate the team bonding experience achieved in an office. In today’s mobile workforce the sense of presence is limited which in turn decreases the opportunity for team bonding, communication and trust. Sure we all have email, phones and other means of communication; but what opportunity do we have to really get to know each other? What can be done to stifle the disconnect and bring people closer together? The answer is…Facebook.
What’s lacking in the virtual workforce is the personal bonding which typically occurs when colleagues work side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. A bond is a close personal relationship that forms between people working toward shared goals using collaborative efforts. So how do you duplicate this in a virtual team environment?
How Do I Get Started?
Start by creating a Facebook group for your team. If you company is large make sure you pare it down to only include the members of your team directly. Be sure to incorporate your team identity and include basic information to the group such as:
- Links to company site and other team sites.
- Upcoming events including: Webinars, conferences and other programs where someone from your team will be present.
- Update your group or fan page on a regular basis with helpful information.
- Answer FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).
What Should Each Team Member Post?
Now you have your group set up and you are ready for your team to join the group and start posting. If any of your team members are new to Facebook here are some guidelines to assist them in determining the content they should share:
At first they may be apprehensive about contributing personal information to the group, let’s face it many people are a little uneasy about tipping their cards. Make clear to them you would not expect them to share any information they would not otherwise discuss if they were in an office setting. Explain to them you are working to create a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected. It is also significant to note to your virtual team there are many security settings on Facebook allowing them to pare down the information they choose to share with the group.
What Should Each Team Member Avoid?
How do you know what is appropriate? Of course it is imperative for people to know the boundaries of acceptable material. Set specific guidelines and add to them as needed, to start…
- All information should be non-proprietary.
- Be respectful of the company, brand, and reputation.
- Avoid rumors and gossip.
- Steer clear of stories or photos which may seem provocative or make others in the group uncomfortable.
- Set guidelines for the amount of time spent online.
Why Incorporate Facebook at All?
Employers are embracing Facebook and believe it can help build a sense of community amongst employees and help foster bonds with clients. A spokesperson for Facebook stated, “Facebook is an incredibly efficient way for people with real-world connections to share information and communicate, including among people who work together.” Among other things Facebook is a good way to…
- Increase trust: Colleagues get to know one another, then like each other and when they like each other they trust each other.
- Immerse a new employee into the group by getting to know the interests of their counterparts.
- Have long term employees gain further insight to their colleagues.
- Allow for a connection and create a sense of presence you would otherwise find in an office environment.
- Stay up-to-date as people’s interests change.
Let’s face it remote employees are spread far and wide across the globe today and if you are looking to bolster loyalty to the company and generate a team atmosphere it is crucial you embrace the technologies available to your workforce. Rather than forbidding these tools as many employers do find ways to utilize them as functional workplace mechanisms.
Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool; what are your thoughts?