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The Virtual Team Challenge for Leaders

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Many leaders are now faced with leading a virtual team for the first time. In this episode a panel of DDI leadership experts share practical advice for doing it right. (Episode 20)

A 480 PODCAST

The Virtual Team Challenge for Leaders

16 minutes | 4/1/2020

00:00:00 00:00

Many leaders are now faced with leading a virtual team for the first time. In this episode a panel of DDI leadership experts share practical advice for leading virtually, keeping a team engaged, and dealing with technology. (Episode 20)

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Transcript

Ryan Heinl:

One of my favorite quotes from William Gibson, who wrote Neuromancer, is, "The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed." I think that's very true in this case. We've had all the tech we've needed to actually work really well virtually for a long time.

Craig Irons:

Welcome to the Leadership 480 Podcast. My named is Craig Irons. Usually, when we record an episode of the podcast, it's usually beside the point what day it is that we are recording. Today, I'm going to mention that today happens to be Tuesday, March 24th. As we are recording this episode, millions of Americans are either being encouraged to or required to stay home. As a result, they're having to work from home. Many of these folks are working from home for the first time. That means that leaders are having to lead teams virtually sometimes for the first time as well. It's truly an area of uncharted territory for everyone, and we don't know how much longer this era is going to last. It's certainly an unusual time for all of us. To talk about leading virtually, which will probably become a new normal for a lot of leaders, even leaders who are having to do it for the first time, but to talk about this topic today, we have a terrific panel. We have Ryan Heinl, who is director of DDI Innovation Labs. LeAnn McCrum, manager of business development for DDI, and we also have Livia Macedo, a senior consultant for DDI. Welcome to all of you and thanks for joining me today virtually.

Ryan Heinl:

Glad to be here.

LeAnn McCrum:

Hi, Craig.

Craig Irons:

Let's dive right into this. LeAnn, let's start with you. What is it that makes leading a virtual team so much more challenging than leading a team that's all in the same location.

LeAnn McCrum:

Well, I've spent most of my career leading virtually. Way back when I did lead a team that was co-located, the way I'd like to think about leading is in terms of personal and practical needs. I think that the way that a leader addresses a team member's personal and practical needs differs, whether you are co-located or you're virtual. I think when you are co-located, personal needs especially become met not only by you, but by peers and other people that your team members come into contact with. When you're leading a virtual team, obviously most of your team members are isolated. They come to rely much more on you for meeting their personal needs. A lot of times, if a leader doesn't pay attention to that, those personal needs can go unaddressed. I think a leader really needs to guard against things like isolationism. The feeling of being lonely, the feeling of ... It's especially hard to get them engaged. Now, under the recent circumstances, there are some additional challenges where the issue may not be loneliness. It may be, "How do I manage all of the people that are now in my home all the time?" There are some additional challenges, like managing family. At the same time, you're trying to work. I think managing the personal needs is especially challenging in a virtual environment.

Craig Irons:

Livia, do you have something to add to that?

Livia Macedo:

I do. I've been in both ends of it. Also, as a team member who was remote, and then being a leader who had a remote team. The flip for me was that once I became a virtual leader, it was very clear that I was working for my team instead of with or they worked for me. What LeAnn just said, as far as you're very attuned to where your direct reports are as far as feeling engaged, feeling connected, feeling included, it became a hyperfocus for me once I became a virtual leader.

Craig Irons:

Ryan, let me start by asking you. What do you think are some common misperceptions that people have about leading virtually?

Ryan Heinl:

That's a good one. I think there's a bunch. If you ask people on your team where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond "the office". If they say that, they usually will add on something like, "Well, I'll go into the office usually really early, or I'll stay late," or something like that. What they mean is they can't get work done at the office. That's really what that means. The reason is that you're constantly interrupted at the office. There's a bunch of studies out there that show that it takes about 20 minutes to get fully focused on dealing with a complex problem or task. The minute someone pops their head into your office or cube and interrupts you, you basically have to start all over again. I think the thought that work really is more productive in the office is a common misconception that people really have. Truly meaningful, creative, thoughtful work requires blocks of uninterrupted time. That's probably a little bit hard to get right now, to LeAnn's point just a minute ago. Typically when you're working from home, that is something that you are able to get in high quantities.

Ryan Heinl:

It's critical for my team's work because we're doing a lot of innovative work where we're trying to deal with a lot of complex problems. I think it's probably the same for most information workers out there. Leading virtually actually creates a lot of focus for you and your team. I think it's a misconception that it's actually harder to get done work when you're leading a virtual team.

Craig Irons:

LeAnn, do you have something to add there?

LeAnn McCrum:

The only thing I would add, is that I think coming into it, especially if you're new at leading virtual, there's a mindset that all of my team members are going to adapt the same way. Or, they're going to work the same way. Or, they're going to work the same hours. What I think, to your point Ryan, to inspire creativity and most productive time of the day, different team members will adapt differently, and their work will look different. As a leader, you can't expect that everybody's going to work at home in the same way. As opposed to the office, where everybody comes in about the same time, goes home about the same time. There's some common expectations that you have when folks are in the office.

Craig Irons:

Livia, let's talk a bit about the skills that leaders need to have in order to lead effectively when their teams are virtual. You say you've been on both sides of it, so you have a pretty good take on both what you've needed to do as a leader, and also what you expected from your leaders when you were working remote. What do some of those skills look like, and which ones are the most important for leaders?

Livia Macedo:

Thank you. I think it's important to prioritize because a lot of the focus, especially being a first time virtual leader, it's the obvious. How do you manage time? How do you become tech comfortable, or become more tech savvy? How do you have focus, as far as what are the priorities for your team that week, that quarter, that month, et cetera. [inaudible] put that aside, I think that real deal breakers from moving from traditional leader environments, when you have your office and you have high contact with people face-to-face, from doing that virtually, is your ability to do three things. First of all how do you continue to build trusting relationships with people by connecting to that personal needs? Also, how do you involve them throughout the process of decision making and problem solving? The second point is communication. Communicating, and I speak ... English is my second language, which puts a new cultural lens to the whole thing. Communication I thought would be my main barrier. It is in the beginning, but once you become familiar and you follow a structure, the communication, it becomes a strength for you. You will grow as a virtual leader.

Livia Macedo:

Then, the third thing is how do you build this culture of community, this sense of community, by creating visible channels where the individual is connected to what the organization is doing. I'm connected with my peers, and then I'm connected with my direct reports. You being an enabler and a creator of that visibility, that sense of connectiveness, is really important. Three things.

Craig Irons:

Ryan or LeAnn, anything you would add?

Ryan Heinl:

I think the number one thing I would say is just really being clear about expectations and objectives for each person. Then, really being there to support them with achieving those things, just because you don't have as much opportunity to monitor what people are doing. You don't have the casual opportunities to run in them and chat about how their day is going and things like that. Oftentimes, everybody is trying to get things done on their own, obviously, more. Just being really clear about what "done" looks like and what performance needs to look like is probably the number one most critical thing. I think shortly after that is, as a leader, just making sure people have what they need to get those things done. I think that follows on with what Livia was saying a little bit as well.

LeAnn McCrum:

The only thing I would add to it is as a virtual leader, you can't ignore your own needs. What I find is you're constantly giving. To your point, Livia, you're constantly trying to think about, "How do I serve my team?" You have to get the same from somewhere. One of the things that I find really helpful, and I have through my career, is I have always had a coach. Somebody that I can go to to feel connected, to have that trusting relationship. The other thing that I think is really important as a virtual leader, is that you build your own network of partners and others in the organization that you really rely on. You've got to get your personal needs met before you can be at a point where you can give to others.

Ryan Heinl:

Staying on that point, LeAnn, you mentioned the value of having a coach. You're someone who you've led a team virtually for a long time. How did you learn to become an effective virtual leader? Did you get some coaching? Was some of it just plain old trial and error? Or, did you get some good advice along the way? As people are thinking about how they get better at this, what would you tell them based on your experience?

LeAnn McCrum:

Mine is a combination of, I would say, formal training, coaching, and then trial and error. If you're going to lead virtually, it's important that you have the foundational leadership skills, because the requirement for them is going to be amplified in a virtual setting. If you think about all of the skills that leaders learn that are core, coaching, having tough conversations, how to engage people, how to onboard people. All of those foundational skills are really important. I found myself having to go back and revisit some of the core and bring to the forefront things that, when I'm in an office setting, might not come to mind or I do more naturally. That's one thing. The second, and I think the most important, lesson for me when it came to better is feedback. In my team, we have a feedback culture. I ask for feedback and my team members will tell me when things are working or when things are not. I give feedback to team members. It's an expectation. That's the way that not only I get better as a leader, but our team gets better collectively in this virtual environment.

Craig Irons:

Livia, what about you? How did you build your skills as a virtual leader?

Livia Macedo:

I would say for me, try and error came before coaching. I soon realized that coaching was going to accelerate my own learning curve, becoming a more effective virtual leader. My tendency, coming from more of a technical background, was to do more [inaudible] seeking and become the expert versus the supporter and the leader. Coaching really helped me balance the airtime and the calls. Sometimes, you leave the call thinking you did great. Then, the feedback, to LeAnn's point, really keep you in check. What are the small things you can start doing to increase the quality of the meetings and the engagements you have virtually? Feedback [crosstalk 00:14:25].

Craig Irons:

Ryan, what about you?

Ryan Heinl:

I don't have a ton to add. I'd maybe just put a fine point on one thing LeAnn said, which was just about being more deliberate about how you apply coaching and some of the core leadership skills in a virtual environment. It goes back to what I said earlier about not having those informal, I-bumped-into-someone-on-my-team-or-they-popped-their-head-into-my-office opportunities that you would get with in-person. I think as a remote leader, you need to be more deliberate about, "When was the last time I had a coaching conversation with this or that person on my team?" Or, thinking more deliberately about how each person on the team might be doing, what they might be wrestling with. I spend a tremendous amount of my time doing that and thinking about how I can apply some of those leadership skills in that situation.

Craig Irons:

You know what interesting for I think a lot of people now ... I'm encountering this because I'm into week two of working from home, which is not something I have done a whole lot of, or even thought I would really enjoy. I'm adapting. There've been some surprises along the way. That's especially true, I'm sure, when you find yourself having to lead remotely for the first time. Livia, what surprised you the most about the experience of being a virtual leader?

Livia Macedo:

First of all, the tremendous amount of time that it saved me. Not commuting or being distracted in the office, or having to re-engage with my work, and having to work later hours because I couldn't get my work done in the office. Leading virtually gives you the power and the control to make the day whatever you want. Sometimes, you need more of that thinking time. That's one thing. The second thing is I was surprised how I was able to be myself, more spontaneous, in a second language in virtual environment when I really master facilitating meetings. That was, for me, a dealbreaker.

Craig Irons:

Ryan, what about you?

Ryan Heinl:

I think the biggest thing was that I just spend a lot of my time making sure people on my team have access to the information and the resources that they need. I think that just when you're operating in a virtual environment, it's a much higher empowerment environment and it's forced upon you. Whether you want to have a high empowerment team or not, you're going to have to have that because you just can't be there all the time. It's a big shift to just, "How can I make sure that everybody has what they need?" I spend a ton of time thinking about that and a ton of time working on that. Making sure that they can get access to the systems, get access to the people. LeAnn talked about leveraging your network. I do a lot to leverage my network for my team as well. It's all about removing barriers, I think, and making sure ... Once you have those clear expectations set, how do you remove as many barriers as possible when they pop up.

Craig Irons:

LeAnn, what about you? What surprised you most?

LeAnn McCrum:

Well, I've been a virtual leader for a long time, but I do have an "aha" and something that surprised me beyond measure. I was having a call with our European general manager at the beginning of December. I had several calls in a row with him. One of the things that I noticed about him and his team was that every time we jumped on a call, everybody was on video. For years, I've been holding virtual meetings as a team and as individuals, and I have never put the video on. None of my team put the video on, and nobody at DDI corporate put their video on. In December, I didn't mandate it for my team, but I started using video every time I got on a call. It didn't take very long before lots and lots of people were using video. Now, my team uses video exclusively and the people that we tend to interact with do. My surprise was that what a difference that made to the positive. I can't believe I wasted all of those years without putting a camera on. People will resist it. They don't like it. They don't want to expose themselves. They don't like the way they look on camera, but it had made an amazing difference. That one little thing has made a huge difference.

Craig Irons:

Why do you think that is? Why do you think people react differently on video meetings or video conferences than they do when it's just voice?

LeAnn McCrum:

Two things, one no one will admit to. The first thing is I think it doesn't let you hide. If you're on audio, you can hide to some extent. People will forget that you're on the call if you're in a group setting. There's nowhere to hide, which makes the interactions more like if you're sitting across the room from somebody. The second one, which I think is a danger, is that people don't multitask. If you're on just audio, it's so easy to get distracted by this email, or by that thing comes up. Or, "I'm just going to get this one little thing done." I think that the interactions are more productive. I think they're more real. I think they're more engaging.

Craig Irons:

One thing that I want to make sure I mentioned here, for all of our listeners, is right now, you can access a free Leading Virtual Meetings course that DDI is making available. If you go to our website, www.ddiworld.com, right at the very top of the homepage, you'll see a big yellow banner there. Click through from that net banner and you'll come to a page that has a bunch of resources for you right now to help you get through this time, which is just so unusual. One of the things there, and I believe the first thing on that page, is our Leading Virtual Meetings course. Feel free to access that. It doesn't take very long to take, but it's really valuable. Also, feel free to share that with others as well. That's a really great resource I can't recommend highly enough.

Craig Irons:

Our guests today are Ryan Heinl, director of DDI Innovation Labs, LeAnn McCrum, manager of business development at DDI, and Livia Macedo, senior consultant here at DDI. Speaking of the situation we're in right now, all the unknowns of the coronavirus and its potential economic fallout, which is really, as we're sitting here today, it's an unknown. It has people on edge. It has their stress level ramped up a good bit. Not only are many people working in an unusual environment, or an environment they're not used to, working from home, they also have all this other stress. They might be having family to care for and what have you. It's a time of people having a lot of pressure. Does that make it hard to be a virtual leader? Does that add an extra layer of complexity to this whole virtual leadership dynamic? Ryan, let's start with you on that one.

Ryan Heinl:

Sure. I think it's an important question. The coronavirus, I think, just makes everything harder because people are going to be distracted and stressed. Those are not typically the conditions under which people do their very best work. There might be a few outliers in there somewhere, but I think that's usually the case. I think specific to leading virtually, it means that you need to make sure that you're putting a lot of energy into the personal needs for the people on your team. We've talked a lot about personal and practical needs. That's the foundation of what we talk about quite a lot at DDI.

Ryan Heinl:

I think right now, personal needs become really important. Making sure those personal needs are being met by the people on your team. Making sure that they're feeling heard and understood. Checking in regularly, communicating a lot more, understanding where people are, how they're feeling, what they need, how you can help them to adapt to the changing circumstances. For many of them, what were critical objectives may have now changed. Or, the methods by which they were thinking about achieving those objectives might be suddenly completely up in the air and they need a lot of support and guidance to help them to work their way through that. You just don't want them to feel like they're out there alone dealing with this stuff, I think is the main thing. It's pretty easy for people to feel like that in a virtual team.

Craig Irons:

Livia, what's your take?

Livia Macedo:

I think what I noticed in this shift in the past two weeks, not only from people in the team, but also people reaching out, is that people are looking for hope. Just like in any change, sometimes leaders, it's not 100% certain or fully onboard with the change. As a leader, we have to drive that and we have to support it and deal with that resistance. In the current coronavirus virtual leadership mode, I'm really looking for ... I'm seeing this around me, a lot of demonstrations of optimism and hope. Sometimes, they're the question behind the question. They will be asking questions about the project, what do you think. The real question is, "Where do you think we're going after this?" They're looking at virtual leaders for that sign of optimism and hope.

Craig Irons:

LeAnn, I know in a business development role, that's probably very front-of-mind for you and your team. What's the reality like for you, and how are you dealing with people's stress right now?

LeAnn McCrum:

Well, I think as we have watch man of the projects that we're working on get delayed or disappear completely, team members feel out of control. Not only are they feeling out of control, but they are feeling out of control at home. They themselves may have to be leaders in their own house because their household is feeling out of control. From a leadership perspective, I think it's very important that you as a leader understand what the business priorities are and translate that for your team into things that they can control, actions that they can take, and being very clear about priorities. They're feeling uncertain about the future, to the extent that as leaders, we can help to focus their energy and activities so that they feel like they're in control in this environment of uncertainty. I think that's one of the strongest things we can do as leaders. The other thing that I think was an "aha" for me, I had a team meeting this morning. One of our administrative assistants said, "I want to give kudos to one of my team members."

LeAnn McCrum:

One of my team members, a business development representative, was talking to a brand new account manager. She's been an account manager for two weeks. He conveyed his own sense of optimism and hope for the future. He's been at DDI for a long time. He's an experienced sales representative and he inspired and produced confidence in her. When you think about leadership and you're working your teams, it's not you being the leader, it's inspiring leadership in others and creating that send of hope, and helping others to convey confidence and hope to those that might not have it right now.

Craig Irons:

Really, really important role for leaders to play right at the moment. Let's flip it around a little bit and talk about the fact that there's a very high likelihood that this is going to become a new normal for a lot of people. Just looking at the numbers, 75% of households in the US have high-speed internet. Half of the jobs that people have can be done from home. There is a lot of growth potential, if you will, as far as shifting work out of traditional office environments to more remote settings. As a leader, and LeAnn, you've done this quite a while with leading virtually, what are some things about leading a virtual team or leading remotely that you think leaders should embrace or actually see as positive?

LeAnn McCrum:

Well, again, I think it is the wave of the future. What I've been telling my team is look for your new value proposition. If the things that you used to do aren't possible right now because of the current situation, establish a new value proposition. Where can you contribute in the organization? From a leadership perspective, since this is the wave of the future, I doubt we'll ever go back to the way we were completely, I think a leader's value proposition is important. I think learning to lead a team effectively without being co-located is part of the new value proposition. Being able to use the technology we have, being able to focus people's attention on the outcomes that the business needs. Those are things that are going to be incredibly valuable to the organization, moving forward. It's doing your part to contribute to the organization and to your own career. It's going to be a marketable ... Lots of people will be doing it. The question is who can do it well?

Craig Irons:

Ryan, I'm particularly fascinated, given your situation, because you're leading a team that's focused on innovation. You lead that that team virtually. What do you see as being some advantages to being a virtual leader, given your situation?

Ryan Heinl:

Sure. I think overall, the technology has really been here for us to be able to work virtually for a while. One of my favorite quotes from William Gibson, who wrote Neuromancer, is, "The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed." I think that's very true in this case. We've had all the tech we've needed to actually work really well virtually for a long time. Going back to your question, what that really opens up for me is access to a much more diverse and high-performing talent pool. A key driver for me and my team is looking for injection of diversity into the solution generation that we're doing. The higher the diversity, the better the solution. There's lots of research to back me up on that. When you're looking at a diverse team, a really big one in my context is I can go recruit for people that are all over the place. My only requirement for recruiting for my team is a four-hour overlapping window of business hours. I can recruit across time zones.

Ryan Heinl:

The truth is, the chances that you're going to find the best talent within a 20 mile radius of your business are pretty low, actually. It really opens the door to a lot higher levels of talent and a lot more diversity in terms of the things that we're doing. I think that's probably the biggest one for my team.

Craig Irons:

That's interesting. Livia, you have led virtual teams. You've also let onsite teams. Which do you prefer and why?

Livia Macedo:

Thank you for asking. I'm Gen X, so I learn to lead virtually after college. It's all about how my preferences were shaped, and how did I learn how to see myself being effective influencing this answer. For me, it's a combination of both. Right now, because of family commitments, committee commitments, and workload, I want to do more [inaudible] new goals. The only way to maximize and amplify my potential in my arms and legs, it is going virtually. As much as I loved seeing people face to face, and it is important from time to time to have that experience, we can create amazing experience virtually. People think, "I'm losing my environment." Actually, you're doubling. You can invite a lot more people to be part of the party when you go virtually. There's a lot of potential and a lot of people playing on their strengths by embracing this growth. I say instead of ... We were talking about flattening the curve. How about we ramp up the learning curve of virtual leadership and leverage this moment for that? I'm excited, actually, for all of us to tap into this pool and this moment.

Craig Irons:

We're talking to Ryan Heinl, director, DDI Innovation Labs; LeAnn McCrum, manager of business development; and Livia Macedo, a senior consultant here at DDI. I think we probably all agree that this is the wave of the future and the future is already here, obviously a little faster than we thought. I want to get reactions from all three of you on this question. Leading virtually is a different animal, but to what extent is leadership just leadership regardless of whether you're doing it virtually or not? Ryan, let's start with you.

Ryan Heinl:

I think what you just said is true, Craig. Leadership is probably leadership, but there's always a contextual component to consider. That goes for whether you're leading a virtual team or you're leading a team through an acquisition, you're leading a team through a digital transformation, leading a team through a crisis, like we're in right now. I think you have to consider what are the things that you need to be doing with those leadership skills within the given context. In this case, we've got both you're leading a virtual team and you're leading through a crisis, so a bit of a double-whammy there in this case. I think that specifically what leading virtually really starts to amplify is the need to have really effective interpersonal interactions. The frequency of interactions goes down typically, at least the traditional ones that we're used to. When you think about that, that means that you need to be a lot better at the quality of your interactions that you're having with your team every time you touch them. Whether you're touching them through a Slack channel, an email, a video conference, whatever the case may be, you want to make sure that they're getting a good experience. They're getting some value from you, as a leader, each time you're having contact with them. I think what it does is it really just amplifies the importance of having some practice leadership skills that you can apply under those conditions.

Craig Irons:

LeAnn, your take?

LeAnn McCrum:

Actually, I would have a hard time adding anything beyond what Ryan had said. I think leadership is leadership. I can't think of anything to add. I think he said it perfectly.

Ryan Heinl:

Thank you.

Livia Macedo:

Me, too.

Craig Irons:

Livia, what about you?

Livia Macedo:

Yeah, I [crosstalk] say exactly, leadership is leadership. It's much more fun when you know how to facilitate that in a channel of virtual leadership. Substance and competence will be more exposed in a virtual environment. I think that's what a lot of people hold back from embracing it, but embrace that vulnerability of not being comfortable with a specific technology. We're all in that. Commit to becoming as a equal, good facilitator as you are as a leader. Leadership definitely comes first.

Craig Irons:

LeAnn, you touched on this earlier, talking about the importance of video. To that point, just wondered if you had any additional specific advice you would offer about using technology.

LeAnn McCrum:

One of the things that, for those experienced leaders and people that have not led virtually before, technology can be intimidating. I think that there could be a tendency to only do the minimum. I'm going to learn Teams, but I'm only going to learn the basis in what I need to do. I think as a leader, if you're expecting your people to perform virtually and use the technology that is available to them, you need to embrace it, be a step ahead even, and be a learning and maximize the tools that you have so that you're a model to your team. Video is a good example. Start using it, and it's amazing how quickly people will follow. As a leader, you can't lag behind and resist the kinds of changes that are upon us now. You have to lead the way, whether it's with technology, whether it's with building a team in a virtual environment. Whether it is learning skills that may be intimidating or uncomfortable from a leadership perspective, you have to lead the way. At the same time, let yourself be authentic. If you're growing and learning something new and you're trying something out for the first time, it's good to let your teams know that so that as they have courage to learn new things, they can look to you and see how it's done.

Craig Irons:

Livia, what about you?

Livia Macedo:

I think LeAnn, you are so spot on. I think just additional quick tips for leaders who are the early stages of the journey of becoming savvy virtual leaders. We're all sharing here similar tips. Think about the substance, the plan [inaudible 00:38:51], the objectives, who are [inaudible] invited to, what airtime are you giving your team members. Are you fully including them? That put aside, I found, from a technology side ... Like, I'm using a cord headset. I'm not overly a big fan of plugging my wrist and my ears and a Bluetooth. It's only so much in a day. What I love about technology is that I can, for instance, today record my session and send to my coach for feedback. Or, go back to my sessions and really saw how can I improve and become more self-aware. What have I missed and how can I involve more people? Second thing is this is an amazing tool. Once they learn the language, just like any language, they can pop a raise hand and say, "I have a question." "I have a comment." Or, "Hey, how about a coffee break or a bio break?" There are multiple ways to communicate our personal needs in that environment. Otherwise, you'd be just so much in your head talking in a classroom. Just leverage that technology.

Livia Macedo:

Another point is no matter how comfortable you are with any application, software out there, running dry runs and making sure you're doing your tech checks, especially if you're talking to people across time zones and different bandwidths. If you're in 5G, somebody else is in 3G. Consider that when you're involving others. Those will be my three things, from a tech perspective, to remind ourselves as well.

Craig Irons:

Ryan, anything you would add?

Ryan Heinl:

Yeah. I would just emphasize what LeAnn said about leading the way. If you're going to drive change as a leader, then you need to know what you're doing. Simple as that. I think as someone who's in the product innovation space, I can also say that if you're trying to do something virtually as a team, changes are really good that someone else has figured out a way for you to do that already. My team, for example, uses an online collaborative canvas that we use for all of our design work together. That allows us to do sticky notes and all kinds of other things that you would typically do in an in-person meeting without any problem whatsoever. There's even some advantages, I would say, to doing it that way. The other thing I would say is that my team does a tremendous amount of work in virtual reality these days. My personal point of view is that a lot of the virtual conference stuff, like Zoom and video conference everything, which is great and definitely needed right now, is really going to be the compact disc of the music industry, eventually.

Ryan Heinl:

What we'll have is spaces in virtual reality where you can put on a headset and meet people in person. You can do everything that you would do in a actual physical space. You're going to feel like you're actually more present with those individuals. That's not that far off. People might hear that and say, "Well, that's a ways off." Less than five years, we'll definitely be there. I think there is actually a really bright future, in terms of working remotely, in terms of the tools that are coming along. I would definitely get started today with understanding what's available now, so that you can be ready for that next jump that we're probably going to make in the next five years.

Craig Irons:

To your point about it coming faster than we thought, two weeks ago, who would've thought we would all be working remotely?

Ryan Heinl:

That's right.

Craig Irons:

Circumstances are different, obviously. By the way, I just want to point out, we are actually recording this today using Microsoft Teams. We're taking advantage of the technology available to us. I know obviously there are other platforms people use. You mentioned Zoom, WebEx is another one. There's a lot that can be done with these platforms now, which is pretty exciting. It's going to grow even more. One last question I want to explore with all three of you. I know we've covered a lot here around helping people stay focused, setting objectives, cutting out the clutter, technology, and so forth. Anything additional any of you would add, as far as any advice you would give to a leader who is now suddenly finding themselves having to lead virtually for the first time? Ryan, let's start with you.

Ryan Heinl:

I think just keep those objectives smart. It's an old piece of advice but it sure is a good one. I think if someone, whether you're doing AGILE objectives, doing OKRs, doing lean, or just running a normal performance review process with accountability plans, just making sure it's really clear to the person what it is they need to get done, and what done really looks like for that individual. Making sure that they understand what that looks like. Then, letting them take a shot at getting it done. We talked about trust earlier on. Probably one of the most difficult things leading a virtual team is, because of the level of empowerment people have, as a leader you need to give trust. You need to define the objective and then you need to give you trust. Trust that that person's going to use their judgment to try to pursue that outcome that they need to get to you need to let them go ahead and try and do that.

Craig Irons:

Livia, any advice you would offer?

Livia Macedo:

Yes. I totally agree with Ryan just said. It's very crystal clear. Set the objectives straight, keep the priorities clear. It is an environment where people will be watching more your deliverables. There's no hiding. You going to have to meet that. Just like in an AGILE or more nimble environment, it's all about what you produce and how you're navigating this new world. Be attentive to that. With that comes that building trust and also building a brand as an associate, as a performer, as a leader. Building your brand starts with really creating the focus for the team and monitoring small steps and the clarity. Your ability to state the whats and the hows, without being micromanager, is directly tied to how high performing your team will be in this environment.

Craig Irons:

LeAnn, any points of advice you would offer?

LeAnn McCrum:

Rely on the good foundational skills. Leaders, whether you're virtual or in an office setting, there are solid foundational leadership skills. How do you meet the personal and practical needs? How do you build trust? How do you build the team? All the things we talked about today. Make sure that you're solid with your foundational skills. Secondly, make sure that you're not getting distracted. Again, this is good practice, whatever kind of leader you are. One of the things that I do at the end of the week is I look back from a time perspective and I track, "How much time have I spent with my people coaching them, helping them?" You're right, Livia, it is all about the deliverables. My job isn't do to do it, my job is to facilitate and enable other people to perform. A majority of my time should be spent to that end. It's easy to get distracted or off track, but I think tracking your own performance is an important aspect of being a leader.

Craig Irons:

I want to thank all of you for being with us today. This has really been absolutely terrific. LeAnn McCrum, business development manager her at DDI. Ryan Heinl, director, DDI Innovation Labs; and Livia Macedo, senior consultant at DDI. Thank you all for being with us today. This has really been a really terrific conversation.

Ryan Heinl:

Glad to be here, Craig.

Livia Macedo:

Glad to be here, too.

Craig Irons:

Terrific. Hey, I want to remind our listeners. If you enjoyed this episode of the Leadership 480 Podcast, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. If you're already a subscriber, we invite you to subscribe again all the platforms and devices you use. Please rate us as well to let us know how we're doing and be sure to tell your friends and colleagues about this podcast and invite them to subscribe. Thanks for joining us in the Leadership 480 Podcast. My name is Craig Irons reminding you to make every moment of leadership count.

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