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Webinar: Leading From Anywhere: Coaching Leaders Of Remote Teams

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Webinar: Leading From Anywhere: Coaching Leaders Of Remote Teams

It’s undeniable that we’re entering a new era of remote work. While many leaders seek to run business as usual, why settle for the usual when remote teams allow us to work even better? The research shows that employees are more productive and engaged when they have the freedom to work from anywhere.

Which means leaders need the skills to lead from anywhere.

In this meticulously researched, refreshingly practical talk, top business thought leader David Burkus provides managers with a complete guide to leading remotely, packed with everyday examples and illuminating insights. Burkus tackles the key inflection points and challenges that remote managers face from taking the team remote and adding new members, to communicating effectively and quickly, managing performance, keeping the team engaged, and even helping them strike the right balance between work and life. This talk provides everything you’ll need to survive and thrive as the leader of a remote team—which is something all leaders will need to consider themselves from now on.

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Webinar Summary

 “You don’t send hundreds of millions of knowledge workers home for a year and then snap your fingers and say everyone come back, it's safe now.” – David Burkus

We are just past the one year anniversary of the ‘great working from home experiment’.

People from all over the world are at different stages of lockdown and/or remote work. There is also a realization that what we thought was temporary is probably not temporary. As David Burkus points out the remote work experiment is working,  

Culture is probably the number one complaint or concern from senior leaders and this concern stems from organizations of all sizes and industries. Leaders all worry about things that they assume happen in the office. They all worry about culture. Will their teams thrive remotely and engage people? 

What Makes for a Thriving Remote Team? 

This is something we need to focus on in 2021 and beyond as we realize that the flexibility people have had for a year now is here to stay. A couple of pre-Covid era studies, one on fully virtual teams and the other on co-located or virtual teams, uncovered three elements of a thriving remote team, especially their culture: Shared Understanding, Shared Identity and Psychological Safety.

Shared Understanding:

This is the extent to which members of the team have a commonly held perspective on the team's expertise, assigned tasks, context and preferences. The first level of shared understanding would be knowing each team member’s true knowledge, skills and abilities. Shared understanding also goes deeper than this, it is understanding people’s calendars, work preferences and probably most important, the context people are working in.

David Burkus has several ideas on ways coaches can help individuals or clients help their own team better implement shared understanding:

  • Virtual Office Tour – Taking your webcam and giving a client or team members a quick virtual tour of your office. This is a great way for everybody on a team to share context.
  • Work Sprints – Pairing together on a Zoom call where each person is focused on their own work but someone else is virtually there allowing for  social breaks. Burkus calls this a Pomodoro Technique named after an Italian tomato kitchen timer. The idea is that you have exactly 25 minutes so you can sprint focus on work then the timer goes off and you get a 5 minute break.
  • Office Hours – Designating a time every week where the client team leader will be available to the team so team members can approach the team leader with questions and whatever non-work related conversations they have there.  

Shared Identity:

If shared understanding was the 2020 problem, Burkus sees shared identity as a 2021 crisis. He fears that in 2021 there will be a tendency towards “us versus them” in the workplace, that most organizations have never experienced.  Burkus sees this arising from people coming back to the office at varying rates. Some employees want more flexibility and others prefer to return to their normal, pre-pandemic schedule.  We need to think of people working on a team as one team. 

As leaders coaching teams and as people coaching those leaders,building a sense of connection to each other matters tremendously.

Psychological Safety:

The extent to which team members express themselves and take risks.Psychological safety is marked by two elements in the culture: mutual respect and trust.

  • Trust – This is what someone feels before they speak up. They trust the group that they can be their whole self even if that means they are a little different.
  • Respect – This often comes after trust. Respect is how people respond to an environment of trust. It’s a lot harder to speak up in a Zoom call. Psychological safety on teams has actually plummeted over the past year in the shift to remote because it’s hard to build that sense.

Takeaways for Coaches:

  1. As company leaders worry about their “Culture” in this flexible work environment where no one is expected to be in the office but welcomed if they are, we as coaches have a unique role to play, helping to guide leaders in discovery to come up with ideas for solutions. 
  2. The three things we as coaches need to consider when coaching leaders of remote teams or any individual we are coaching and these include: shared understanding, shared identity and psychological safety with particular challenges of being remote.
  3. We as coaches can guide clients towards a shared understanding with their employees by introducing them to ideas like a virtual office tour, work sprints or setting virtual office hours. 

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