Laura Moody and Debra Dinnocenzo discuss how distance leaders can strengthen their hybrid teams through effective communication techniques. Scheduling regular check-in remote meetings and utilizing multiple communication methods are critical to building trust and developing a connected team. Laura shares her views on the importance of having cameras on during video meetings and the value of nurturing a learning culture for geographically dispersed organizations.
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About the Guest:
Dr. Laura Moody is the Director of Product Management Pharma, North America at Syntegon Pharma Technology, with a focus on pharmaceutical liquid packaging for fill/finish applications and isolator technology. She has 20 years of experience in life sciences with roles in both academia and industry. Laura has worked hands-on with plasmid, vector and cell manufacturing and held the role of technical lead for the custom cell-based services group at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Laura earned her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is an active member of the PDA and ISPE, volunteering with ISPE’s Women in Pharma community.
About the Host:
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.
Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting, coaching, and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author.
Debra 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.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership podcast. As the workplace continues evolving to more hybrid models, I've been focused, as most of you know, on identifying the skills, behaviors and techniques that successful leaders are applying in the hybrid workspace. My guest today is actively involved in the remote workplace, and leads a hybrid team. So I'm looking forward to the insights that she'll share with us today. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Laura moody, Director of Product Management farm in North America at syntegon, which provides processing and packaging technology in the pharmaceutical and food industry. Laura is a cellular and molecular biologist with experience as a product manager. Prior to being promoted to director of product management. Laura has a team of two direct reports, not both of them co located with her. And Laura has 20 years of experience in life sciences, with roles in both academia and industry. Thank you for joining me today, Laura, and welcome.Laura Moody:
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to have this conversation.Debra Dinnocenzo:
I'm looking forward to it as well. So share with our listeners today a little bit about how your team is structured, how your organization is structured, and to all you need to work with collaborate with from a distance.Laura Moody:
Sure, I'd happy happy to so I have a team of two direct reports, which you've already mentioned, one is co located with me in Minneapolis, where our North American headquarters is. And another direct report is located on the west coast. So he is entirely remote. And the woman that is co located with me, we have a hybrid work structure with three days in the office and two days remote. Okay.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Do you are you also hybrid in that way?Laura Moody:
I am. Yes, I like to work from home on Fridays, but the rest of the week, I do my best to come into the office unless I'm traveling forDebra Dinnocenzo:
work. Okay. All right. So how how long? Have you been doing the hybrid thing with your team? And I'm assuming you have collaborators that you work with who are not co located with you as well?Laura Moody:
Yes, that's right. So ever since I started with syntegon, five years ago, I've been working closely with colleagues, not only in Minneapolis, but also at our headquarters in Germany, as well as some other international sites. So all of my work time with this company, I would say I've been learning tips and tricks on how to work with people, not in the same room. And we know, in 2020 2021, the push towards remote work or working from home was something that we had to undertake. So working with all of the technology necessary. outfitting a home office, that was something that I had to do starting in 2020. But working with people not co located with me back to your original question has been something that I've been doing for the past five years. Okay.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So what are some of your most important tips, tricks, techniques that you've learned to apply in working with people who are not co located on site with you?Laura Moody:
That's a good question. I think, for me, personally, I always like to have a camera on. So I can see facial expressions or hand gestures that the person I'm talking to is giving me is providing me that instantaneous feedback. But that's my own personal preference. And I know that I have certain colleagues that don't like to have the camera on and I try to respect that as much as I can. I I've been known to request that we turn cameras on if it's a larger group meeting. And I've also found that many of my colleagues overseas are more inclined to have their camera on, versus my North American colleagues seem to default to cameras off. I don't know if that's a cultural, that's a cultural takeaway, or if it's just the working environment that we have made ourselves.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, there can't be that many bad hair days, right. I'm a huge advocate like you have cameras on because I have been doing this for over 20 years. so early, early on in all of this when I published my first book in 1999, called 101 tips for telecommuters when we didn't really know much about what telecommuting really even was, and we had we were so lacking in sophistication in terms of technology to support this, but we still had dial up AOL for email. And you might not remember you're young, butLaura Moody:
Oh, no, I remember that modem. Yes. Yeah,Debra Dinnocenzo:
that whole modem thing. And, and that's all we had was email, and you know, teleconferences. And we moaned about how awful it was we, you know, we didn't have the visual cues, and we couldn't see each other. And now we can see each other and we turn the cameras off. So I do think it's somewhat a cultural thing. I do think it, it facilitates multitasking in in ways that would not happen if we were sitting in the room together. I mean, not that we're not all in meetings on site where people are still looking at their phones, right. But it's less comfortable doing that when you're trying, making eye contact with people when they're looking at you. So I like you, I'm a big advocate of cameras on I think it's the best way I'm also one of my big messages always is we need to replicate and simulate what we would do if we were able to be on site together. And the best way to do that with remote meetings, virtual meetings is to have those cameras on so we can see each other. So I applaud you for doing that.Laura Moody:
So I have a question for you. How do you feel about the mute button? Now, if you're if you're in a larger, a larger meeting? Do you want people to go on mute when they're not participating? Or do you like people to stay with their microphones on because you can respond more quickly than having to Oh, quick minute. Oh,Debra Dinnocenzo:
yeah. Well, you know, because how many times does that Wait, wait, you're on mute? Wait, oh, wait, I was on mute. So the problem with larger meetings, and I do a lot of you know, large meetings and board meetings and training with larger groups, if you don't have people mute, there's way too much. interference, static dogs barking phones ringing, cats walking across the screen, I'm usually tolerant of cats walking across the screen, I think that's cute. They're you, they're usually pretty quiet. But it does erode the audio quality, if it's a large group. So I do think it's important to maximize audio quality by asking people to turn to mute, I actually the meeting leader can mute everybody in on in either teams or zoom or most, most of these technologies that we use. So now in small groups, though, I you know, you and I aren't muting when we're not talking because it's more natural kind of conversation and dialogue. I don't see any reason to have people mute in small groups. But, but I would say in large groups, and again, in large groups, often, it's mostly somebody presenting, as opposed to a lot of interaction, because it's much harder to do a lot of interaction. Now, if you move people to breakout rooms, then you know, I think people need to unmute, so they can engage. That's the whole purpose of moving them to a breakout room. And I do that a lot with online training, using Breakout rooms for discussion. And, you know, skill practices, role plays, things like that. So share with us a little bit about the collaboration you have to do with people that aren't direct reports. And that any challenges working remotely with people with whom you have to get things done, but they're not necessarily under your control? Hmm,Laura Moody:
that's a great question. So there are says this answer has different layers, okay, and whether or not it is somebody who I am co located with, I find that if I, they don't report to me, but I still need them to get things done. I'd love to just walk to someone's desk and just have a conversation, impromptu face to face, because they can see the passion and your body language and the fact that you've got up and you found them at a time that works for both of you to discuss something and you can really reiterate the timing behind the request you might have and give a little bit more detail beyond what an email might say. So I like to do that. When it's somebody that's located in the same building that I'm in. If I'm working with colleagues that are either remote within the My region or in other regions around the world, my default is an email, because I like to include a lot of detail. And I find that if I talking about something I might just ramble on and might lose the thread a little bit. So if I can capture it in written form, and send an email, put all my thoughts in the right order, send it out. And then bold, specific items that I'm requesting within the email text, either use bold or underline. And then I'll repeat that at the end of the message as well, like I need this by this date. And then I'll add a reminder to my own calendar to follow up on that request via email a day before that due date that I've given. And then ask if you have any questions. If I can help you in any way to help get this done, please let me know. And then if the timeline has passed, and I haven't gotten the information I need, that's when I'll set schedule a call, I'll just put something on someone's calendar, so we can talk it through instead of relying on that email format.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Of course, if they're co located, you might just pop by their office. Right?Laura Moody:
Exactly, exactly. But if I can't do that, then I default to email. And then if email doesn't work, and we'll do the we'll do the phoneDebra Dinnocenzo:
call. Okay, so you would do a phone call, before scheduling a team's or a Zoom meeting.Laura Moody:
I just put it I just put a meeting invite direct, I just send the meeting invite directly. And that's a time that I check the calendar to make sure they're available on time that works for both of us, and then place it on their calendar. And instead of an impromptu phone call. Because if there's something that I'm asking for, I'll put that in the body of the meeting invite so they can prepare themselves. I just I don't want to catch anybody off guard.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right right away. And you're doing it mostly it's follow up. So they they know what, and your only mission only pinging them because they haven't followed through. Correct. So if they follow through, then you're sending a another email to thank them probably. And you know, that's kind of interesting, because a lot of organizations I work with are, oh, burdened by email, you know, too much email. They're tired of email, too many people copy too many people on email. So do you have any guidelines for yourself in terms of how you use email so that it's not burdensome for you? And all your recipients?Laura Moody:
No, great question. So I try. I'm not 100% I don't do this 100% of the time, but I try to only respond to emails, if I have something to contribute. It's just a thanks. Yeah, that's that email does not need to be sent. I don't do this. But I know, others that I work with, do, they have a setting in their outlook, where their inbox only populates with emails that are directly sent to them. And then they'll have a different folder for emails where they're added in CC. So what comes up in their inbox that they see is information that's specific to them, and not just a a, this is a courtesy. I am a detailed person. So I like to see all of those emails, even if it means I come. I turn the computer on. And I see that I have 25 emails that was sent overnight. It's okay with me. I would rather know than be surprised about something in the future.Debra Dinnocenzo:
While you're a scientist, so you're trained to behave into details,Laura Moody:
all of the info. Yeah, yeah. And I'mDebra Dinnocenzo:
assuming some of the emails that you're sending and information projects you're working on, or technical aspects to it, where an email can provide that level of detail can be more clarifying. And that, you know, that's a useful tool in those cases. But I do hear a lot of angst about about email about text chatting. Is that a tool that you already use much? Yes.Laura Moody:
So for those quick, quick like, Oh, thanks. Or, Hey, did you get this or Hey, what are you planning? Or what are you thinking about this topic that came up this meeting? I love to do a quick chat for that. I don't want to see it in my inbox. But I love we use teams in my organization. So quick chat. Thumbs up if I've gotten information back quickly. I also try to only send chats when I see that the person that I'm trying to communicate with is green so that means that are available. I also know that they'll be able to get back to me quickly. If I see that they're in a meeting or have the do not do not disturb. Indicator up. I I like to respect that, because I use chat for those really quick responses that don't require a detailed email. And ideally, I need the information as fast as possible,Debra Dinnocenzo:
right? Or that leads to, we really need to talk about this in greater depth. And so let's schedule a meeting. But you can probably weed out a lot of that with with chatting. Yeah, which is very efficient. So and is that's done within teams or Outlook. That's through teams through teams, okay.Laura Moody:
And that another indicator, or another thing that I like to consider is also the person that I'm talking to, there's some people that really love chat. And that's their primary method for communication. They're quick, direct to the point. But there's other people that prefer phone call. So depending on my relationship with a colleague, or the type of information I need, some colleagues are more open and happy to have a quick phone call, instead of just a quick chat. But those phone calls might be because there's a little bit more information that we need to convey, and a chat just starts to get too low, and you start to write it out. Way,Debra Dinnocenzo:
that's interesting, because then most of the work I do with organizations with leaders, a lot of times I'm still getting asked the question, what, you know, how, what's the best way to communicate? And how often should I communicate? You know, answer is, well, it all depends on you know, how you communicate, you know, what, what, you know, people prefer the nature and content of what you're communicating, does it really require the documentation and detail of of an email, or an attachment to an email, even, you know, there might be much more involved. So, you know, my response usually is, well, it all depends. And really, the magic is in the mix, you have to adapt, and do what is appropriate for each situation. And each person, which kind of then speaks to the whole notion of, again, of emotional intelligence, and being sensitive to what people want need, and what they're comfortable with. You know, some people still aren't comfortable, you know, doing chats. And as, as you're sharing with us, some people really don't like to be on camera or, you know, want to not put on more than pajamas, they got up in we, you know, we don't know if we can't see them. And so, but you know, again, it really is the magic is in the mix, you have to use, I mean, we have a wonderful array of technologies now to use. And so having all these choices, and these ways to communicate in so many different forms, is a real godsend compared to what we were dealing with, you know, 15 years ago, which was not much.Laura Moody:
Great point. Another thing that I also keep in mind is generational preferences. Now, I know, even for myself, I'm not going to tell you how old I am. But I'm of the generation where texting was just starting to come into our communication, style, but we would still pick up the phone to call or call our friends or plan, what we're going to do if we're gonna go out that night, but I'm finding more and more, with younger generations, that text is the primary form of communication, and picking up the phone is less than less common. So I also try to keep that in mind when I'm talking to colleagues or direct reports, what they might be most comfortable in doing. And luckily, I've gotten a mix of all different forms of communication. So I can adapt. Yes,Debra Dinnocenzo:
yes, that's good. That's good. And you're right, without boxing it into generation or categories. But it is true that people who are more comfortable with texting kind of my sense is they react as though they're bothered by an actual phone call. It's like, what's got to be some raging emergency to call somebody. Whereas in and out, there might be some differences in terms of gender as well. I don't know that that'd be an interesting thing to study, actually, that, you know, preferences. Somebody's probably done a study on that. But what I hear you saying and is a great takeaway for our listeners is that people have different preferences, different needs, and as a leader adapting to those and being sensitive to their preferences, so long as it meets the need of the communication that you're trying to undertake. That that's a smart thing to do.Laura Moody:
I think I think it helps it Build trust and openness with communication as well. If you are a leader that is easy to communicate with, then you're gonna get more communication coming your way from direct reports. AbsolutelyDebra Dinnocenzo:
modeling. That is a great thing. So. So on the international front, are there any particular challenges? I don't know if the other organizations you've worked with have been International. But in terms of what you're experiencing post COVID. Working with people around the globe, are there any particular challenges that you've had to confront? Or that you've created solutions for that are unique to an international organization?Laura Moody:
is a great question. So I would say the biggest challenge is a challenge that we've had before COVID. And since COVID, and always will no matter what unless somebody come in somebody invents a time machine, it's time zones, timezone differences, that is always the most difficult. And sitting in the States. I'm reaching my colleagues when they're ending their workday. So they've had a whole day to build up, and they have all of this information that they need from their US colleagues. And then we, even when we, I mean, I'm in the middle of the country. So I wake up, I'll check my work, email, maybe at 637 in the morning, and I already have emails that have been coming in. Since 1am, that I instantly feel like I'm behind to get them answered, because I don't want them to wait. I don't want my timezone difference to be slowing down the work that they need to do. So that's always a challenge, no matter whether you're working remote, or in the office, if you have offices throughout different areas of the world. It's difficult to deal with.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yep. You know, what came to my mind, as you were talking is that, you know, we, when we shifted to the 24 hour news cycle, you know, when we got away from you got your news in the morning, and then you got your evening news at 6pm. Eastern, and moved to the 24 hour news cycle with so many news sources now, streaming out news constantly, all day long. And all night long, by the way. I mean, it's you know, we've got the 24 hour news cycle, and we got the 24 hour work day, if you're part of a global organization. And I really resonate with your sense that you know, you You're You're up early 630 In the morning, and still feeling behind because you have colleagues on the other side of the planet, who have been working for six hours, and they're not going to wait till it's the workday in your timezone to start sending stuff. So this is a real challenge for organizations to manage that and for people not to feel like they can't keep up. So are there any techniques that you've employed or that your organization has encouraged people to adopt to try to manage that? And how do you deal with a weakened stuff?Laura Moody:
That's a really great question. So I think I've mentioned that we use teams. And we have, I think, been doing a very good job in my organization and creating teams dedicated to specific projects. And then having people in real time add information to those teams, in whatever region of the world that they're working in, and then being able to keep up with that constant strain of information. Whenever you wake up and login for the day, that keeps people on top of what's been happening overnight when they've been asleep, and allows that open, open string of communication that seems like constantly ongoing, it's not okay, well, this day, I sent this email with this information. In our chat function, we can continue the conversation, no matter what time of the day it is anywhere, and then sharing files that can be edited at the same time through SharePoint is also great instead of sending documents via email, and then you have to make sure that you make your changes and then send the updated copy back to another colleague. Having shared documentation where multiple people can be editing it at the same time has really helped us improve our efficiency in information sharing.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Okay, great. So as we wrap up, I'd be curious about your advice for other remote and hybrid leaders in turn. Observe the top three things they should either keep in mind or be doing every day and being successful as remote or hybrid leaders and ensuring that they have successful and effective teams.Laura Moody:
Right. Great question. So number one, make sure you have a regularly scheduled check in not only with your direct reports that might be on site with you, but are also remote. And when you have those check ins, whether they be weekly, bi weekly, monthly, turn your camera on. So it feels like you're having that conversation face to face, helps build trust, and helps keep that information flowing, keep the doors of communication wide open, I would also encourage the same with team meetings. So besides your one on ones with each direct report, which are very important to make sure that goals are set and check progress. But also to have the whole team get together at least one once a month. That's what I do for my team cameras on. And not only do we go over our joint goals or hot topics, things that might need special attention from the group. But we also learn from each other and share best best practices amongst the group. Now I have a group of subject matter experts. So we have different areas of expertise. But you'd be surprised how much we're able to learn from each other, even though we have different areas of specialty techniques, tips, tricks, that is that's easy to share cross functionally. And we can we can learn from each other that way, cameras always on. And I always like to have a different leader of that group. So even though I am, I am the manager for two direct reports, I like to change who's leading that group meeting every month, just so everybody has a sense of ownership of the group really feels like they're part of a team. So those are some of the some of the tips and tricks that I'd like to share with our listeners. ThoseDebra Dinnocenzo:
are some great points of it, then, of course, cameras on you and our big advocate and sharing rotating leadership responsibility for meetings, which of course helps you develop capability within your team as well, because someday you'll get promoted, and you have to have somebody ready to replace you as well. Right? I love that you mentioned and this is true for many, many, almost all teams that I could think of everybody has different experiences and different areas of expertise, or maybe not the depth that that your folks have, because they're in the sciences, but making sure that that leaders provide an opportunity for people to learn from each other. You know, learning we're learning more about learning and the openness to and the ability to learn is a critical factor and success for leaders. So that that's that I'm jotting down a note here, I want to do a podcast on the whole issue of learning. And it's not just about training, right? It's about how we learn every day and learn from each other and demonstrate that as leaders, we're open to learning from others, including those that report to us. So all very important things. A big takeaway, though, we want to remind everybody cameras on even though we don't have our cameras on for this podcast.Laura Moody:
We're not going to use your imagination. Yes, exactly.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Exactly. We're adorable. People will get them so anyway, Laura, thank you so much. This has been delightful and valuable and I'm sure my listeners are appreciative of your time and your insights.Laura Moody:
Thank you so much for having me. I had a blast. Thanks.