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What do you want from me?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1 comment

(Photo: Center for Nonverbal Studies)

Living up to other peoples expectations can be difficult, especially as a remote employee your expectations can be even more elusive. So how do you get through it? How do you determine if you are doing everything anticipated of you and delivering what is expected of you?

Ask Questions
If you want to deliver on expectations, you need to know what those expectations are. Be up front and revisit expectations regularly to determine if you are on track. Discover not only what your manager expects of you, but what is expected from you by others.

Set Milestones
Setting milestones will keep you on track to achieve your goals. As you progress through your scheduled milestones communicate them, it allows others to get the sense of what you are actually accomplishing even though they cannot see you working first hand.

Clear Communications
No one can see and appreciate the massive effort you are putting in so it is urgent to produce results and share your output with the team. Remember when you work remotely, no one is there to see your accomplishments first hand; the only way they will ever find out, is if you are delivering on your expectations and sharing your progress. They only know what you tell them and show them so don’t be humble, it’s not boasting, it’s communicating your progress.

Demonstrate Commitment
As with any great team loyalty and commitment  are critical. Be sure to demonstrate the attributes of a good team member:
  • 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.
Sure it takes a little extra effort to keep everyone in the loop and to ensure you are living up to expectations, but in the end you will have achieved greater success through clarity and communications.
What are some best practices you have in place on your virtual team?

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Facebook as a Workplace Tool?

Thursday, February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

(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.

Why 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.
  • Newsletter.
  • 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:

  • Individual bio’s
  • Background
  • Education
  • Work history
  • Areas of expertise
  • Certifications
  • Training
  • Work Goals
  • Family happenings
  • Personal Interests
  • Pictures
  • Personal Goals
  • _
    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?

    “We think it could be valuable when used in an appropriate way.” – Haydn Long, spokesperson for Flight Centre

    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?

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    Team Bonding with a Virtual Workforce

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 3 comments

    (Image: Jason Christensen – Created in PowerPoint)

    A growing number of companies are instituting virtual workforces allowing the employees to be closer to their customers and working in a remote environment. These remote employees work distantly from the members of their team and may rarely have in person contact. As a manager you soon learn you can set up a group of employees to work as a team, but that doesn’t mean they will feel like a team.

    What’s lacking is the personal bonding. In an office, personal bonding usually occurs with colleagues working side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, understand each other’s skill sets, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. With so many virtual teams spread far and wide across the globe today; can you still cultivate the bonding experience achieved in an office?

    The answer is “yes,” but it is not going to be without challenge, effort and proper systems set in place.

    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?

    “When everyone works together, things start getting done and the nearly impossible tasks are accomplished.”

    Where to Begin

    Start with a group meeting in person, if possible. Miscommunication and conflicting expectations often arise early in the project. This formal gathering will allow you to:

    • Set goals and objectives as a group.
    • Define team roles.
    • Establish relationships amongst team members.
    • Construct a team identity.
    • Build a foundation for trust.

    If you are not able to bring everyone together in person, create a virtual environment where the team can gather to collaborate on these objectives. It may not be as effective, but it will begin the process and allow your remote employees to interact on a more personal basis.

    Developing Team Goals

    The entire team needs to have a clear understanding of their purpose and what they are looking to accomplish. Through collaboration a team can develop the goals and the processes needed to achieve their objectives. As the leader it is important you guide the team making sure their action plan is (SMART):

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Timed

    By allowing the team to set the goals for themselves it gives them ownership in the process knowing they had a part in the decision making.

    Defining Team Roles

    The process of team bonding encourages team members to learn how to manage conflict, evaluate group performance, and provide feedback and support encouraging each member to reach their highest potential. In a team-oriented environment, every member contributes to the overall success of the organization. While each person may have a specific job function, everyone is unified to accomplish the overall objective.

    Each team member should have a definite role as part of the group and every member of the team needs to be aware of each associates function and responsibility. Having clearly defined roles enhances the understanding of the workflow and increases productivity. Thereby each member of the team understands what the next person in the process needs to complete their task and can be sure to provide them all the facets needed to do their job properly.

    Getting to Know Each Other

    In your initial gathering you should allow time for people to get to know one another. You should have a round table where each team member takes a few minutes to talk about:

    • Who they are.
    • Where they came from.
    • Family.
    • Their interests.
    • Life experiences.
    • Personal goals.
    • Professional background.
    • Their role on the team.
    • What they are looking to achieve in their career.

    These types of discussion will open doors for common bonds between the members of the team allowing them to take interest in one another.

    Following these discussions the information should be gathered and posted to a team site. As time goes by people lose track of the information shared and interests change so the site should be easily updatable by each member of the team. A good online forum readily available is Facebook where private groups can be created. This forum also allows each person to upload pictures and other information about themselves creating a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected.

    Building a Team Identity

    A common feeling of identity is a vital part of taking your group from solitude to companionship. People have an inherent interest in feeling part of something special. During your initial assembly allow the team to work together in developing a distinctive individuality.

    Once developed, use this identity on all project documents, presentations, team sites, and related materials; it will further strengthen the character of the group

    Trust Building

    Cohesive teams cannot be built without trust. Each member of the group needs to have full faith in the other members knowing each team members is skilled and dependable in his area of expertise. However, trust takes time to grow and mature; so how do you cultivate trust?

    If you have implemented the recommendations above you have already taken great strides in laying the foundation for strong trusting relationships. To further nurture the process below are a few ideas which have been used successfully:

    • Start a buddy system, a first source of information. Each team member is a assigned a buddy, preferably one who compliments the others skills and abilities, carefully chosen to be a mentor to one another. This unit relies on each other for answers to questions, advice and general commentary. When the group members utilize the expertise each offers, they understand the value of their counterparts in their roles and enhances their confidence in the group.
    • Assign group projects. On a rotating basis pull together members of the team to complete goal related projects impelling them to work closely with one another gaining knowledge of the other team members capabilities and strengths.
    • As a manager knowing the strengths of your team gives you the ability to build the bench strength by delegating. By knowing the strengths of your team, when approached for assistance, you have the ability to ask them to utilize a particular team member who may be stronger than you in the particular area. Essentially you are assigning “go to” guys for particular areas where a member of your team is strong. Not only does this free some of your time, it is also an exercise in building bench strength and most of all it enhances team members confidence in one another.
    • Injecting humor, at the expense of yourself helps to break down barriers and creates an understanding with your team you are regular person
    • Willful collaboration among team members and sharing information to assist each other in achieving goals is a key attribute to encourage within a team.

    As the trust expands through the group, the team members will start support the other members of the team and pick each other up if they start to tumble.

    Enhancing Communication

    “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

    Communication amongst a virtual team enhances the fellowship of the group and should be made as easy as walking over to the water cooler. There are many possibilities to augment a virtual community:

    • Shared virtual workspace.
    • Online forum such as Facebook.
    • SharePoint site to store team files.
    • Instant messaging program.
    • Weekly conference calls.
    • Web Conferences.
    • Virtual conference rooms.
    • And believe it or not — the telephone!

    Celebrate Accomplishments

    Nothing is worse than working so hard to achieve greatness and no one ever finds out. It is important to celebrate the wins on a team and send a flag up the virtual flag pole staking your claim. As a leader it is your duty to communicate these wins to everyone who will listen and reward the members of your team for their accomplishments. Congratulatory compliments are a vital part of bonding people on a team. Make the announcements personal and call on the individual(s) responsible to “toot their own horn” in a group setting explaining what they did and how they did it.

    Virtual Gathering

    One of the greatest challenges with a virtual team is the social solitude people feel outside of an office environment. To offset this seclusion you can coordinate activities which build identity, unity and a competitive spirit within your entire team.

    • Hold an online poker tournament.
    • Depending on the group, a combat game might be of interest.
    • Host a Second Life event.
    • Participate in a virtual team farming exercise.

    There are many games and social events to take part in over the internet or through electronic gaming devices; pick something fitting of your team which allows them to accomplish a common goal.

    Todays virtual environment can be taxing and as a leader you must work hard to unite your group. Personal bonding in a virtual environment is going to be challenging, but the more you can do to develop this connection between group members; the more productive they will be, greater motivation they will have, morale will increase , retention rates will be greater and you will have a strongly bonded team.

    What are some methods you have seen used in a virtual workforce situation?

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    Trust me.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 3 comments

    (Photo: SFview)

    How do you trust someone you rarely see? When leading a virtual team it is important to build a trusting environment for everyone involved. When there is trust people tend to excel, grow, and hold a strong commitment to the company.

    Building trust and maintaining it is one of the unique challenges that virtual teams encounter. Without a lot of face time, it is very difficult to create the relationships that are necessary for success.

    Relationship Development

    Trust is an important factor in relationship development. Like any good relationship things take time to grow. When your team is remote and you do not see them face-to-face this can be especially challenging. Make the time to work with each of them personally. Be sure to contact them weekly even if it is just to touch base. A one-on-one call will let them know you are thinking of them and will be there help should anything come up.

    Keep in mind; this may be something you have to ease into if you have not shown an interest in the past; otherwise they may think you are prying and become suspicious. So take it slow, work to re-develop those relationships and with any luck it will lead to stronger bonds.

    Availability Through Communication

    With differences in time zones, varied schedules, and the lack of physical presence it can be tough to have a so called “open door” when you lead a team of remote users. As a leader you need to be cognizant of this a do everything you can to make yourself available. After all how can your team trust and rely on you if they are never able to reach you?

    • Always take their calls or return their calls promptly.
    • If you only have a moment, let them know and schedule a definitive time to speak with them further.
    • Hold weekly conference calls to allow for corporate communications, success and improvement stories as well as an open forum for issues affecting the team.
    • Use instant messaging, not only does it allow you to be easily accessible, but it also creates a feeling of fellowship when you can see everyone’s availability at a glance.

    Avoiding Speculation

    It is easy to loose trust if it seems a member of your team is not holding up their end of the bargain. In a remote situation it things are not always as they seem. Say for example you have called a member of your team several times in one day and have not been able to reach them. Are they taking a nap? Are they running personal errands? Are out doing yard work? Maybe not. It could be they are on the phone or in a meeting with a client. It could be they are working toward an important deadline and not picking up their phone to avoid distraction. Refrain from being presumptuous and make sure it’s not just your perception. If you find this happening with regularity, address the situation and avoid speculation.

    Consistency

    Consistency is important in developing trust with a virtual team. It is important to:

    • Hold regular conference calls or video conferences for the team to communicate with one another and feel as if they are sharing the same conference room.
    • Have monthly or quarterly in-person meetings if possible. To allow rapport to build through face-to-face conversations as well as team building exercises.

    Part of consistency is holding yourself and the group to distinct timelines by:

    Reliability

    Doing what you say you will do is a principle of great significance. To build trust in a virtual situation, leaders must be responsible and reliable.

    Maintaining promises is important. Often when people go sight unseen it is easy to forget their needs. To grow trust you will need to fulfill any promises you make to your team, delivered in full and on time. I have found by keeping a task list using assigned due dates helps to keep you on schedule.

    In promoting a team atmosphere the team members not only need to feel they can rely on you, but also the competency of their co-workers.

    “We normally develop a respect for co-workers competence, by observing them. When we are virtual, we don’t have this opportunity.”

    It is important to work hard at displaying the talents of each team member amongst the group. Some ways to do this are:

    • Creating team projects where you group team members together in order to complete projects occasionally so they develop rapport and learn the strengths of one another.
    • Instilling a buddy system allowing team members to call each other for business advice and general company questions. This is often best accomplished with veterans and rookie employees as well as employees from different divisions.

    Promoting a team atmosphere

    Can team members trust each other if they never see one another? Absolutely, but systems need to be set in place in order to allow teams to gather around a “virtual water cooler.” It is vital to promote a team atmosphere even when your team is remote Some exceptional tools you can utilize to connect which help greatly are:

    • Instant messaging.
    • Weekly conference calls.
    • Webinars.
    • Virtual conference rooms.
    • And believe it or not — the telephone!

    While implementing these programs do not forget the personal touches:

    • Celebrate team accomplishments.
    • Give a “shout-out” when it is someone’s birthday.
    • Let the group know when a team member has hit a milestone in their career with the company.
    • Take personal experiences from members of the team and tie them into your meeting topics.

    Trust is a two way street; the leader and the team members both have to work hard to grow that trust and build dependable relationships with one another. Without the trust factor you are bound for team failure.

    What are some trust builders you have done with your team?

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    Dealing with Team Conflict.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 Leave a comment

    (Photo: Lorianne DiSabato)

    That’s it! I’ve had it! I can’t take it any more! I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!

    WAIT!

    It’s impossible to avoid conflict when you have a team of people collaborating on a project. Typically this is caused when one person challenges the ideas, choices or actions of another. When people work together they must learn how to resolve disagreements if they want to be successful in their vision.

    The first golden rule is to stick to what you really know – that is your own reaction to the behavior in question, and not your interpretation of the other person’s motives or character.

    Let’s start first with what causes conflict. Conflicts can arise for a variety of reasons, some common causes are:

    (Image: mitopencourseware)

    What are some other common causes you have encountered?

    If we do not recognize these situations promptly they will escalate and before long lead to:

    What other issues could arise?

    “A problem well stated is a problem half solved” – Charles F. Kettering

    So what do we have to do to resolve the situation?

    • First, everyone must be calm before you can begin to settle a conflict so allow them ample time to cool off.
    • Privately gather each individual’s interpretations for the cause of events.
    • Discuss the problem with the group and make certain all parties are speaking of the same issue.
    • In order to get to the core of the problem each person should attempt to clearly identifying their issues.
    • People like to feel a part of the solution so in the next step you will need to help them refocus on the resolution rather than the problem. Doing this allows them ownership in the outcome.
    • Outline a plan letting everyone know the progress and the resolution.

    “Squint with your ears.”

    As a mediator you will need to:

    • Keep the group focused on resolving the conflict.
    • Be respectful of all involved and demand respect as the intermediary.
    • Assist in lessening personal grievances and preclude defensive behaviors.
    • When challenged, and you will be, remain calm and refocus the group on the resolution process.
    • Don’t get irritated and don’t apologize; doing so will only deteriorate your position as the leader.
    • Do not conclude without a resolution in place the group can agree upon.
    • Finally, the leader must insist each member of the group implements their part in the resolution as determined by the group.

    Let’s face it, dealing with conflict is never easy but it is necessary and cannot be avoided. To gain the trust, respect and admiration of your team you must address it head on in a calm, focused and professional manner. As you work through these situations you will continue to grow as a confident and capable leader.

    Remote Note:

    In a remote situation you will have to work hard to achieve accurate communication as you do not have the ability to dialog  in person with your colleagues. This type of circumstance leads to difficultly gauging tone without seeing physical expression. In order to overcome this challenge you need to be sure to clearly state your thoughts and thoroughly communicate your objectives. The more closely you work with people the more accustomed they will be to your interactions thereby assisting in precise communication.

    Tell us about some of your conflict resolution stories.

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    There’s Karma in Leadership

    Thursday, December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

    (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.

    Remote Note:

    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?

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    ON A BUDGET: Motivating your team, bolstering loyalty & elevating morale. (Full Series)

    Monday, November 23, 2009 2 comments

    (Photo: stopnlook)

    (Originally posted as a series November 16 -20, 2009 on The Blog of Jason Christensen – “Your Life as a Remote User”)

    Times are tough right now. Raises are not being doled out, salary’s are being cut, 401K’s are not being matched, people are losing their jobs…morale is low. Many managers may not be concerned if their remaining employees are unhappy; where do they think they are going to go in this economic environment? Don’t be short sighted; employees who are not happy are looking elsewhere and when the climate turns many will abandon ship. Now is the time to keep your employees exhilarated!

    “So what can you do to motivate a team and create loyal employees when morale is low?”

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————
    In this economy it’s imperative employers concentrate on non-monetary motivating factors by:

    1. Taking a genuine interest in people
    2. Keeping an open line of communication
    3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role
    4. Bestowing recognition on your team
    5. Cultivating career development plans

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————

    1. Take a genuine interest in people.

    When times get tough people band together; they take a bona fide interest in one another.

    • Find out what is going on in the life of your team members
    • What is important to them right now
    • Let them know you understand
    • Do what you can to help them
    • Offer advice if they are looking for it

    Try making a mental list of everyone you may encounter today; think of what they are working on or what they have going on in their life and try to relate to them. People appreciate it when you take an interest in their lives. It will increase morale, let people know you care and help them realize they are not just another number in the corporate books.

    Remote Note:

    When your team is remote and you do not see them face-to-face this can be especially challenging. Take the time to work with each of them personally. Be sure to contact them weekly even if it is just to touch base. A one-on-one call will let them know you are thinking of them and will be there help should anything come up.

    Keep in mind; this may be something you have to ease into if you have not shown an interest in the past; otherwise they may think you are prying and become suspicious. So take it slow, work to re-develop those relationships and with any luck it will lead to a motivated team, stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.

    Think of others first, show interest in their lives, offer a helping hand.

    What are some ideas you have to strengthen the bonds with a team?
    Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

    2. Keeping an open line of communication.

    An open door policy sends a message to your coworkers you are approachable, willing to listen and discuss issues as they come up. An open line of communication also acquaints you with your team in order to know what is important to them. If you are familiar with their goals and desires, you will be able to lead them more effectively grooming them for the next steps they wish to achieve. Without and open line of communication you are leading them blindly and will not get the synergies needed to achieve your goals.

    • Ask employees for their ideas
    • Be a good listener
    • Take notes
    • Work to find ways to incorporate their ideas into the corporate vision

    You may be surprised at the good points of information they will provide to you. And when you do use their ideas and the employees see them in action you will be surprised by their loyalty to you and the company.

    Don’t forget, communication is a two way street. People feel important when they know what is going on with their company. They feel a sense of power when they are “in-the-know” on breaking news. Reach out to your staff when there is news to be shared, organize your thoughts and convey a clear, concise, informational message without breaching company confidentiality.

    Remote Note:

    It can be tough to have a so called “open door” when you lead a team of remote users. Here are some tips to help:

    • Always take their calls or return their calls as soon as you are available.
    • If you only have a moment, let them know and schedule a definitive time to speak with them further.
    • Hold weekly conference calls to allow for corporate communications, success and improvement stories as well as an open forum for issues affecting the team.

    Keep an open line of communication, be a good listener and make them feel important.

    What are some thoughts you have to enhance the communication within a team?
    Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

    3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role.

    People like to feel needed, so helping people understand their contribution to the corporation and showing them their efforts DO make a difference will increase their morale. It is important for people to understand how each gear turns to keep the machine operating effectively. They need to understand the part they play in the overall corporate structure and the flow of the business.

    Take a particular function in your business as an example:

    • Where was it generated what is the intended outcome?
    • What path had the process taken before it reached your team?
    • Where did it go afterward?
    • What was the result and how did it contribute to the goals of the company?

    It is important to illustrate this so people understand their role is not idle and without function.

    Another way to generate a feeling of contribution to the company is to delegate authority. Delegate authority by:

    • Encouraging people to take on additional responsibilities
    • Aligning them with the company goals
    • Letting them take ownership of certain processes.

    This increase in leadership responsibilities will build the bench strength of your team and increase fellowship amongst employees. Furthermore take the time to publicly recognize them and convey how their initiatives helped the company and/or the customer. Better yet invite the customer to take the time to provide a public testimonial of the employees efforts. This kind of respect in a timely manner will go a long way with your team.

    Remote Note:

    When your team is part of a remote workforce it can be especially challenging for them to understand the role they play in the company and the path processes take from inception to fruition. By illustrating to your team the route a business process takes whether it is through a slide presentation or work flow chart it helps them understand the function of their position and how they can affect the overall process.

    In addition, it is important for the remote work force to understand the appropriate contacts for varied situations they encounter in their day to day. This will help them know where to go for answers when a problem arises.

    Help your team to understand their overall role in the company and build bench strength through delegation.

    What are you doing to build the bench strength of your workforce?
    How do you communicate workflows and processes within your group?

    Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

    4. Bestowing recognition on your team.

    Expendable funds are minimal, but how do you recognize your team for a job well done? One of the best ways is to allow your employees a greater stake in the company. By offering your team options in the organization it generates a deeper interest in helping the company to succeed. The closer the ties, the more loyal they will be and the more desire they will have to look out for the best interest of the company.

    A lesser option is to provide them with a gift they would not otherwise spend their own money to purchase. In better times companies had gift catalogs allowing the staff to pick from a selection of nice items. In today’s climate a more resonable token may be company logo merchandise. It allows the employee to boast his affiliation with a nice corporate logo while at a minimal cost to the company.

    Let’s face it, people enjoy recognition, but the timing and context have to be right. Be sure to:

    An award is good, but bragging rights are better!

    Remote Note:

    With a team of remote users it can be difficult to publicly recognize a job well done. A great vehicle for recognizing a team member is through a weekly newsletter. Create a short article touting the wonderful job they did and if you can get a customer testimonial it makes the achievement all the better. There is nothing like being able to show others your achievements right there in print.

    Another great method is on your weekly team call where their colleagues can applaud them in person. It is always nice to have a quick pat on the back for a job well done.

    What a terrific way to spark a friendly internal competition for your team members in order to vie for that top spot.

    Awards and recognition generate loyalty and elevate morale.

    What forms of recognition do you use?
    How do you recognize an employee for a job well done?

    Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

    5. Cultivating career development plans.

    One of the worst feelings as an employee is not knowing where you are going with your employer. Take time with the individuals on your team and sit down with them to develop a clear career path showing them the next steps they can take based on their achievements. A great time to cover this is during biannual performance reviews. Take this time to provide constructive feedback AND discuss with them what they can do to grow with the company. Find out what you can do to help each of your team members advance and work to make it happen. Not only will it help them, but as management sees future leaders continually being produced from your staff it lets them know the value you offer to the company.

    Develop your team using:

    • Books and short articles on related topics
    • Online Courses
    • Out of office training workshops or seminars

    When people are excused from their regular duties for a short period of time to participate in these type of events, it makes make them feel important amongst the crowd.

    Out of sight out of mind.

    Remote Note:
    When you manage a remote team it is challenging to enhance the visibility of the work your team does. Often their achievements get overlooked by people who work in the office since they do not see your team members regularly. This can make it difficult for members of your team to exceed in the workplace and continually grow with the company. It is important to create campaigns to tout the accomplishments of your team. It could be through a company newsletter or possibly a weekly email stating the highlights of the week. Be creative and find a method which fits your corporate structure.

    Take time with your team to make sure you understand what their goals are with the company and help them to develop and achieve those goals.

    What have you done to develop your team?
    What are some methods you use to boast the triumphs of your team?

    Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

    Keep your team on board! Think of others first by conveying an interest in their lives, talking with them frequently, letting them know they are doing a good job and you appreciate their contributions, then help them to develop in their careers. With any luck it will lead to a motivated team, stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.

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