How to lead a remote team during COVID-19

Our “new normal” requires leaders to rethink how they lead. These tips will help you lead a team that’s working from home.

Internet access has also become congested because more people are online during the day performing their jobs and attending school virtually. Carriers have reported their customers are using more voice calls and many of them are using Wi-Fi rather than cellular. In addition, Facebook has seen a 70% weekly increase in the number of people using Facebook Messenger for group video calls.

As the pandemic continues to alter our everyday lives, we’ve become reliant on services that allow us to work from home. Meetings are happening on Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. In fact, Zoom reported daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.

Creating a culture of a high-performing team can be challenging under normal circumstances, but what does it look like during a global pandemic? As a leader how can you adapt your leadership style and processes to meet your employees’ new expectations? Here are the top tips I have learned through my own experience leading a global, remote team.

  1. Communication is crucial.
    Implement tools that allow you to communicate easily. We use Skype and Microsoft Teams, and find it great to stay in touch with quick messages and updates on projects without cluttering our email inboxes.

    You can use a messaging tool to encourage socializing, too. Create a group in Whatsapp or whichever messaging platform you use that is not specific to work. Keep the “water cooler conversations” going and allow your team a space to share their non-work related content.

    For updates that require more than an email or chat message, hold daily or weekly stand-ups. We use Zoom for video meetings and find it a great tool to hold virtual meetings. Your team can share what they are working on, any challenges they may have, and ask questions. If you plan on having your stand-up as a video call, make sure your team knows that ahead of time and that everyone joins using video.  It not only makes the meetings more engaging, but it also discourages multitasking. 😃

  2. Manage expectations.
    Does your company require your team to be online during certain hours of the day? Communicate that with your employees, don’t assume they will follow the same hours as when they were in the office.

    If you don’t already use a project management tool, consider implementing one so that your team can keep track of upcoming deadlines, project statuses, and the items on their plate.

  3. Be flexible.
    Work isn’t the only thing in our lives that has been disrupted by COVID-19. For those who are at home with their children, caring for a loved one, or experiencing another life event that is disrupting their normal, flexibility is paramount.

    One important aspect of emotional intelligence I’ve discussed in the past is empathy. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they might feel in a certain situation. As leaders, the more we’re able to relate to others, the better we help them feel understood and inspired.

    Check-in with your team on a regular basis and be fully present in your conversations, so you can make genuine connections and better understand their point of view. Once you have checked in, be flexible in creating a schedule and culture that considers their needs and current demands they’re facing.

  4. Cut yourself some slack.
    Remember, you and your team are going through massive changes in a quick time frame, so don’t expect things to be perfect from the start. Focus on small changes to start, and you will build a stronger and more supportive work culture.

    Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. We’re all in this together.

Are you leading a remote team? I’d love to hear about your experience and any tips you’ve learned along the way. Please share them in the comments below.

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HP Megatrends 2020 Refresh

Staying ahead of constant requires a keen understanding of the global forces that will shape our human experiences and business decisions

The amount of change happening in the world today is accelerating, creating a continuous challenge for how companies stay ahead of it all, decide where to invest, think about the future, and innovate in ways that enable them to do the disrupting, instead of being the ones disrupted.

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Preparing for Gen Z as a Futurist

As a futurist, my job is to anticipate change and stay on top of current trends. There’s a new generation entering the workforce – Generation Z. Following Millennials, this generation includes those born between 1995 and 2010. While being defined as the most ethnically-diverse and largest generation in American history, Gen Z also grew up surrounded by technology, also making them the most tech-savvy generation.

I’ve previously provided some thoughts on thinking like a futurist and today, we’re diving deeper into the role Gen Z plays in the future. Here are my tips for how to collaborate with Gen Z:

1. Put yourself in their shoes

It’s important to acknowledge the obvious differences that divide each generation. For example, Gen Z grew up in a post-9/11 world with new technology and completely different childhood experiences than those of previous generations. With technology constantly at their fingertips, this generation of “digital natives” have had nearly lifelong access to boundless amounts of information at the drop of a hat. In fact, 97% of Gen Z have smart phones and spend more than 4 hours a day online.

And because they’ve never spent a day offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and challenges happening in the world around them. As a result, they are 54% more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world as compared to millennials. Also noteworthy is their attitude towards work and employers; almost half consider what the company does to make the world a better place as important as the salary.

By becoming familiar with Gen Z, and by understanding the different era and experiences they’ve grown up with, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to effectively collaborate with them. Whether it’s through asking questions, doing research, or understanding current trends, you won’t fully see eye-to-eye with this generation until you put yourself in their shoes.

2. Pay attention to what’s important

In the next decade, Gen Z is expected to cause an influx of roughly 60 million job seekers, effectively transforming the workplace. Concerning their careers, Gen Z-ers are very driven and competitive. Nothing motivates them more than achieving success and being rewarded for their good efforts. They value skill development and appreciate feedback, as they are always hoping to improve their performance. A controversial topic amongst Gen Z is the debate over work-life balance. It can be argued that this generation struggles the most with this – 24% say they feel guilty for taking time off work. On the other hand, 39% view work-life balance as a top priority when choosing an employer. Knowing these statistics as an employer can help foster a healthy work environment for future employees.

When choosing where to work, Gen Z will base their decision on the company’s values. This generation’s passion for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion reflects in their expectations for their future employers. Studies show that 77% of Gen Z believes a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there.

3. Stay up to date on trends

As any futurist knows, one of the most important ways to prepare for the future is to stay up to date with the latest trends. This applies to Gen Z trends as well. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be to work with this generation.

Here are some resources for futurists to better understand Gen Z:

  1. After the Millennials
  2. Gen Guru
  3. Gen Z Insights
  4. Generational Differences in the Workplace Infographic
  5. Looking Ahead to Generation Z

We can all benefit from learning from one another. As this new generation enters the workforce, preparing through a lens like this will allow us to better understand and support them in their journey as they embark on this new chapter.

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Why Robots Aren’t Our Competition

In 2016, I wrote an article titled “Robots Aren’t Taking Our Jobs, They’re Transforming Them,” in response to a flurry of articles I read about robots taking over the workforce in the coming years. Now, nearly four years later, we see the same headlines.

While innovation is happening at an astonishing rate, we’re still nowhere near a Westworld-esque future where robots and automation rule. Robots have come a long way, but still need human expertise and skills to function. Therefore, the outcome is less likely a replacement of humans, but rather a reskilling.

There is a valid concern over the possibility of increasing inequality in our automated future. Once robots enter the workforce fully, most highly-skilled, educated workers are likely to experience a smaller shift in responsibilities than their less-skilled, educated counterparts. In order to adapt, those with fewer skills and education will likely have to expand their abilities to either empower them to work with robots or fall within the realm of abilities that robots currently lack, such as emotional intelligence and creativity.

For those that adapt to work alongside robots and automation, most will experience an increase in job quality, or even safety. For example, customer service professionals have been using AI chatbots for a few years now, and chatbots like bold360 allow the AI to answer the simpler questions, giving the humans more time to focus on complex customer issues. For example, HP’s virtual agent helps its support team sort through nearly 600 million technical support requests each year. There are also bomb disposal robots that use VR to allow soldiers to pilot them while disarming bombs from a safe distance.

It’s predicted that, despite disruption, there is still a net positive outlook for jobs. In other words, though 75 million current roles may be displaced by technology, 133 million entirely new roles may emerge simultaneously. These roles will likely be of two categories, one that deals predominantly with emerging technologies, like IT Services or AI Specialists, and one that provides the exclusively human touch, such as Designers or Human Resources.

Other reports, like this one from Brookings Institute, find that approximately 25% of US jobs are likely to be affected by automation. At face value, this number can seem concerning, but it’s important to remember that the process of implementation will still take time.

In the time it takes for the world to fully implement robots and automation in the majority of work systems, humans will be able to adapt and learn new skills, especially if they are empowered by their employers. Some are calling this the “Skills Revolution,” which refers to the fact that the skills required in the workforce are changing at a rapid pace. In the face of this, workers must embrace continuous learning opportunities, and employers must provide ongoing training to future-proof their employees.

To do just that for your employees, consider the following steps:

Pay attention to trends

As a futurist, I am constantly on the lookout for new Megatrends and patterns that may affect our future. This skill has served me and many others well over the years and has helped HP prepare itself for the years to come.

When it comes to future-proofing yourself in the face of automation, pay attention to new careers and job opportunities. It’s predicted that 65% of the jobs that Gen Z will perform don’t even exist yet. If you are able to spot a job trend and properly prepare for it, you could help usher in an entirely new career field.

Embrace lifelong learning

Gone are the days where you could learn a set of skills, perform them for the rest of your life, and earn a living. Nearly all careers require the occasional training or upskilling, but soon it will be necessary to dedicate time to learning on an ongoing basis. For some, this could mean improving their existing abilities and adding complementary skillsets, but for others it could mean learning an entirely new skill. It’s predicted that 42% of required skills will change by 2022, requiring the average worker to adapt to new tasks such as analytical thinking and negotiation. To adjust to these new skills by 2022, employees will need 101 days of training on average.

Thankfully, there are plenty of resources that will help, like Coursera and Lynda, as well as an emergence of recognized online higher education.

Maintain a growth mindset

How do you cope with challenge and difficulty? Do you give up when you feel that something is out of your range of abilities, or do you accept it as a learning opportunity? To maintain a growth mindset, you must learn to embrace challenges and failure as opportunities for growth, rather than letting them stop you in your tracks.

Read “The Power of ‘Yet’ – Developing a Growth Mindset” for more information!

When you develop a growth mindset, you’re able to have the confidence to push through challenges, and this persistence will help you prepare for our automated future. Whether this is a small shift in your career or a larger transition to an entirely new field, a growth mindset will help you see things through a positive lens.

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5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Prioritize Mental Health

In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10th, I want to discuss the importance of taking care of yourself as an entrepreneur.

Oftentimes, as an entrepreneur, taking care of your own mental health can feel like the last thing on your list. In an environment where you’re focused on creating a successful business, it’s easy to put your well-being on the backburner. Some may even see this as a badge of honor.

The numbers are concerning. A report found that 72% of entrepreneurs experience some type of mental health issue and are “significantly more likely to report a lifetime history of depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance-abuse conditions (12%), and bipolar diagnosis (11%).” Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs feel the need to hide these issues, for fear that it will affect their business and their personal lives.

Thankfully, the conversation around mental health is shifting. Healthcare professionals are moving away from a separation of mind and body to an integration, understanding that mental health is just as important as physical health. Companies are creating empathetic policies that encourage a more open and understanding workplace. Most importantly, people all over the world are working to erase the stigma behind mental health issues, including CEOs, grad students, Greek police officers, and Florida public schools

If you’re an entrepreneur or startup founder (or just want to concentrate more on your well-being), here are my top tips for balancing your mental health with your growing business and working through the “founder’s blues”:

1. Leave space to reflect.

Throughout your week, schedule time to simply hit the pause button. Take this time to breathe and reflect on your week. What have you accomplished? Where can you improve? Ask yourself these questions, but be sure to speak to yourself in a kind way. We are often our own worst critic, and it’s important to recognize that harsh self-talk is linked to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.

This time for self-reflection is essential for everyone, but especially if your schedule is jam-packed. In a start-up world that’s focused on external factors like funding, hiring, and planning, it’s easy to ignore internal factors. When the internal is ignored, recognizing and managing emotions can be difficult. It’s important to prioritize time and stick to your schedule.

2. Pay attention to burnout.

In the world of entrepreneurship, burnout is a real issue. The World Health Organization has recognized burnout as an official disorder. Oftentimes the symptoms are ignored or minimized, which can lead to more worrisome issues down the line.

If you notice symptoms such as feeling cynical about your job or emotionally drained by your work, don’t ignore them. They are an important sign that you need a break, and you should honor that by taking some time off to recalibrate, even if it’s just for a day or two. You will come back to your work refreshed.

3. Manage and delegate.

Entrepreneurs wear several hats, especially when they’re near the starting line. Over time, you may feel like your life is a constant juggling act, so it’s imperative to find balance. Manage your time and stick to a schedule to alleviate any stress, and delegate whenever possible.

If you find that certain tasks cause you more stress than others, find ways to change the tasks to be less demanding, or find someone on your team you can delegate them to. If that is not an option, consider outsourcing to an agency or contractor.

4. Be mindful of your physical health.

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to be an entrepreneur, but it’s important to treat your body well. Is your diet giving you the energy and nutrients you need throughout the day? Are you making time for moderate exercise? Unfortunately, running from meeting to meeting doesn’t count. Physical exercise is crucial to mental health. Any type of exercise will help promote improved mental health, however the social aspects of team sports have the strongest effect.

Don’t focus on perfection. Instead, do what you can to eat nutritious foods and stay active. If you’re able to hire a personal trainer and nutritionist, do so. If that isn’t possible for you at this time, there are a plethora of resources online that can help you get where you need to be, such as Lifesum for nutrition and Fitocracy for personal training. 

5. Find support.

You may feel alone in this, but that is far from the truth. As mentioned before, 72% of entrepreneurs have reported dealing with some mental health issue. Many of them have created communities and groups that deal with these problems together and support each other. If you feel comfortable, join one of these communities and learn from others who are dealing with similar issues. Search online or ask your network for these communities or use an online service like 7 Cups of Tea to find anonymous support.

On a related note, consider finding a therapist who works for you, online or in-person. There are mental health professionals who specialize in executive leadership, and they can help you through all the ups and downs that you may experience.  

Mental health does not discriminate; in fact, it affects one in four people globally. It isn’t always easy to talk about, but that’s rapidly changing due to increasing awareness and leaders who are open about their journey. By prioritizing your own health, you can inspire and encourage others on your team and in your community to do the same.

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