Debra Dinnocenzo discusses leadership fundamentals and how they can best be adapted to the remote workplace. While remote/hybrid work will characterize and shape our workplace into the future, leaders can leverage fundamental leadership skills if they can successfully adapt them to the ‘next normal’ of the virtual workplace. Debra offers a free resource to help leaders and teams conduct effective remote meetings using the “Virtual Meeting Checklist” available at:


About the Host:

Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues.  Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author.  She is the co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams.  

Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership.  Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience that distinguishes Debra in the hybrid workplace and remote leadership space.  As a nationally recognized expert in remote workplace and distance leadership, Debra has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course offered by Duquesne University.  Previously, Debra was a teleworking executive and has worked from her home office for more than two decades.

Schedule a call with Debra HERE.

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Debra Dinnocenzo:

Welcome to the remote leadership Podcast. I'm Debra Dinnocenzo and I'll be your host and guide as we explore new challenges and proven keys to success for leaders and teams who must get results from a distance. For more than two decades, I've helped organizations and leaders successfully go virtual. Now that we're all on a trajectory toward the next normal of work from anywhere and hybrid teams, I'm excited to share with you the insights and expertise that 1000s of leaders and teams have acquired through my books, coaching, training, and presentations. Join me to learn tips, techniques and skills that leaders and teams in your organization can implement now to achieve effectiveness in our evolving remote workplace.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Hello again, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership Podcast. I'm Debra Dinnocenzo. And I look forward to today talking with you about some of the leadership fundamentals that remain important for leaders even though our workplace is evolving and shifting right before our eyes. So the next normal is still evolving. And it's increasingly clear that variations on remote and hybrid work will characterize and shape our workplace well into the future. It's really a classic case of the ship that sailed and the genie that's not going back into the bottle. Of course, as we've mentioned before, this doesn't mean that we'll never go back into the office or we won't see each other. But we will do those things much less than we did before. Well, new ways of working, communicating and gauging and gathering are being created. It's important to not lose sight of the need for leaders to stay focused on the basics. Those basic leadership fundamentals that impact talent, attraction, and retention. That's particularly critical right now. Beverly Kay, the author of the well known book, love them, or lism, recently said, Never before have organizations paid more attention to talent, and keeping it, attracting it, developing it and engaging it. Talent is no longer simply a numbers game. It's about survival. So let's talk about what some of those basics are, that many leaders are well equipped to utilize in their jobs. But we seem to be a little distracted by the context in which we are using those skills. And I continue to talk with and see leaders who are not clear about how to use those good leadership skills. When people are distant from them. They're not in front of them. They're not sure about the best way to communicate with them, how often to communicate with them, how they're going to ensure that the culture is protected and inculcated in new hires, and all of those things that are become more challenging for leaders, as the workplace becomes more dispersed. So there are some fundamental leadership skills that leaders have had to utilize for a long time. And let's think about some of those. Obviously, performance based on results is very fundamental challenge and task that leaders must manage coaching and providing feedback, whether that's coaching for development, coaching for success, coaching, because there's a problem. Again, those are things, skills that leaders utilize some leaders very comfortable and confident about those skills. But do those tasks in the context of the remote workplace, present no challenges. So providing clear expectations is an important aspect of leadership as well as relationship building and relationships built on trust. It's important that it's always been important that meters honor commitments. But it's increasingly important and important in a different way. When their teams don't see them, team members may feel that their leader isn't mindful of them isn't aware of them isn't paying attention to them. And the failure to honor commitments by the leader can have different consequences than it might have otherwise, because team members have less opportunity to catch a leader to have a conversation, even though we have amazing technology tools that allow us to ping each other talk to each other, get each other's attention in so many different ways than we did before. So it's also important that leaders have strong interpersonal skills, to build those relationships, and to keep everyone on board. And utilizing those, exercising those interpersonal skills, again, happening in a different context, is a challenge for many leaders. So as we shift leadership into the the new and the next normal, the understanding of all of these issues, and the different context and the understanding of remote work issues, is a new challenge for leaders and a new skill area for leaders. But looking at, again, just the fundamentals, they really come down to three areas that I'd like to just touch on today. Certainly trust is a fundamental leadership skill. If leaders cannot build trust, and retain trust in their teams, it will undermine the lack of trust will undermine everything else that the leader is trying to accomplish. Communication is a second key fundamental leadership skill. And we'll talk about the different aspects of communication. And finally, performance, achieving performance results. If the leader is not achieving performance results, there will be a change in leadership. So it's going back and looking at trust. If there is not trust, there's not going to be performance, performance will erode consistent with the erosion of trust. And then if you're listening have experienced this in other situations, and your own your own work life. You've seen situations maybe even lived through some where trust was not in a good place, and the impact that it has on people on morale and retention. And ultimately, performance can be devastating. So there are a few areas within trust, I'll just mention because we've talked about trust in other episodes, but building familiarity within the team, which again, in the current work environment is more challenging, because we're not face to face. And we've become more comfortable utilizing these kinds of skills and these capabilities and building certainly building familiarity when we're together when we're face to face. Now, again, this doesn't mean that we're not always going to be remote. Sometimes we will be together on site. Maybe not everyone, but some people. And occasionally we'll pull the whole team together, how we leverage that to build familiarity becomes even more important because the time together will become more precious, as we move forward into the next normal and the next normal after that. So integrity is important within in building trust, and as well as reliability. And again, I mentioned earlier about leaders following through on their commitments, that is a big part of building reliability, and also integrity as well in terms of honesty and forthrightness. So, in terms of trust, familiarity, integrity and reliability are important components, critical components in building trust. As for communication, the second fundamental leadership skill. There's so much to be said about communication and all the new and different ways that we're communicating. I've always referred to this as distance dialogue. When you The team is more dispersed in we're having all this communication. We're dialoguing through all of these distance tools, many of which didn't exist when we started telecommuting. Get back in the day and 1520 years ago. Now we've had telephone. But how we use telephone and the types of telephones that we use have changed. So all the different tools, telephone, email, voicemail, instant messaging, and texting, voice over IP chatting, and video conferencing, all these tools. And sometimes I hear from leaders, there are too many tools, which ones should be used, which ones are the best ones to use? And again, there is no, there is no magic bullet. There's no one answer. For every situation, every leader, every team, leaders and teams have to formulate the solution that works best for them. What's really critical, however, when you think about all the distance dialogue tools, is that the quality and their frequency of communication is really what matters. So stepping back and thinking about how can we get the best quality of communication, which of these tools are best suited for our team, and the way that we operate. And sometimes to make it even more complex. What works for one team member is not the best solution for another team member. So leaders have to be really flexible, and the way that they utilize these distance dialogue tools and tailor the use of those tools for different team members. But remembering that the quality and the frequency of communication is what matters most. So it's also important to keep in mind that I'm having some structure to some of our interactions or communications is an important thing. So it's, I believe important in in meetings, as well as in conversations that we have with each other to establish purpose and importance. It's vitally important for LIS for leaders to listen, particularly as we're doing more distance dialogue. I've often referred to this as listening between the lines, which was more true when we only had audio ways of communicating, we still depend on audio alike through telephone, and some of our meetings, particularly if it doesn't have video or even when it has video. Many times unless there's a clear agreement that we keep cameras on, some team members are inclined to turn cameras off. And so it's really important to listen, to summarize frequently to help keep everyone on the same page, which helps to confirm understanding, using reflective listening to say, make sure that you are hearing truly hearing and giving people the opportunity to clarify if what they said was what you heard, and to agree on follow up actions. And who's going to do what at the end of a conversation or meeting, Peter Drucker said years ago, the most important thing in communication is hearing was what isn't said.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

And that could not be more true today. So listening for emotion, listening for engagement, listening for disagreement, even though words might not be said, it's vitally important for leaders to listen between the lines and to, to hear what isn't being said, to ensure that information was communicated clearly and that people are buying in to what's being said. So in terms of staying connected and engaged, it's important to remember that we need to communicate often, again, frequency, we can do that through How goes it check ins and you can do that in a variety of ways. It doesn't have to be a formal meeting. It doesn't have to be scheduled. Sometimes it's really helpful for a leader to just check in touch base with someone. Just call I believe, I believe live voice communication is very powerful. And just say how's it going? I just wanted to check in with you today. See how you're doing? Is there anything I can do to help? So offering support, listening with empathy is also very important. And as we said, being reliable following through and reaching out proactively in to connect with people. And, as I said, using the the power of the voice, the leaders voice, and using the most live, what I call the most lives tools, which would not include voicemail by the way, even though people can listen to voicemail now. And they can even listen to an email, because it, it can transcribe and read it to them. That's not the most live tools, the most live tools, or pick up the phone, talk with people be engaged in live interactions whenever possible. And of course, it's not always possible. But when it is utilize the most live tools, and be creative in the way that we communicate. So a big part of what we're doing with communication, particularly for leaders is to use these tools to create the sense of presence that overcomes distance. And one of the ways that we do that is to replicate and simulate face to face interactions and experiences whenever possible. So video conferencing is certainly a good example of a way that we replicate and simulate a meeting that would be would have or we're all sitting in the same room or sitting around the same table. And so I always challenge leaders to think about the creative ways that they can replicate and simulate face to face interactions and experiences, whether those are meetings, small groups, one on one, to build that engagement, and to create as much presence in spite of the distance that separates us. So this means that we need to use the right technology. And again, each leader with his or her team needs to determine what are the right technologies for us and our work, and then learn to use those technologies. Well, that might mean it should mean in many cases, providing training on how best to use that technology. And to use for meetings, virtual meeting guidelines, which you can find our checklist for virtual meeting guidelines at our website at virtual works forward slash checklist, again, that's virtual works forward slash checklist. And that's just a brief checklist of the key things to do before, during and after a remote meeting, to keep everyone on the same page and ensure that you're doing all of the right things to ensure that it's the most productive and effective meeting. So let's talk a bit about a third key to leadership success in real fundamental, which is performance, sort of where we started. If leaders are not achieving critical performance results, there will be a change in leadership. So performance results are an important part of a leaders job. And we achieve those results. We achieve performance through engagement with team members in a variety of ways. This is accomplished through one on one communication, team interactions, performance monitoring, and performance monitoring tools, the way that leaders address performance challenges or problems, coaching and providing feedback, which can be accomplished through performance reviews, as well as coaching as needed for development for success. And finally, another area that I believe runs the risk of being overlooked as the workplace becomes more distributed, and we're not face to face as often. And that is celebrating success. We had found lots of ways to celebrate success when we were together in the workplace to win We could have impromptu celebrations or planned celebrations, when there was a success for the whole team, or a unique success for a team member. And these are more challenging when we're remote. But again, thinking back to how can we replicate and simulate those things that we know are important, celebrating success is a really important part of leadership, acknowledging that we see the successes that people have achieved, and we appreciate what it took to achieve that success will go a long way toward helping people feel valued and appreciated, which is very critical, when we are looking at the challenges of talent retention in particular. So leaders must also have some structure not only to meetings, but to other discussions like coaching discussions. So some of the guidelines that a reader might keep in mind, in handling a coaching discussion would again start with clarifying purpose and importance and desired outcome. So this could be true for a performance problem or for coaching for success discussion. So why are we having this discussion? What What's the objective, the desired outcome, reviewing all of the relevant information and asking for input is, again, important for listening, and making sure that you have all the information to work with the next the next step in this kind of discussion would be to establish or review objectives. So we've gathered all the information, and you want to then clarify the objective, in terms of, you know, what do we really want to accomplish? Where do we need to go from here, now that we have all the information, and of course, throughout all of this listening, listening carefully, listening with empathy is a really important part of a coaching discussion. The leader would then want to discuss ideas and concerns, again, seeking concerns, demonstrating that you're listening and discussing the ideas of the person that's having the discussion with the leader, be that again, a performance problem, where there could be some defensiveness, some difficulty getting to understanding what's causing the situation. And also, when you're coaching for success, you're typically coaching in a situation where someone either hasn't done something before, doesn't have a lot of experience with it, is taking on a new task or challenge. And this can be unsettling. So coaching discussions require a lot of care on the part of the leader to ensure that you're covering all the bases. So again, you want to discuss ideas and concerns, and then agree on goals or a plan of action, and then setting a follow up to ensure that there's a time and a place for the team member to be able to clarify again, get further support or guidance, and just to see how it goes. So all of this with these fundamental leadership skills. And again, I want to impress that so many leaders are quite skilled in these areas, but really have to bring greater consciousness to how they are utilizing the skills in the virtual workplace as we implement more remote and hybrid teams. So that leaves leaders with a real, what I call leadership mandate to bridge the distance. So every day a leader of remote and hybrid teams is challenged with bridging the distance. And this mandate, to me requires that leaders communicate effectively connect frequently to demonstrate caring with the competence to achieve results. Let me just repeat that. The leadership mandate to bridge the distance really requires that leaders communicate effectively connect frequently to demonstrate caring with the competence to achieve results. So in that is communicate connect care. Are and confidence. And so it's important for leaders to recognize that they need to bring greater consciousness to how they're doing that. And they need to seek out for themselves and ensure that their organizations are providing the skills that they need to do that in this new environment that we're all facing. And in the new context of their workplace, and not surprisingly, virtual works, offers they the skills and the training to help leaders do this. But I also believe that if there's greater awareness, and more enlightenment, of unconsciousness about how to do these things, there's a lot of talent and a lot of creativity within teams. And I've often asked by leaders, you know, how, how do how do I do this or that that in the new workplace? And how do I know the best way to do this with my teams? And my answer often is, ask your team members, let them help you. Leaders don't have to have all the answers to all the questions. And certainly if it's about what is best for their teams, what helps them the most, what will allow them enabled team members to feel supported and cared about and appreciated, asking them what the leader can't do to help them and what they can collectively do as a team to be most successful and to achieve achieve the best results is going to get the leader, the best result.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Thank you. And I look forward to talking with you again. In the next episode of the remote leadership podcast. Thanks for listening to this episode of the remote leadership podcast. If you found value in what you heard, share this with your colleagues. And if you haven't already, please be sure to subscribe rate and review the show on your favorite podcast player. Additional free resources and direct ways to reach me are available at remote leadership Thanks for listening and for always learning