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Three Books to Help You Build a Powerful Business

As a business owner, you most likely have a lot of expertise, experience, and vision that you rely on each day to build, develop, and grow your business. But no one has all the answers. And in a quickly changing society, it’s critical to keep your mind open to new ideas, approaches, and strategies to stay relevant and successfully meet challenges. Below are three books that have made a serious impact and helped business owners and leaders re-imagine and reach new heights in the past decade.

 

Measure What Matters

By John Doerr

In this book, venture capitalist John Doerr breaks down a revolutionary tactic to business management through the practice of goal setting using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). In the book, he illustrates the power of using Objectives (which define the goal), and Key Results (which define the actionable steps needed to achieve the goal), through a broad range of case studies, each with its own success story defined by the implementation of OKRs.

As you read this book, you’ll see how OKRs create clarity throughout an entire company, from entry-level workers to CEOs, and help leaders make the tough decisions necessary to enable growth. Whatever industry you fall under, Measure What Matters can help you create clarity within your organization and develop a sure path towards growth.

 

The CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream

By Dave Chase

In his book, Dave Chase breaks down the misconception that controlling health benefits spending is out of employers’ hands by demonstrating how public and private employers have successfully reduced their spending. In the book, he challenges employers to re-think the reason behind offering employee benefits in the first place, shifting the groundwork, goals, and measurements of success in a way that illuminates the true value of employee benefits.

This book does a wonderful job of breaking down the facts, uncovering the reality behind the challenges the health insurance industry poses to employers, and explaining how real-life organizations have come out on top and been able to reduce their spending by 20% or more. He challenges employers to re-think their approach, uncovering how they hold themselves back while offering solutions and strategies to help them improve their situation. Any employer, CFO, CEO, or HR leader interested in getting the upper hand on their benefits spending would be wise to give this book a thorough read.

 

The Go-Giver

By Bob Burg and John David Mann

The Go-Giver is celebrated in the business world for upending the widely held belief that to succeed, you have to be selfish. Burg and Mann tell a story illustrating how, when you act in service to others, you build a relationship based on trust and gratitude. The book explores how these relationships have a value and strength that surpasses the fiber of relationships built on self-interest.

While this may seem obvious, it’s incredible how often professionals unintentionally steer themselves into relationships based on self-interest, undercutting their potential by depriving them of one of the most powerful resources: a network of relationships based in gratitude, respect, and service to one another. Their story offers thoughtful and provoking insights into how changing your philosophy around building relationships can enrich and enhance your personal life, career, and business.

Get to reading!

Although it can be challenging to find time in your day to read, it is well worth the effort. By opening your mind to new ideas that challenge your way of thinking, leading, and building relationships, you create a significant opportunity for you (and your business) to grow. Plus, now you don’t have to come up with your next book to read! We’ve done it for you. So pick one up, curl up in bed, or sip your morning coffee, and get to reading—or should we say growing!

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by olegdudko

The Truth About Reactive Management

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

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

I’m a fast and efficient problem-solver!
I’m a doer. I get s**t done!
I don’t let problems bring me down—I face them head-on!

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

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

Rewiring your approach

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

1. Sharing responsibility

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

2. Re-imagining your schedule

If you’re wondering where you’re supposed to find the time to plan, look at your calendar and pinpoint areas that can be re-prioritized.

But I don’t have the time!” isn’t an excuse.

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

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

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

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

3. Creating, refining, and implementing processes

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

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

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

Be proactive

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

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by artursz

What You Need to Know About Group Life Insurance

A study conducted by LIMRA and Life Happens found that 41 million Americans say they do not have life insurance coverage at all. When it comes to providing benefits for your employees, life insurance ensures they give their families much-needed financial security. All too often, however, life insurance is a misunderstood and confusing topic. We are here to help.

Here is what you need to know about group life insurance plans.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a contract between a person and an insurance company. A premium is paid, and after a person’s death, a lump sum, or death benefit, is paid to the beneficiaries the person designates. The beneficiaries can use the money for any purpose they like.

What is group life insurance?

Group life insurance is when an entire life insurance contract covers a whole group of people. The policy owner is the employer or organization, and the policy covers all the employees at the organization.

Are there different types of group life insurance?

Yes, there are two different types of group life insurance: employer-paid or voluntary. These are usually seen as term life insurance, which provides your employees coverage for the term of their employment.

Employer-paid life insurance

Employer-paid life insurance is when the policy is paid by the employer. This offers your employees a convenient way to receive life insurance coverage. This type of coverage, at times, offers them coverage portability or the ability for your employees to continue their life insurance policy when they no longer work for you.

Voluntary life insurance

Voluntary life insurance is an optional benefit offered to employees. This type of life insurance is paid for by the employee directly to the workplace’s insurance company via a monthly premium taken out of their paycheck. Like employer-paid life insurance, voluntary life insurance can also offer coverage portability.

Why is life insurance important?

As an employer, you may wonder why life insurance is important to provide to your employees, and there are several reasons:

  • It provides for lost income: Providing a group life insurance policy helps ensure that your employees’ loved ones will have some financial replacement for the lost paycheck in the case of their death. This allows the family time to get a footing in their new reality.
  • It reduces stress: Losing a loved one is already a difficult and emotional experience without the added financial burden of losing a partner or parent. Life insurance will help protect the family from the difficulty that awaits. For example, finding help for childcare after the loss of a parent is a huge stress for the surviving parent. Knowing they have financial support to afford it can ease the pressure.
  • It helps cover bills and debts: Life insurance will help cover bills or debts your employees leave behind, so they are not passed to your employees’ loved ones.

It doesn’t have to be confusing

Life insurance can be, admittedly, confusing. But it is a smart move for employers who want to add family-focused benefits into their employee benefits plan. Talk to a trusted advisor who will help you decide on the best group life insurance plan for your employees.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by thodonal

Facing Challenges as a High-Performance Team

Imagine your team works on a project or goal, and they need to get from point A to point B. Do you believe the bridge between the two points provides the necessary support to carry your team over? What if an obstacle is thrown their way?

Perhaps an essential team member calls out sick, and the team depends on them to reach a deadline. This is when your team will show whether they are a high-performing team or merely highly productive.

You can have intelligent, capable, and productive individuals on your team, but if they cannot persevere through challenges, it is time to foster a high-performance team. This is possible by establishing the primary components of a high-performance team: a positive work environment, collaborative problem-solving, and leadership.

Positive work environment

The first component of a high-performance team is having a positive work environment. Start by creating ground rules to establish the values of the group. The ground rules communicate personal behavior expectations that reflect the team’s values.

And how your team handles emerging challenges depends on your team culture!

For example, if a team values learning and openness to new approaches, they would expect others to ask questions and offer guidance while promoting curiosity.

Foster a team identity built on a commitment to a shared goal or vision. Strong team identities are built on listening, trust, respect, and understanding strengths and diversity. These values are critical for working interdependently because they enable people to rely on one another.

Collaborative problem-solving

By fostering listening skills, trust, and team identity, a team can problem-solve collaboratively. Problem-solving demands an exchange of ideas, which is possible only if team members work hard to listen to perspectives that are different from their own. An excellent way to approach collaborative problem-solving is by using divergent and convergent thinking strategies.

Divergent thinking helps high-performing teams identify many solutions to
a potential problem. The spirit of the activity is to defer judgment and encourage contributions in a free-flowing and creative way. There are
many exercises you can use to promote divergent thinking:

  • Letting your team have time to think about the problem
  • Making lists of the potential solutions to the problem
  • Doing verbal brainstorming or mind-mapping

Once you have a solid set of potential solutions, the team moves into the convergent thinking stage, where they work together to:

  • Narrow down options
  • Decide on the best solution
  • Reach a consensus based on a benefit and risk analysis

When you have fostered a healthy team environment, the inevitable conflict will be manageable through your ground rules of mutual respect. Create a positive work environment with strong listening skills and team identity and you will see your teams making decisions and action plans to face challenges head-on in a collaborative way.

Leadership

Leadership helps provide the bridge’s strength and support to push a team to persevere when faced with a challenge. The leader creates a positive work environment and encourages collaborative problem-solving while nurturing their team’s capabilities. Remember that leaders are not always the boss; you can have a de-facto leader on your team too!

Leaders contribute to high-performance teams by attending to the team’s health, maintaining the strategic vision, supporting team members individually, demonstrating and encouraging accountability, and modeling the way through behavior and action.

Be the three-legged stool

Although the three primary components of a high-performance team are fostered separately, they all depend on each other like the three legs of a stool. If one leg is not stable, the others will not be either. Nurture all three components and embrace challenges head-on!

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by stillfx

5 Steps Towards Organizational Agility

More than ever, we know how valuable a genuinely innovative team can be. Organizations that weren’t flexible enough to find solutions to 2020’s problems have suffered and closed their doors. On the other hand, agile, innovative, and quick-thinking organizations have had a much easier time navigating the challenges that began in 2020.

Changes are happening fast—not only in our economy but also:

  • In how customers communicate and set their expectations,
  • In businesses adopting new processes and technology platforms,
  • In the ways people communicate with one another, and
  • In the types of resources people need and use.

Because of this, flexibility and innovative growth are the keys to developing thriving businesses in the years to come.

If you’re looking around at your team thinking, “Well, this isn’t us,” don’t worry! Agility and innovation aren’t innate traits that we either have or don’t have. They are teachable, learnable skills.

To help put your organization on the right track, try these five steps.

1. Maintain honest conversations

Growth can’t happen without collaboration, and true collaboration results in the best your organization and team have to offer. But that can’t happen without a system designed to encourage and nurture open and constructive feedback. This atmosphere often comes from the top down.

Consider how you, as a leader, ask for and receive feedback:

  • Do you ever ask your team’s advice?
  • Do you ask for their input when developing new processes or reviewing old ones?
  • Do you encourage their feedback on projects?
  • Do you celebrate their input?

Take note of how you demonstrate the value of open, constructive feedback. Then work to encourage it in areas where it’s lacking. Remember to train new employees to expect feedback and to feel confident enough to give their own. Make time in meetings to discuss ideas as a group and ask each person’s opinion. Single out people who seem shy and help bring them out of their shells (and the same goes for those who are incredibly confident—single them out!).

The goal is to work open feedback into everyone’s expectations about how things are developed and created within your company. When people expect it, it’s much easier to receive it, and it feels a lot less scary to give it.

2. Create room for growth

One way to nurture innovation is to make an effort to stop employees from stagnating in their career development. Offer opportunities for them to learn new skills, to expose themselves to new ways of thinking, and to move forward.

Yes, it will help deepen the resources they can offer your organization, but it will also foster employee loyalty, engagement, and satisfaction. Professional development adds value for everyone involved, and your team’s productivity and strength will demonstrate that.

3. Create a culture that rewards creativity

For innovation to thrive, there needs to be a level of psychological safety within your organization. Employees need to feel free to try new things, to fail, and to try again. Fear of failure is one of the main reasons things fail in the first place—because people never felt free to try.

Train your employees to try new things. Develop their confidence and encourage their ideas. This atmosphere will foster excitement and work against the age-old resistance to change.

4. Enable initiative and ownership

One way to encourage growth and innovation is to provide employees with a strong sense of ownership over their contributions. Train your managers to empower their team to take the initiative. Does someone have a new technology they think would be an asset to the company? Encourage them to prove to you why their idea is a good one.

When employees feel like their work is guided by their inspiration, knowledge, and expertise, they’ll be more likely to put more energy into what they’re doing. Ownership leads to excellence.

5. Establish your values

Review your values. Far too often, organizations’ values look something like this: integrity, dedication, and excellence. If that sounds familiar, then you’ve got some work to do.

Develop a values system that genuinely reflects your goal of driving growth, encouraging development, being challenged, taking individual ownership, and pushing the goal post farther each year.

Your values are the road map to your company’s future. They inform how you approach challenges and navigate difficult situations. Give them the thought they deserve and encourage your employees to take them to heart.

As your team develops around these concepts and begins to identify with the values you create, you’ll see the magic that happens when a team is empowered, driving growth, and taking ownership of your company’s future. It can be a beautiful thing. Keep working at it. Keep coming back to it. And watch your organization thrive.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by kantver

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility, and great responsibility calls for regular reflection upon who you are as a leader and how you are growing.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that we are heading in the right direction regarding empowering our people, making progress towards our vision, and creating a sustainable legacy over the long term.

Asking meaningful questions that bring you discomfort and get to the heart of what it means to be a leader can show you how well you measure up and highlight areas where your attention is needed.

Is the ‘Why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?

Change is inevitable. Processes, plans, priorities, and even those on your team will change or evolve. Your Why/Purpose is what drives you to emotionally do what you do. It’s the rock upon which everything is built, and it drives every decision you make in the organization, which is why it’s important to consistently reflect on it.

Start by asking, “Is the ‘why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?” If your ‘why’ has shifted, then you may have strayed from your values or mission. If that’s the case, ask yourself what strategies you can create to ensure a successful re-alignment, so your purpose continues to drive your organization. If you want to inspire people to get behind your purpose and vision, they need to believe in what you believe in.

How am I developing as a leader?

There are no perfect leaders, so if you think you have it all figured out and that you’re at the pinnacle level of leadership, then it’s time to reflect on how you’re developing. Leaders who remain agile and curious and who value continuous development are best able to adapt to the most significant and most unexpected challenges.

Reflect on how you’re developing. If your list is limited, contemplate how you can seek opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a leader in your organization.

Am I as accessible as I can be?

Take a moment to reflect on this question.

Did you think of physical availability? For example, perhaps, you considered yourself accessible because you have an “open-door policy” or a “virtual communication policy” if you’re remote. If so, it’s essential to differentiate physical availability and accessibility.

Accessibility goes beyond physical availability because it’s everything that happens the moment someone walks in your door and your accountability that follows. Now reflect on this question again and ask yourself:

  • Have I created an environment that encourages people to come to me in need?
  • Am I providing enough support?
  • Do I demonstrate genuine appreciation and gratitude for my team members?
  • Am I actively listening to others’ input? 
  • Do I consistently follow up with people?

For example, if you’re going to encourage your team to share their input and ideas because you one time read in an article that you should, ask yourself if you’re genuine. Especially in the case of leadership, actions speak louder than your words.

Have I been seeking enough feedback?

There are copious amounts of people who don’t seek feedback because it could bruise the ego or harm our self-confidence, but as the saying goes – no pain, no gain. One of the most courageous acts you can perform is to seek honest and constructive feedback on your performance as a leader. You can do this during team performance reviews or one-to-one employee check-ins.

Actively seek out suggestions on how you can improve and support your team. It’s critical to follow through and integrate feedback for it to make a meaningful impact. Take this feedback, reflect on it some more, and embrace how you can grow as a leader.

Self-reflection makes the best leaders

Just as leaders expect certain standards from their people, their position as a leader holds them to greater standards.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that you’re holding yourself to this standard and that you’re heading in the right direction.

Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership position or not, these questions can help you bolster your strengths and make any necessary improvements that will enhance your ability to be of greater service and benefit to yourself as well as others.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by delcreations

Three Steps to Honing Your Message

Developing powerful messaging can be one of the toughest challenges businesses face in marketing and branding. You do so much, and you know it all, but how do you convey your organization’s value to your audience? How do you tell them the 1,000 reasons to work with you in under 50 words?

Many businesses focus on the wrong things to try and connect with their audience, leaving them no closer to their goal and with a whole lot of wasted time and effort on their hands. Gone are the days of people caring how old your business is; gone are the days of long stuffy bios and dense, technical language.

Effective messaging doesn’t have to be a mystery. It simply takes the right approach to get to the message you’re looking for.

Where to start

When hiring someone outside your organization to help with marketing, a common tactic is to research your top three competitors and base your messaging on what they learned. They’re hoping to find out what you’re up against, what is successful for others in your industry niche, and where the bar is set.

But this strategy is deeply flawed. It starts on the premise that your competitors know what they’re doing, which very often they don’t. (They probably looked at competitors’ websites, too!)

The second problem with this approach is that it only reflects what has already been done and will only work to ensure your messaging becomes a copycat of theirs, undermining your unique perspective and value. Essentially, it puts another company’s words in your mouth—and your competitor’s at that!

So, instead of looking back at the lagging indicator created by what other organizations have done in the past, start by looking to the future. Your future. Ask yourself where your organization is now and envision where you want to go. Your message should reflect where you are now and project the future with you and your client in it.

Define your audience

Before you write anything, start by defining your audience. Identify who your ideal customer is and what brings them to you. What are their worries, challenges, and pain points, and why are you the organization to help them overcome those things?

Once you’ve identified the face of your audience and you’ve identified their challenges, envision their future. Envision how their future will be improved through what you can offer them. Create a message that allows them to see a better version of their future selves. Work to reflect their pain points back to them in the form of their aspirations, enabled by you.

Simplify

One of the quickest ways to lose someone’s attention is to overload them with information. Read through your message from the perspective of your ideal customer. Are you providing them with information they don’t need at the moment? Are you getting wordy about your excellent organization and all the fantastic things you do?

While it may make you feel good, it only makes it harder for your ideal customer to get what they need. People are busy. They have a lot to do and little time to do it, and they want the easiest, most transparent, most obvious solution. They shouldn’t have to expend effort to understand what you do or know the obvious next step. If they do, they’ll leave and probably never come back.

Your message should only give people precisely what they need at that moment. No more, no less.

Keep working at it

As your business develops and grows, so should your messaging. Consider it a living, breathing part of your organization that needs to be fed and allowed to evolve.

Don’t hold your messaging hostage to old, stuffy language just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Keep coming back to it, evaluating its effectiveness, and giving it room to change. It takes serious effort, but with every inch of messaging effort you put in, your customers receive a mile in value.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by gstockstudio

Are You an Imperfect Leader?

Today’s employers are expected to be perfect and do everything right—from seeking innovative solutions to complex problems to having the charismatic presence necessary to rally a team around a shared vision of the future. But if leaders were perfect, then why is there a need for followers?

 

You cannot be all things to all people, especially in a world that’s constantly changing. Leadership is not about command and control anymore; it’s about collaboration and cultivating the actions of those in your organization. It’s time to take the rose-tinted glasses off and recognize your weaknesses as an opportunity for personal and organizational development.

 

So, what can you do? Embrace imperfection by identifying your leadership capabilities and building a team that complements one another’s strengths and offsets another’s weaknesses.

 

Embrace imperfection

 

Rapidly changing economic, social, environmental, technological, and political forces make life difficult for employers as new decisions need to be made and executed. Still, no single person can stay on top of everything. If you try to be this perfect leader, you’ll instead be an exhausted one while damaging the organization in the process. The imperfect leader knows when to let go and delegate. They know their capabilities and have good judgment about working with others to build on their strengths and offset their limitations.

 

Identify your leadership capabilities

 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses by reflecting on the four leadership capabilities – sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. Rarely, if ever, will someone be equally skilled in each capability because they span the intellectual and interpersonal, the rationale and intuitive, and the conceptual and creative capacities required in today’s business environment.

 

Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others.

 

Relating is the ability to build trusting relationships with others through inquiring (listening with intention and holding back judgment), acquiring (explaining how one reached their interpretations and conclusion without aggression or defensiveness), and connecting (establishing a network of allies who can help a leader accomplish goals).

 

Visioning is creating a compelling image of the future. It is a collaborative process that articulates what organizational members want to create together. Those strong in visioning will realize if other people aren’t buying into the vision. But they are persistent. They engage in dialogue about the reality they desire, inspire and motivate others, and use stories and metaphors to paint a vivid picture of what the vision will accomplish.

 

Inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. The most compelling ideas can lose their momentum if there is no inventing; however, inventors are creative executioners. They conceive, design, and use creativity to help people figure out new ways of working together on the shared vision.

 

Finding a leader who encapsulates each capability equally is rare, but these capabilities are interdependent. Therefore, it is critical to find others who can offset your weaknesses and complement your strengths.

 

Build a complementary environment

 

After identifying your unique leadership capabilities, search for others who can fill in the gaps and build a complementary environment. For example, if you’re a solid visionary but cannot turn your ideas into reality, find someone strong in inventing. Remember, if you get people that mirror yourself, you’ll experience Groupthink and a “bubble,” which is why it is crucial to foster a team with diverse capabilities, experience, values, and attitudes.

 

Embracing imperfection as a leader is not about strengthening your weaknesses; it’s about cultivating a diverse, collaborative, and complimentary organization. Have the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization and help others flourish as they build on these strengths. 

 

It’s time to celebrate the imperfect, that is, the human—leader.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Worachai Yosthamrong 

Formidable Traits to Cultivate for Remote Teams

Learning new things is always a challenge. And they’re even more challenging when everyone has to learn them all at once. Imagine working for a company where everyone was hired within a week. No one would have any support or experience. It would be chaos!

That’s the way most companies felt when they made the switch to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone was scrambling, very few were prepared, and there were many mistakes, followed by halted projects, increased frustration, and uncertainty.

As with many things, it helps to model yourself after those who have been successful in doing what you’re attempting to do. And while you may have worked out the major kinks in the first year of working remotely, it pays off to delve deeper and take a look at the foundation of how you’re running your remote team. Especially if you’re planning on keeping remote positions available long-term as 76% of employees say they want to keep their flexible working arrangements after the pandemic.

To generate a powerful remote team that drives results, focus on cultivating these four traits.

1. Independence and empowerment

For remote employees to be their most effective, they need to have a fair amount of freedom to take the lead on their work. Allowing team members the leeway they need to find the answers to their questions, create direction for themselves, and take the initiative whenever they can helps them in more ways than one. Having the ability to take the initiative will:

  • Encourage employees to take more ownership over their tasks
  • Motivate employees to become self-sufficient, creating room for professional development
  • Urge team members to reach out to one another (instead of the boss) for direction and help, increasing collaboration and team involvement
  • Create a more efficient team that only brings challenges to the boss once they’ve run out of ideas and solutions, freeing up time for the team leader to focus on their work

2. Value space for casual connection

Like any on-site team, your remote workers need time to relax in a social environment with each other. Hosting a virtual happy hour, end-of-week check-in meeting, or virtual games can help your team feel more connected and engaged with one another.

People who say they struggle with working remotely often point to feeling isolated and disconnected. Successful remote teams take this seriously and make efforts to create time for employees to connect. Even if you don’t have a weekly happy hour on your calendar, consider encouraging your team to take a minute or two to chat about non-work-related things before a meeting begins, just like you would do in person. This practice creates a critical moment of social connection and mental break from an otherwise quiet and focused day.

3. Developed and powerful values

One of the most effective ways to help your team stay aligned and engaged with your company is to develop your team around a set of core values that your company holds. Integrating your company values into your onboarding process, your communication, your goals, and your employee (and customer) experience is a wonderful way of creating a mental foundation for your employees to work off of.

When your employees are familiar with your company’s core values, they can make informed decisions about approaching challenges, meeting their own goals, and setting expectations around how they should be working on their team. Strong core values create a roadmap for employees to follow that provides clarity and a sense of understanding around their function within your organization. This is particularly important for remote employees who need a strong connection with your company to feel connected in their roles while working from home.

4. Respect and clear boundaries for employees’ time

While working from home can lead to increased productivity and engagement, it can also mean that employees struggle with creating boundaries between work and their personal lives. Without the physical distance between home and office, there is a literal lack of separation between work and life that remote workers experience daily. Employees who can’t step away from their work while at home may start to burn out.

Set very clear boundaries around when employees should be available. Encourage your team leaders not to answer or send emails after 5:00 pm and to discourage their team members from doing so. Make a healthy work-life balance part of your core values and set the expectation that your employees don’t work on their days off or in their free time. Boundaries will help employees feel more comfortable stepping away from their work and allow them to take the time they need to lead a healthy life.

Stay open to feedback

As you continue down the road of remote work, check in frequently with your team to find out what is, and isn’t, working. Keep a running list of the challenges your employees come across and check back with them about their progress. Keep tabs on what other companies are doing and look for new solutions and ideas to keep your team fresh, engaged, and happy. Like anything, it takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Keep working at it, keep talking to your team, and keep trying new things. Eventually, you’ll find your swing.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Vadym Pastukh

Fast Doesn't Mean Better

Getting stuff done is great, right? Checking those little boxes feels productive and validating. You’re happy because you’re cooking through your To-Do list, and your boss will be really happy because surprise! You’re done already!

Except that you could be making more work for everybody on the team.

Don’t believe the myth

Many of us have been trained to think that it’s the volume and pace of our work that matters most. But in the frantic frenzy to finish first, we can miss many things along the way.

There once was an intern who was super competitive and fixated on completing her work as quickly as possible. Popping her head into someone’s office to say, “I’m done! Got anything else for me?” was her favorite thing to do. Impressing people with her speed and productivity was how she demonstrated her value.

The thing is, she was so busy flying through her task list that she was skimping on processes and details. More often than not, the jobs she considered done needed to be fixed or redone. But because she would also speed through those processes, she was often asked to fix things multiple times.

At this point, staff members would get frustrated and take their tasks back. Over time, it became apparent this was more efficient than continuing to:

  • Explain the assignments over and over
  • Issue warnings about the consequences of mistakes
  • Coach her on how to slow down and work more deliberately

Eventually, most people stopped giving her anything of substance because it was easier and less risky to just do those things themselves. Her focus on speed and multitasking kept her from gaining more advanced skills and experience.

Quality results take time

Our society places a huge value on working quickly, doing multiple things at once, and being constantly accessible. But all of these things can cause your work to suffer.

If your team operates at a frenetic pace all the time, you could be holding your business back. People will become frustrated, mistakes will increase, and accidents will be more likely to happen. More importantly, goals that could be achieved through thoughtful intention, detailed planning, and diligent follow-through will remain unmet. And that’s no good for anybody.

So how do we retrain our brains (and our teams!) to work more carefully, thoughtfully, and efficiently?

One thing at a time

While it’s somewhat popular to boast of being a great multitasker, it’s not as great as one might think. There are lots of articles and studies about the myth of multitasking:

  • Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks.
  • One study revealed that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.
  • Still not convinced? Try this little exercise.

Get in the habit of focusing on a single task. Schedule time on your calendar or even set a timer if you need to. Commit to working on one thing in that time period and one thing only.

Don’t start before you’re ready

Is your mind starting to work on an assignment even before the person explaining it to you is finished? This is your first mistake. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Make sure you fully understand the project, the process, and the purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the process. Clarity is your friend. Taking five minutes to discuss details as you go can save you tons of time in the long run. Many speedy employees have had to go back and rework things they thought were “finished” because they either jumped in too fast or didn’t slow down long enough to get the facts.

Prioritize

Yes, you have a million things to do. So does everybody else. But working in a scattershot manner won’t help you get the right things done at the right time. For that, you need a plan.

Work with your team to determine which items are the most important and the most time-sensitive. Rank your daily or weekly tasks so that you know which ones to funnel your time, efforts, and energy into. Choose one thing that you will get done, no matter what. If you find yourself getting sidetracked or distracted, refocus on your priority item of the moment.

Reduce distractions

Even with the best intentions, we all get distracted. But some of us are better than others at letting those distractions in— or keeping them out. Are you constantly checking your phone, texts, and email? If so, you’re using up valuable time and brain space switching back and forth between your inputs and outputs.

Questions, phone calls, and emails take a huge toll on your focus.

  • According to one research study, it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to a task after an in-person interruption, 15 minutes for a phone call interruption, and 64 seconds after an email interruption.
  • The same study found that workers were dealing with email interruptions about every five minutes.
  • This means we are wasting one out of every six minutes per day— not counting phone calls and in-person questions!

Want to focus on a task? Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn off your email alerts. Hide your Slack. The world won’t end if you’re offline for 15 or 20 minutes. And you’re much more likely to make real progress.

Take your time

If you’re having brain surgery, do you want it to go quickly or well? There’s a big difference here. If you care about the quality of your work, don’t skimp out on the time it takes to do it well.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Dima Sobko