Creating Results Virtually

virtual workplaceThis post was co-written by my colleague, Stefanie Heiter of Bridging Distance. This is part one of a three part series.

In the emerging virtual workplace, do you miss the comfort of walking by an employee’s desk and feeling confident she or he is working hard and doing a good job? If you can’t see them working, do you wonder what they are really doing? Are you baffled by how to set expectations in terms of behaviors that will drive results when you are not working in the same place?

Today’s workplace is characterized by people working in dispersed locations, within matrixed structures, with colleagues from multiple functions – even multiple organizations. Gone are the days when high performance was assessed by how much time someone ‘put in’ at the office. We are less likely to be ‘going to work’ and more likely to be ‘working’. Technology affords 24/7 access from almost anywhere. ‘Do more with less’ is now a mantra heard across countless companies.

Despite these changes, managers are still expected to manage performance, regardless of location, time zone, function, or even language barriers, and often in the face of decreased budgets and reduced labor force. Successful managers have learned to overcome the challenges of virtual leadership, and move to results-based performance management. Here are two strategies successful virtual leaders use to create an effective results-based performance management approach. In our next two posts, we’ll provide four additional strategies.

1. Make intentional, regimented, consistent relationship building a priority. Create presence with employees by checking in (not checking on) frequently. Use more real-time technologies like telephone, instant messenger, chat, or text. When you check in, ask questions focused on getting to know their locations, resources that are needed, what else is happening, sharing information and decision-making whenever possible, and asking about their lives. Presence involves being available to people so they don’t have to make up reasons to be in contact.

2. Slow down to speed up. Take time upfront to define how you are going to stay in touch, share status, keep people in the loop, and when and how you will ‘meet’. Considerations here are protocols for high use technologies such as email (i.e., names in ‘to’ line means action required whereas ‘cc’ line means information only, when to ‘reply’ versus ‘reply to all’). It means agreements about when and when not to use technologies, defining who should be included and NOT included in particular categories of information and meetings.

Next week: Create a Game Plan

Announcing the launch of our new website!

We’re proud to announce the launch of our new website!

We’ve spent the past several months revamping the site to be:

Easier to navigate

More representative of who we are, what we do and how we do it

More informative about our services and programs
You can use the site to access information about our four service lines, specific programs and tools, and our BLOG!

Take a look around.

I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback.

Big News! My book “Getting Real: Strategies for Leadership In Today’s Resource-Constrained, Time-Strapped, Multi-TaskingWorld of Work” will be released soon. Stay tuned!

Let’s work together to make sure your company is ready to meet its challenges in 2014. Call me at 978.475.8424 or via email at

Creating Space for Innovation

Biogen Huddle 260 x 176There was an interesting article in the Boston Globe recently about my client, Biogen Idec’s, new space. It doesn’t have offices or cubes (finally, the death of the cube). It has open adaptive space, workstations connected to treadmills and huddle rooms for impromptu meetings. The hope for this radically different design is to drive innovation, speed and allow for more informal, unplanned communication.

Many, many companies are talking about how to drive innovation in the workplace. The design of physical space definitely plays a part. But, it only helps if people can free up mental space and time to take advantage of the space. There doesn’t seem to be enough of either in the world of work. In many of my client’s work environments; there is no time for informal, unplanned communication because people are scheduled into back to back meetings day after day after day. They have so many things on their ‘to do’ list and little time to prioritize so the focus is on getting them done but not on what if we did this instead? Or how can it be done better? Colleagues are unavailable because they are on the road or in other meetings.

If innovation is part of your company’s mantra these days, look at how you spend your days.

• Is there enough time for informal conversations that are spurred by an idea or new issue?
• Are there scheduled meetings that can be combined or don’t need to happen at all?
• How easy is it for me to get in touch with colleagues either in person or through technology?
• Have interactions become so formalized that there’s no time for what’s not on the agenda?

You may also want to think about bringing down a few cubicle walls.


Love vs. Fear, Making It Great and a Sense of Purpose

leadership and relationships
August is upon us, and our New England summer is winding down…

I decided to share other people’s thinking with you this week. Check these out:

Connect, then Lead. Stop leading with your strength. A growing body of research shows that influence — which is the heart of leadership — starts with warmth. Without trust, emphasizing strength leads to fear and compliance not engaged followership. For additional tips on establishing trust, check out my blog article on the trust equation.

7 Ways to Make the Rest of 2013 Amazing. Kevin Baum shares some additional thoughts on Finishing Strong in his blog for Inc.

‘Culture of Purpose’ Is Key To Success According To New Research From Deloitte. A new study from Deloitte shows that a culture of purpose is key to strong financial performance and…Companies aren’t doing enough to create a shared sense of purpose. Take a look at the full article on

The Story Stays the Same

man loves his job 396 x 260Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report has just been released. Here’s the highlights:

  • 30% of employees are engaged and inspired at work — up from 28% in 2010
  • 18% are actively disengaged
  • 52% are showing up

What drives engagement?

  • Job satisfaction – having a great boss, room to grow and job tasks that are stimulating
  • Workplace culture, especially those that encourage people to voice their opinions and work together.

Before you think about providing free lunches and massages on site, look at how you’re doing on the fundamentals. “If you don’t have those fundamentals, the perks aren’t going to fix it,” says Randy Allen, the associate dean of Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.. “You may keep them for a while, but at some point they’re going to leave.”

Enough said?

Strategy & Choice



I was recently having a conversation with someone about strategy. He noted that at the end of the day, strategy is simply about choice. As someone who does a lot of strategy work, I was taken by this elegant definition of strategy. A well-defined strategy should be an articulation of a choice you are making about how you will achieve your vision. It is also the choice of what you will not do to achieve your vision. It is saying yes to somethings and no to others.

It is also a guide for the choices you make about how to implement the strategy.  On a tactical level, it serves as the guidepost for the daily choices and decisions that get made about what to pursue, what products to introduce, who to hire and  promote and where offices should be located.  It can be a touchstone for difficult decisions, providing criteria for weighing your options.

choiceFor the strategy to play its important role in guiding choice, it needs to be widely
communicated and understood. It needs to be discussed on a regular basis so it is top of mind. Too many times I hear Directors or VP’s in large organizations that the strategy is not clear.  If they don’t know it, how can anyone else?


It’s Lonely at the Top

lonely at the topA common topic in my newsletters is about communicating effectively as a leader. Whether it be storytelling or positioning change, communication is a critical skill for someone who wants to lead others. A few years ago I contributed to an article about the challenges of CEO’s and loneliness at the top.

A big challenge for leaders is to have open communication from others. It can be tough for people to be open and honest with executives. They want an executive to perceive them as a great team player, as someone who has great ideas or as someone who is really getting the job done. This desire to be seen in a a positive light, can make it tough to bring up issues, frustrations, and the things that aren’t working.

This difficulty stems from some things that are inherent in any organization. The first and foremost is that the executive or manager makes determinations about others’ careers, salaries, performance ratings, job assignments, etc. Basically, there is a serious power imbalance. Others include lack of executive availability, personal reaction to less than great news, and the expectations you set for what you want people to talk about with you.

To lead effectively, you need to open the door for all kinds of communication. Think about the messages you are sending about how open and honest people can be with you. Then think about what you can do to let others know you want to hear it all — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Tell the Story

teamwork 660 x 330As you and your team are thinking about how to Finish Strong, take a lesson from Twitter to get them fired up.

If you use Twitter you know that you have 140 characters to tell your story. It forces you to really think about what you want to say and about how you’ll say it. To get your team to buy in to your Finish Strong projects you need to give them a compelling reason to join in the effort. You need to engage them in a story about why this is important. And, you need to make it short and sweet. You need to make the message simple and easy to remember so that when asked, each of your team members can share what the team is doing and why.

Finish Strong

Finish Strong Collage

A few weeks ago, I talked about spring cleaning your priorities. Now that you’ve cleaned them up, focus on finishing the year strong.

With summer approaching, many people are thinking about taking time off, having some fun, and relaxing a little. All these are important. Refilling the tank lets you finish the race. But a strong finish needs more than a full tank of gas. You also need a road map for keeping momentum going during the summer months and finishing strong.

Before summer hits, pull your team together and create your summer road map. Identify 2-4 items — short projects, processes that need to be updated, new customer relationships that need to grow — the team can focus on between now and Labor Day that will make a big impact on meeting your goals. Use them as development opportunities. Give your next generation talent a chance to develop their leadership skills. Help others expand their skill sets. Plan an end-of-summer celebration for after Labor Day. Celebrate the results. Discuss finishing strong. And, give everyone the chance to share vacation pictures.


thought leadership

On a regular basis, I take a look at what other thought leaders are saying about leadership, change, and work. Here are some great ones I’ve found recently.

Do you have someone interested in moving into a leadership position? Share this with them.

Turns out being likeable has more impact on being an effective leader than we may think. Click here to read more.

When you think you have leadership mastered, the world may change on you. Watch this TED talk with General Stanley McChrystal on listening, learning and then, leading.

Now that the economy is picking up, maybe you’re concerned about losing some of your best people. Avoid being dumped by your best employees. Read the full Forbes article here.