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Maintaining the morale and efficient collaboration of remote teammates requires its own strategy

Depending on when you read this, the Coronavirus pandemic is either still raging, or – hopefully! – has finally been brought under control. Either way, a huge work culture shift is upon us, as remote working is prioritised, given the infection risks associated with being co-located in the same office.

But, despite the conveniences, e.g. no longer needing to fight traffic to and from an external workplace, or the flexibility to oversee important family responsibilities when needed, it’s still a challenge to keep up the morale and foster person-to-person connections of teams who work remotely.

As solo operators, introverts are the best suited to being productive without the in-person feedback and interaction with colleagues.

Ambiverts (halfway between introverts and the people-oriented extroverts) are also able to adjust to working geographically apart from colleagues – as long as they get opportunities for ‘social’ moments.

Extroverts suffer the most from the remote working set-up, as they really thrive on the banter and in-person synergies with colleagues.

So, how do we ensure that the motivation and alignment with team goals and overall mission are kept healthy while working together remotely? The following six suggestions will get you on the right track.

  1. Be attentive in video interactions: we’ll be hearing a lot about the ins and outs of video-conferencing software like Zoom and GoToMeeting over this period. And until we fully enter the era of Virtual Reality work spaces, video will be the closest we’ll have to viewing and responding to our colleagues’ gestures, body language, tone of voice and individual mode of expression, in real time. When holding video group meetings, bring all of your attention to your team mates – not just regarding what they say, but – just as you would if they were with you – read their body language, facial expression, engagement, comfort and preparedness in participating in the discussion.
  2. Use tech to make team meetings more dynamic: people learn and absorb and engage material much more deeply when it is offered to them in diverse forms. So make the most of your conferencing software’s capacity to share links, images, videos, slides and audio with your team during meetings. Engagement leads to positive meetings, which then leads to motivated and connected teams. However, to avoid drifting off topic by over-use of external elements, prepare for such meetings as you would for an in-person meeting, and share only what ADDS, but doesn’t DEVIATE from the main agenda of the meeting.
  3. Adopt a communication strategy or a work-life strategy that plays to your teammates’ personality traits: If they’re more introverted, they’re going to need more time alone to process tasks and ideas alone – and you’ll need to be aware of their boundaries and extra need for solo, uninterrupted work. Ambiverts and extroverts will require check-ins where they can invite feedback on their workflow or share important discoveries – or simply soothe themselves after a difficult work phase.
  4. Allow non-work-related interactions: These are opportunities to get to know your teammates in their ‘natural’ environments, to bond and build trust. Of course, these have to boundaries so that they do not catch teammates off guard, or interrupt their workflow. A live-streamed tour of a co-worker’s home, for example, will likely be an unwelcome interruption, but a simple ‘hello’ from a coworker’s partner or child, or, depending on time constraints, a few minutes ‘warming up’ to a meeting by sharing thoughts on a hobby or a TV show, is fine. Obviously, the work you do together is the priority, but appropriate moments of non-work-related interactions will go a long way to keeping collaborations human.
  5. Schedule social ‘check-ins’: These serve as a substitute to the banter of chatting in the office kitchen or knocking on a colleague’s door or stopping by their desk for a friendly encounter during the lunch break. Schedule get-togethers – e.g. weekly or monthly – and invite teammates to share where they are at, both in terms of immediate work targets, but also more generally in terms of their personal well-being, family and life.
  6. Strategically match tasks and form of communication: Keep your free-form, brain-storming for video calls. Use instant chats for questions that can yield a brief, practical answer. Discussions of complicated issues that require a lot of links, slides, images, etc. should be handled over an email – preferably using bullets to clearly organise the data you’re sharing. People management interactions that touch on sensitive issues, are best tackled via a phone-call, where privacy and individualised attention can be maximised. One of the perks of working from home is you can agree, as a team, the hierarchy and task-fit for all possible ways of communicating. Respecting and helping preserve your teammates’ workflow and focus, goes a long way to preserving morale, trust and performance.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

GenZ young person

Digital natives, anxious, money-conscious. Private, diversity-oriented, crisis-aware.

These are all words that could describe Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, iGen or Homelanders, born after 1997, according to the Pew Research Center.

While much of this blog is dedicated to Generation Y, aka Millennials, (born between 1981-96), the conversation in work culture, Human Resources and Management circles has become increasingly about Gen Z as well. Which makes sense when you consider that members of this generational cohort are entering the job market, bringing with them their own distinct values, traits, preferences and fears.

But beyond a fresh presence to consider in the educational and professional context, who are Gen Z, really?

One answer for those of us who are parents, teachers, recruiters and managers, is that Gen Z are today’s teens, students and young adults. In other words… individuals preparing for, or beginning the journey of life beyond the boundaries of school, and navigating the countdown or entry into adult life. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z do not remember a world without the internet and are dependent on their smart devices to be able to feel safe and capable of navigating their world.

The longer answer, according to veteran youth mentor and author Tim Elmore, is that they are young people whose characteristics include:

  1. Chronic sleeplessness
  2. Raised anxiety and depression
  3. Poorer memories
  4. Diminished attention spans
  5. Increased impulsive behaviour

And who could blame them? They have been born into a world facing a multitude of escalating global crises, from climate change to international acts of terrorism, all while the relentless 24/7 cycle of social media distracts, confuses and undermines their mental health and self-esteem.

They’ve also watched Millennials struggle with debt and unemployment and are far less willing to take on student loans – even if it means bypassing university studies, and unlike Gen Y, Gen Z are hiding, not sharing information, in the form of short-lived Snapchat posts and carefully curated, fake Instagram or ‘finsta’ accounts.

Gen Z are also more individualistic and guarded than their team-loving, collaboration-friendly Millennial predecessors. The open-plan Gen Y offices don’t suit Gen Z – they want their own, clearly delineated work areas with effective boundaries for privacy.

But similar to Millennials, their ease with technology means they are at home multitasking on several devices at once (although their person-to-person communication skills are definitely in need of a boost).

Nevertheless, like the optimistically disruptive Gen Y, Generation Z are also entrepreneurial and want to play a role in tackling the problems threatening to overwhelm the planet (environmental activist Greta Thunberg is a member of Gen Z). And they’re hungry for mentoring and supportive leadership from adults – whether at school, college (if they take the financial decision to attend) or in the workplace.

Keeping Gen Z engaged, motivated and on track as parents, educators and employers is therefore a considerable puzzle and challenge… but one definitely worth tackling as these talented young people step into the picture.

Ultimately, on their young shoulders rests the fate of our species, and our survival in a future where much is changing rapidly and is unknown.

I will continue to explore Gen Z’s unique traits and perspective in future posts, but for now, I firmly believe it is our duty to support and not obstruct this generation in expressing their highest potential, and join with them to face the global challenges that have marked their coming of age.

Learn more about my teen mentoring services here.

When it comes to managing others, there are so many factors that can influence whether or not workplace teams fail or succeed.

Each group has its own dynamic, its own character, its own preferences and strengths, dislikes and weaknesses.

Change one person in the line-up, and you can dramatically amplify or diminish the self-belief or confidence of the individual members.

Place them in a new environment or set them unfamiliar expectations or responsibilities… and the transition can either inspire or oppress, delight or provoke them.

Nevertheless, in the nearly two decades I have spent as a corporate trainer, I have learned that managing teams to express their optimal performance comes down to four critical keys.

1. Getting communication right

Teams are made up of people, and people have their own personal aspirations and individual concerns, pressures and fears. A manager has to make the time to check in and communicate with those who will be looking to him/her for direction, motivation and feedback.

Funnily enough, effective team-related communication is not just about a manager asking the right questions and listening attentively to responses… it’s also about timing. Knowing when to ask the right questions, is as important as knowing which questions to ask.

A crisis is hardly going to be the ideal time to learn about a teammate’s background, or their more personal or family circumstances. Conversely, when things are going smoothly, not inviting team members to share their professional opinions and suggestions, is a squandered opportunity for effective, team-boosting communication.

Establishing good channels of communication, and making it safe to share views and show up authentically at work, is a vital component for the health, unity and impact of a team.

2. Aligning company vision and purpose

Does a team believe their organisation is setting the right goals? Do they feel its purpose and vision are aligned?

Noone wants to work for a company that, deep down, they believe is failing to live up to, or is out of touch, with what it says it wants to accomplish.

There are those who believe that the only things employees should care about are a steady pay cheque and a stable job position. But this is a cynical and very short-sighted perspective, and produces teams who fall apart at the first sign of crisis or disagreement, or whose members simply disappear when a financially more attractive offer comes along.

In order to get the best from its people, an organisation has to continually challenge itself to ensure that what it says it stands for, is being expressed in the goals and initiatives – i.e. the purpose – that it professionally undertakes.

And managers must rely on effective communication, to ensure that awareness of such alignment reaches their team.

3. Aligning company’s and employees’ goals

This also works the other way.

A manager who has taken the time to discover each team member’s dreams and aspirations, must also demonstrate how the company’s goals are aligned with, and serve to advance, each individual’s own personal targets.

The performance momentum that this builds in terms of team members’ goodwill, focus and willingness to invest individual energy and creativity and stamina – often outside of their ‘official’ responsibilities – is immeasurable.

And finally…

4. Maintaining organisational transparency

This is, perhaps the biggest hurdle to ensuring the unity and high performance of teams.

Large, long-established organisations often have a culture of secrecy baked into their structures, and the higher one rises up the ranks, the greater the ’emotional’ distance between the leadership and employees.

Just as people prefer to work with companies that have integrity, and whose initiatives, practices and stated vision all line up… they also prefer to be employed by organisations where they feel confident they know where they stand, and where the ‘higher ups’ don’t seem to be distant or making unspoken ‘deals’ or taking covert decisions about their future.

The other side of this is that people need to feel like their input and suggestions matter, and in work cultures where the leadership is on a metaphorical ‘mountain of Olympus’ while the employees are framed as powerless, insignificant cogs in a machine… resentment, mutiny and abandonment for better opportunities will be unrelenting dangers, undermining the cohesion and high performance of a team.

Managing isn’t an easy task, and getting the best out of people of varying backgrounds, abilities and aspirations is one of the hardest responsibilities to undertake.

Nevertheless, applying the four keys mentioned, over time, and with patience, persistence and dedication, will yield a team that is empowered, inspired and motivated to give its best not just when things are easy, but, even – and perhaps especially – when times are hard.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

You know what you never see in a James Bond movie? Go ahead, suggest something.

No, it’s not the beautiful ladies and glamorous hotels. And it’s not the futuristic cars and weapons.

It’s not even the smartest, most cutting-edge gadgets and inventions that save the secret serviceman’s life, mission after mission.

Give up?

I’ll tell you. The answer is… you never see Bond solve problems, build alliances, defuse crises and argue, defend, motivate or inspire… using the spoken power of his words.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably smiling by now. After all, nobody goes to a Bond film to see our British spy hero save the day by giving speeches…

And yet, dive into everyday work life… and the power of clearly structured, attractively-presented and audience-tailored speeches and presentations is both obvious, and obviously significant to any corporate team.

Whatever department you’re in, whether you’re dealing everyday with customers, managing teams and operations, or behind the scenes, taking care of HR, compliance or R & D… what you say to others, how you say it and your ability to connect with listeners while you’re saying it… matters.

It can be the difference between sealing an important deal, or losing an account.

Persuading a talented team member not to hand in their resignation, or see them join a competitor.

Taking charge of a crisis and motivating an out-of-the-box response… or allowing a problem escalate out of control.

The truth is, in our everyday lives, the fate of the world may not rely on us… but the fate of our business, and our key business relationships with customers and colleagues – surely does.

Which is why, after being brought in as a consultant to help companies put out the fires of miscommunication and lack of customer retention over almost two decades… I created my training programme: ‘Public Speaking: How to Educate, Inspire & Motivate Your Audience’.

And when I say ‘audience’ I don’t just mean those you find in boardrooms or at industry exhibitions, but also those at other, less official, yet professionally significant times, too – such as at team meetings, brainstorms and debriefings.

Over two dynamic days, working in groups as well as one-on-one with me, participants in the ‘Public Speaking: How to Educate, Inspire & Motivate Your Audience’ workshop:

  • learn the elements of effective public speaking,
  • understand the critical audience research needed before preparing a presentation
  • analyse the pros and cons of the most important types of presentation
  • deliver on-camera speeches on a variety of topics
  • receive immediate feedback on their progress and shortfalls
  • study enhanced audience engagement strategies
  • practise body language and vocal techniques
  • receive a step-by-step blueprint eliminating all the guesswork from writing a presentation

The ‘Public Speaking: How to Educate, Inspire & Motivate Your Audience’ workshop is always fast-paced, hands-on, focused yet compassionate, and takes everyone – myself included – to new depths of self-awareness and appreciation for work relationships and professional opportunities.

Ultimately, public speaking… the ability to present ideas clearly and confidently to a specific, well-researched audience, in a way that demonstrates respect for their attention and belief in our purpose… is the secret weapon every corporate team can use to enhance their work culture and maximise the value offered to customers.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/