Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
In my article on 5 Tips to Successfully Work Hybrid, I cover 5 areas that can help you adjust to the new hybrid working model.
But what about the time you are spending working at home? What started off as excitement and relief to experience uninterrupted time to get your job done can start to drag on and for many, the newness started to wear off.
As a former remote employee, I am familiar with the challenges of moving to the field and being alone as well as returning to the main campus. Of course, when I left the main campus and headed to Grapevine, Tx, I did not have the modern conveniences of a laptop, iPhone, video conference or sharing files on the internet. But I did have a fax machine, a pager, and a Zip drive to which I could read and write large files but had to ship the hard disks via Fed Ex. So yah, I’m familiar with hardships.
When I was first in the field working out of my apartment in 1996, it was a disaster. I struggled being alone in my apartment office and not engaging people. We didn't have video conferencing, iPhones or even cell phones back then. We did have pagers! But those were hard to build connections, as was the fax machine. Our Sales Manager noticed the change, not just with me but with other remote personnel as well. So, we made the decision to lease office space and get us out of the house and into a more public setting. The impact of putting us in an external environment was felt immediately by all of us in the field.
But in today’s world, with the power of technology at our fingertips we can stay connected using video conferencing from our computer or smart device. We can attend virtual conferences and training courses that include breakout sessions. Sharing files and the ability to collaborate on those files have enhanced people’s ability to connect while being remote. But what happens when the camera is turned off? When does the connectivity fail to keep you engaged?
Busy vs Productive
When asked “how is it working from home,” the typical response you hear is “I’m so much more productive” or “I get so much more done.” You never hear someone say, “I don’t do diddly squat when I’m at home.” I experienced the productivity that comes with uninterrupted work time, but is it really the case a year later?
In the last article about successfully working hybrid, I wrote about the time management matrix by Steven Covey. It’s a great way to assess what you are doing and where you are spending your time. For many people, as they moved to a Working From Home (WFH) model, they realize immediately that more time was now available for other things. So how much of your workday is now spent on “I now have the opportunity to…” items? Are these things must haves or nice to haves? We made a conscious decision to expand training activities and on-line courses for those people who were working at home. Training has always been an important part of our approach to employee development, but there was definitely an uptick. Are those additional, extra training courses, bringing enough value for the time spent on them?
During conversations with some new employees, they were surprised by the number of people who attended some of our informational meetings. He asked if they were that well attended when everyone was working from the facility (WFF). I realized that was probably not the case. So, it made me wonder if the WFH approach made it easier to attend or was it something to do to occupy their time? There is value in staying connected, learning, and using time to align with other groups. But as we come back to the Time Management Matrix, we must plot those meetings on the grid.
I have written heavily about the power of mentorships and relationships in guiding people. In my 3 Pillars of Impact as well as Trust in Vulnerability I share insight into previous challenges as well as opportunities to enhance relationships. But what happens when you are not there to build the relationships? When the cameras from your Teams meeting are turned off? How to read their expression and body language to tell what you said is impacting them - either positively or negatively?
How do you keep building and growing relationships virtually? How do you prevent Silos from creeping back into the organization? How to reinforce the relationships needed for a servant leadership environment? It is difficult to be “present” in someone's life if you are not present. It’s impossible to keep a finger on the pulse of the team if you are limited to emails and 30-minute camera-less meetings. The water cooler can be a distraction and a place for gossip, but it also can be a vehicle for learning about perspectives, fears, and doubts.
When I finally started making an appearance at the office after a year, a co-worker who was an essential employee and was WFF, stopped me in the hallway and we spoke for quite some time. While we had interacted at high school sporting events, we hadn’t really talked about work or in a more private setting. As we were wrapping up, he said, “Tom, you are right in that we have been extremely productive despite having such a small percent (of the workforce) here in the office. But while our productivity has increased, our job satisfaction has not. I need this.” As he pointed back and forth between us referring to the interaction with others. I completely understood.
Communicating the Same
Everyone has their preferred method to communicate. Some like to text, others send email, my wife has a friend that simply uses the phone to call! But what we need to keep in mind that our way of communicating may not be how others like to communicate. We can send off a stream of impersonal email or in my case, long, drawn out emails that mirror how I ramble in conversation! During one of my walk and talks (with a WFH employee that we do over the cell phone) she shared with me her various approaches depending upon the person.
While we each think we are being effective with our quantity or quality of communication, remember it is how it is received. Are you getting feedback from your coworkers? Are they communicating more, or less with you? When you are in the office, people can stop by and ask for clarity. Or you can see the confusion on their faces. So, the onus is on you as the person who is communicating to verify that the communication is received.
There are a lot of benefits to working from home as well as working from the facility. They each have their challenges as well. I feel that maintaining perspective and awareness of the pitfalls and the challenges can help you evaluate your productivity and impact. To make sure that you are continuing to bring value to your teammates but also that you can gain value as well. Employees knowing that they bring value and can see their impact are key to maintaining engagement whether in or out of the office Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.