Greetings Women As CEOs or Other Female Leaders
Welcome to our 2nd edition of articles focused on helping people such as yourself who are responsible for the performance of others. Or for those interested in improving their own results.
These are real situations with real leaders and the real issues that they face. We've changed their identities to ensure anonymity. These lessons have already made a difference.
Our purpose is to provide women as CEOs with successful and proven strategies that you can use today to improve performance and results.
- Virtual workplace
- Formal, informal practices
- Sense of purpose, trust
- Traditional to virtual
- Communications tools
- Independent & Interdependent tasks
- Work processes
- Measurements, results
The End Result
Despite the challenges in managing business units with different locations, cultures and time zones she as well as other women as CEOs was able to make slow but steady progress using these 10 tips.
Turnover started to fall while productivity went up. Most importantly, the business unit started producing and became a key element in the company's growth strategies. She gained prominence as a strong and effective leader with significant upside potential in the c-suite.
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A client recently asked -
Gone are the days when women as CEOs supervised employees in just one location. Through advances in technology and telecommunications, employees are no longer required to work in an office to have access to the people, information and resources they need. They find a virtual workplace in a home office, a small branch office, or even in a hotel room as organizations set up a myriad of virtual locations to meet business and customer needs.
However, managing remote business units and virtual workers challenges even the best women as CEOs. In fact, results from data show this virtual leader/remote business unit relationship leaves many organizations dissatisfied. Why? It seems that the lack of face-to-face interaction between leaders and subordinates in these business units significantly impacts performance.
Do you have a performance problem with a remote business unit, division, team or employee? This situation was faced by one of clients recently. Due to reorganization she was given control of business units in other countries. These were based in Mexico, United States and Ireland. The result - deadlines began to slip, people started leaving and morale fell. Yet she was still responsible for the performance of these business units regardless of their location.
So how can women as CEOs effectively manage people, departments and business units that they rarely see? In our virtual workplace, leaders who are NOT effective at managing distant locations, tend to have an out of sight, out of mind management philosophy. And of course it's a lot easier to give assignments and depend on people who you see, can talk with and monitor their progress. But in this case since most of her team was not located at her location, she wound up depending on too few people and didn't get the required performance and results for her other locations
Her first response was to blame IT for the lack of technology and communications options."If I had better technology solutions I could manage those people more effectively." Our response: Wrong! Why? Because managing distant workers is only a little technology and a lot of explicit management interactions and connections. People thrive off interaction with others. It is our very nature to want to meet, play, and work with other people. These interactions teach us how to work in situations where we see and connect with each other. Traditional management development training focuses on how to manage people with face-to-face interactions. Virtual management, on the other hand, needs a different set of tools and training to be successful.
For five years we delivered a course on managing virtual or remote employees and business units at the Cornell University's Leadership Development Program in New York. Almost most every participant came in with a technology focus and then left with a focus on making better mental connections. Let's review how these ten tips can make a difference.
- Select the right employees and managers for virtual work. It's not for everyone. If you put a leader in charge of a remote business unit, do they have the skills to make it work? Leaders and employees who need structure and are easily distracted may not be the best candidates. Managers who focus on activities as opposed to results aren't the best choice either. Assess the people upfront rather than fixing a problem later on.
- "Culturize" the off-site business unit and virtual employee. Spend a lot of time at the start of the virtual relationship in face-to-face interaction with the new business group, division or employee. Make building trust and indoctrinating the focal point. Develop a strong orientation program that focuses on the culture, values, and philosophy of the company. Schedule ongoing face-to-face fun activities throughout the year to encourage team building and commitment.
- Formalize informal practices. Much of what people learn is accomplished in informal ways during a coffee break, by the watercolor, at lunch, etc. The lack of face-to-face interaction makes it hard to stay connected. Be very explicit about documenting your informal management and human resources practices and protocols. Celebrating a birthday? Be sure to include all off-site business units and employees in the celebration.
- Develop a strong sense of purpose and trust. Business units separated from their colleagues and leaders tend to feel isolated; thus making it harder to remain focused and committed to objectives. By developing and promoting a strong sense of purpose in everything you do, everyone at all locations can develop a greater sense of belonging which leads to higher satisfaction and performance. Purpose is the life-blood of any virtual group. Have it become your group's mantra.
- Build a strong information infrastructure. The most effective way to change an organization is to change the way it communicates and shares information. Organizations that do the best job of acquiring, retaining, developing, and managing information achieve a competitive advantage. Start by making information available anytime and anyplace. Then empower employees to use it. Improvements in information flow increase the speed of decisions, improve quality, and push decision-making down to the front-line customer-focused employees.
- Move from the traditional to virtual office. People come to work to interact with their colleagues, collaborate, share ideas, attend meetings, talk with customers, and work on projects. Using communication tools, all of these activities can be accomplished virtually. Put access to all information, such as forms, reports, etc., on-line and reduce the need to spend time in the office. Create a group "home" web site online as your place for meetings, discussions, and decisions and where everyone can "hang out", share and collaborate.
- Use a mix of communication tools. Face-to-face, texting, e-mails, web casts, telephone calls, faxes, teleconferences, memos, chat rooms, and discussion groups are just some of the strategies in the tool kit of the virtual leader. Experiment to determine which tool would be the most appropriate in a given situation. E-mail may be the most effective tool for sending out reminders, but try a different tool when you need to discipline and foster accountability. Develop protocols so that people with different preferences as to technology and communications tools, can still connect effectively.
- Create independent and interdependent group tasks. Clearly, autonomy and independence are important traits for off-site business units and workers. But to get independent units to work as a team, give them tasks and projects that can only be completed by having them depend on and work with each other.
- Redesign work around processes. Virtual work enables more employees and units to be deployed around the needs, processes, and requirements of the customer. Is the work that you are responsible for most effectively organized around the customer supply chain?
- Reward outcomes and results. The output and results of a virtual group performance is more important in achieving group objectives then evaluating time spent on activities. Not a difficult task provided you have an effective performance and measurement system, where the business unit leaders and employees help develop their goals and are held accountable for achieving them.