Making Virtual Teams Work

How do you make a virtual workforce a thriving part of your company?

work from home

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Many companies need extra help during peak season. Some require specialized skills or a temporary opening filled. In these cases, a remote worker, also known as a virtual worker, telecommuter, or telecommuting freelancer, may be the answer.

So why don’t more companies avail themselves of the miracles of technology and find the absolute best person for the job, allowing them to work remotely?

For the past ten years, I’ve managed virtual teams. I began managing editors and writers for a major website. In that role, I didn’t choose who I worked with–I inherited teams from the previous editors. The company had strict working requirements, provided specialized software, and offered clear guidelines and quotas for monthly content.

In this example, a virtual workforce worked very well for the company. Not only did they achieve their revenue goals, but they were able to expand into multiple content niches because they drew from an enormous pool of writers scattered geographically far from their headquarters. They didn’t care if you lived within 10 miles or 1,000 miles from headquarters.

How did they achieve what other companies fail to do?

Clarity. Communications. Accountability. These are the hallmarks of happy, healthy virtual teams. Layer in some flexibility and its sister, creativity, and add to it the notion of reliability from both the company and its workforce and you’ve got a winning recipe for a happy, healthy virtual workforce.

In my latest article for Medium, I distill ten years of virtual management wisdom into an eight-minute read. For those looking to expand operations or improve the talent pool, consider a virtual workforce. Not only can it work well, but it can also work exceptionally well for your productivity, profitability, and service.

Ready? Let’s go virtual. Read the full article: How to Build a Healthy, Happy Virtual Workforce.

Three Leadership Qualities

We often equate leadership qualities today with qualities that are actually antithetical to good leadership. The bluster, brashness, and bragging often associated with leadership point to weakness, not strength, when it comes to leaders.

What makes a leader?

Watching the coverage this week of former President Bush’s funeral, I was struck by several things.

President Bush exhibited a gracious approach to life. He understood the power of a simple thank-you. He understood the power of kindness. Not many leaders today, in business or in politics, understand this.

Secondly, his humility impressed me. All of his speeches formed humble pictures, many tributes to others. The elegance and grace of his words spoke to a time when American understood that political stance and divisive behavior moved aside post-election.

Lastly, his ability to connect with others, some of whom were former opponents, clearly spoke of leadership qualities.

I made a video discussing my impressions of these leadership characteristics and how business people may parlay them into qualities for success. Watch it below.

 

Business Leaders, Take Note

There are several lessons to be learned from this. CEOs and business leaders who understand the power of kindness and a gracious approach to their everyday interactions with their peers and subordinates tend to achieve better results than those who act dictatorially towards their staff.

Research bears this out. A study from the State University of New York at Binghamton demonstrates that leaders with a benevolent style tend to achieve stronger result than those with a dictatorial style. In other words, nice leaders finish first.

Are You Afraid to Be “Too Nice?”

I’ve heard that so often in my career – leaders saying they put on a mean mask to prevent others from thinking they are ‘too nice.’ They think that if subordinates view them as nice people, they will be viewed as weak and others take advantage of them.

St. Francis de Sales, a 17th century bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, wrote, “Nothing is as strong as gentleness, and nothing is as gentle as strength.” Be gentle, kind and firm, and you will achieve the best results. Consistent guidance, clear communication, and a kind approach to human relationships will always take you further than you anticipate.

 

Stopping Workplace Gossip

Stopping workplace gossip may be impossible, but it should be among your priorities as a leader. Workplace gossip wastes time, ruins reputations, and generally does more harm than good.

I’ve written a new piece for Medium this week Gossip in the Workplace – Stop Before Someone Gets Hurt.

I know that it is human nature to gossip, to share, to communicate. But I also believe that gossip can be the root of many workplace evils. It certainly wastes time. It can ruin good people’s reputations and cause damage that takes a long time to get over.

As a Virtual VP, a manager who heals and energizes teams for companies worldwide, I know that gossip flourishes in a culture of fear. Excessive workplace gossip is often a sign of poor communications. Employees, starved for accurate, honest information, speculate and share their guesses (gossip) for validation and feedback with coworkers. The result? Gossip, a lot of incorrect guesses, and a corporate culture that thrives on rumor. When the rumor mill takes over and is the best source of information in a company, you’ve got an unhealthy company environment that should be fixed.

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Leadership Styles: No, It’s Not Okay to Yell at People

The Tyrant is one leadership style that casts a long shadow. I’ve worked hard to heal teams damaged by The Tyrant and have worked under them. Learn more about this leadership style and why it can be so hard to combat.

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Reinvigorating Retail through Pop Up Stores

Pop up stores are here and they may be reinvigorating retail throughout the United States.

As a teenager in the 1980s, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the local shopping mall. Roosevelt Field Mall became my home away from home. My sister worked at Macy’s. She would drive to work, drop me off to roam the mall, then I’d meet her several hours later for the drive home.

Pop up stores back then were kiosks. Small, self-contained kiosks in the central aisle of the mall’s corridors. Some sold only items during peak gift-giving seasons: I remember the bonsai tree concession, another that sold crystal pendants during the pendant-wearing craze of the late 1980s. Another etched personalized messages, monograms and the like on silver picture frames, mugs, etc.

Each of these tiny stores focused exclusively on a single them. They differ from today’s pop up stores the way your grandfather’s Chevy differs from the Volt parked in your garage and recharging from the household current.

Linda Niehm, professor of Apparel Events, and Hospitality at Iowa State University stated in a recent press release, “What we’re seeing is in part of a natural evolution of the retail cycle, and old formats are replaced with something more relevant.”

Retail is a dynamic industry. It is constantly evolving and changing. Stores evolved from single-category shops (the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker) to the grocery store and supermarket (with butcher and bakery counters along with thousands of other products) and the department store (which sold everything including candles in one convenient space.) The internet added pricing competition along with an intense focus on fresh new goods; if I can get a pair of jeans from Amazon at a lower price, why should I bother driving to the Gap in the mall to buy a pair?

Enter the pop-up store. These stores take over small retail spaces for short amounts of time – weeks, perhaps – with a themed experience. Vacant stores or unusual structures such as disused cargo containers are transformed into a retail space.

Niehm and colleague Ann Marie Fiore conducted a study in 2010 that indicated that retail consumers like novelty in their shopping experiences. The same old stores in the mall bore consumers; the novel experience of discovering a new brand, product category, or style in a pop-up store may invigorate the shopping experience and draw customers away from their computers to shop on the internet and back to physical retail spaces. Millennials especially are interested in brands that resonate with their values. They eschew large, traditional stores.

Brands are experimenting with pop-ups in unique ways. Bonobos khakis opened pop-up stores in the lobby of an office building and netted $250,000.

Technology offers another way for pop-ups to succeed. Although the small space prohibits stocking multiple colors or sizes, with the touch of a tablet, shopkeepers can order items from their online store to be sent to the consumer. No hassle, no additional steps for the customers, and an easy in-person shopping experience that lets them see and touch the items in person.

Are pop-ups right for you? They may be a passing fad, but anything that can reinvigorate retail offers additional methods for small business owners to sell more. It may be the right time for you to explore pop-ups for your retail business.