Debra Dinnocenzo highlights some key reminders for leaders and teams as the shift back to the workplace begins and remote/hybrid work expands. Listen for tips, techniques, and tools for effectively leading and teaming from a distance and while (sometimes) co-located with team members, some of whom are not on-site on a continual basis.  Debra offers a free resource to help leaders conduct effective coaching discussions. The “Coaching Discussion Guidelines” is available on the free mobile app – download the VirtualWorks! app from the App Store or Google Play. 

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 Deborah 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 workplaces. Hello, and

Debra Dinnocenzo:

welcome to this episode of the remote leadership Podcast. Today, I'd like to talk about the reminders, some key things to remember for a successful return to the hybrid office. So recently, we've seen more attention being paid to the need for the request for in some cases, the demand for people getting back into the office. So let's look at what are some of the best practices for operating a hybrid workplace. And recognize that even when we have people moving back into the office, it is not going to be the same dynamic the same scenario, the same way as operating as before the pandemic. So we'll look at some of the best practices, which include communicating from a distance and looking at the best ways to do that. And the most effective ways to engage remote team members. And certainly underlying all of this the best ways to build trust, as well as engagement with our remote and hybrid team members. So when we look at designing the hybrid workplace, and I'm leaders asked me all the time, what's this hybrid workplace look like? And really, the answer is well, it all depends. It depends on what your needs are, and how you plan to structure what your people or your team members are willing and able and wants to do. It's a it's a risky time right now relative to talent. So but as we look at what makes for success in the hybrid office, the hybrid workplace, there are a few things to keep in mind. There needs to be a change in management style. And we had some good hands on experience with that throughout the pandemic. But certainly, in the current state of problems with and challenges with talent, attraction and talent retention, it's important that management styles, reconsider what needs to be involved. And particularly from the perspective of developing empathy, which I've talked about in previous podcasts, there also needs to be changes in the processes of remote training of employees. And so while some people might be back on site for in person training, that might not be the case for everyone, it might not be possible to do that. And it's really never been completely possible or easy or affordable. With organizations that are international or have operations spread around the planet. It's very costly to bring people together, I have started hearing from some leaders that they do recognize they saved a lot of money. There was some downsides with a pandemic, but saved a lot of money throughout the pandemic, by not needing to bring people into the office into training. And we really, you know, exercised our remote leadership or remote training muscles throughout the pandemic. So, also culture and I've mentioned this before in previous episodes, how we develop culture, how we communicate culture, how we onboard people, to understand the culture needs to happen in different ways as the workplace becomes increasingly hybrid with more remote people, or at least not everybody on site all the time. And keeping in mind how we need to digitize other processes, and be mindful of how we communicate information. Asians and share our supportive people and other things that we'll talk about here momentarily. So in terms of issues and concerns, I'm still hearing from leaders. Interestingly, to me, there's still a request for a training on how to make the remote workplace work, how best to share information, and how to leverage and how to use just basically how to use the technology, I'm still hearing people really want to know how to do more effective team meetings up remotely. And now more critically, hybrid meetings where some people are on site, and some people are not, which was has its own challenges, and can be a little bit trickier. So communicating, and how best to respond to communication and how to keep everyone on the same page. And again, learning how to conduct really effective remote meetings. So Right. And remember, during the pandemic, a lot of people did that, without really effective training, we just kind of dug in and did it, we jumped into the deep end for sure. So so there's certainly a lot of challenges from a remote leadership perspective, again, with talent underlying all of this, the the attracting talent, engaging talent, and retaining talent, and keeping everyone aligned. So engagement and alignment is an issue. Performance Management continues to be a challenge, we, you know, kind of adapted and, you know, cut each other a lot of slack during the pandemic, and made do with what we had and the and the, you know, the hand that was dealt us during the pandemic, but ongoing in terms of, you know, managing performance on a day to day basis, conducting performance reviews, doing career planning, those are still challenges for leaders. I think we've moved beyond that, you know, how do we really know they're working, but that relates to performance management, and gets back to, as I've said, for two decades now, remote work, distance work, the virtual workplace will be the best thing that's ever happened to performance management, because it will really require that we be clear, much clearer about performance expectations, and deliverables. And we'll need to communicate that more clearly. So it won't be you know, I know what when I see it, or just because I see people here in the office, or in the worksite. I know they're working. So you know, leaders also really have a lot of concerns about maintaining service levels, which is perfectly reasonable meeting customer expectations. And to get a lot of questions around what is the right amount of time in light of all of this for people to be in the office? And which days? Should they be in the office? And should these days be mandated or not mandated? And should this be organization wide? Or should teams decide? And then again, there's no right answer, each organization. And sometimes each team needs to determine what makes sense and how best to move toward our expanding hybrid model and the schedule that best works for the organization. And for other stakeholders and collaborators. In all of this, it's important to remember again, the basics, which I talked about, in the last episode, the basics that haven't changed. While so much has changed. There are some basics that haven't changed. And let me just I'll touch on that again in a moment. But it's important to keep in mind that we'd have had a lot of changes, and a lot of this is, is still new, even though we've done so much of this throughout the pandemic. The reality reality of it continuing is what's new. This is the the next normal. For some people, it's new normal, but it's the next normal and I like to use next normal as a reminder that whenever we figure it out, whatever it is, it's not going to be eternal, it will change again, there'll be a next new normal. So keeping all of this in mind in light of again, the critical battle battle for talent, finding it and keeping it leaders need to be mindful of all of this and that this is the way the hybrid workplace it is should be designed and how it should be designed, again, is variable. And leaders need to give real consideration to the degree of autonomy that they're going to give to team members or don't give to team members to figure out when they want to be on the on the in person work site when or when they don't want to be. And so some of the concerns some of the dialogue right now is, you know, we really need to get people back together. But we're not really sure we can mandate that. And let's just remember that we did try to mandate that at various points as we were moving through the pandemic, and thinking we were pulling out of the pandemic. And then we had setbacks. And it was difficult to ask people to be in the workplace again, and so many organizations sort of backed off on that. So we've had, and again, I think, for perspective, we've had a really good dose, and a fair amount of hands on experience with the remote and hybrid workplaces. And there are a lot of upsides. And all the data shows that most people want to continue to work remotely a good part of the time, not full time. Interestingly, the data does not show very many people want to be remote 100% of the time, but the majority of the time. And there are savings on the part for the people who need to commute into the workplace as well as savings for the organization. So all of these needs to be factored in. And bottom line, then we need to make sure we're still getting the job done, where you're on maintaining productivity, we're maintaining engagement, we're able to innovate, we're able to respond to market demands and customer needs. So with again, talent being kind of at the core of this at this point in time. And I actually saw a comment recently by Beverly Kay, who's the author of the book, love them or lose them, which has been out for several years. And Bev puts all of this into perspective, in terms of the state of the workplace right now, the workforce and the challenges for leaders. And Bev said, Never before have organizations paid more attention to talent, keeping it attracting it, developing it, and engaging it. Talent is no longer simply a numbers game. It's about survival. So I think most leaders are aware of that now they felt the pain of that. And so they're anxious to know what really do we need to do to ensure that we can attract that talent, engage it, keep it on board, help it grow, develop that talent, whether people are face to face every day or not. So in terms of the basics, and I mentioned this recently, and in another episode, but I'm a big believer, and leaders just need to keep three fundamental basic skill areas in mind. And a lot of things evolve from these three. But the three for me are trust, communication, and performance. So of course, trust, I think most leaders are aware trust is critical. Trust is critical in any important relationship, personal relationships, as well as work relationships, and without trust, or performance will be compromised. So as trust declines, performance will decline, performance might lag a little bit. But over the long haul, you cannot get the performance that you want without the underlying trust, and to build trust. In the these are some of the challenges when more people are working from a distance in with the fluid kind of

Debra Dinnocenzo:

hybrid work environment where perhaps in many cases, not everybody is in the workplace to the onset workplace the same time with the same people. On any given day or week or month. It's very fluid. My recently published book on remote leadership, which I wrote with Jason Warwick, we talked about static hybrid and fluid hybrid in fluid hybrid is very challenging, because it's a lot of moving parts. But to build trust, there needs to be familiarity. It's really hard to trust people that you don't know. And it has its own challenges to build relationships and get to know people when we're not all face to face or we're just geographically dispersed by virtue of how the organization is structured. Or if we've acquired a new organization and it happens to be, you know, on on a different continent. It's So there are ways certainly and leaders need to find them, and need to leverage them through technology on building familiarity, getting to know people, and letting people know you as a leader. Integrity is an important part of, of trust and knowing that people are going to be honest and forthright. And reliability is another component of trust. And again, we can drill down in each of these. But reliability is important, because when people are distant from each other, they need to have a sense that they really can count on each other that, you know, people, their team has their back when needed, that leaders have a commitment to responsiveness so that people don't suffer from that out of sight, out of mind syndrome, that we really do need to get past if the remote and hybrid workplace is going to be successful. The second major remote leadership key is communication. And I've been saying this for a long time, particularly throughout the pandemic. And that is that this is not the time to under communicate. I mean, it's never a good time to under communicate. But certainly, as things are so fluid, things are changing, people are uncertain, around a lot of things that haven't been protocols and standards and expectations that haven't been clearly established. And over communicating is probably a good idea how you communicate. That's another thing. So there are so many distance tools that we have now, to communicate almost too many, from what I hear from a lot of people. But you know, we have telephone, we have email, we have voicemail. We have instant messaging and text messaging. We've got Voice over IP protocols that some people use through slack and circle and other technologies like that. And then there's chatting and of course, there's video conferencing through teams, or zoom or other platforms like those that allow us to actually see each other, which is a major benefit. Because for many, many years, in the early times of the virtual workplace, we couldn't see each other. And we thought that was a huge downside. Because we couldn't read people's body language and that sort of thing. Now we have that capability. And I'll come back to why it's important to understand how best to use those technologies to leverage that real face to face, but virtual face to face opportunity. So underlying all of these different, or what I call distance dialog tools, we need to keep in mind and leaders need to be mindful of the importance of quality, and frequency in communication. Again, leveraging all those different tools and the mix of that. And you can think of it as the magic is in the mix, you really don't want to just send email, and you don't want to have to do zoom calls all the time. And you don't want to be burdened with having to have a live telephone call all the time. It's the mix of all of that so that people feel informed, they feel connected. They don't feel like they're not getting the information that people who are on site are getting so we need to be thinking about and I and we did a podcast on remote first remote first is having the mindset that we are a remote virtual hybrid,

Debra Dinnocenzo:

dispersed organization. And the first thing we should be thinking about is how are we best communicating, managing, leading, interacting, supporting everyone with a remote first mentality thinking about it from the perspective of those who are remote therefore, it's important to have clear guidelines and protocols on the use of these various communication tools. And to remember that again, quality and frequency of communication are very important. So the quality of communication means that leaders and teams must be comfortable and competent in the use of all the technology tools that the organization is using. And the team should agree on expectations and I say team, it could be each team individually decides this what's best for them depending on how structured how hierarchical how autonomously the organization manages, but the team should agree on expectations relative to participation. In the increasingly prevalent hybrid meeting, for example, so that means, as a small example, although I think it's pretty important, making the decision around whether cameras should be on. So during the pandemic, I, you know, worked with a lot of organizations. And initially, we had a lot of cameras on, people were doing a lot of fun and creative things to engage people to check in on people to make sure everybody was okay. Remembering back to the early days of the pandemic, we didn't have vaccines, everyone had gone home, suddenly, many people didn't have the resources they needed. Children were home from school, it was a very difficult, stressful time. And and, you know, from the perspective of many people, we all lived through a collective near death experience, almost everybody knows someone who either died or is still suffering the effects of COVID. And so we did, we saw a lot of really innovative ways to connect with people. So So quality of communication means that, again, leaders and their team members need to become competent and comfortable with these technology tools. So the issue of cameras or cameras on or cameras off, as the pandemic evolved, many people started just turning their cameras off, and you're turning your camera off occasionally,

Debra Dinnocenzo:

if you're, you know, taking a cup of coffee, or you happen to be eating because it's a you're on the west coast of North America, and the meeting is starting at 8am on the East Coast, and you're having breakfast. That's understandable. However, when people just turn their cameras off and engage in these meetings, we're without their cameras, we're losing much of the benefit of the face to face, No one sits around a conference table or in a meeting room and puts a bag over their head. So when we think about maximizing the way that we simulate our face to face, or in person or on site interactions, we have to give thought to how to best leverage the technology tools to help us simulate, simulate and replicate how we how we do this when we're face to face. And so we don't have the option to turn cameras off, or turn our faces off when we're in a meeting face to face around a table. So those are the kinds of discussions that teams should be having and making decisions and reaching agreements about how they want to work together and how they want to respect each other. And it does make it much trickier when it's hybrid, and some people are on site and other people are not. If cameras are being turned off for the people who are not there, I mean, just think about that the dynamic of that is a little odd. So again, as much as possible, it's important to think about how we're replicating and simulating are on site experience with each other of being face to face. So these are issues the team should be discussing together. It's also important to conduct meetings effectively. And you know, we talked for a while during the pandemic about zoom overload or, you know, people being burned out on on virtual meetings. And there is certainly, certainly some truth to the fact that you're having your eyes on the screen for hours and hours and hours throughout the day does have its own kind of downsides and stresses and challenges. But, you know, the reality is, we all complained about meetings before the pandemic, and how many meetings we had to go to. And virtual meetings, remote meetings can actually be pretty productive. And in terms of the focus that we bring to the agenda and getting through the meeting. And that sort of thing. On the other hand, what we tend to lose with remote meetings, and sometimes even hybrid meetings, is the the social part of the meeting, the chatting as we gather, and the chatting is we walk away together. And there are creative ways that that can happen as well. You know, for example, starting the the meeting, opening the meeting five minutes before the meeting actually starts and you know, letting people interact and, and encouraging that kind of thing. So there are some important things to remember about virtual meetings and the interaction skills that are necessary just a few of those are obviously, it's really important to establish purpose and importance when you're starting a meeting. vitally important to listen, and to seek opportunities for people to be engaged to comment. We all know there are all these great tools for getting people to chat to vote to raise their hand, ask questions, and that sort of thing. So it's important to avoid monologues, to summarize frequently, to ensure that everybody's heard everything the same way to make sure there aren't any questions or additional comments. And again, to clarify and ask if I heard this correctly, is there anything anybody wants to add, that's called confirming, understanding, and finally agreeing on actions and follow up and reinforcing that. So we have a little checklist for virtual meetings, it's called the virtual meeting checklist. And you can download that at no charge at our website, which is virtual works, forward slash checklist, again, virtual works, forward slash checklist. So to summarize on the points regarding communication, for to have really productive virtual meetings, it's important to have the right technology to use the technology well, to provide training, and it's not too late to train people and some of these tools, if we didn't really didn't do that, right, or didn't have the opportunity before during the pandemic. And to use a virtual meeting guidelines that everyone has agreed to, that it's sort of a common common best practice. It's just the way that we do things. And what we're really trying to do with with the technology that enables these remote virtual and hybrid meetings, is, is to create a real sense of presence, that overcomes the distance. Again, that's back to replicating and simulating our face to face interactions and experiences. But as much as possible, when it's not possible to be together, we want to be as present with each other as possible. Always be thinking about, you know, how can we make this more of a sense of being together and really escalate the sense of presence that that we're conveying, and that we're encouraging as well. So And finally, the third basic key to success for remote leaders, we talked about trust communication. And the third key for success in the hybrid workplace is effectively manage managing performance. So performance, which of course, in the end is what it's all about. If we're not, if we're not achieving performance targets, what's the point, really not much else matters. So we have to be mindful of the elements that contribute to performance and attainment of performance results. And keep in mind that we really achieve performance not only by people doing their jobs, but but the ways that we support them. So leaders in teams are engaged in in various types of distance interactions that are critical to achieving performance results. So some of these include, of course, one on one communication. While that can happen in a variety of ways thinking back to the list of all the way different technology tools that we have the distance dialogue options that we have, for one on one communications and team interactions. We manage and support performance through performance monitoring, performance monitoring tools, and sometimes we have to address performance problems. So we have to provide guidance, we have to provide coaching, sometimes for improved performance. Sometimes we need to coach for success, meaning we want to set an expectation and provide the these the nurturing the support, the guidelines, the the coaching to ensure that we get a successful result without waiting for there to be a performance deviation. Sometimes we're coaching just for continuing results, which means sometimes we just need to reach out and, you know, let people know that we recognize they're doing a fabulous job, and we appreciate it. And sometimes they're doing a really fabulous job and we need to celebrate that success. I've always been concerned even before the pandemic as the Remote workplaces expanded, that we would miss opportunities to celebrate success, we were very customed to we know how to do that when we're face to face and gather people together, you know, give an award or have a pizza party, or any number of ways that we have celebrated success, and to think about the creative ways to do that, when people are remote, or some people are on site, and others are not. I mean, one of the things that would not be good to do would be to have a little gathering on site and not include the remote folks, when we have the technology that enables us to do that. So and that just reminds me as we think about the technology, you know, a lot of the technology that has been in place, even before the pandemic, first of all, much of it was not used or not used properly, much of it was designed for connecting with one or two people who were not there. And so I think it's important for organizations to revisit their technology resources to ensure that they've got the best resources for ensuring that everybody can hear, which is a pretty fundamental case. So I still, to this day, participate in meetings, where there are people on site around a table, and there's either one computer or one microphone. And so they haven't even really upgraded their technology to have additional microphones around the table. So if someone at the opposite end of the table is talking, literally you can't hear that person. So the meeting leader leader either needs to repeat that or, you know, pass the microphone around. And this is for sure, not rocket science, and easily fixable. But we've need to be conscious of why it's important to look at those technology resources. And again, if we have a remote first mindset, we're thinking about it from the perspective of those who are remote. So if we don't have really great resources, tech resources, or we're not using them well, it's it's even more challenging to do things like provide coaching, which I continue to hear is one of the more challenging kinds of discussions for leaders to have, because most of our coaching experience that we've had has been face to face coaching, we had coaching from teachers and, and sports coaches and, and even workplace coaching has, historically more than likely for most people been done face to face. And so taking some of that coaching more remote, and providing that that resource to people, when they are distant from us is just a bit more challenging. So I have a couple of resources that I can suggest. For coaching, we do have some coaching guidelines that are available on our free mobile app. And the way to access the mobile app is just to download the virtual works app. And that's virtual works all one word, no space, followed by an exclamation point, virtual works exclamation point, you can search for that app in the App Store or Google Play. And once you have the app, then just navigate to tips and posts and you'll find the coaching guidelines there. There's also we offer a more in depth guidance on coaching from a distance. And that's available in our remote leader coaching Guide, which is available in our store on our website at virtual works Again, that's the remote leader coaching guide. And it's in the store at virtual works So in summary, distance leaders or remote hybrid virtual leaders, whatever language we're using, must bridge the distance between themselves and their team members who are who are remote and as the remote and hybrid workplace evolves, the bridge becomes even more important. So this means that and I call this the leadership mandate of the remote hybrid workplace. Leaders need to bridge the distance by they need to communicate effectively. Connect frequently to demonstrate caring with the competence to achieve results. So let me repeat the four C's of The leadership mandate for remote and hybrid leaders. They need to communicate effectively connect frequently to demonstrate carrying with the competence to achieve results. So I will leave you with that and look forward to you joining us on the next episode of the remote leadership podcast. And please visit our website again. That's www virtual works For additional information and resources, and remember to download our free mobile app just navigate to virtual works exclamation point, to keep critical virtual workplace information at your fingertips on your smartphone. Thanks for listening, and investing time to learn.