Send in your questions around leadership, motivation, accountability, manager connection, or working on a remote team to get expert advice from Vivo Team’s EVP of People Analytics & Talent Activation, Dr. Jim Sellner, PhD. DipC. (*names have been changed)
Dr. Jim, It looks like Covid-19 will continue to have an impact for some time. How can I best equip my leaders to handle all the continued changes and adaptations necessary? -Trevor*
Number one is to stay in touch, keep up-to-date. Ask what’s working well, what needs improvement, what might we be missing?
Also, make sure to meet regularly in Zoom or Microsoft Teams, on video, and rotate the chair—that is the person usually responsible to organize those things. The reason for doing that is, as people are out of the office for a longer period of time, the further we get away from the centre, the fuzzier things get. So, we have a group of managers working remotely, then we have the managers people working remotely, so they all have to make sure to stay in contact.
Another tip is to keep the Zoom meetings where you are updating your team, to a maximum of 15 minutes, no longer. Otherwise people are going to feel that Zoom fatigue thing.
Also, make sure to look for, in your managers, how well they are dealing with the situation. Some people are going to like it, and some are going to struggle with it.
Finally, be aware of your managers who are working too much. Taking breaks is really important because we don’t want people to burnout. Hopefully his helps. Covid is going to continue for a while, we just need to adjust to it.
Dear Dr. Jim, What is Zoom fatigue, because I think I may have it. What can I do about it?
So called Zoom fatigue, from my perspective, is a result of all the things that already weren’t working well in face-to-face meetings. When we moved in-person meetings to Zoom or Microsoft Team, what happened is people didn’t adjust to the new format. Some people were against being on camera (which I think is a huge mistake) and it revealed that many meetings were not very well run to begin with. Here are some tips:
1. In online meetings it’s important to connect with each other. Start off everybody with something like “What’s going on with you?” or “How are you coming to this meeting?”
2. It is absolutely crucial that an agenda be made and sent out to everybody 24 hours before. Ensure that you move through the agenda and that everybody helps to move it along.
3. Some people like to talk a lot and some people don’t ever speak up. It’s everyone’s responsibility to curtail that. The organizer can and should call on people in order to keep a balanced forum.
4. Do a check in every once in a while by asking what’s going well and what needs improvement to help keep your team focused and on target.
There’s a lot more to it, like the whole technical part of running a meeting so that people aren’t distracted by bad camera angles or lighting. Fixing those elements will help, too. It is a difficult thing to get used to, you might even want to take some training on how to run online meetings well. -Dr. Jim
Dear Dr. Jim, How can I build a cohesive team when some are back in the office and some are still (and maybe will continue to be) working from home?
We at Vivo Team recommend that at least three times a week virtually get together for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your team, and do a check in.
What you do is a quick go round, every says what they are working on or what their priority is for the day. Then you do another round where everyone says a stuck point, what’s getting in the way of getting stuff done today. Lastly, every goes around and says a win they have had.
I would also encourage people who are used to working closely with each other in the office, that both of you go on Zoom, and you can actually be side-by-side if that’s something you need.
The other thing to do is to make sure that you have, a least every quarter, a 15 minute meeting with your manager. What you are going to talk about is: What you have accomplished in the last thee months; What you still need to accomplish; and one item that you would like to work on to improve your professional development.
Sometimes what people are doing as well, is on a Friday having a virtual get together to just chat and talk about what’s going on. Once people get used to it you’ll feel quite connected, quite cohesive. It doesn’t have to be a barrier if you have discipline. Discipline is the key.
Dr. Jim, My boss is a yeller. I don’t think he is aware that he frequently raises his voice. I find I really shut down around him. What should I do?
This is a complicated issue, and I would like to have more details, but I will respond to you generally. If I were in your shoes, I would try saying to him “when you yell at me like that I can’t focus and I just shut down.” Don’t say anything more than that, wait for a response.
I know you might be shaking in your boots because you don’t know how he will react. If he starts yelling at you, you should remove yourself from the room and find someone in HR or someone else who you can have a conversation with to help get some resolution.
If he responds, “oh sorry, I don’t realize I am yelling.” Then you can say, “what would be really helpful for me is if you could tone down your voice so I can hear and focus to be able to respond to you.” The best of luck…thank you!
Hey Dr. Jim, My office is opening up, but I feel nervous about going back. I don’t know how to bring it up with my manager. Many people are excited to go back! -Leo*
If I were in your shoes I would definitely talk to my manager about this. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that face-to-face try sending an an email or a note.
You mentioned other people are excited about going back. Identify a couple of people that you feel close with and trust and have a conversation with them about their enthusiasm. You actually may find in those conversations, they also have some concerns about returning. You could also, in that connection, over come some of your anxiety about returning just by simply by connecting with others.
I would also want to know what the plan is. How are we going to do this? What is the set up going to be? Am I going to be confident that, as much as possible, I’m going to be protected.
Things will change over time, but it’s really important to connect with others around this rather than retreat. Best to you.
Hi Dr. Jim, I hadn’t anticipated how totally stationary I would be while working from home. My back hurts and I gained weight. It’s taking a toll on my motivation. Help! -Jean-Claude*
Jean-Claude, I’m with ya!
When I start working on the computer I can just slump into working and blinking and not get up. Here’s what I try to do. I set a goal of what I want to accomplish month-to-month, in terms of some kind of exercise, and try to reach 80-90% of that.
The next thing I do is every 35 minutes I stand up and get away from the computer for a short time. Also, when I get to the point where I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I’m wasting my time, I just get up and go for a little trip around the house to snap out of it.
When we are working remotely we also start snacking on stuff. I have a chocolate bar in the fridge right now, I haven’t been eating it for the last two days because I gotta discipline myself. Discipline equals freedom equals health! Hang in there, get disciplined, have a good time.
– Dr. Jim
Dear Dr. Jim, Am I missing the non-verbals during our virtual meetings? How can I ensure I’m not missing people’s true feelings or issues? – Anika*
Rather than trying to figure out what the non-verbals mean, I would encourage you to listen very carefully—using active listening—because often we are off track.
Repeat back ‘I heard you say’ or ‘are you saying this?’ Focus on what you’re hearing people say. I believe there is too much emphasize put on body language and other things which leads to a lot of assumptions. Stick with what you are hearing. Stick with what you are actually seeing.
Something we do at Vivo Team, we call it the video test, is we look at people’s behaviors and listen very carefully to what people are saying and repeat it back for clarity.
– Dr. Jim
Dr. Jim, I notice I’m working longer hours now that I am at home. Are things busier or is it just more accessible? -Ryan*
It’s probably both! Working from home, like I have been doing for the last 15 years, requires discipline.
One of the things I do when I’m done working is completely shut down my computer. The other thing is to be very disciplined on the weekends about your time. Be very careful that you don’t drift back to doing work. Stop it, please! Because, what happens over time is that you begin to burn out because you are always on.
The convenience of having your desk right there is that when you think, oh I forgot to do that, you go do it. Instead, go to your desk and write it on a Post It note for later. If you don’t set boundaries you are you’re going to find yourself working all the time.
Your partner, if you have one, is going to get frustrated, your children will say mommy or daddy are on the computer all the time. Discipline yourself to only work on your decided, appointed times. You’ll find much more satisfaction.
– Dr. Jim
Dr. Jim, My team is enjoying working from home. How am I going to deal with the objections when they need to come back to the office after this is all over? -David*
That’s a pretty complicated question, but I’ll try to make it as simple as possible. First explore what the objection is about. What are the pros and cons of working remotely verses at the office?
Whether as a leader you are flexible in some areas for people to work at home and non-flexible in others, it’s a negotiation. You need to listen to people’s objectives and have conversations about them.
You may not want to move on some areas where you need people in the office, but maybe you don’t need them all the time. So use that as a problem solving, connecting thing to build your relationships with people.
Not everybody is going to get what they want, and that includes you. The important thing is to have and stay in the conversation, and it may take a little while. You might not resolve it quickly, but keep the conversation going, that’s what’s important.
– Dr. Jim