What came first?

Several people have asked me what the big deal is about having a strategic plan. I believe that you need a starting point before you start planning, a resource that documents your intentions and desires.  The strategic plan is a living document that changes over time based on your experiences. The starting point for a strategic plan is your values.  The conclusion of a strategic plan is your operating plan.

In the beginning, we started with a blank page. We may have been born with some internal values, but we are easily influenced.  As we grow, we have experiences, are introduced to a culture, accumulate family traditions, and are exposed to many beliefs and religions. We all eventually merge all these elements into a set of values that we will use to mold our life. With all these variables, I can say that what works for me does not always work for you. Our influences are all different.

Once we develop a belief system, we look for reinforcement showing what we believe is right. As this bond grows, it becomes more challenging to modify your belief. A conflict may show up as we move to another culture of venture into a business. We are now faced with having to decide to change. We should be looking for information to expand our belief system while we remain aware of our existing belief system.  The concept is to accept small changes that can improve your outlook, not a wholesale replacement.

When writing a strategic plan, you combine your existing belief system, skills, and resources to form a purpose or mission. That can be for a business or a life.  Once you start to execute a strategic plan, you will be exposed to new experiences and beliefs that can suggest improvements to your plan.

The key that I take away from this is to keep an open mind. Seek new skills and experiences. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help or share your plan with others. This will create additional sources for information.  Stay focused on your plan.  Accept advice as information, not a directive.  


Fake News

After several audits proved that the election results were correct, a group in Arizona raised 6 million dollars to have their team audit the ballots. This four-week audit stretched into several months as they redid the audit several times. That was crazy, but what got me was an interview with a high-ranking state official. He was almost in tears, saying, I can’t stand this. I still do not know who won this election, he said. While this is crazy, the concern is more extensive than one state election.

The news is full of controversy over fake news, Facebook, Instagram, and wild conspiracy theories. It’s enough to drive me crazy. Ever wonder how did that happen? So I thought that this morning what if I wrote a blog post that said the sky is green. As long as I say that’s my belief or my opinion, perfectly fine. No problem. So now I go one step further, and I research to see if any others believe that, or if there’s another test or a study or anything. Sure enough, if I search long enough and hard enough, I’ll find someone or a test that supports my theory. So now I will write an entry in my blog and say I found a test that shows that I was right. The sky is green. And I refer to the test. Okay, still no problem if that was an actual test. But I notice that nobody else believes that.

Now I get upset, and I get emotional, and I start embellishing a little bit. I write a blog to say, millions of people have noticed that the sky is green. This is probably fake news right there. I made that up, but I am so emotional about the issue that I want people to believe me. So, I start this conspiracy theory or rumor. Not only is the sky green, but millions of people believe this, and I am just shocked that I don’t see this on the news more often. Eventually, I started getting people on my webpage writing comments saying they have noticed that or think the skies are a bit green. My readership grows and next thing you know, I have many people believing that the sky is green, not blue. So the problem that I see is that if you get emotional about an issue and start creating your own news writing fake stories, that is a problem.

I’m not sure why it is so difficult for these companies like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, whatever. Why they can’t discover that there’s an entry out there telling a false story and either put a disclaimer on it or take it down. Same thing with politics. Same thing with whatever topic you want to choose, like sports is another good example. Sounds like a simple solution, but for some reason, it is challenging for these big companies to determine that what was just posted on their site is totally fake.


My Truth and Your Truth

We learn first by experimenting because we haven’t learned how to trust yet. Eventually, we discover learning that way is painful, and we learn about trust, usually from our parents. Our trust is built on relationships with people and organizations. As we trust people, we listen to them and believe that what they are saying is true. We start to accept that truth as our own. Over time we will modify that truth based on our experience, but the base is developed through the relationship. First, it is with family, then school, and finally work.  Along the way, we add in church, groups, and news.

We again rely on trust and believe what we see and what we hear is true and start to accept. As we discover conflicts between our truths, we work it out based on who we trust the most and what makes logical sense. I have been in situations where someone will say something so far removed from what I believe to be true that I am amazed.

The problem we have today is information overload. At least I am discovering many conflicts and having a more difficult time reconciling those conflicts. As I was growing up, I was in a Christian environment. My baseline for truth was Christian values. That set of values was reconciled as I grew older, and I saw that they were the correct way for me to live. Now I begin to see conflicts and question what it all means. There are sources that I have learned not to trust based on the evidence available.  Even that is becoming a challenge with video accounts being altered. Firsthand knowledge is hard to fake.  If the evidence is a news story, I tend to look for multiple, different accounts.

So how do you sort this all out? One of the things I do is I see actual events happening. Not hearsay, not someone’s opinion, but actual events. I use that to determine if people are telling the truth, or if they should be trusted. As I discover more and more conflicts with the actual event. I mark that source as no longer being truthful. It is somewhat surprising to me to see politicians saying things that conflict with the public record, not hearsay or someone’s opinion, but actual filming of the event. That can be verified by multiple reports of the event. It’s not clear why they think they can do this, but the result is something we are now calling fake news. This is growing to be a large amount, and the noise factor is quite confusing.  The problem I see is that there are some that have never built a truthful base through trust.  If the only source of information they receive is through a single source, they build a truth based on that.  There is limited potential to correct or expand their truth.

One example I was exposed to was from a seminary course I took.  I was always interested in Christian values and history and wanted to see how this all developed.  The first course I was required to take before exploring the New Testament was a world religion course.  Each professor was a representative of a different religion. The idea was that we should be exposed to all the religions before we narrowed our focus. I was surprised to see how similar all these religions were. I was more surprised to see how, over time, all the religions were biased by the experiences and perceptions of the people practicing these religions.  In my opinion, there is generally a small set of facts or real events and an extensive set of different interpretations and perceptions of what they mean.

The same is happening today. A simple event will generate many diverse perceptions in a short time. Those perceptions will be used to fortify beliefs. It is enough confusion to influence my decision to get a cup of coffee and go meditate on the deck. My father would say that he yearned for return to a simpler life, and that was back in the 60s.  Now I know what he meant.  

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.


Let’s Revisit Teams

Our last entry started a discussion on teams, so this week I am starting a series about team dynamics. A team is a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal. Teams typically have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort, which allows each member to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Team members like to feel like they are a valuable member of the team, and each has a perceived and real assignment within the team. Ideally, the perceived and real match.  When that all works its magic.

The primary difference I see between regular teams and High-Performance teams is how ridged they stick to the rules. High-Performance Teams have well-defined goals that are in agreement with the overall expectations or vision for the team. This is often not the case, and a team is just a gathering of skills to get a job done. Just as important as the mission of the team is the culture of the team. High-Performance Team members identify with the team and are proud of it. Members place the team first and know that team effort is key to overall success. They celebrate the accomplishments of the team and recognize the contributions of members. This is different than regular teams. Notice that a High-Performance team celebrates the team’s success but only recognize contributions. 

High-Performance Teams are constantly learning and continuously improving. True transparency allows a team to quickly adapt to unexpected events. Each member knows what is important and each member is committed to action. They are clear about what results they are committed to and they review and measure results frequently. They quickly resolve conflicts and move forward. A key element of the culture is the realization that trust is an essential ingredient. They communicate openly. They believe in a feedback culture, actively giving and seeking feedback. Many times I have seen teams that are not like this, especially in “professional” groups where each member is seeking success and recognition for themselves.

Sometimes ego gets in the way. Since all the members have knowledge of all elements of the mission assigned, sometimes a member will expand their role beyond their assignment. Gradually they start to take over roles. I have found teams that were really one active member with a lot of assistants. It is no longer a team. As this happens, members become disenfranchised and dropout. It was not unusual to find members waiting for orders and doing nothing. The team starts to lose synergy, and effectiveness drops. The perceived or real leader pushes harder for control, and the team dissolves.

It is the job of the leader to make sure that all members are participants, and it is the team that gets external recognition. Both overzealous and nonparticipants should be removed or reassigned from the team.  That is why I see skilled people pulled from teams. They can be valuable assets, just not team players.

I believe that becoming a leader is a journey.  You start as an employee. If you know how you will have a job is a saying that I remember from college. As an employee, you would have skills, and you would understand the job.  As you excel in the job, you get promoted to a management position. A manager understands the business plan, has a common purpose, good communication skills, and maturity.  The saying that goes with this would be if you know why you will be the boss. 

That brings us to leadership. If you can see the future, you will be the leader. That means you understand the strategic plan. A leader will have team spirit, passion, and empathy. Team spirit is when you really feel invested in reaching a goal together and are there to support each other.  Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards the vision expressed in the strategic plan and the mission of the team. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference.

The leaders will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of your business, team, or even a country.  The managers control resources and will have a direct impact on the efficiency of your business. While leaders and managers impact all aspects of your business, the skill level and attitude of your employees or staff will have a direct impact on your return-on-investment.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.


Who is on First?

I used to say that no single event would define me. And then, about six or seven months ago, I decided to take a course on spirituality. I was looking at mindfulness meditation, spirituality, Bible study, and a less complicated life. A lot has changed in six months since I started that. Today I lean towards spirituality and often remember my upbringing. My view of adherence to a process is less strict, my view of people is more forgiving, and my opinion of myself is a bit humbler.

Early on, I went back into mindfulness meditation for this study.  This was introduced to me several years ago and seemed like a perfect fit for my study. When I started meditation, I had a lot of trouble paying attention to even one breath without my mind going off into all kinds of directions. I found myself having thoughts about everything that happened during the day. Then I remembered the training I had where I had to think of three things. What three things did I hear, what three did I feel, and what three did I smell. I would go through that routine two or three times, trying to come up with different answers until my mind settled down, and I was no longer thinking about checkbooks, arguments, or whatever. It was pretty humbling to see how hard it was to pay attention as the thoughts came tumbling out. Once I got under control, things started to turn around. The experience of being overwhelmed by thoughts is hardly unique, I’m told. Most people who begin meditating will find this very thing to happen to them.

The first things I learned were, everyone likes to be right, we all want to be part of something and be recognized as a contributor, and we all want to have some control. Well, as far as being right, I now realize that there are often many ways to do the same thing. What we desire is to be recognized for our way being right.  When it comes to contributing to a team or group, it is often a struggle to be the leader, not just being known as contributing. Now for the last item on my list, I realize that I often have no control. I may have contributed sometime during my life, but I had no control over open-heart surgery or being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

Meditation does not have to be formal with a private space on a schedule.  I have learned through self-mastery training that when I get agitated, frustrated, mad, or just pissed off, it is time to slow down and calm down.  Since I am the only person that can cause my reaction to events, I may as well do something about it.  I will often put on headphones and listen to music.  Sometimes it is as simple as a quick decision to back off and stop a confrontation.  I often find a discussion starting about why it is better their way or my way.  That is a clue to stop.  I will often say, no big deal let’s get it done.  If the other person insists on proving they are right, it happens, I say fine let’s do it your way.  If this happens a lot, I realize that a confrontation will be hard to avoid, and I head to the headphones. 

Several people have told me that this is just giving up. Always giving in, and you end up working on someone else’s dream, not yours. That is where defining a purpose comes in. Part of meditating is a focus on your purpose. What is it you want to accomplish? What do you want to be known for? As you look at what is causing your frustration, you are also looking at your path to success. Are you still on the path?

I once started to discuss how best to do a load of laundry. I thought that through and realized that this had nothing to do with my path. When you look at events, it is about much more than the immediate discussion. There is a bigger picture to consider. Does this fit into the picture?  It is possible to have a few side trips, and you just have to prioritize your time.  If you are not sure what your purpose is, consider this exercise.  You are working in your garden when a phone call comes in, asking you to interrupt what you are doing.  If you stopped what you were doing, who or what called?

This can go on for several layers.

  • You are gardening, and your son calls.
  • You stop and help him and your spouse calls
  • You stop and the office calls
  • You stop and go to work.

Something else can happen here; you get so many layers away from your primary purpose that you forget, and you are now off your path. This is a whole other area of discussion, so let’s get back to today’s interrupt.

The most complicated problem I have seen is when both people in the discussion believe they have the same goal, priority, and authority.  You have now created a situation where both think they are the leader or at least in charge.  Neither side wants to give in and potentially shown to be wrong or not in control.  At this point, you must look closely at your big picture. Is this going to have a long term effect or is this a short-term bump in the road.  My father would say, chose your battles.  You must consider the impact on your path as well as the overall effect on the team that started this question.  Some people have all kinds of issues, and it may be better for the team to surrender this battle. When the dust has settled, the team leader must decide what the impact was or could be. I have removed talented people from teams in my past so that the overall effectiveness of the team can be improved. Another great memory from the past is Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler.  You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em, and Know when to walk away.

I had said that I now lean towards spirituality, and this belief system changes your focus.  You become less focused on being right and more focused on pleasing a higher power. The team you want to be part of consists of your lifetime partner, your family, and your spiritual family. Your definition of success is much more focused on contribution than it is being right, rich, or powerful.  As you become involved in local teams, at work, or home, you become focused on contribution instead of recognition.  There will be people that take advantage of this view, and it is up to you to decide if you want to play their game. Again, chose your battles.

I think we sometimes overly complicate our life. We never figure out what we want out of life and every day try to please everyone.  At some point in life, we figure out that time is short, and we have no path defined. Many of those people that we helped are grateful but are now on their path to success.  That does not have to be an end-of-life discussion. It happens on the job often. I have talked with those left behind, and they are trying to figure out what happened.

Take some time and figure out why you are here. What are your values? What is your purpose? Become aware of the side trips and have a plan to get back on your path.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.


Get on With Life

One of the challenges you discover once you get past that magic age (for me it was 75),  is the recovery of permission to own your own life, to feel what you feel, desire what you desire, and pursue whatever you want to pursue. For most of us, that permission is still very conditional, and you can’t get it from someone else. My current condition, combined with the current virus pandemic, presents an enormous opportunity for me to grant that permission. I live in a materialistic world with the fantasy that if I acquire enough things, somehow life will be meaningful and satisfying. If that worked, I would have seen it by now.

We tend to impose a lot of things on our life independently from what we want to do. For example, I tend to get upset if my trash didn’t get picked up again this morning. Now, of course, we’ve all been through a lot because of this virus, and now our life is upended. I think everyone has to figure out what they want to do and what their values are. My default position has been to please everyone and schedule my time last. Time for that to change.

I believe that we are accountable for our journey. We will have several things happen to us that push us in one direction or another, and we can spend a lot of life blaming others. If you remember our self-mastery discussions, we are responsible for our life and how it unfolds from the choices we made. Although life can be a huge burden, it is also an invitation. If you woke up this morning, you have just received permission to live life.  The big question is, will we accept this gift.

Is there an ideal kind of life that you dream about? Perhaps your ideal life consists of more money, more friends, or more time to do the things you love. Maybe the ideal life is one filled with less work and more vacations. Having the ideal life can be as simple as starting to exercise more, losing weight and becoming healthy again. Whatever kind of life you dream about having, I guarantee that it will take a little more than fate to get you there. Many, many people believe that fate will take them where they are supposed to go. While I do believe that everything happens for a reason, I also believe that you have an important role in making your own life amazing. I believe that creating the ideal life is not so much about fate as it is about making better choices every day.

The first important step is to take time to evaluate your life and get a clear picture of where you are. Be careful not to idealize your current situation. Commit to being honest with yourself in this process. Look for areas of your life that are going well and look for areas that could use improvement or extra care. If you’ve left your life in the hands of fate, there is a good chance that you’ll have some work to do in the weeks and months ahead.

Once you have evaluated your life, take time to consider the kind of life you want. If fate could give you any kind of life you wanted, what would it look like? Write down everything you think of, even if it seems hard to attain or silly.

Your ideal life will not happen without intentional action. Take the description of your dream life and begin breaking it down into goals that you can work toward. If you desire to have a better job, take steps to find a new job by looking at job postings or by inquiring at businesses in your area. The more proactive you are, the more you can change your life.

No matter how bad things are or how good things are for you right now, things can always get better. Work with fate instead of against it by taking action and moving toward the things you dream about. No matter what the result, your life will be richer and fuller because of your proactivity. I have discovered that life is short.  My parents, teachers, and friends tried to tell me, but I ignored that advice. Add my name to the people telling you.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.


I Remember

Sitting out on the deck this morning, I remember so much. Some brought a smile and some sadness.  It was a melancholy morning. I remember when the starter switch for my car was under the clutch pedal. I remember TV test patterns and looking at that pattern waiting for the TV show to start. We had a 7-inch TV screen and a choice of a few shows after dinner before they signed off.

I remember physical intimacy, running on the beach to fly a kite, putting a reef in my sails during a rain squall, camping, and living as a civil war soldier in the wilderness, just for the experience.  Now I have to rest after I walk up my driveway to get the mail.  I remember when corporate management would greet me, when I published technical journals, when I gave presentations to large crowds, and when I thought what I was doing at work was so important.  Now, I am not sure any of that meant anything in the grand scheme of life.

I remember being taught by my father that my word must be my bond.  A day when the truth was the ideal. The idea of “my word is my bond” reaches back centuries. The books of Matthew and Numbers both contain passages in which one’s spoken vow becomes a sacred commitment. Nowadays, I see fake news and the leader of the greatest nation in my lifetime who has no concept of what truth is.

I remember being a proud member of the Navy stationed on a destroyer. Now I see a commander and chief that tells sailors to rip their ship name patch off and covers up the name of a ship with canvas because he does not like the name. I see countries asking us to leave, we pull out of alliances, and we deploy troops to coral peaceful protesters.

I remember when you worked for what you wanted. I wanted to go on a bare-foot cruise on a sailing ship, so I worked as Christmas help at a department store to pay for it. Now I see adults complaining because I didn’t buy coffee for the Keurig as they sit around.  Which reminds me, I remember when making coffee was a process that I started before I got dressed because it took time. Now I fidget because the K-cup took a minute to brew.   

I remember when I was sought out for advice and invited to attend events, now I only have memories, and the honor goes to the younger crowd.  But not all is lost.  I also see a young, energetic six-year-old that calls me pop-pop and still thinks that I can fix anything.

So many experiences and lessons learned in my 78 years that nobody wants to hear about. That same six-year-old informed me that she was in first grade now and no longer needed to be told what to do.  I just smile and say OK, but don’t touch that hot stove.

My challenge is the sheer number of changes and transitions that start to occur. I try to face my limitations with a healthy dose of humor. I don’t always succeed. I was told that a key ingredient for healthy aging is the continuing ability to find meaning and joy in life. One way to do this is to learn something new. Learning new activities not only adds meaning and joy to life but can also help to prevent mental decline. I was always interested in the historical story behind religions, so I signed up for an online college course presented by a seminary. So far so good. After each one-hour lecture I get excited about something new I learned.

Planning to vote in the next election is my other focus.  It seems to me that they are trying to make that harder to do, but I love a challenge. Those are my thoughts from this morning. Tomorrow find a good spot to watch the day begin and go down memory lane. I would love to hear your story.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.


Let’s Do This

I suspect that we all have some idea of what influence purpose has in our life.  Your purpose is the reason for which you were created or for which you exist. That seems kind of harsh, but I get the meaning.  I have been told that if I figured out my purpose, I would bound out of bed in the morning eager to go.  Well, that has not happened for a while.  I sometimes wake up and just hit the snooze button.  I do have a sheltie that wants to be fed and put out and sometimes adds to the wake-up noise.  Not sure what happened the last 78 years, but I wake up with a few aches and pains, a hungry dog, and no real job to go to. 

I want to make the most of my time left on this earth.  I would like to experience all there is and live true to my values.  I have a vision of what that person is like, but I am not always sure what to do.  My problem is, I allowed events to take over my vision.  I have a muscle disease that drains me of most of my energy.  Some nasty virus has put me under a shelter in place order at best and attacking my friends at worst. My purpose is shifting to staying active, which redefines success.   Sometimes I forget what drove me to get this far. Without a well-understood purpose, there is no vision.  With no vision, there is no plan. With no plan, there is no eagerness to get started. I would think, get started with what?

Consider this, if you knew you only had a few more years to live, your stamina is low, and there is a mean virus outside the door, what would you do? I have a few fantasies that I like to play with, but I am not talking about a bucket list.  I mean something more. The one big thing I always wanted to do. Something like leaving a legacy.  I believe that your purpose should define some kind of contribution. Sitting in my recliner reading books, watching a webinar, or going to a class is just prep work, not my purpose in life.

Grab yourself a beverage of choice, get comfortable, and think about that for a moment. Now, let’s not drift off into morbid land and think about the number of people that will remember you when you are gone. Think more in the lines of contribution and today.  Do you want to start a pay-it-forward project, pass on all your knowledge, become the best partner ever, be the father of the year, or cure the virus?  Something with pizzazz.  A purpose that would get you excited. You should consider these elements when defining your purpose.

  • Belief/religion/spirituality – Over time, I have developed a belief in a purpose for life, which requires that we each contribute to something more significant. For those who have a sense of spirituality in their life, the purpose is a sense of meaning and connection. 
  • Health & Fitness – These are critical for living a balanced life. If your body feels better, you will feel better. If you feel better, you tend to engage more. To accomplish your purpose, you must engage. 
  • Social – It is very important to have an active social life, as it keeps you connected and involved with the world. Also, having fun and sharing laughs helps you recharge intellectually and emotionally.  All of this helps you realize your purpose.
  • Companionship & Intimacy – Ultimately, every person is searching for a lasting, meaningful relationship. It can be both nurturing and challenging. The result is a greater sense of ourselves and a more fulfilling and happy life. This tends to support your quest to realize your purpose.

Now, kiss that girl you have a fantasy about, climb a mountain, buy a lottery ticket, or whatever short-term thought is driving you crazy and get it out of your system. It is time to get real. I am guessing that you are alone while you are doing this exercise, so go ahead and be a little crazy. Even if someone sees you, who cares, they probably think you are over the hill anyway.  Put the past aside and create a picture of what that new purpose would look like. What would the process be to realize your purpose look like? Now do it. I remember a great line in a movie; unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the film. Work it. Live it. Love it.  What is the worse that could happen?  Exactly!

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.


What’s another Fantasy

Some of you may notice that I have chosen a charity for my birthday this year and wondered if there is a story behind that.  Well, of course, there is.  I could weave a great story but not today.  In this time of fake news and overblown egos, I thought we could get closer to the truth.  So, now for the story behind the story.

For years I have been embellishing my fantasy. I guess you could call it the ultimate bucket list.  It is not what you may think it is, and you won’t discover what it is today.  Hey, I said closer to the truth, not full disclosure.  Besides that, this, too, would be all about me. 

While I was having my coffee out on the deck yesterday, I was all frustrated about the alternative facts, storytelling, and fantasy worlds that I found watching the news.  That is when a small voice said to me, well, what about you.  Didn’t I choose to believe my own bias and tell a few stories.  I started to argue the point and realized that I was about to lose.  Then I thought, what would happen if there was one day that was not all about fantasies. That is when I got this note saying that perhaps in these trying times, I should choose a charity for my birthday.  I am just amazed when that happens, and I thought that was a neat idea. We are still under that stay at home thriller, so why not.  Even selecting a charity became a challenge.  The news release I got for my big announcement was full of their fantasy.  Then I noticed that I could edit the statement.  I started removing all the big words and grand statements. What you see on Facebook is my best shot, just the basics. 

That is my story, and I am sticking to it.  Oh, and I am too fond of my fantasy to give it up, it is just on hold.  So, enjoy the day and write your own story. It is not about the contributions or even the charity, that is my story. It is about thinking of others. Feel free to choose your own charity.


Try an Online Meeting

For the majority of remote teams, communication is the key to success. Each member of the team must know what the others are working on. This is something that can be easily lost when the entire team is working remotely. Remote teams simply cannot function with inadequate communication between its members. Short daily meetings over Skype or Zoom is a great way to do this. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which remote tool you decide to use; just as long as your team has a good line of communication, your remote workers won’t feel isolated from one another. The key is that all members of the team have access to it and can use it. 

Zoom sets up easily, and team members seem to adapt quickly. There are a few things to keep in mind with any of these tools.  You need a web camera and a microphone, which is standard on most laptops but need to be added to workstations.  Next, remember that you have an active camera and microphone once the meeting starts. Some security considerations must be thought through because you are extending a business discussion into a home or location outside of your control.

The lack of company culture can plague any remote team. Sure, it’s easier for the boss to pop in to chat with a team that works in the same office, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same with a remote team. Set up a daily Zoom meeting that is more like a coffee break than a formal meeting. Other tools allow you to chat, exchange messages or E-mail, or just talk. You don’t need to get fancy, just be available. Here are a few ideas to create highly motivated and productive teams:

  • Prioritize regular check-ins so team members feel you are paying attention to them.
  • Instead of the phone, use Zoom; activate your camera during the call and encourage others to as well, so your team does not lose their sense of community.
  • Virtual meetings may not create the same interpersonal connection of a face to face meeting. That doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. Who wouldn’t appreciate the chance to take their mind off of current events? Try to laugh before jumping into business, advice from ProHabits.com/thrive.

I have found that one of the key ingredients to work culture is regular events and a schedule.  We all start in the morning with our daily meetings and have a coffee break after lunch.  You can do the same with a remote meeting.

Again, it isn’t rocket science. Case managers and Firm Administrators should be working hard to ensure that each member of their team has a clear idea of their expected working hours, all deadlines, what it is that the team is working towards, and even the policy on taking sick days. Establish a routine and have team members check in often. Not keeping track of what’s being done, who is doing what, and who isn’t doing what they are supposed to, is something that can destroy any team.

You should be aware of how much work your remote team is getting done, and at what rate? Luckily, there is a simple way to make sure you don’t end up in this situation, and it’s also an easy fix if you do find yourself in it: monitor and evaluate your remote employees using the same KPIs you would when dealing with in-house workers.  There is an assumption that you have agreed to performance metrics.  Most law firms use a case management system to track cases and can use that same tool to keep track of work done.  The remote teams we have set up, keep track of everything they do in case notes, task checklist, and case milestones.  A few reports that are run each day or week will develop a trend which will show who the top workers are.

The amount of work being done can be too much or not enough.  Most managers are focused on getting the work done and who did the most, but you can also find a team member that does too much.  That is the person that is always online and working. They tend to burn out over time and, in some cases, can destroy the morale of the team.  Back to culture, set some expectations.  Those expectations should include breaks, family time, and time off. Everyone likes to know the rules of the game, and they all want an even playing field. It is OK to have a special project, but the norm should be the same as it would be in the office.  Tell everyone what the rules and expectations are and establish a routine.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.