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  • The Art of Leading a Resilient Remote Team – Part 1

    Over the last few years, the traditional office landscape has undergone a seismic shift. Businesses are no longer bound by geographical constraints, embracing remote work's flexibility. However, this transition to a virtual environment presents its own unique set of challenges, particularly when it comes to leadership. As a leader, your responsibilities go beyond task management. You play a crucial role in fostering growth, nurturing talent, and building a cohesive team, especially in a remote work environment. By adhering to a few fundamental principles, you can empower your team to thrive while promoting collaboration and accountability. Modern Challenges of Leading Remote Teams Although remote work offers freedom and flexibility, it can also result in team members feeling isolated and disconnected. As a leader, it is crucial to proactively address these challenges and find effective solutions. Challenge 1: Communication One of the primary challenges encountered by remote leaders is bridging the communication gap. In a traditional office, collaboration thrives through face-to-face interaction and impromptu meetings. However, in a virtual environment, this endeavor becomes more daunting due to the scarcity of opportunities for spontaneous dialogues or quick check-ins. Challenge 2: Building Trust Establishing trust among team members can be more demanding in the absence of face-to-face interaction. Without the advantage of body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues, remote team members struggle to forge meaningful connections. Consequently, feelings of uncertainty and doubt often permeate the team. Challenge 3: Maintaining Productivity Remote work presents a paradox when it comes to productivity. While the elimination of commute and reduction of office distractions can potentially enhance productivity, the intrusion of home-life distractions, the lack of structure, and the blurred boundaries between personal and professional life can stifle it. Challenge 4: Cultivating Company Culture Company culture extends beyond physical spaces and social events - it's a shared set of values and beliefs that must be recognized regardless of geography. As the leader, you play a major role in upholding this culture remotely by always embodying its core principles. However, having the team spread out in different time zones and locations may make it difficult to create consistency. Stay tuned for part two next Wednesday. Author Bio Wildly addicted to all things leadership, Cecilia Gorman is a veteran of the advertising industry and the owner of Creative Talent Partners, a training consultancy that specializes in the development of rising managers and their teams. Whether it’s a team offsite, a manager workshop or through her online Manager Boot Camp course, Cecilia’s sole pursuit is adding value to growth-focused employees.

  • Loneliness: Alone Again—And Not Naturally.

    When Gilbert O’Sullivan sang these words in a depressing song "Alone Again" about being stood up at the altar, losing his father and mother, and feeling that God had forsaken him, I just wanted to cry for this guy. The year was 2006. Epidemic of Loneliness Fast forward and the word ALONE is more than a refrain from a song. Instead, with the research conducted by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Americans face an epidemic of loneliness. Loneliness is far more than just a feeling and its consequences are severe. Studies show that loneliness can lead to anxiety and depression, heart disease, dementia, and stroke. The prevailing wisdom is that loneliness is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness in the United States Nearly half of U.S. adults report experiencing loneliness. A 2021 study commissioned by Cigna HealthCare company found that 79% of people ages 18-24 reported feeling lonely. Certainly, COVID exacerbated the problem but loneliness among young adults has been increasing every year since 1976. But it’s not just this younger cohort. People are spending less time with friends and not participating in organizations or clubs—due in no small part to the way technology has moved people away from in-person contact. We Need Each Other We need each other because we are social animals, relying on each other for survival. But this disconnection is harming our ability to feel supported. And it can destroy trust—at the very time we need to come together. I really resonate with what Surgeon General Murthy published three months ago in the New York Times: “Addressing the crisis of loneliness and isolation is one of our generation’s greatest challenges. By building more connected lives and more connected communities, we can strengthen the foundation of our individual and collective well-being and we can be better poised to respond to the threats we are facing as a nation.” Connection is the foundation for resilience. What will it take for you, for me, to reach out to others? That’s my current goal.

  • Millennials—Are They Lazy Or—Maybe Smarter?

    The standard belief for those of us outside this age bracket is that if you work hard, it will pay off. Hard is define as long hours, multiple assignments, off-the-charts demonstration of productivity and profit. And with the push to return to the office, “hard” is also defined as allegiance to what senior managers want. However, in a recent Australian 60 Minutes segment, many millennials are having none of this. For good reason. It seems that the standard 40-hour week has gone to 60 hours and more. The promise of a “payoff” is mirrored by the cost to one’s family, health, AND happiness. Millennials Want Well-rounded Life In this segment, it’s clear that millennials want a life that is well-rounded (I refuse to use the word “balance” as I believe that’s a misnomer). I think they are on to something. Rather than face time, I’ve always thought that results mattered. Giving employees clearly defined outcomes and reasonable goals makes more sense than a place or a space. Micro-management is out and autonomy, appreciation, and achievement are in. Millennials' Work is Vocation-based While there are those management gurus who disagree (watch the segment highlighted above), I was fascinated by the sentiment expressed by Scott Farquhar, CEO of the software firm Atlassian. He shows up at the office about once every three months. “Their work is a vocation but not a location.” As we come off a Labor Day holiday here in the United States, it seems like a good thought to ponder. Your thoughts?

  • Resilience Is The Essence Of Being A BRAT!

    I never thought that being a brat was something positive. You know, the whiney, spoiled kid who wants her/his own way. But—as often happens—my pre-conceived notions were confounded when I heard a very different definition of BRAT as being the essence of resilience. Here’s the story: Tom Callister, a long-time friend and fellow speaker, announced to me that he was a brat! “I don’t think you are a brat, Tom,” I replied with enthusiasm. “I think you’re a really nice, kind guy. Opinionated but a nice guy. ” Tom went on to explain why he was a brat. His explanation prompted me to ask him to write the following: "Members of the US military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard) are typically required to move as part of the normal military reassignment of duty stations every 18 months to 3 years. For the spouses and children of military parents these required moves may be especially challenging as family members have to relocate to new towns and cities, foreign destinations, schools, places of worship and more. These changes require leaving old friends and known places behind and while trying to make new friends and acclimate to new environments. The dictionary defines "Brat" as a "humorous or derogatory term used to describe a badly behaving child or person." However, the term "brat" when used in a military context is more often an affectionate term used to describe the child or children of military parents. "Why?" you ask. Stay with me and I'll explain. As the child of a United States Naval officer, I personally experienced moving every few years with my parents as my father's duty stations were reassigned. That meant new schools and neighborhoods and trying to make friends in entirely new communities. Since most childhood friends had already been established among the "long term, local kids," as "the new kid on the block" I was rarely welcomed in the established "cliques" or "inner circles." That meant I was often on my own. The good news was that I had an understanding and supportive mother and father. As such, while I didn't clearly understand until I had grown up, if one is fortunate to have supportive and understanding parents, whether military or not, the term "BRAT" may more often mean that one can become "Brave, Resilient, Adaptable and Tenacious" - aka, a BRAT! Those are qualities that will serve anyone well throughout their life. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks to your support, I am proud to be a "BRAT.” And thanks, Tom. You are brave, resilient, adaptable, and tenacious. A GREAT BRAT!

  • Think You “Have It Made”? Beware the Trap of Success Arrival Fallacy!

    I just returned from attending the annual conference of the National Speakers Association. The culmination of this 3-day event is the naming of five speakers to the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, the highest designation in my profession. Consider this the Academy Award for speaking. And once you have it—you have it made? Right? Not. How well I remember the thrill and the accolades when I received this honor years ago. Surely organizations, associations and major corporations would come flooding to my door. I could stop all the constant improvement of my web site, the continual reworking of speeches, the honing of storytelling, and the flying in economy. I could easily have fallen into the “success arrival fallacy”. And frankly, there are days, I wish I did. What is Success Arrival Fallacy? In his book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment,” Harvard psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar coined the term arrival fallacy after experiencing its effects as a young elite squash player. “I thought if I win this tournament that then I’ll be happy,” he said. “And I won, and I was happy. And then the same stress and pressure and emptiness returned.” He defines the arrival fallacy as: “The false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness.” He says, “Arrival fallacy is this illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.” Just as Ben-Shahar realized, there are negative impacts in thinking you have reached the pinnacle of achievement. Stagnation, limited ambition, and disappointment can lead to disillusionment and unhappiness. One can miss the joy of the journey while only focusing on the end instead of the process. Resilience Requires a Growth Mindset and Appreciation of Present Moment As I write this, please know that I am also talking to myself. As I age, I am acutely aware of the desire and imperative to constantly evolve, to see this as a lifelong endeavor, and to challenge myself with new goals. Some days I am good at this and other days, I stink. It is an effort to be mindful, to practice gratitude, and to find joy in the moment. I don’t have to excel in something—I just must experience it and find what it teaches me. Where do you find yourself in this “success-crazed” world? I’d love to know.

  • Bullies Belong in Bull Pens—Not Cubicles

    It's not my imagination: we've become far too accepting of bullies at work. Bullying behavior is on the rise and it's not just on the playground but in workplaces. Look around. Have you noticed some certifiable bullies? These are folks who constantly demean, ridicule, put down, or purposely ignore those with less "power" than they have. And it's tolerated. One health care organization told me of a physician who regularly, verbally assaults nurses and interns. A vice president in a development company uses the silent treatment as a way of telling an employee that she's a non-entity, even going so far as to threaten staff if they speak to this employee! A law firm keeps a rain maker despite the fact he eats colleagues and administrative assistants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Avoid Making Bullies Heroes We've made heroes of other bullies, even tolerating bullying-like behavior, in some folks who represent the United States. Sadly, behavior ignored is behavior endorsed. Complacency equals complicity. The organization and its leaders develop a reputation for arrogance and insensitivity. It makes little sense. Getting and keeping good talent is one of the top two worries of CEOs. Who wants to work with bullies? Research also indicates that performance and productivity actually increase when bullies are eliminated. Here’s where to start: Create a NO BULLY rule and mean it. Confront bully behavior as soon as it happens. Train everyone how to identify bully behavior and how to react, respond, and report. Look yourself in the eye and ask for honest feedback. We all carry some of the bullying gene inside of us. PS: And if stuck, read Sam Horn’s newest book: Talking on Eggshells: Soft Skills for Hard Conversations.

  • Tap into the Magic of Merlin

    Not the Merlin of King Arthur legends, but rather the free Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell School of Ornithology. Yes: BIRDS! In our crazy-paced, far-too-angry world, there’s a great calm to becoming quiet and watching and listening for birds. I discovered this magic a few weeks ago when I spoke in Ohio and stayed with a dear friend in Cincinnati. Living in Southern California I had forgotten the summer magic of immense oaks, maples, elms, and chestnuts. I had forgotten the incredible array of bird songs that often came sight unseen from the thick green branches. Opening the Merlin app and selecting sound recording, I discovered the music of the tufted titmouse, chimney swift, cedar waxwing, and the Carolina wren. I already could identify the mourning dove, the house sparrow, the robin, the downy woodpecker, and the song sparrow. But I had forgotten the brilliant flash of the cardinal and how perky were robins with their red breasts. Thankfully, I did not need Merlin to identify the tiny hummingbird nest in our staghorn fern. The construction of these tiny nests defies an architect. What a joy to tiptoe out each day and watch an egg, no bigger than a pea, expand, break and then slowly over time, Anna’s hummingbird literally outgrew the nest and zoomed off to a new life. Bird songs. Bird colors. Summer nests. I think this avian life offers small respites that can refresh and renew the soul.

  • Broken Can Be Fixed

    Walking past a neighbor’s house the other day, I noticed a rose bud that had almost been snapped off. I grabbed it and brought it home. I trimmed off the damaged stem and put it in water. Look at the results! Its fragrance filled the room. I realized the lesson from the broken rose. Broken people can be fixed, much like a little rose bud, almost disconnected from the rest. Imagine if we would rescue that person, help bind or discard what was wounded and then put in a place of nurturing? Powerful metaphor. Much to think about.

  • June Is Graduation Month

    June is graduation month—but what if you can't afford to go to school??? How do you get scholarships? What if the school was based on a philosophy of bringing students from around the world to live in community for their last two years of high school? What if the course of study also involved sustainability, social justice, the arts, as well as rigorous courses to get an international baccalaureate degree? That’s something few high schools rarely offer. This is what United World College is all about. United World College Costa Rica is one of 18 campuses around the world. But it is unique in having an amazing board and a record of attracting like the van Otterloos. Start off June inspired as to what is possible.

  • From Sick To Well. Sea Lions Return Home.

    Last Saturday, about 50 of us gathered at 7:00 am on Dana Strand. I only knew my daughter—a volunteer at the Pacific Marine Wildlife Center—in Laguna Beach. She had told me about the wonderful staff and volunteers. I had read about the work of this non-profit center to rescue and rehabilitate ocean mammals, offer educational programs, and advocate for a healthy ocean. Now I wanted to see it for myself. Today four of these amazing creatures were going to be released after being treated for illness and malnourishment. Sadly, almost all sick ocean mammals are the result of human actions from a depletion of food through climate change to entanglement in nets, to gunshot wounds! An early morning hush settled over us as the cages were lifted from the back of a truck and placed on the sand. Staff formed a barricade with plastic fences to shepherd this group back into the ocean. The four pinnipeds huddled together for a moment and then, collectively, made a beeline for the waves. Once the four heads could be seen swimming into the waves, the crowd broke into shouts of joy. I cried. My thoughts as we start into the 2nd quarter of 2023: First, how wonderful to see the care and concern for saving the lives of these mammals. To cheer their return to a functioning life was heartwarming. My second thought: what would it take for us to care for the those among us who are wounded, malnourished, and scared? Somehow, it’s easier with a creature that can’t talk and that does not look like us. This certainly has my brain pondering and looking for opportunities… we are all part of the animal kingdom. I would like to serve both the two-legged and the four-flippered.

  • Four Top Tips For Resilient Relationships (With Teams And With Customers)

    In the blur of limited Twitter feeds and IMs, relationships can become short-changed through shorthand communication. Want to improve relationships so that they are sustained? Use these tips. Forget ad copy. Use real language. A headline and catchy phrases only go so far. Write and speak what you really mean in plain words. No jargon allowed. Use symbolic gestures instead of words. Example: The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has a huge goal of eradicating childhood cancer. One of their primary fundraising efforts is head shaving. They raise money by asking people to donate and you will have your head shaved! When a team leader wanted to get the point across that internal dissension was killing team results, he wrapped a yellow “crime scene” tape around all the desks and then asked the question—“what do we need to do to stop this from happening.” Powerful. Try storytelling instead of telling. Data and facts are dry and without life. Tell the story about what happens when someone uses your product. Tell the story about how you felt when someone gave you positive feedback. Remember, facts tell but emotion sells. Paint a picture. And if you have a challenge with storytelling, I can help. Practice dialogue instead of discussion. Discussion gets its root word from the same place as percussion: “To beat upon”. Dialogue means to engage in an informal exchange of ideas. Seek to understand what your team member says, what the client wants, what your spouse asks. “Please tell me more,” is a great way to open up dialogue and look for common points. Remember, talk is NOT cheap. It IS priceless.

  • When confronted by Hate and Violence…

    My dear friend and soul sister Marilyn Semonick writes a weekly column called Wednesday Wisdom. Always Short. Pithy. Pertinent. Profound. Here is one of her more recent pieces of wisdom. I have put her thoughts in italics. Howard Zinn wrote, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train”. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. My challenge for myself—for all my readers –is this: what action of kindness and compassion will I do today? Better still, how many actions can I do today? The spontaneity of kindness can indeed be nurtured. Care to join me?

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