Distance Leadership 

Just these two words together should raise the alarm bells!  What good leader ever distances themselves from their followers?  To lead people, we need to be visible, present and accessible.  So even the idea of distance leadership feels uncomfortable when we look at the typical recommendations for physically present leaders.  

So if you are now a remote manager or leader, what can you do to stay present in the minds of the troops?  

Here are three simple ideas that can help you to reduce the distance, and increase the authority of your leadership. For a deeper insight into managing remote workers, check out our blog The Most Important Lesson Ever About Managing Remote Workers.

1. Evaluate your presence as if you were a brand that needs marketing.  

When distance leading, you need to step back and think about how you are being seen.  This is rather like a marketeer planning the marketing strategy for a brand.  Until you start to promote that brand, it is in effect invisible.  You have to regularly and repeatedly present that brand to its target audience.  It’s the only way it will grow and become significant.  

As a distance leader you have to think the same way.  How are you promoting yourself to your target audience?  What are you doing on a monthly, weekly and daily basis that will keep you front of mind?  Whats your route to market; how are you reaching out to your audience? What brand messaging do you want to portray?  

Don’t leave it to change, it’s unlikely to happen if you do!  Instead get detailed and plan out your strategies to be present when you are not physically there. 

2.  Schedule ‘touch time’.

Make use of your diary to schedule time with your people.  This is not optional, it needs planning into your busy diary so that you make it happen.  Look for a period every week when you will deliberately reach out to your team members, individually or collectively to have dialogue with them.  

It might even be good to make this regular (like a good podcast that always publishes the same time every week).  By using the same period each week, your people will start to look for it and value it.  

3.  Strengthen the clarity of your vision. 

It’s hard enough making a vision stick when you are constantly present with your team.  When leading from a distance this is going to become much harder.   The trick here is to step up your clarity.  Make the vision abundantly clear, all the time.  Think in terms of a 10x or 100x improvement factor.  

If you do nothing your vision will be diluted like a bucket of die in the Thames or Hudson rivers.  People receive so much communication, tens of thousands of words in a quarter.  You need to compete with that noise.  You need to step up the communication of your vision to the extent that it is not washed out by the many other words your people will be receiving.  It’s almost impossible to over communicate your vision when remote leading, don’t be afraid of repetition either.  It’s one of those things that will help it to stick.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

Becoming an Intrepreneur

Many organisations are exploring what it might be to have staff that behave like entrepreneurs.  Some are calling this Intrepreneurship.  It is a topic that feels more at home in corporates, now so many of us are remote working, literally from home!  This may be due to the ‘lone worker’ stereotype of the entrepreneur setting out on their own.  

With people working more alone, could they be more exciting in the way they bring their skills and expertise to bare?

We have been exploring this topic and building some insight into what it would take to behave more like an entrepreneur in a corporate organisation.  During this research, one model that stands out is Professor Hindles ‘Model of Entrepreneur Process’.  We think this is really rather good!  Look it up, you can find reference to it very easily on the web.  

I love the way it gives order to the entrepreneur behaviour set.  Stating the obvious, it starts with the identification of an opportunity.  This is such a helpful observation.  If you want to behave like an entrepreneur yourself, then look for opportunity.  This doesn’t have to be ground breakingly new, it just needs to be an organisational opportunity to make something better than it is today.  You can do this whatever job you are in.  Seek out opportunities that make a difference and explore their viability with key stakeholder s and others around you.  

The second thing that strikes me about the model is that, ‘personal commitment’ comes way later than you might have thought.  

Many of us would assume entrepreneurs personally commit to an idea very early on.  Well, that’s not the case.  Not for successful entrepreneurs!  What they do is understand the business case and then commit.  This makes so much sense to me.  Failure is a real possibility for the person who personally commits ahead of understanding the whether the numbers work out OK.  You will have a far greater chance of success if that order is switched.  Yes, we still need to commit, but not until we have as much certainty as possible that the business case is sound.  

The entrepreneur is a person who organises, operates and assumes the risk of a business venture.  

Understand what that venture is (opportunity), and commit only once the risks are fully weighed in the balance (Business Case).  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

Managing stress: Returning to a post COVID workplace

With the continued slow progression toward normality, many of us are now returning to a post COVID workplace. Some people feel excited to return to comfortable routines, others are tentative about the prospect, others still are downright fearful. And COVID related health concerns are not the only stressor at work. For many there is anxiety around the prospect of returning to the pressure and expectations associated with working life. As we face a new beginning, it is important to be mindful of our stress levels, and do what we can to manage them.

In fact, a global pandemic has an enormous impact in each of the four major stressor categories; significant life change, catastrophe, daily hassle, and ambient. Much could be said in each of these categories, but for the sake of brevity i’ll leave you to fill in the blanks!

The problem is, all this added stress is not good for our mental and physical well being.

Your heart is a lot like the internal combustion engine. They both have valves and pressurised chambers, and in the same way the engine of your car provides the energy to make all of the technology run, your heart is responsible for the performance of all other organ function. It provides them with blood and nutrients, enabling them to do their job.

Now a car has the capability to accelerate pretty quickly when it needs to. This is sometimes for fun, but it also serves another purpose; safety. If you pull out on somebody at a roundabout and you only notice them once you have already joined the roundabout, you will increase the revs and accelerate out of the way of that person to avoid a collision. So this is a safety feature, and the human body has a similar capability.

Your heart and blood vessels respond to stress by kicking things into overdrive. Your heart rate and the force of contraction increase, and the blood vessels tighten up in order to provide more blood and nutrients to the needy organs and muscles. And this is a very positive thing, indeed a very necessary thing if we are responding to a challenge or a threat, because it enables the organs, tissues and muscles to perform at a higher rate.

But here’s the thing. It would be damaging to drive around at maximum revs in your car all the time, you would blow the engine up. In the same way, it is damaging to maintain the physical conditions of a stress response continually. Having our heart running on overdrive constantly is not a good idea.

So as we re-enter the workplace under unusual conditions with added anxiety, I want to give you two tips to help you manage and cope with stress.

The first tip when returning to a post COVID workplace is to trim the fat. There are always ways in which we can cut away unnecessary stress in our lives. I’m not suggesting that we shrug of all responsibility and give up every challenging aspect of our work or home lives, but there may be one or two small areas which we could surgically remove. It could be as simple and painless as delegating a portion of your work to somebody who is able to absorb it. This happened recently here at iManage. Bob who is the ships captain at iManage is often extremely busy, and was struggling to find time to fit CRM tasks into his daily workload. So, to take some of that pressure away and relieve some of the stress of a large workload, I was able to absorb those CRM tasks. This was a small and simple way of trimming the fat for Bob, and making a seemingly small adjustment that reduces workload based stress like that could have really positive effects.

But what if you simply can’t delegate the tasks that are causing you stress? Or what if you do find a specific task stressful, but actually in order to progress in your career you want to address the root causes of this stressor so that you can carry on with the task but find it less stressful? Well this brings me nicely on to my second tip which is to ask for help.

If you are in a situation where you need or want to get past the stressor rather than remove it from your life, then you would be wise in seeking help. This could be as simple as doing some research and getting your hands on some useful books. Maybe you will find that your perspective is transformed through reading helpful on the subject of your stressor (most stressors are not unique, there is probably at least 5 books on how to handle your particular stressor!).

Another approach would be to ask for help at work. Maybe some coaching would be beneficial, some guidance from a more senior and experienced person who you trust in your organisation. We shouldn’t feel nervous about asking for help in this way at work. In fact, you can be sure that an attitude that says, “yes I really struggle in this area but I am ready and willing to learn and overcome the challenge” is going to be very warmly received and commended.

The last approach to asking for help which I will mention is getting some outside help from someone who is trained in psychological healthcare like a councillor or a therapist. In the UK, all that is required to get some support in this way would be to schedule a visit with your local GP. Be honest about your issues, and you will be referred to the appropriate free service from there. On top of this there is of course the option to seek private sessions with a professional.

So two tips returning to a post COVID workplace; trim the fat, and ask for help.

How Working from home can give you 20 days of personal investment! 

This week we are exhibiting at the first ever ‘Working From Home Show’ all without a single minute of commute time.  

Every week now we are receiving calls from companies that are talking to us about changing the status quo and adapting to more home working following the global experiment of the past 5 months.  

The upshot of all this, is that you and I and most people around the globe are looking for an opportunity to do less commuting, spend less time travelling, improve our general quality of life and increase our wellbeing too.  Property guru’s tell us city house prices are set to decline as people move to the suburbs to capitalise on a better lifestyle, all facilitated via the increase in home working.  

This change is huge, it’s truly life changing, at least it can be if you switch on and realise the potential.  Here’s how to do it…

The current average commute time in the UK is a very accurate 84 minutes!  That equates to 14 full 24 hour days a year.  If you nudge that up to say 2 hours commute per day, you are spending 20 days of your life moving backwards and forwards to work.  So here’s what the smart home workers are doing.  They are investing that time.  

It would be very easy to lose it, or in other words not take advantage of it.  Just to let it morph into the new way of life.  The alternative is to make some choices with that time and make those choices count.  Here are three things (and there could be hundreds of other suggestions) you could do to make those additional days count.  

Replace the commute with something of value 

Firstly – Improve your wellbeing

Probably the first consideration should be how to improve your personal wellbeing.  Our health is finite, sooner than you imagine the years will catch up with you and it will (I promise you) become a greater priority.  You can take the topic of wellbeing in a thousand different directions, but work out what you need and substitute your commute time for it.  

Secondly – Work at your relationships

Unattended, strained or broken relationships create heartache sorrow and long lasting pain.  We are humans, we thrive on love care and attention.  Our relationships are utterly precious and they can give and give again if tended, cared for and nurtured.  Don’t make the mistake that you need to receive before you give.  It’s the opposite, give generously to others, expect nothing in return, and the benefits will be invaluable.  Choose your people carefully, an ancient proverbs suggests ‘One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’  Invest your time in those you are closest too.  

Thirdly – Enrich your own capability.  

Investing in your own knowledge, skills and capabilities will never be a waste.  Identify an area that you would like to develop and get down to it.  Enrol on a course, join a programme, read, explore, be inquisitive.  Enrich your ability by learning, developing, so that you are better than before.  Effective people spend quality time on things that matter.  Your own growth and improvement should matter so work out what you need and use the time effectively.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

The Innovation Factor

Innovation is the action or process of imagining a new method, idea, product, etc.  It is not invention, which is the act of taking that imagined idea and progressing it into reality.  Both are super valuable in todays organisations, but without the former, the later won’t exist.

Many companies are crying out for innovators right now, to help them pivot and reinvent themselves in this fast changing world.  Having the innovation factor is a great attribute to stay relevant and ultimately employed when others are struggling.  

Yet there is something very significant about innovation, it is seldom if ever the imagining of something utterly, totally, uniquely brand new.  Innovation is evolutionary.  Ideas emerge through the feed of insights that any day and age offers.  Let me give you a clear example.  The fitness equipment company Peleton Interactive provide spin cycles alongside an interactive live spin class environment via a big interactive screen on the front of the cycle.  None of these elements are in and of themselves new.  The innovation has come from bringing them together.  The spin exercise bike, the touch screen, subscription based streaming, live spin classes etc.  All these things come together to bring their highly successful invention into peoples homes.  At the time of writing their share price has tripled since it’s March (covid induced) low.  It’s a major success story, yet none of the ingredients were new,  it’s the innovative combination that delivered value.  

So to be innovative, to have the innovation factor, we do not need to be massively creative (the act of creation, something entirely new).  Instead we need to be good observers of the world around his, and have these three attributes:

An attitude that says innovation is critical. 

Innovation becomes second nature when there is no choice other than innovating!  Imagine a situation where you have no choice but to do something different, you will likely do something different.  Uber Technologies are an example of this.  They have suffered massively through the lockdown months, as people stopped moving around the planet using their innovative taxi service.  With a slow recovery of their original business likely, they have had to pivot and innovate further.  So they’ve turned to home delivery; take aways, shopping, you name it, Uber can now pick it up and deliver it for you.  Why, because it is critical that they do so.  

The more we perceive we have no choice but to pivot, the more innovative we will always be. 

A preparedness to invest. 

Innovation takes investment.  Investment is never without some element of risk.  To be innovative, we have to add time, money, effort into the equation.  We cannot expect to innovate unless we value it enough to spend; mentally, emotionally and sometimes financially.  Innovators cut out time and expend effort in its pursuit.  If we want to innovate, we have to do the same.  

A willingness to do something different. 

If we do the same thing, we will get the same thing.  A starting point for innovation is to do something different.  If I start to change things, alter them up, mix them up, then I open the door to innovative thinking.  I generate the space for the ‘what if’ question.  Remember innovation is seldom ground breaking but nearly always incremental.  That makes innovating much easier for us to replicate, experiment with and suggest within our organisations.  

I often think that many business do everything they can to stop innovation.  They like the stable stuff, the routine, the regular.  It’s safe after all!  But is it really?  When the world changes all around us, then we need to innovate, failure to do this could even result in disaster or decay.  Take the classic examples of Kodak, turning away from the digital camera, or Blockbusters failing to embrace streaming.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

How to influence when working remotely

We have a number of clients who are asking how influencing skills change when working remotely.  Often times it’s been connected to customer relationship management, or procurement, buyer / seller negotiations.  The topic however is useful for us all to consider in this new post covid world.  

To be clear here, I am not referring to online influencing of consumer behaviour as they visit your website.  In this blog I want to address the simple idea that I (as a person) want to influence you (as the other person) although we are working remotely in some way.  For deeper insight and a free online lesson on managing remote workers check out our new blog

First off, don’t drop everything you’ve learnt about influencing in the real world.  Those skills and insights still apply, you just have to be more focused when working remotely at influence.  Here are two questions that can help you make things happen remotely.  

What is it you want to achieve?

Be crystal clear about your desired outcome.  It is pointless trying to influence an outcome when you don’t know the intended destination.  It is even more pointless when remote working.  It will help to define your intent in emotional terms as well as in rational logic.  The numbers only tell a part of the story in influencing; you can present as strong a logical case as possible, but recipients will still need you to fill in the emotional story.  Work out what the emotional journey needs to be in the mind of the other person and craft a story line that gets you there.  For example, you are trying to influence the section of potential supplier B over A.  Then express why supplier B is the better option, not only in the numbers, but in their values, aligned culture, style, ways of working etc.  

How do I look on webcam?

This may seem a shallow question, but it is far from it.  We communicate and influence massively through visual cues, this includes: what my environment looks like; what I am wearing; my posture; my animation; my expression; my gesture; my micro movements (e.g. a raised eyebrow).

Think about it, these are all areas you have total control of when connecting with another person remotely.  If that’s the case, why leave any of it to chance?  Think about it, analysis how you look and work at fine tuning it.  One of the things I really encourage influencers to do is to spend a small amount on a good quality external cam.  You can totally change the perspective if you have the cam 1 to 2 metres in front of you rather than the typical ‘up your nose’ lap top perspective!  Anyone doing a lot of remote working needs to do this.  

We all influence all the time, it’s whether we are influencing for good or bad that matters.  If you charge in and don’t consider the impact of these two simple areas, you will still influence, but influence others not to come with you.  Remember most influencing (with the exception of coercive power) is incremental.  It seldom occurs in a single movement, instead it’s in the many little nudges that bring change and buy into to a view or position.  Plan those nudges carefully and you will start to reap the dividends of being increasingly influential.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

Give me what I want!

Here’s a very quick blog that has massive potential.  I want to suggest that there are three things that every person wants from others.  If we know what they are, then we can become super expert at winning over others and building strong lasting powerful relationships.  

These are not difficult things to fake, but who would want to do that anyway!  No, we need to genuinely own these three, demonstrate them, and from that starting point develop the connection.  Here they are:

Attention 

Everyone you interface with desires your attention.  Not half hearted attention, but full on attention!  They want you to connect with them, and almost just them.  They don’t want you to be connected to your phone, or looking out of the window, or watching others out of the corner of your eye.  They just want you to engage one on one and connect with them.  

Interest

The second thing they are crying out for is your genuine interest.  They want to feel you are engaged with them.  Not asking meaningless questions, but in a dialogue that is generative.  A conversation that is buoyant, alive and discovering things.  

Care

The third requirement is simply to be shown care.  They want to interface with people who  will be caring, empathising, connecting with genuine concern.  Not treating them flippantly or just as one of the crowd, but expressing true concern for their wellbeing.  

You should give these three a try, work at them, you will quickly find reciprocal behaviour and growth in relationship that has loads of potential.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

What makes a great learner? 

Having operated in this learning and development space for the past two decades, I’ve amassed a significant tally of trainees, that have as it were learnt under my wing.  A very rough estimate puts it at around 7000 people.  In that time I’ve probably seen everything a trainer might expect to come across in a life time!  Truly the good the bad and the metaphorical ugly!  As a learner it might be very easy to blame the teacher for a poor learning experience, perhaps justifiably in some cases, but without doubt the mindset of the learner will make an enormous impact on the value of the intervention.  

I see this weekly, often daily.  I also see the contrast between groups of people that are truly ‘working’ the learning experience, and those that have to be pulled, nudged and cajoled into a learning zone.  It’s only happened once, but I remember one particular delegate many years ago sitting in their seat arms crossed, announcing to the group “I’m not doing this exercise, it’s not my learning style!”  For a short moment, I was speechless!

In my experience, great learners do seem to have some similar characteristics.  Here’s what I’ve found they have in common. 

They are inquisitive

Great learners are like little kids in the rock pool, inquisitively lifting rocks to find out what’s underneath.  They are like explorers, open to whatever they encounter on their expedition.  This openness to all possibilities is so helpful in learning.  Rather than casting off an idea, they engage with it and explore its credibility, questioning, exploring, developing their understanding.  

 They value their time

Great learners value their time so much that they totally commit to the learning experience, protecting that time jealously.  In contrast others consider learning time something that can be played with; phone calls made; emails completed all in the pursuit of perceived effectiveness.  The reality is they murder the opportunity to develop and at best leave with a few incremental improvements.  The learners that commit time, leave with rich insights and matured thinking.  They are very present, especially when attending remote workshops online, cameras on, committed to the experience.  

They go deeper

Great learners demonstrate the humility that recognises they can still learn, and they penetrate the depths of a topic.  Poor learners skid along the surface, seeing ideas as very simple in concept.  Putting learning preferences aside, great learners are willing to give a concept time and thought in order to extract its richness.  They will take the time to milk every last drop of insight before leaving the topic.  It’s like learning to play a page of music.  The player may grasp the basics of the piece, and manage to perform it.  But the great learners will work it, again and again, to nuance, to refine, to take every little part, explore timing, dynamics, expression, phrasing, rhythm, musicianship, technique, variation, interaction with others etc.  The deep dive brings deep learning and ultimately excellence in performance.  

Listen to Squeeze episode 35 for more on this topic.

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

Now might be a good time to break out of your rut and realise your potential! 

I wonder how many of us feel that we haven’t yet reached our full potential.  I have no real idea if everyone thinks this or whether it’s just me?  I guess some people don’t care, others may feel that they’ve not reached their peak yet live happily with that thought.  If you are like me, it’s been a constant driver over many years.  Of course the potential of reward is motivating, but for me it’s something deeper, I love the challenge of doing better, achieving more, attaining, maximising my potential.  

I’m like it in business, but in other walks of life too.  I love the challenge of motorsport sprinting.  Sprinting is you a car and the track, and you are trying to find the perfect lap (a bit like qualifying).  I study the previous attempt, I try and work out where there’s more speed to be extracted and I strive to reach my true potential.  In business, I’m always tinkering away, at ways to improve the offering, bring innovative solutions, push ahead and achieve.  

Yet even with this inbuilt drive, I have a real tendency to plateau!  I’ve frequently found myself getting onto a rut and finding periods where I do not seem to progress.  Sometimes hose periods have been prolonged.  I remember a period when our business hit a turnover ceiling which lasted several years.  I was working hard, still wanting to grow the business, but for some reason we could not push past a certain threshold.  

It’s that brick wall thing I’ve recently been trying to break though again, and I think I have some insight!  It’s not ground breaking insight, it’s not even something that I’ve not been aware of in the past!  It’s that I’ve come to realise that in the past I have often failed to walk the talk!  And the talk is this…

If you do the same thing, you get the same thing!

So if you want something different, you have to do something different! 

This is much easier said than done.  I find that there can be many barriers in the way of doing something different.  Sometimes those barriers come in the form of other people, who are comfeartable!  That’s too comfortable to bother, too fearful to try.  

With all that said, maybe now is a really good time to break out and do something different.  I have certainly found the current remote working climate useful in making a move on my next achievement frontier.  So much has changed around about us; some things may never be the same again, but that’s OK, because it forces us to do something different.  If we do something different, it stands to reason we will get a different result.  The post covid world may create a momentum that forces people out of being so comfeartable.  

What change could you force right now that might lead to a greater realisation of your potential?  Get action orientated, work out what you need to try, and push through the barriers to open up an exciting new opportunity.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain.  

 

How to approach interviewing people remotely.  

The interviewers guide. 

Doing a good job of interviewing is harder than we might first imagine.  There are loads of things that we can get wrong, so getting some good training on this topic is a must for any recruiter.  For this blog, I’m going to assume you know what you are doing normally, and just focus on the key things that are different when holding that interview remotely.  

If you are interested, we have another blog which is the ‘interviewees guide’ – it’s definitely worth reading this if you are the interviewer!  

Here are some simple but important things:

Top Tip 1 – Ensure everyone uses their cam.  

The visual connection is so helpful for everyone involved, so make sure your team all have their cameras on.  This should not be optional!  Some may make excuses for not using their cams, but remember you are also selling the organisation to the candidate; if they can’t see, you are limiting their understanding and ultimately their interest in you.  

Explain to interviewees that this will also be required of them.  It would be very easy to bias your decision making if some candidates used cams and others didn’t.  

Providing the visual improves communication, you and the candidate will better understand each other if you have the opportunity to read the expression, body language, posture, gesture etc.  

By the way, the audio feed is often improved if everyone uses earbuds or headphones.  So consider making this a requirement too.  

Top Tip 2 – Think about your background!  

Even if you are interviewing from your own home, give some thought to the company image that you are projecting.  Some things are not variable, but as far as possible, make sure that your background is conducive for giving a helpful impression.  Check the detail, what’s in shot, move things around, tidy up etc to create as professional perspective as possible.  

Top Tip 3 – Bank your questions by interviewer. 

In face to face interviews it can be relatively easy for different interviewers to ask questions in a relaxed interchangeable way.  This is harder with remote interviewing.  Best practice is to be more rigorous about who’s asking the questions at any given point.  Group the agreed questions by interviewer and have them ask them all, before moving to the next interviewer.  

Top Tip 4 – Have an independent note taker.

Make sure that you assign note taking to someone who is not actively involved in the interview process.  You already have to manage the platform, coordinate the interviewers and probably ask your own questions.  That’s enough for any brain to cope with!  

In addition, it’s likely that you will be using the microphone within your laptop.  If you are typing on it at the same time, there is an added audio challenge (of the sound of your typing) making harder for everyone.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain.

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I'm Bob Bannister, owner, and trainer at iManage Performance, the specialists in training for remote workers and managers with over 20 years of experience in this sector.

As the UK has rapidly shifted towards working from home, this challenges the norms in which we work and manage We can help to fast track your remote management or team skills. Speak to us about our training options today.

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