Distance Leader https://distanceleader.com/ Virtual and distance teams need a different type of leader! On the Distance Leader podcast, we discuss tools, resources, and strategies for being a stronger leader, whether in a collocated, virtual, or blended work environment. Visit DistanceLeader.com to learn more. Thu, 12 Mar 2020 18:44:36 +0000 en © 2018 Distance Leader Lead from Anywhere Christopher Wells, Ph.D. episodic Virtual and distance teams need a different type of leader! On the Distance Leader podcast, we discuss tools, resources, and strategies for being a stronger leader, whether in a collocated, virtual, or blended work environment. Visit DistanceLeader.com to learn more. Christopher Wells, Ph.D. distanceleader@gmail.com clean http://distanceleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2018-08-24-Logo-2_7b1fa1_9c27b0_999999_70d18e_FINAL.jpg Distance Leader https://distanceleader.com/ Christopher Wells, Ph.D. distanceleader@gmail.com Virtual and distance teams need a different type of leader! On the Distance Leader podcast, we discuss tools, resources, and strategies for being a stronger leader, whether in a collocated, virtual, or blended work environment. Visit DistanceLeader.com to learn more. No https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4 150887957 115-What Do You Do When You Work from Home? https://distanceleader.com/podcast/115-what-do-you-do-when-you-work-from-home/ Mon, 20 Jan 2020 15:25:00 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1212 communication,communication strategies,culture communication,distance,distance leader,team,team dynamics,virtual boss,virtual leader,virtual team full 115 Occasionally, I run across an article that reflects my thoughts as a distance leader and distance worker. A couple of months ago, Gina Boedeker, the founder and CEO of the Boedeker Group, wrote a fantastic article about the misconceptions that others may have of work-at-home employees and roles.

This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0115, we’re discussing an article by Gina Boedeker, an expert in the field of marketing and strategic market development. I connected with Gina after reading her article on LinkedIn. Follow the link in the show notes to read the article, and the comments. Gina has kindly provided permission for me to use her article as the basis of this episode of the Distance Leader Podcast.

Here’s a link to the article in LinkedIn.com: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-do-you-when-work-from-home-spoiler-alert-some-best-boedeker/

You can reach Ms. Boedeker through her business, The Boedeker Group: https://www.theboedekergroup.com/

Here’s a link to Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business Hardcover by Gino Wickman (https://amzn.to/3as79mk)
(Note: I incorrectly pronounced Mr. Wickman’s name as “Gina”… I guess that was side effect of saying Ms. Boedeker’s name!)


Occasionally, I run across an article that reflects my thoughts as a distance leader and distance worker. A couple of months ago, Gina Boedeker, the founder and CEO of the Boedeker Group, wrote a fantastic article about the misconceptions that others may have of work-at-home employees and roles.

This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0115, we’re discussing an article by Gina Boedeker, an expert in the field of marketing and strategic market development. I connected with Gina after reading her article on LinkedIn. Follow the link in the show notes to read the article, and the comments. Gina has kindly provided permission for me to use her article as the basis of this episode of the Distance Leader Podcast.

Here’s a link to the article in LinkedIn.com: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-do-you-when-work-from-home-spoiler-alert-some-best-boedeker/

You can reach Ms. Boedeker through her business, The Boedeker Group: https://www.theboedekergroup.com/

Here’s a link to Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business Hardcover by Gino Wickman (https://amzn.to/3as79mk)
(Note: I incorrectly pronounced Mr. Wickman’s name as “Gina”… I guess that was side effect of saying Ms. Boedeker’s name!)


]]>
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114-Day 1 as a Distance Leader https://distanceleader.com/podcast/114-day-1-as-a-distance-leader/ Mon, 09 Dec 2019 14:00:00 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1183 communication,communication strategies,culture communication,distance,distance leader,team,team dynamics,virtual boss,virtual leader,virtual team full 0114
  • Show up. I know this may be self-explanatory, but you want your first days in your new role to emphasize and model your very best behavior as a leader.
    • Leadership takes time to grow, but treating others with respect is always a great first step.
    • A mass email may be useful, at first, but quickly move to in-person meetings so your team members can see you and hear your enthusiasm. Whether it’s web conferencing, phone calls, or recorded presentations, this is an opportunity to set the stage for strong communications.
    • Just because YOU may be a successful virtual worker or leader doesn’t make your boss or employee immediately effective. Your bosses and your team members may not understand what it takes to be an effective distance employee or distance leader.
    • When having discussions with your team members, model the behavior you expect:
      • Attention. When you are speaking with that person, you are not using your computer or half-heartedly carrying your side of the conversation. Give your employees your full attention. Builds rapport, respect, trust, and continued communication.
      • Meaningful dialogue. Have an agenda for your initial conversations. Use questions about work and workflow, but also tell your team a bit about you, too. Keep it light, informative, and positive.
      • Interpersonal support. Make supporting your employees a priority, both in word and deed. As a leader, your job is to remove obstacles for them to accomplish their work.
      • Consideration of other ideas. Over time, you can start discussing some of the ideas that you would like to bring to the team and the role. This is not for Day 1, but probably Month 1.
      • Focus. Like attention, being focused means that you are responsive and available when necessary at work. Whether it is during individual meetings, small group conversations, or larger presentations, do your best to demonstrate behaviors that indicate that you are prepared and considerate of others’ responsibilities and expectations.
      • Business goals. Revisit your team’s goals with each person individually, and ask how they see themselves contributing to the team goals.
    • Day 1 strategies:
      • Schedule in-person opportunities to work together
      • Begin the collaborative dialogue in one-on-one conversations
      • Be aware that employees are often nervous with new leadership, so use your understanding of the team to address concerns
      • Use video whenever possible
      • Make individual and small-group meetings a priority in the few few weeks
      • Focus on team and organizational goals
      • Share best practices but be open to current practices
      • Provide opportunity for informal feedback (“office hours,” responsiveness, and solicitation for advice)
    • Show up. I know this may be self-explanatory, but you want your first days in your new role to emphasize and model your very best behavior as a leader.
      • Leadership takes time to grow, but treating others with respect is always a great first step.
      • A mass email may be useful, at first, but quickly move to in-person meetings so your team members can see you and hear your enthusiasm. Whether it’s web conferencing, phone calls, or recorded presentations, this is an opportunity to set the stage for strong communications.
      • Just because YOU may be a successful virtual worker or leader doesn’t make your boss or employee immediately effective. Your bosses and your team members may not understand what it takes to be an effective distance employee or distance leader.
      • When having discussions with your team members, model the behavior you expect:
        • Attention. When you are speaking with that person, you are not using your computer or half-heartedly carrying your side of the conversation. Give your employees your full attention. Builds rapport, respect, trust, and continued communication.
        • Meaningful dialogue. Have an agenda for your initial conversations. Use questions about work and workflow, but also tell your team a bit about you, too. Keep it light, informative, and positive.
        • Interpersonal support. Make supporting your employees a priority, both in word and deed. As a leader, your job is to remove obstacles for them to accomplish their work.
        • Consideration of other ideas. Over time, you can start discussing some of the ideas that you would like to bring to the team and the role. This is not for Day 1, but probably Month 1.
        • Focus. Like attention, being focused means that you are responsive and available when necessary at work. Whether it is during individual meetings, small group conversations, or larger presentations, do your best to demonstrate behaviors that indicate that you are prepared and considerate of others’ responsibilities and expectations.
        • Business goals. Revisit your team’s goals with each person individually, and ask how they see themselves contributing to the team goals.
    • Day 1 strategies:
      • Schedule in-person opportunities to work together
      • Begin the collaborative dialogue in one-on-one conversations
      • Be aware that employees are often nervous with new leadership, so use your understanding of the team to address concerns
      • Use video whenever possible
      • Make individual and small-group meetings a priority in the few few weeks
      • Focus on team and organizational goals
      • Share best practices but be open to current practices
      • Provide opportunity for informal feedback (“office hours,” responsiveness, and solicitation for advice)
    ]]>
    clean no 00:11:25 Dr. Wells No no
    113-Best ways to interact with virtual team members https://distanceleader.com/podcast/113-best-ways-to-interact-with-virtual-team-members/ Wed, 27 Nov 2019 14:00:00 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1166 communication,communication strategies,culture communication,distance,distance leader,team,team dynamics,virtual boss,virtual leader,virtual team full 0114 This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0113, we’re talking about the expectations that distance leaders have for their teams. Here are some of our guiding questions:

    • How do you maximize the time you have with part-time employees?
    • How do you encourage effective work behaviors for team members who may not be comfortable working virtually?
    • Expectations for virtual work teams
      • Remember, not everyone works best in an office or remotely
      • People who don’t feel connected don’t contribute as effectively
      • Plan regular meetings, including face-to-face meetings
      • Developed examples of what you expect
      • Speak regularly with each team members individually
      • Do your best to monitor stress levels
        • How do you manage team members who are not as focused on developing a balanced work-life approach?
          • Home office working at night or inefficiently, 
          • Working on weekends
        • What if your team is traveling for work?
        • Spend time speaking with your team about best practices for team stress reduction
        • Encourage careful examination work-life balance vs. expectations of work-life balance
        • Use frequent check-ins as a way to informally connect with team members
      • Encourage healthy team dynamics, too – share expectations to connect with other team members

    What to observe

    Here’s a short list of “warning signs” that may identify a mismatch in expectations

    • Points of failure (not an exhaustive list…)
      • Solitude
      • Unclear expectations
      • Disconnection – Sensation of “out of sight, out of mind”
      • Maverick mentality
      • Uneven evaluation and rewards
      • Home office = family distractions (or distractions in general!)
      • Unable to meet goals
      • Communications are always punitive, not routine or positive
      • 24×7 expectations

    This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0113, we’re talking about the expectations that distance leaders have for their teams. Here are some of our guiding questions:

    • How do you maximize the time you have with part-time employees?
    • How do you encourage effective work behaviors for team members who may not be comfortable working virtually?
    • Expectations for virtual work teams
      • Remember, not everyone works best in an office or remotely
      • People who don’t feel connected don’t contribute as effectively
      • Plan regular meetings, including face-to-face meetings
      • Developed examples of what you expect
      • Speak regularly with each team members individually
      • Do your best to monitor stress levels
        • How do you manage team members who are not as focused on developing a balanced work-life approach?
          • Home office working at night or inefficiently, 
          • Working on weekends
        • What if your team is traveling for work?
        • Spend time speaking with your team about best practices for team stress reduction
        • Encourage careful examination work-life balance vs. expectations of work-life balance
        • Use frequent check-ins as a way to informally connect with team members
      • Encourage healthy team dynamics, too – share expectations to connect with other team members

    What to observe

    Here’s a short list of “warning signs” that may identify a mismatch in expectations

    • Points of failure (not an exhaustive list…)
      • Solitude
      • Unclear expectations
      • Disconnection – Sensation of “out of sight, out of mind”
      • Maverick mentality
      • Uneven evaluation and rewards
      • Home office = family distractions (or distractions in general!)
      • Unable to meet goals
      • Communications are always punitive, not routine or positive
      • 24×7 expectations
    ]]>
    clean no 00:15:32 Dr. Wells No no
    112-Building Team Expectations as a Distance Leader https://distanceleader.com/podcast/112-building-team-expectations-as-a-distance-leader/ Fri, 25 Oct 2019 13:00:09 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1123 distance leader,expectations,Leadership,team,team dynamics,virtual boss,virtual leader,virtual team
    • How can a distance leader communicate expectations?
    • How can a distance leader focus on positive, self-reinforcing interactions?
    • What steps can a leader take to set effective expectations?
      • Intentional communications and check-ins – the richer the media, the better
        • Regular meetings
        • Regular one-on-one meetings
        • More than status – periodic “compass checks” that help establish purpose
        • Using models or examplars to share ideas
      • Discussions about expectations
        • Work-life balance. Demonstrating what is expected is important, but so is treating work like a part of life, not the only focus a team member has
        • Productivity. Clearly defining productivity goals for individuals and for teams helps, but don’t go too far. It may set a low boundary on work efforts.
        • Review and promotion expectations. Have both public and private conversations about this. Do your best to demystify strategies for promotion so employees feel comfortable talking to you about opportunities. When someone chooses another job, realize that everyone is watching your responses, so endeavor to be gracious and supportive.
        • Guidelines about contacting leader for support (example: missing a meeting). Sometimes, you need to contact your boss directly, so make sure you set the expectations clearly around how to contact and when to contact.
        • Provide shared experiences of working through problems. This approach is kind of like a “teaching moment” to reinforce what you might do in a particular situation. You can also ask others on the team to identify problems and how they should be solved, and then discuss the resolution as a team.
        • Meet with team members individually to discuss comfort levels in their roles and clarify any questions.
        • Focus some time in regular group meetings to address questions and issues.
    • Discussions about workplace. These can be very difficult conversations, especially with an unhappy employee or team.
      • Focus on team goals or business goals. The purpose of the team should be clear, and be the core of the conversation.
      • If client meetings are part of the mix, then define expectations around what a successful client interaction looks/feels like.
      • Try to assess and connect others in the company to the remote employee, using mentorship programs, training programs, or even book studies.
    • Positive vs. negative interactions
      • Foster intra-team communications. Having employees speak with one another is the first step to solving problems before they grow and require your interaction.
      • Give adequate warning for points to assess (back to expectations). In other words, actually defining the things where you should be involved as a leader really helps your team members know when you should be contacted.
      • Discuss work queue and subjective and objective performance. If you have multiple people with similar roles, then defining performance expectations is part of your leadership responsibility. By admitting that there are different approaches for different people and unique situations helps you define your leadership style and effectively be fairer to the whole team if you want to be.
      • The more challenging the discussion, the richer the media needs to be. Model effective video conferencing, phone calls, and emails.
      • Build a mentor-buddy system in the organization to avoid isolationism. This helps provide internal leadership roles as well as support newer or more distant employees.
    Don’t forget to check out the Distance Leader blog and leadership resources at DistanceLeader.com! You can also connect with us via email at distanceleader@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @Distance_Leader. We look forward to hearing from you! Media credit: Photo by Isaac Smith on UnsplashThis week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0112, we’re talking about building appropriate team and employee expectations as a distance leader. Here are some of our guiding questions:
    • How can a distance leader communicate expectations?
    • How can a distance leader focus on positive, self-reinforcing interactions?
    • What steps can a leader take to set effective expectations?
      • Intentional communications and check-ins – the richer the media, the better
        • Regular meetings
        • Regular one-on-one meetings
        • More than status – periodic “compass checks” that help establish purpose
        • Using models or examplars to share ideas
      • Discussions about expectations
        • Work-life balance. Demonstrating what is expected is important, but so is treating work like a part of life, not the only focus a team member has
        • Productivity. Clearly defining productivity goals for individuals and for teams helps, but don’t go too far. It may set a low boundary on work efforts.
        • Review and promotion expectations. Have both public and private conversations about this. Do your best to demystify strategies for promotion so employees feel comfortable talking to you about opportunities. When someone chooses another job, realize that everyone is watching your responses, so endeavor to be gracious and supportive.
        • Guidelines about contacting leader for support (example: missing a meeting). Sometimes, you need to contact your boss directly, so make sure you set the expectations clearly around how to contact and when to contact.
        • Provide shared experiences of working through problems. This approach is kind of like a “teaching moment” to reinforce what you might do in a particular situation. You can also ask others on the team to identify problems and how they should be solved, and then discuss the resolution as a team.
        • Meet with team members individually to discuss comfort levels in their roles and clarify any questions.
        • Focus some time in regular group meetings to address questions and issues.
    • Discussions about workplace. These can be very difficult conversations, especially with an unhappy employee or team.
      • Focus on team goals or business goals. The purpose of the team should be clear, and be the core of the conversation.
      • If client meetings are part of the mix, then define expectations around what a successful client interaction looks/feels like.
      • Try to assess and connect others in the company to the remote employee, using mentorship programs, training programs, or even book studies.
    • Positive vs. negative interactions
      • Foster intra-team communications. Having employees speak with one another is the first step to solving problems before they grow and require your interaction.
      • Give adequate warning for points to assess (back to expectations). In other words, actually defining the things where you should be involved as a leader really helps your team members know when you should be contacted.
      • Discuss work queue and subjective and objective performance. If you have multiple people with similar roles, then defining performance expectations is part of your leadership responsibility. By admitting that there are different approaches for different people and unique situations helps you define your leadership style and effectively be fairer to the whole team if you want to be.
      • The more challenging the discussion, the richer the media needs to be. Model effective video conferencing, phone calls, and emails.
      • Build a mentor-buddy system in the organization to avoid isolationism. This helps provide internal leadership roles as well as support newer or more distant employees.
    Don’t forget to check out the Distance Leader blog and leadership resources at DistanceLeader.com! You can also connect with us via email at distanceleader@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @Distance_Leader. We look forward to hearing from you! Media credit: Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash]]>
    clean no 0:00 Dr. Wells No no
    0111-Employee Expectations of Distance Leaders https://distanceleader.com/podcast/0111-employee-expectations-of-distance-leaders/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 13:00:58 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1122 distance leader,employee isolation,employees,virtual boss,virtual leader,virtual team

    This week on the Distance Leader Podcast, we’re talking about employees expect from their distance leaders. Here are some of our guiding questions:

    • What are some of the explicit and hidden expectations do your employees have for you?
    • What are some of the explicit expectations you have for your bosses?

    Direct communication with distance employees can be challenging!

    • Recently saw a Twitter post: “Remote communication: Talking with someone will help you have a richer communication, and help short-circuit potential lengthy back-and-forth conversations.” Although this seems like obvious advice, it’s more important that you might think!
    • Complications with schedules, time zones, and work priorities can prevent easy access to leaders and to employees. Poor communication can trigger feelings of isolation and mistrust.
    • Instead, shared expectations require communications. Better and more authentic communications support a sense of connection, shared problem-solving, and trust. Encouraging your employees to communicate effectively when you are not around is the key expectation you can reflect back to your team or teams.

    Multiple perspectives of the same event can sometimes obscure expectations

      • What is the impact of limited access to leaders or employees?
      • Unclear expectations will almost always lead to not meeting the mark
      • Open dialogue on missteps helps establish expectations and “rules”
        • When should I call or escalate an issue?
        • When do you expect me to handle this as I see fit?
      • Some conversations you can have with your team members to set expectations:
        • Team member’s perspective:
          • Do you feel lonely or alone?
          • What do you see as the benefits of working remotely? Can I make it even better?
          • What problems do you experience that are related to NOT being with a team in a single location?
          • When do you feel like you need more support?
          • Are there sources of frustration that we need to discuss?
        • Team leader’s perspective – more for reflection than anything else
          • Does trust exist?
          • What expectations do you perceive that exist?
          • How often does direct conversation and contact occur?
          • When do expectations get reviewed? Monthly meetings? With every project?
          • Do you see yourself as only communicating when there is a problem? Does this create a feeling of negative perspectives for your employee?
          • Open door policy for in-office personnel… how do you respond to that individual employee?

    As a leader, don’t be afraid to model upward to your boss, too!

      • Conversations about expectations
      • Explorations that support stronger work roles
      • Identifying ways your boss could be a better leader for you 

    Bottom line

    • Being a better distance leader means that you are working hard to be aware and support your employee’s expectations
    • Strong communications are the key to effective expectations conversations
    • Help your boss understand your expectations as well by being a better distance worker

    Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

    ]]>
    clean no 0:00 Dr. Wells No no
    0110-Leadership & Employee Competencies https://distanceleader.com/podcast/0110-leadership-employee-competencies/ Fri, 04 Oct 2019 13:00:54 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1099 competencies,competency,distance leader,leader,Leadership,virtual boss,virtual leader,virtual team full

    This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0110, we’re talking about different definitions of performance and leadership competencies. Here are some of our guiding questions:

    • How are competencies used for employees in a meaningful way?
    • How are competencies used for leadership roles?
    • How do competencies differ for distance leaders than face-to-face leaders?

    Competencies as a framework

    • Often organizations develop competencies as a way to measure… something. It’s not quite clear, but the goal is to recognize behaviors and habits that lead to business success. Remember, in Episode 0109, we discussed what competencies were and what they were not.
    • “Grading” employees in an organization is part of the process. Unless you are self-employed, most organizations feel that there has to be a way to identify strong performing employees versus those who are struggling in their roles.

    The Goldilocks zone for competencies
    Competencies should live in the “Goldilocks” zone: Not too broad, not too narrow. They should be just right. However, not every role in the organization fits easily in the same competencies for everyone. Competencies should describe the goal behaviors and skills of employees. If they are too broad, they are something like “position vision statements,” and if they are too narrow, the competencies become a job description.

    Competencies for leaders and distance leaders
    Leadership competencies have been studied for years, and leadership can almost always be described as roles that are fluid. Let’s face it: “solving business problems” is hard to define. How do you build a competency around “adapting to change”?

    • Some researchers have taken an even more general approach: Green and McCann (2011) placed more specific concepts around leadership competencies, including honesty, respect, integrity, and trust, as well as practicing those expectations that the leader wished to find in subordinates.
    • Somewhat different approach, but still a valid one depending on the organization. This was a behavioral leadership goal followed by “commitments,” which are the skills related to the behavior. 
    • There’s a whole field around leadership competency training, since flexibility and adaptability to multiple work environments is a common characteristic of business.
    • Another approach is to develop a continuum of behaviors that support a business competency. 

    Competencies and professional development

    One researcher team  found that there was a gap in the literature in the comparison of how professional development in competencies actually improve leadership competencies(Dragoni, Tesluk, Russell, & Oh, 2009). After all, shouldn’t leadership training actually make a difference in both skills and behaviors? What they found in their follow-up research was interesting: People participated in professional development to learn new skills, but also to avoid negative judgements about their work quality.

    • Whether clearly stated or not, learning goals to build competency were perceived as more valuable when new managerial roles or opportunities could involve the new skills available in training.
    • Why train someone on a new skill that doesn’t apply to their role, or a role they are moving into? 
    • Are you helping your employees make good professional development choices, and then giving them opportunities to use those new skills?

    Bottom line

    • When looking at competencies, try to see the “Goldilocks” zone where the competencies are not too narrow and not too broad.
    • Collaborate with your employees and your team on what the company-issued competencies should be, the approach of developing a behavioral target followed by skill-level commitments may be an effective tool.
    • Think about competencies and skills when evaluating professional development.

    References

    Dragoni, L., Tesluk, P. E., Russell, J. E. A., & Oh, I.-S. (2009). Understanding managerial development: integrating developmental assignments, learning orientation, and access to developmental opportunities in predicting managerial competencies. Academy of Management Journal, 52(4), 731-743. 

    Green, D. D., & McCann, J. (2011). Benchmarking a leadership model for the green economy. Benchmarking: An International Journal, 18(3), 445-465. doi:10.1108/14635771111137804

    Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

    ]]>
    clean no 00:12:17 Dr. Wells No no
    0109-What are competencies? https://distanceleader.com/podcast/0109-what-are-competencies/ Fri, 27 Sep 2019 13:00:45 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=1064 candidate,competencies,distance leader,hiring,Leadership full 0109

    This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0109, we’re talking about different definitions of performance and leadership competencies. Here are some of our guiding questions:

    • How is a competence different than a skill or an aptitude?
    • What are some common competency approaches currently used in work environments?

    You’ll hear it more and more in HR conversations: Competency-based hiring, competency definitions, and competency-level training. What exactly does the term “competency” mean? To uncover the definition, we’ll need to take a trip to the past.

    What is a competency?

    The short answer is simple: Outcomes-relevant measures of knowledge, skills, abilities, and traits and/or motives. This is a definition developed in 1973 by David McClelland. In 1973, McClelland questioned the reliability and validity of intelligence and aptitude tests in his paper. At the time, the United States had invested in the idea of standardized tests to assess and track students into colleges and employment. For example, police officers in Boston were being given vocabulary tests to determine if they were “right” for the job. That would have been great if the vocabulary was for police-related terms. However, the terms were totally unrelated to police work. What, then, were they measuring?

    Alfred Binet and French Schooling

    In the early 1900s, Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to explore student intelligence. Whether it was for students who needed additional support or were somehow more competent than their peers, there was no easy way to measure intelligence. Until Binet developed his approach to measuring intelligence, there was not really a good way to measure innate intelligence. French law required every student to attend school, so knowing which students would need remediation was extremely important. Binet and Theodore Simon developed a “mental age” approach that was designed to show which students were “below,” “above,” or “at” the physical age in their demonstrated intelligence. 

    Since Binet’ and Simon’s work was heavily connected to schools, the concept of intelligence was also connected to grades and grading. Even though Binet himself did not believe that his testing was effective in every situation, as intelligence changed over time and could be impacted by something as simple as vocabulary differences, his theories were adopted with great abandon in the United States. Lewis Terman, working at Stanford University, developed a hybrid of the intelligence test, called the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. You probably know it as the intelligence quotient, or IQ, test: The IQ score was calculated by dividing the test taker’s mental age by his or her chronological age and then multiplying this number by 100. 

    The long arms of the (intelligence) law

    Schools in France and the US jumped on board with this quickly. Having a way to objectively measure students either before or during their entry into the educational system was considered a real advantage, especially since students who were not “smarter” on the IQ tests never had the option to take any higher-level courses. Grading became a corollary to IQ tests, indicating whether or not students were performing at an “average” level or above or below the average. The military used IQ tests to identify which roles recruits could fulfill, and colleges and universities decided that they could also be part of the process by developing standardized tests.

    The roots of standardized tests go back to the beginning of the 1900s, and there are numerous court cases and research studies that show the bias of standardized tests have on English learners, people from poorer backgrounds, and people with less robust education. Whether it’s vocabulary, reading and writing skills, or experiential processing skills, standardized tests have been used to “grade” people for over 100 years.

    Meanwhile, back to David McClelland in 1973…

    McClelland realized that traits or skills were too inexact to determine the right people for roles in an organization. A test of abilities often just showed good that the candidate had good test-taking abilities. A review of experience could be inexact or inaccurate. Where was the measure for the potential in a position? If you could train the right person in a role that was suited for them, a candidate might be able to go far beyond skills or experiences, and contribute more to the team and the organization.

    Essentially, the idea of competencies emerged as a combination of both skills and abilities. By critically assessing the concept of intelligence and aptitude tests, McClelland indicated several objectives when looking for a better mechanism to explore human potential.  

    The emergence of competency frameworks

    Here’s the core of McClelland’s work: He felt that competencies could establish evidence for intelligence and aptitude to infer effective skills and behaviors for specifically defined roles. What resulted was a path of inquiry that changed the way social scientists looked at performance, learning development, employee fit in a job, and leadership abilities. In short, it was the beginning of the field of competency research. 

    Practically, it meant that you were looking beyond the surface in a job role or position candidate. Instead of searching for the right assessment scores on an instrument to identify the best student, teacher, or employee, McClelland believed there were combinations of abilities, defined as competence or competencies, that may make a person successful, including communication skills, patience, moderate goal setting, and ego development.

    So what does that mean for distance leaders?

    Quite a lot, actually, but it will change from organization to organization. There are very few competencies that are transferable to every workplace, but there are several common competencies. To define competencies, you have to first understand what the organization needs and what it aspires to accomplish, and then consider the roles, skills, experience, and responsibilities or candidates who might be able to fit the organization in that way.

    Here are some starter competencies that might be especially appropriate for distance leaders:

      • Communication. Candidates should be especially effective at determining the right way to communicate various types of information effectively with multiple delivery approaches.
      • Project management. Being able to identify, establish, maintain, and conclude projects is a critical distance leader role in many organizations.
      • Employee support. Being able to develop rapport with virtual workers requires a unique set of skills and aptitudes, especially when problems arise among employees or between work groups.
      • Problem solving. Candidates should have the ability and experience solving problems in environments related to the job role.
      • Work-Life balance. This implies that the candidate will be able to maintain high productivity through effective boundary setting and time management. 

    One final note

    Many people might look at those competencies and think that they are all innate qualities of the person in a particular role. That can be true, but training can also provide critical skills and experience in each of these competencies in a way that will make that employee a better distance leader. Research has demonstrated that motivation and training, when combined, are a powerful approach to building competencies. Nobody was born being able to use a Gantt chart; learning skills is a natural process. Deciding which skills to learn is where competencies can be grown. 

    The bottom line

    Today’s podcast was a very, very brief overview of competencies, or outcomes-relevant measures of knowledge, skills, abilities, and traits and/or motives. The history of competencies goes back into intelligence testing in the industrial age, leading to “grading” approaches that may not be the best ways to establish the right “fit” for a role or position in an organization. Instead, being able to understand the right competencies for the culture and job functions could yield better hiring and performance results.

    Photo by David Siglin on Unsplash

    ]]>
    clean no 00:15:10 Dr. Wells No no
    0108 – Leadership Changes and Distance Teams https://distanceleader.com/podcast/0108-leadership-changes-and-distance-teams/ Fri, 20 Sep 2019 13:00:22 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=403 communication strategies,cross cultural communications,distance leader,leader,Leadership,strategies,strategy,virtual,virtual leader,virtual team full 0108

    This week on the Distance Leader Podcast show 0108, we’re talking about the leadership changes for distance working. Here are some of our guiding questions:

    • How has leadership changed to make distance leadership a more common approach?
    • What do you need to think about if you are new to distance leading?

    • Let’s first look at how leadership has changed now that distance working has entered the modern workplace:
      • Higher or more connected expectations
        New leaders are expected to be much more technology-conversant than they were in the past. There is almost no time to train on systems, and some large organizations don’t even have training programs for their new leaders. Many new leaders are also expected to maintain team performance or have connections already in place to prevent dips in team performance. This is a reflection of faster-moving job changes in many industries.
      • More accountability (read: metrics)
        Data collection for almost every task means that many companies are developing data-related evaluation strategies in ways that are perhaps not productive. For example, in one job, I was evaluated on the cost of my flights to work with customers, regardless of the timeline to buy my tickets or my destination. I had no control over this, but I was held accountable for it.
      • Data overload
        The other side of so many metrics is the inability to figure out what should receive your attention. We all know people who have “analysis paralysis,” and you may be one of those people. As a leader, one of the new critical skills is understanding what should be monitored and what should be ignored.
      • Communication overload
        As if data isn’t enough, there is a steady stream of email input coming into your inbox. Because many leadership metrics include “responsiveness” as an implied or explicit expectation, the email inbox has become a quick-response tool for many leaders. I’m guilty of this, and it’s because the sooner I can deal with the items arriving in my inbox, the sooner I can get to my “real” work. Beyond the inbox, there are newsletters, memos, websites, and group notifications that also demand leadership attention. (And don’t even get me started on social media!)
      • Blended employee locations (in-office, collocated, virtual)
        Of course, if your team is a blended team of in-office, collocated, or virtual employees, then you have to figure out strategies that bring the team together for critical activities, either virtually or in-person. Having a blended team but an in-office leader even presents its own challenges, and the converse is true, too. What happens when the team is located together and the leader is elsewhere, either in another office or at a customer site?

    • Employee diversity (multiple countries and/or cultures). As a modern leader, you have to be prepared to support employees who are very different from you. Furthermore, you need to be conversant on the cultural expectations that come with leading a distance team. Supporting cultural harmony is a challenge, and has grown in importance in the last generation of leadership development.

    • Multiple employee responsibilities that compete for time. The role of leadership used to be simply working with employees to solve problems and facilitate business activities. With all of the other challenges we just discussed, finding time to work directly with employees can look like an insurmountable problem. If you have the right tools, though, the employees quickly swing into focus, and you’re able to concentrate on the right priorities without ignoring the wrong things and paying attention to the right things.

    • What’s new for distance leaders?
      • Shifting employee expectations
        One of the largest drivers for distance leadership changes comes from the employees themselves. Whether it’s due to changing employee demographics, large teams working remotely, or new expectations of work styles, distance leaders have a few new things to address as leaders.
      • “Right” to work from home
        Some employees feel that they have a “right” to work from home. This may be true in some cases, but working from home should be a business decision. For example, some offices will expect their employees who work in the same city as the office to make the occasional appearance, but also have team members who live in other cities who are exempt from this expectation. As a leader, you should be aware of your company’s policies and expect to speak with your employees about these business policies.
      • Cross-training for distance activities (who’s in the office to print this document?)
        In some blended work environments, physical coverage is required. As a leader, developing work-from-home guidelines and setting the expectations of team members out of the office should also include some level of knowing how to cover those physical activities within reason. Printing, shipping, attending an in-person event, or receiving an order may require an employee to stop their job to cover the out-of-office team member.
      • Guidelines for establishing effective distance work practices
        A smart leader will develop reasonable work expectations for employees and then follow through on those expectations with consistent, fair communications. If you are a new leader, make sure to think through the variety of solutions, and then develop documents that you can share with the team so it’s fair, effective, and collaborative.

    Technology tools in place to collaborate
    One of the most interesting challenges for distance leaders, both new and experienced, is the sheer number and type of different distance collaboration tools available to modern businesses. I was on a recent call where three different tools were mentioned in one 30-minute meeting! I highly recommend coming up with a plan for your team, sort of an “official” strategy, but then be willing to change it as new tools emerge. File storage, collaborative workspaces, video conferencing, and time management may require different tools, and it’s the role of the leader to help define those tools or help employees use those tools effectively.

    Overcoming conflicts for “hidden problems” that require cultural or geographical sensitivities
    Beyond employee expectations that have changed, there is also a need to learn to recognize the problems that emerge when physical proximity to employees is missing. When problems are emerging, it’s really quite a challenge to identify them and resolve them unless you, as a leader, are looking for signs of miscommunications and problems.

    Reporting project activities to maintain visibility
    In my case, I was working near my bosses, so status conversations were very helpful. Now, however, I am in a completely virtual work environment, so I work very hard to make sure I provide appropriate status reports as well as interact periodically with other leaders who might need my help. That has been one of the most valuable methods for me to stay attuned to organizational initiatives.

    Establishing expectations takes more time in many cases
    Establishing expectations of yourself and of others as a distance leader takes more time than it does in a collocated environment. It’s okay to revise your expectations over time, but you can never expect others to read your mind, a rule that applies even more to distance employees.

    So what were some of the strategies that I used?

    • I developed an “advisory council” to help me share new initiatives and keep on track when there were significant organizational changes.
    • I vetted new ideas with my boss periodically so she was aware of what I was doing in the organization.
    • I developed a database of common questions and answers for my teams.
    • I provided a shared workspace of resources that offices could use in their own locations

    Bottom Line:
    Many of the strategies that work for collocated offices also work for distance work environments, except additional attention must be put on effective communication. Distance workers and leaders have both space and time barriers, so addressing both of those challenges will only help a leader become more effective. Finally, remember that employees may have their own expectations of distance work environments, so it is up to the leader to set the workflow requirements, demonstrate compliance, and communicate effectively.

    Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

    ]]>
    clean no 00:15:32 Dr. Wells No no
    0107 – Business Drivers for Distance Work https://distanceleader.com/podcast/0107-business-drivers-for-distance-work/ Thu, 12 Sep 2019 13:00:17 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=388 business,distance,distance leader,leader,Leadership,team,virtual,virtual leader full 0107

    • Why in the world would you want to change an organization from being in an office to being a virtual team?
    • Does it make sense to make your workplace a virtual team environment? 
    • How will your organization finally see the benefits of going virtual?

    Leadership styles have emerged in the modern workplace related to the “drivers” surrounding the business and the people within organizations.

    For virtual organizations, there are drivers that encourage a specific kind of leadership and a unique leadership competence. These may be similar to what you might find in collocated leadership environments, but for distance leaders, the business drivers may actually require the leadership role to be geography-independent.

    Some of the business drives include a dispersion of talented employees, being where the economic business drivers exist, outsourcing of employees or leaders due to customer requirements, varied staffing requirements covering a large geographic area, or extended hours to meet customer needs.

    There may be individually-focused drivers for virtualized leadership, too. As workplaces change to meet the different customer expectations in many businesses, leaders have to cope with the idea that employees move, but business locations may not. Good employees, especially in highly technical fields, are not easy to find! Employees have changing expectations of work-life balance as well, and a “gig economy” means that more employees are part-time in two or more work roles. Each of these drivers contributes differently to leadership needs.

    Whatever drivers for distance working and leadership that you are experiencing, remember that a business change to move to a more virtualized work environment needs to be examined carefully, with an eye on both the business issues and the human issues related to changing existing business models.

    Making a decision to switch to a more virtualized work environment is not trivial, and there are usually two main categories of decision points. First, there’s the business, or economic, drivers, and then there are the individual, or personnel-related, drivers. What should you know about each of these drivers?

    • Business drivers
      Usually related to profits, customers, or workflow. 
      • Where the talented employees are
        Many companies are aware that their employees might have an unreasonable commute, and have decreased their office space to allow employees to work from home.
      • Where the economy drives business
        Sometimes, the business is located in a particular geographical area, but the resources for the business are located elsewhere. For example, if a manufacturing hub changes from an industrial area near the current office location to another manufacturing center in another city, it may make sense to become a virtual office to serve the new location.
      • Outsourcing to meet multiple clients
        If the client needs have grown beyond the current office, additional staffing services may be served to near- or off-shore support teams for specific clients or processes.
      • Staffing needs to be close to a client or customer
        To serve distributed customers, many businesses will not be able to maintain the overhead of multiple offices in multiple locations. Having a decentralized or distance office approach may serve the customers more effectively.
      • Need for greater-than-eight-hour business cycles
        When services should be provided beyond a single time zone or business period, having distance teams or employees may help provide essential services.
      • Off-hour processing or support
        Many technology processes are run by overnight operators, who are, in essence, distance workers. Although this isn’t the only situation, there are many businesses that rely on employees that work the hours that other employees do not.
      • Physical office space constraints
        Probably the most obvious, but growing businesses may also outgrow their physical facility. In these cases, businesses may make the decision to develop a virtual workforce.
    • Individual drivers
      Usually related to HR-centric reasons, and may be more of a case-by-case decision than an entire team being distributed.
      • Changing expectations of workplaces
        Many employees expect additional flexibility about where they work their business hours.
      • Employees move; business locations don’t
        When a strong employee moves away from the office beyond a reasonable commute, the company may want to keep that employee as a distance worker.
      • Importance of work-life balance
        Some companies choose to offer periodic “work from home” days or opportunities to work away from the office 
      • Part-time employment
        If an organization employs a number of part-time or contract employees, bringing the employees into the office may not be an effective use of time and may limit the number of available employees. Instead, virtual work environments, when structured properly, can help develop effective work outcomes.
      • Life changes (illness, maternity/paternity, elder care, special needs family members)
        In many cases, employees caring for family members or dealing with medical constraints may require work modifications like extended hours, geographic flexibility, or non-office accommodations.

    Bottom Line: Regardless of the reasons, a business change to a more virtualized work environment is not a trivial decision. Both business drivers and individual drivers should be examined carefully, with a focus on organizational goals and employee performance. Understanding the drivers gives you more information about why a change to a more virtual work environment will or won’t work.

    Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

    • Why in the world would you want to change an organization from being in an office to being a virtual team?
    • Does it make sense to make your workplace a virtual team environment? 
    • How will your organization finally see the benefits of going virtual?

    Leadership styles have emerged in the modern workplace related to the “drivers” surrounding the business and the people within organizations.

    For virtual organizations, there are drivers that encourage a specific kind of leadership and a unique leadership competence. These may be similar to what you might find in collocated leadership environments, but for distance leaders, the business drivers may actually require the leadership role to be geography-independent.

    Some of the business drives include a dispersion of talented employees, being where the economic business drivers exist, outsourcing of employees or leaders due to customer requirements, varied staffing requirements covering a large geographic area, or extended hours to meet customer needs.

    There may be individually-focused drivers for virtualized leadership, too. As workplaces change to meet the different customer expectations in many businesses, leaders have to cope with the idea that employees move, but business locations may not. Good employees, especially in highly technical fields, are not easy to find! Employees have changing expectations of work-life balance as well, and a “gig economy” means that more employees are part-time in two or more work roles. Each of these drivers contributes differently to leadership needs.

    Whatever drivers for distance working and leadership that you are experiencing, remember that a business change to move to a more virtualized work environment needs to be examined carefully, with an eye on both the business issues and the human issues related to changing existing business models.

    Making a decision to switch to a more virtualized work environment is not trivial, and there are usually two main categories of decision points. First, there’s the business, or economic, drivers, and then there are the individual, or personnel-related, drivers. What should you know about each of these drivers?

    • Business drivers
      Usually related to profits, customers, or workflow. 
      • Where the talented employees are
        Many companies are aware that their employees might have an unreasonable commute, and have decreased their office space to allow employees to work from home.
      • Where the economy drives business
        Sometimes, the business is located in a particular geographical area, but the resources for the business are located elsewhere. For example, if a manufacturing hub changes from an industrial area near the current office location to another manufacturing center in another city, it may make sense to become a virtual office to serve the new location.
      • Outsourcing to meet multiple clients
        If the client needs have grown beyond the current office, additional staffing services may be served to near- or off-shore support teams for specific clients or processes.
      • Staffing needs to be close to a client or customer
        To serve distributed customers, many businesses will not be able to maintain the overhead of multiple offices in multiple locations. Having a decentralized or distance office approach may serve the customers more effectively.
      • Need for greater-than-eight-hour business cycles
        When services should be provided beyond a single time zone or business period, having distance teams or employees may help provide essential services.
      • Off-hour processing or support
        Many technology processes are run by overnight operators, who are, in essence, distance workers. Although this isn’t the only situation, there are many businesses that rely on employees that work the hours that other employees do not.
      • Physical office space constraints
        Probably the most obvious, but growing businesses may also outgrow their physical facility. In these cases, businesses may make the decision to develop a virtual workforce.
    • Individual drivers
      Usually related to HR-centric reasons, and may be more of a case-by-case decision than an entire team being distributed.
      • Changing expectations of workplaces
        Many employees expect additional flexibility about where they work their business hours.
      • Employees move; business locations don’t
        When a strong employee moves away from the office beyond a reasonable commute, the company may want to keep that employee as a distance worker.
      • Importance of work-life balance
        Some companies choose to offer periodic “work from home” days or opportunities to work away from the office 
      • Part-time employment
        If an organization employs a number of part-time or contract employees, bringing the employees into the office may not be an effective use of time and may limit the number of available employees. Instead, virtual work environments, when structured properly, can help develop effective work outcomes.
      • Life changes (illness, maternity/paternity, elder care, special needs family members)
        In many cases, employees caring for family members or dealing with medical constraints may require work modifications like extended hours, geographic flexibility, or non-office accommodations.

    Bottom Line: Regardless of the reasons, a business change to a more virtualized work environment is not a trivial decision. Both business drivers and individual drivers should be examined carefully, with a focus on organizational goals and employee performance. Understanding the drivers gives you more information about why a change to a more virtual work environment will or won’t work.

    Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

    ]]>
    clean no 00:10:14 Dr. Wells No no
    0106-Selective virtualization: criteria for virtual work https://distanceleader.com/podcast/0106-selective-virtualization-criteria-for-virtual-work/ Sun, 28 Oct 2018 23:00:50 +0000 Dr. Wells https://distanceleader.com/?post_type=podcast&p=374 culture,distance,environment,HR,leader,personnel,team,virtual,work full 0106

    This week on the DistanceLeader podcast, we’re going to take a look at developing effective criteria for distance work as both a leader and for your team. Being a good distance leader means the development of good expectations that you can share with your employees and peers about who can work from a distance and why that makes business sense.

    What kind of work prompts distance environments? The answer usually falls into two categories:

    1. Any situation where geography or time are not as important to accomplish the task
    2. When geography or time is critically important to accomplish the task

    What does that mean in reality, though?

    When Geography and Time ARE NOT as important

    In work situations where employees don’t need to physically interact with one another, or when the team needs to be able to span time zones or work shifts, distance working (and leadership) is a potential approach for getting work accomplished. Some examples might be work environments where employees are on-call, where relative quiet or a meditative approach is needed, or where all interaction can be accomplished through distance work tools, like teleconferencing. Help desk support personnel, perhaps literally “on call,” may not need to work in a specific work environment, for example. Another role might be writers, artists, creative developers, programmers, or data management personnel, where the technology is more critical than the personal interaction.

    When Geography and Time ARE more important

    In the case of consultants, sales people, or deployment teams, the entire business opportunity may be around the needs of the customer(s). While the management may be at central office, employees may be working at a client site or traveling among client sites. Home care nurses, for example, fit this category because to do the job, the nurses must travel from location to location. Sales teams are often distance teams, because meeting with the client may require on-site meetings and interactions.

    Other distance working considerations

    The work requirements are only one dimension of planning for a virtual work team. Other reasons for pursuing a distance work environment include a wide variety of characteristics:

    • The personnel components of doing the work. Do you have employees with physical impairments? Unique skills that are not available with other in-office staff (such as a native language translator or specialized technician)? Periodic personnel requirements related to seasonal work?
    • The company may also be the reason for distance work environments, such as a reduction of the physical office facility, dispersion of a workforce group to satellite offices, or even an emerging distance working policy.
    • The industry may also be one that includes virtual work characteristics. For example, consider military base dispersion around the world and all of the services that support the surrounding communities. If you work in an industry with 24×7 support requirements like e-commerce, you may also need virtual work environments to address customer needs at any time.

    That’s really only the beginning of the discussion around virtualizing the work environment. As a leader, developing the business reasons and unique cases where distance working makes sense for your team is as unique as your team can be. Helping set the expectations for both your team and your leaders may require you to consider the existing expectations around distance workers, how HR works for distance employees, changes in productivity for virtual teams, and clearly evaluate and define the business reasons that make sense in your organization.

    Finally, we discuss the communication tools in place to support dispersed teams. As a leader, a primary role is to model and demonstrate the effective use of communication tools, and choose to meet in person when it makes sense. Employee evaluations should also be carefully considered to avoid biases for employees in the office or collocated with you. There may also be cultural considerations of dispersing a work team, perhaps because employees feel like they are losing “importance” because they are no longer reporting to an office.

    ]]>
    clean no 00:37:15 Dr. Wells No no