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In its  “Inside the Executive Suite” newsletter, Armada Corporate Intelligence featured a recap and expansion on a Wall Street Journal article called “Win Over a Remote Boss.”  The prevalence of remote collaboration (and the new strategic thinking and other challenges those situations can create) prompted sharing the “Inside the Executive Suite” story here in an edited format.

Strategic Thinking – 4 Strategies for Successful Remote Collaboration

AEIB-Graphic

I Can’t See You! What Do You Think?

Roughly forty percent of US workers work from home or in other virtual work settings. Include individuals reporting to an office but working directly with bosses and/or employees in other locations, and the prevalence of distance working relationships grows.

We liken the advice to employ different communication styles in remote work settings to how actors vary gestures and speaking approaches based on how readily an audience can see their faces. TV and movies allow for more subtle gestures because facial cues are readily visible to the audience. Stage actors (who are further away from the audience) have to use bigger gestures to convey the same messages with comparable impact. The acting style must vary relative to the level of connection.

A recent Wall Street Journal article shared advice for individuals working remotely as part of a team.

Similarly in remote work settings, you have to adapt interaction styles to fit the challenges of reduced interaction when people can’t see each other.

4 Strategies for Clarifying and Modifying How You Interact

Based on ideas from the Wall Street Journal article and our remote working experiences, consider these strategies for successful remote collaboration. Instead of ideas tied to particular apps, we’ll concentrate on behaviors adaptable to the tools available to your work team.

Orange-Cupts-String

Create clear understanding about communication and decision making styles

It’s imperative to clarify communication preferences and decision styles irrespective of whether you are the boss or an employee. Not every boss, however, can readily articulate personal communication and decision preferences. We suggest answering these strategic thinking questions to improve clarity:

  • Do you like learning the main point immediately (with details to follow) when someone delivers a recommendation? Alternatively, do you prefer a run-through making the case for a recommendation before someone shares the big idea?
  • Can you identify typical situations where team members can make decisions on their own, either with or without the boss’ input? What types of decisions can the boss alone make? Are there any situational factors impacting these guidelines?
  • Do you comfortably make quick decisions, or do you mull over the possibilities prior to deciding? Does this tendency apply to all decisions or just certain ones?
  • Relative to approval situations, are there times when specific approval (i.e., receiving a Yes or No) isn’t required? In these cases, will it work to simply have a “reply by or we will move ahead” date to reduce back-and-forth communication and accelerate the review process?

The answers lead to more independent work processes and efficient communication. Try converting the answers into general guidelines or a decision tree everyone can use.

Use the right communication channel for the situation

While it is convenient to use email as a predominant form of communication, it isn’t ideal in every situation. Consider what communication channel makes it easiest for the receiver to consume, process, and act on your inbound communication.

The WSJ article recommends email for delivering project status updates and other information plus bouncing ideas off of someone else. Instant messages or texts typically generate greater attention for time-sensitive issues.

While over-communicating is important in remote work settings, you don’t want to overdo it inadvertently. Test yourself by considering whether you would seem to be a nuisance if you showed up as often at someone’s office door as you are showing up in his or her email inbox/text message list/voice mail box?

Schedule brief, informal updates with high regularity

It’s easy to be lazy and use cc and bcc as your primary avenues to communicate updates to others. What is easier for a sender than listing multiple names on an email and expecting that including someone on the email serves as an update?

Unless you have an app signaling when a recipient opens an email, however, you have no idea when or how a recipient processes the information. Additionally, copying people on emails in place of targeted updates places all the work on the recipient to sift through nested email strings to understand where things are at currently.

It’s far better for a team member to create a legitimate update listing high priority initiatives, along with current activities, potential issues, and likely next steps. Consolidating multiple “cc and update” emails into one communication (with hyperlinks to more detailed information) saves time and doesn’t waste the attention of a boss already inundated with “cc and update” emails daily.

Prioritize and escalate issues in smart ways

Despite creating guidelines for expected situations, there will be unplanned times requiring alternative methods of prioritization and escalation approaches. Here are suggestions in these cases:

  • Prioritize tasks that others need to get started addressing. Better to get someone else working sooner than later so you can both be active on high priority items.
  • When it comes to deciding on responding to communications, jump on quick email and phone response to bosses and co-workers that don’t have visibility to what you are doing. Suggest that the team put a phrase such as “Immediate Attention” into priority emails to help with this.
  • Anticipate an escalation path if a co-worker has not responded in a timely fashion, leaving you hanging. Do you have an okay to reach out at unusual times to keep things moving? Ask about this upfront to minimize potential anxiety if there’s a situation where you need to demand attention right away.

When in doubt?

Whenever a remote working situation leaves you questioning how best to communicate, interact, or keep a project moving ahead, a fantastic strategic thinking question suggested by the WSJ article is to ask: What path will best grow and maintain trust in this working relationship? The answer will generally be a smart way to go.  – Armada Corporate Intelligence

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I retweeted a Brainzooming article on seven reasons to ask for forgiveness, not permission in launching a new strategy. Tara Rethore, CEO of M. Beacon Enterprises, a strategy development and execution consulting firm, replied that there needed to be a post on the seven best reasons to be forgiven, instead.  It didn’t take long to jump on the offer and suggest that Tara guest write that article for us!

Innovation-Strategy-Tweet

Tara (@TRethore on Twitter), works with organizations and leaders to develop realistic business strategies and to break them down into the key actions that allow them to succeed. She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and an AB cum laude from Mount Holyoke College. Tara also comments on business strategy, execution, and results in Strategy for real™.

Here are Tara’s seven reasons why leaders should grant forgiveness, not enforce permission when it comes to innovation strategy:

Innovation Strategy – 7 Reasons to Grant Forgiveness, Not Enforce Permission by Tara Rethore

Tara-Rethore-Innovation-StrategyIs it better to ask for forgiveness after (not permission before) launching a new direction or innovation strategy? That question is targeted at employees or staff.

In our strategy work, we’ve found that reframing the question can be a powerful tool for executing strategy.

So, what if you’re the boss?

If you grant forgiveness, what’s in it for you?

7 Reasons to Grant Forgiveness, Not Enforce Permission on Your Innovation Strategy

Here are seven reasons – in order of increasing importance and impact – to grant forgiveness and spur innovation:

7. You are allowing, or perhaps creating, space for insight.

6. It encourages creativity and initiative, critical sparks for innovation.

5. The potential reward surpasses the risk – or the risk is being sufficiently managed to avoid catastrophe.

4. The initiative is bringing people together in a new way and for a common purpose that could benefit the organization.

3. The freedom to experiment – and permission to fail – is a great way to build a “test and learn” culture.

2. The idea or approach is sparking new ideas, or another direction that make even more sense.

And the #1, best reason to grant forgiveness: It’s working!

Innovation often comes from insight, mistakes, or accident. So the next time someone starts without permission, then begs your forgiveness, consider whether she/he also sparked something awesome! – Tara Rethore

 

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Who could find a connection between the “Hokey Pokey” and internal branding ideas? None other than B2B marketing expert Randall Rozin! Randall, who leads the Global Brand Management function within Dow Corning Corporation, serves as the company’s key strategist on brand creation, internal branding, and strategy alignment. Besides all his corporate accomplishments, Randall is always a popular guest author on the Brainzooming blog.  

How the “Hokey Pokey” Suggests Strong Internal Branding Ideas by Randall Rozin

Randall-Rozin2As kids it was fun, if not somewhat embarrassing, to do the Hokey Pokey at school, at the skating rink or at parties.  The Hokey Pokey (song and dance) goes by many names around the world, but has a common format in that you first create a circle of friends. When the song starts, you begin by putting your right hand in, putting your right hand out, putting your right hand back in and shaking it all about, after which you ‘do the hokey pokey by turning yourself about’.  From there you then proceed with the left hand, each foot in turn, your head, backside and finally your ‘whole self’.

Now take the common Hokey Pokey as a simple metaphor to suggest internal branding ideas.  A stretch perhaps, but let’s have some fun with it as at the end of the day the goal of both the Hokey Pokey and Internal Branding are the same.  We want an employee to put his or her “whole self in” to the brand. This concept applies for both business to business firms as well as business to consumer companies.

7 Internal Branding Ideas from the “Hokey Pokey”

Put your right hand in/out

As the internal branding dance begins, we start slowly with a simple hand to test the waters.  We put our right hand in do an audit of what we know about our brand and what we have been doing to communicate it to our employees.

Put your left hand in/out

With current situational knowledge in place, we put our other hand in to develop a strategy of where we want our brand to be in the future and outline a plan to get there.  Now the left hand knows what the right hand is doing and has a path forward.

Hokey-pokey-right-foot-inPut your right foot in/out

Next we have to get senior management alignment to our strategy and goals with active support for bringing the brand to life with and for employees.  Sometimes this involves a little footwork.

Put your left foot in/out

With visible support from management, we now begin to create awareness of what our brand means, what it stands for.  This involves putting feet on the street to inform all employees.

Put your head in/out

The head in this part of the dance, as with internal branding strategy, is properly timed.  In this phase we move beyond awareness to really helping employees understand what the brand means, why it is important and what role they, as individuals, play in delivering on the brand promises.

Put your backside in/out

With internal branding strategy you want hearts and minds.  We covered minds in the previous step; a way to the heart is by having some fun with your brand to help convey its message in a variety of ways.  In the Hokey Pokey, putting your backside in breaks down barriers by being a bit silly during the dance.  For your internal branding initiatives putting your backside in could include sharing stories, in fun ways, of on-brand behaviors as well as off-brand behaviors and how to correct them.

Put your whole self in

The ultimate aim of internal branding strategy is to have employees’ hearts, minds, bodies and souls committed to supporting your brand in service of your customers.  In essence, getting everyone to put their ‘whole self in’ and do so willingly as they can see the connection between what they do every day at work and why it matters and adds value to internal and external customers.

Enjoy both the hokey pokey and your internal branding ideas and remember to “turn yourself about” to have some fun with it cause “that’s what it’s all about.” – Randall Rozin

 

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Something I’m trying to improve is being deliberate about what I agree to do that could end up distracting from what’s important. After consciously pursuing many new avenues the past few years, it is evident some very fundamental business capabilities aren’t receiving the attention they need. I’ve been thinking about what strategic thinking questions could help me stay more focused.

In the midst of that personal reflection, kick ass business person and cycle instructor, Kate Crockett, posted “2016 – The Year of No” on Facebook. Kate’s strategic thinking questions resonated with me, and I asked her for permission to share them here.

I suspect you will find them valuable as well. Here’s Kate!

2016 – The Year of No by Kate Crockett

I challenge you to make 2016 the YEAR OF NO.

Before you agree to anything, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want to do this?

We all need to stop doing things we absolutely do not want to do or things that cause us stress and anxiety just because we feel it’s what others want us to do or it is perceived as the “right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to care for yourself so you can care for others when needed.

Will doing this make me feel satisfied?

kate-crockett

Kate Crockett and her daughter, Olivia

Would the person asking me to do this do the same for me if I asked?

We all need to stop bending over backwards and going out of our way for people who wouldn’t help us even if it weren’t out of their way.

Would you allow a friend to say “Yes” to whatever it is if you knew they didn’t want to do it or it caused them stress or emotional anxiety to do it?

Why would you treat a friend better than you treat yourself?

Is this time well spent?

We all need to learn to set our boundaries with those in our lives so that we aren’t the ones driven to stress and anxiety while the others in our lives skate around us caring very little that they’ve have put us in an inconvenient situation.

All of us are extremely talented, caring, generous, loving and amazing humans who allow those around us to exploit those admirable qualities to their advantage with little care for what it does to us. Spend your time this year on those who support your physical, emotional and mental well-being and lift you up. At the end of the day, it will make us less stressed and happier people for those that really matter to be around. – Kate Crockett

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Today’s Blogapalooza article is from Lindsay Santee, a marketing manager and student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas. We’re doing work with the Kansas City Public Library, so I’m more attuned to library innovation strategy than might be typical. Lindsay’s story on the Human Library is an intriguing innovation in disseminating content that doesn’t sit on a library shelf. The applicability to organizations other than libraries comes from using the core value you deliver and asking, “How could we turn the value we deliver into a more compelling experience?” Another possibility is using a benefits exercise to understand what you do (i.e., a library shares stories of peoples’ lives) and its benefits before innovating on other ways to deliver the benefit.

Library Innovation Strategy – Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover by Lindsay Santee

Lindsay-SanteeWhen it comes to change, library innovation does not seem to have advanced much over time, at least judged by all the things that have stayed the same. From the Dewey Decimal System to the book checkout process and the musty smell of library aisles, even in the digital age, not much has changed about traditional libraries over the years.

However, imagine a different type of library where you check out humans – just as you check out books – and listen to these humans share their unique, personal stories. Imagine being able to interact with the stories as you listen to them. It is as if you are seeing and experiencing the world through these peoples’ eyes, from their own perspective.

The “Human Library” is a real library innovation strategy created in Denmark in 2000. Library guests can choose which volunteer they check out based on titles the human books assign themselves. Example titles include everything from “Olympic Athlete,” to “Fat Woman,” to “A Questioning Christian, to “Iraq War Veteran,” to “Homeless Man.” Visitors sit down with their books for approximately 30 minutes to listen to these “interactive books” share their personal stories and experiences.

Library-Innovation-Homeless

The Human Library project is meant to fight discrimination and foster diversity by giving people an opportunity to speak with someone who they may not have interacted with otherwise. This experiment allows people to establish human connections and cultural appreciation. The library even has “bestsellers”- the most popular volunteer storytellers who tell stories of tolerance and understanding.

In the world we live in today, we cannot begin to address global issues such as poverty, disease, and war until we learn to better understand and relate with one another. We must unite above and beyond the boundaries we allow cultural difference to build between us. Perhaps, if we consider each person on an individual basis, undamaged by unsupported perceptions, we will be more likely to learn about one another on a personal level. The Human Library is a big step in creating a world free of bigotry and hate, a world without stereotypes and prejudice.

Today the Human Library social experiment has expanded to 50 countries across the world. There is a US-based Human Library each September at Utah State University. I look forward to this social experiment appearing more broadly in the US. This library innovation truly adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” – Lindsay Santee

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Here’s a Blogapalooza post from Max Utsler’s class at the University of Kansas. Kayla Foley, a Marketing Communications Specialist at P1 Group, Inc., shares ideas on shaping a successful innovation strategy through exploiting two-dimensional diversity in an organization.

Innovation Strategy and Exploiting 2-D Diversity by Kayla Foley

Kayla-Foley-KUOnce upon a time a group of people established an entity called Swissair. Together they ruled the skies. Swissair was deemed so financially stable in fact, it earned the moniker the “Flying Bank.” Then egos got the best of them, and they fell into the trap of groupthink. The result was eventually bankruptcy for Swissair. In hindsight, you can bet they wish they followed the advice of ancient philosopher Socrates: “Think not those faithful who praise thy words and actions, but those who kindly reprove thy faults.”

The question inevitably arises, “How can we avoid this insidious groupthink crippling our innovation strategy?”

The answer is diversity. Let’s say you need a problem within your company fixed. Half the solution could be floating around in one employee’s head. The other half of the idea that would complete and transform it into a game changing innovation may exist in the mind of someone else with an entirely different outlook on the problem. Until you get them in a room together to combine their puzzle pieces, your solution will never be born.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies should look at diversity in two ways: inherent and acquired.  Inherent diversity includes demographics such as gender, age, and ethnicity. Acquired diversity focuses on experience related traits such as working with niche markets, or overseas experience. Companies that exhibit at least three traits in each category attain two-dimensional diversity. From a numbers standpoint alone, the impacts of 2-D diversity on innovation speak volumes. One study cited in the Harvard Business Review article found that 2-D companies are 45 percent more likely to show growth in market share and an astounding 70 percent more likely to capture a new market.

Examples of companies successfully utilizing diversity as part of an innovation strategy include:

  • Google – A Google R&D center in India with over 1,100 employees speaking different languages and practicing separate religions are to thank for the creation of Google Finance.
  • Pepsico – With a 50 percent hiring requirement for women and minorities, PepsiCo doesn’t play around when it comes to diversity. They claim that one percent (around $250 million) of their 7.4 percent revenue growth is directly related to their diversity efforts.
  • Procter & Gamble – In the last decade, P&G delivered an average of 6 percent organic sales growth due to innovation from diverse teams.

Analysts at Ernst & Young (EY) have stated that, “Most large corporations today have a diverse workforce that is scattered all over the world, and the enormous diversity of culture and viewpoints is fertile ground for innovation.”

When companies encourage diversity within their organizations, they dispel the negative effects of groupthink. Diversity does so much more than that though. It empowers employees to share and create new ideas. It pushes people past their comfort zones to go places they otherwise would not. It paves the way for innovation to occur. – Kayla Foley

 

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Today’s Blogapalooza article from a student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas comes via Allison Dollar. Allison is a Local Business Account Executive at The Kansas City Star Media Company. Her article for today on personal leadership lays out 10 keys to hustle . . . every day.

Personal Leadership – 10 Keys to Hustle . . . Every Day by Allison Dollar

Allison-DollarIn the words of Mos Def, “Focused. I’m a hustler. And my hustle is trying to figure out the best ways to do what I like without having to do much else.”

Well-said Mos Def. Well said.

A hustler is defined by Merriam Webster as, “An enterprising person determined to succeed; go getter.”

Are you a hustler?

You don’t have to be in sales to be one but you do have to commit to the following ten steps if you want to be successful. While I consider myself a hustler in constant training these are 10 keys to hustle, every day. You have to practice them daily, get better at them, and enjoy.

  1. Love your Hustle

Whatever it is, love it. And I mean with all of your heart. If you don’t enjoy what you spend most of your life doing then it’s a waste of time; time is the one thing we can’t get more of so…again I say, Love your hustle.

  1. Listen

Most people like to talk sometimes, no, most of the time, and they talk too much. Listen more, and speak less, I promise you will hear something that will lead to a business lead, idea or relevant knowledge. If you find yourself in a situation where listening is difficult, leave. It’s not worth your time. This brings me to my next point.

  1. If it’s dead, leave it on the ground and walk away

This could refer to anything, a client that will never be happy and who takes too much time, a peer who complains all the time about the same old things, or my favorite, a manager who has no idea what he/she is doing or saying the majority of the time. If you run into any of these situations leave them immediately and do not look back, it’s not worth it.

  1. Swagger

Confidence is a non-negotiable for any professional hustler, you better be able to own whatever it is you need to own. The presentation you just gave to high-level decision makers, the smart-ass comment you dealt to a high performance peer or the stare down you delivered in the boardroom full of talented professionals just like yourself trying to get ahead. Whatever you do, get and keep your swagger. Without it, you are just like every other professional “insert your title of choice here” working day in and day out. Your swagger is just that Your Swagger. It is as unique as you are, use it to your advantage.

  1. Learn Something

Learn something every day. It’s as easy as that. Each day approach it so you learn something new, no one can ever take your knowledge away from you. Believe in your abilities and reward yourself with the knowledge it takes to come out on top every day.

  1. Be the Expert

Ensure that whatever it is you know just as much if not more than the senior level manager/sales representative/vice president or whoever it is in the room. Be able to speak in a healthy fashion no matter what the topic. Set yourself apart by showing you have taken the time to educate yourself on the topic at hand.

  1. No Fear

Period. Fear paralyzes you and has no room in the mind of a true hustler. If you have it, do not show it. Get a plan together on how you can keep it to yourself then toss it away after your mind has processed the situation. Fear is a private thing that everyone experiences but a hustler never shows.

  1. Love yourself

No one can love you like you. Sounds weird but it’s true. No one knows you better than you. Give yourself the time to process demanding information; strategize your next move or whatever it is you need. Also take care of yourself, even a proper hustler needs to eat right, exercise, and get some sleep. Know when to shut it down and take care of you.

  1. Never ask Permission

A hustler just gets it done. Don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness. Like I said, a hustler gets it done, and anyone who knows a hustler realizes this from the moment they are introduced.

  1. Network

A hustler knows everyone. The new business owner around the corner, the new employee on the second floor and even the new CEO hired to work for the competition. You can’t be successful being a recluse. It just doesn’t happen. Know your people.

Think you got what it takes to hustle? Use your cane if you need to, but get your hustle on or at least get it started. – Allison Dollar

 

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