14 May 2020
12:00 pm ET 60 mins

As many teams are working remotely in light of COVID-19, it’s essential that leaders have the specific tools, practices and habits required for effective virtual leadership.

Join us for this complimentary Training Industry webinar, sponsored by SAP Litmos, where virtual leadership expert John Hester of The Ken Blanchard Companies will share three best practice for effective virtual leadership.

You will learn how to:

  • Be attentive and mindful of employees’ goals, motivations, needs and experiences.
  • Foster community by connecting team members to the larger organization, actively facilitating collaboration, driving team culture and uniting virtual workers to build community.
  • Accelerate performance and development by focusing on team members’ professional and personal goals and identifying ways to help them reach them.


The transcript for this webinar follows:

Sarah Gallo:

Hello and welcome to today’s Training Industry webinar: Leading Virtually Three Practices New Virtual Leaders Need To Master, sponsored by SAP Litmos. I’m Sarah Gallo, and associate editor here at Training Industry and I’m happy you could join us.

Before we get started, I’d like to go over just a few housekeeping items to help you interact with our speaker today and get the most out of the event. Throughout today’s event, feel free to chat any comments you have in your chat panel, and any questions you have in your Q&A window. We’ll address all of your comments and or questions either throughout the event or at the end of the program during our Q&A session.

We also encourage you to be social today. Go ahead and follow the hashtag #TIWebinars and the Twitter handle @Litmos to stay connected. After today’s event, you’ll receive a quick evaluation survey. We’d greatly appreciate any comments you have about today’s content speaker or anything else you’d like to share. Of course, today’s webinar will be recorded and archived on trainingindustry.com, and you will receive a follow up email from us with the on demand program and slide deck so you can share it with your team.

If this is your first webinar with us, a special welcome goes out to you. Here at Training Industry, we offer dozens of webinars each year on topics like design thinking, leadership development, content development, and much more. We cover just about every topic relevant to training leaders around the globe.

If you have joined one of our events in the past, a special welcome goes back out to you as well. All right, let me go ahead and introduce you to our host today, David Witt. David is a program director for the Ken Blanchard Companies as an accomplished writer, keynote speaker and online host. David serves as the executive editor of Blanchard’s monthly client newsletter, lead columnist and moderator of the company’s online blogs, and he hosts the company’s monthly webinar program.

Through these roles, David reaches more than 25,000 people each month. He’s also an award winning researcher focusing on trends and implications in the learning and development industry. His work has been published in academic journals such as the Human Resource Development Review, and the Journal of Business Administration Research. He’s a regular contributor to industry trade journals such as Chief Learning Officer, Talent Management, US Business Review and Training Magazine.

In 2011, he was named a co-recipient of the Cutting Edge Award by the Academy of Human Resource Development.

David Witt:

Thank you, Sarah, it’s a real pleasure to be here with you and thanks to all of you for joining us for today’s session. I’ll be working in the background and monitoring the chat. If you do have questions for John Hester anytime during the course of this presentation, type it into the chat feature, and I’ll ask those questions on your behalf at the end of today’s session. Really looking forward to being with all of you today, and thanks, Sarah.

Sarah Gallo:

Thanks, Dave. Today’s speaker, John Hester. John Hester is a senior consulting partner for the Ken Blanchard Companies. His mission is to contribute to the growth and development of others through teaching, writing and serving. John’s facilitation experience spans information technology, retail, aerospace, finance, automotive, energy, pharmaceutical, biotech, and manufacturing. Prior to coming to the Ken Blanchard Companies, John was a director of learning and development for Nike. His specific areas of expertise include leadership, professional development, leading virtually, team performance, organizational development and time and life management.

John holds a master’s degree in adult education from Oregon State University, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Information Management from Brigham Young University Hawaii, and a doctoral studies in business management at George Fox University. All right, with that, John, I’ll let you go ahead and take things away for us.

John Hester:

Thank you, Sarah, and welcome, everyone. As we get started again, we will want you to interact in both the chat and the Q&A panels. In the chat panel, if you would make sure that under where it says to, change that from All Panelists to include All Panelists and Attendees, so that everybody can see your responses in the chat. We’re going to be using that to gather information from you as well as use the Q&A if you have any questions as we get into the training itself.

I’m going to go ahead and turn off my camera so you can focus on what’s on the screen. I’m going to turn off the video here. Sara, for some reason, I am not able to advance the slides like I was beforehand.

All right. There we go. All right, thank you. All right, again, welcome to Leading Virtually, Three Practices Virtual Leaders Need To Master. We’re going to be focused as our agenda for today on looking at some of the data around remote work. We’re going to be looking at three essential practices that virtual leaders need to be effective in a virtual environments. To be attentive and mindful, foster community and accelerate performance and development.

We want to start with a poll just to see before COVID-19, how often did you work remote? Is it never, one day per month, one day per week? More than one day per week, or always? I have been… Go ahead, Dave.

David Witt:

I’ll just say, this should be interesting, John, just thinking about so many of us have moved into working at home since COVID-19. But I’m very excited and interested to see how many people had experience before this. It’ll be fun to see if people said, hey, before COVID-19, how often did they work? Was it always more than one day per week? Just one day, a week, one day, a month or never?

I know we’ve run this poll a couple of times before, it’ll be interesting to see with this group today, what the answers are.

John Hester:

In my early career, I had never worked from home, it was always in the office and then at Nike, I had a little bit more freedom to work from home periodically. But I went to full-time work from home in 2006, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I’m either… My job either takes me on the road, in an airplane at a client site or working from home. Again, how often are you working remotely? Those are all different ways that we work remote. Give you a little-

Sarah Gallo:

All right, everyone, take a few more moments to pop your answer into that poll.

John Hester:

Thank you. Again, note that if we were to ask today with COVID-19, we’d see certainly they always would be so much higher, but it’s a pretty typical of industry data around we’ve got always at 14%. A good percentage there. More than one day a week, that’s 29, 35, 40, 45 if I’m doing my math are at least one day per week, and then notice that 40% were never. That’s pretty consistent to what we see in the industry.

A recent survey by Owl labs on the state of remote work, found that there were 32% who not only said never but can’t. Another organization found that about 56% of global jobs could be done from home, but 32% do not have a situation where they’re allowed to work from home or their job won’t do that. But notice that 18% was always. This group was about 14%. So, pretty standard, but about 50% around there are doing more than one day a week were home.

That’s the state prior to COVID-19. My guess would be that post COVID-19, those numbers will increase, that we’ll see more people working from home. I have a friend who could do his whole job from home but his company doesn’t trust their employees. I know that he’s showing them that he really can make a difference from home, and that they’ll save money and other benefits from that. I’m hoping that that will change for him.

Another survey looked and found that 60% of the part time workers would resign their current position to take a similar job at the same pay if it meant that they could work from home full-time. Not only is this something that is happening, but it’s desired for more people than it is currently happening. People would prefer that opportunity to work from home. Of those who do work remote, half of them would want to increase that frequency, they want to telecommute more than they are currently.

That not only is it something that at least half the population is doing periodically, but people want to do more and more of this. The question is, why? Why do people choose to work remote? That’s what’s different with this COVID-19 situation is that it’s not necessarily a choice for people. When people do have the choice, why do they make that choice?

This was a worldwide survey done by Owl Labs, and you notice the different responses there, that the blue of no commute depends on where you live in the world. For me, that’s a huge one. I don’t have to commute across the bridge into… I live in Vancouver, Washington, and most of my work was in Portland, Oregon, which is across the bridge, and it’s getting really bad for traffic. But look at the other issues that people cited there? The biggest one is increased productivity and better focus. That is very clear in the research that people are much more productive generally speaking, when they get that choice to work from home. There’s less stress, there’s better work life balance, but these are not necessarily true, I don’t think in our current situation.

The benefits that employees cite of telecommuting, it does eliminate the commute. That’s the number one benefit that people cite. They get better work life balance, more flexible work hours, and people find themselves overall being more productive, and there is a cost savings to working from home, as well as all those benefits.

There also report being happy at work. Look at that number, 71% of workers say they are happy in their job who are remote, while only 55% of workers who are on site report that they’re happy in their job. Again, not only does it increase productivity for many, but it also increases the level of satisfaction and happiness. But there’s also benefits to the organization. This was a study that was validated by the US Department of Commerce. This was looking at US companies and what they report out and the Global Workplace Analytics created a calculator for this to calculate how much does the company, the organization benefit when their workers are working remotely or telecommuting?

There’s a 15% increase in productivity. They can count on a 25% reduction in office space costs, absenteeism goes down tremendously because people don’t call in sick generally when they’re working from home, or if one of their children are sick or something like that that would cause them to miss work. Also, people stay longer, and they don’t leave their organization are 10% better when people are remote.

These are data that is benefits to the organization. I didn’t notice the question from Ashley there, how are we defining productivity in these examples? That is, how do you quantify productivity? That is a difficult thing to do. Some studies are just asking the employee, compare your level of productivity working from home versus in the office, but there are also studies looking at a specific work environment.

One study that I researched, looked at call center employees, and the volume of calls or retention of clients, all those kinds of things. It would really depend on the industry and what productivity looks like. But many studies have shown an increase in productivity. However, and I think this is a really important piece for our current environment, that choice has a lot to do with that.

If I don’t have the choice to work from home and I’m forced to do that, my feelings of happiness and productivity may be different. With the COVID-19 situation, the extra stress of you wondering about my job, my company, having the others at home with you, it’s one thing to be working from home, it’s another thing to be working from home with your family at home, your children needing to be homeschooled, which is in my situation with my grandchildren, they are being homeschooled by my wife during this time period where they were in school more than a month and a half ago. Very different environment today than it was just recently.

A study at Stanford recently looked at the same thing around productivity, but again, this was looking at from the employer perspective, around productivity is that on average, you’re 20% more productive, and, look at that, half as likely to seek other jobs as those who work in a traditional setting.

It’s certainly on the rise, it’s certainly something that we’re going to see more and more of as we go further. It’s increased dramatically even in the last 10 to 15 years. But there are certainly challenges. If you would in the chat, I’d love to hear from you, what do you see as the major challenges or concerns for those who work remotely?

For you, for other people that you are working with, what are some of the concerns of challenges that you’re experiencing? Again, make sure that it says not just all panelists, but include all attendees so everybody can see your responses. As we go through them, I’ll just highlight a few, certainly keeping engagement, the lack of trust, the disconnect from the organization, the internet connections, and the technology is a big issue right now. That’s one that we didn’t expect that there’s a lot of… Even programs like Zoom, and Adobe Connect and other platforms that you use to communicate are really struggling with the amount of bandwidth.

I’m seeing other things, stepping away from work is a big issue. Keeping up the communication and the connection with your teammates, having the technical capacity to do the work from home. It’s easy to get distracted. I love that, Summer, I miss talking to people other than my family.

David Witt:

The other one, John, is looking at this, my wife and I are both working at home now. The one I think might be coming up in the future, as we spend more time at home is ergonomics. If you saw how my wife has outfitted a kitchen chair with pillows and stuff, she’s created her own Aeron chair, but with materials around the house, and I’m still trying to figure out to find a good chair.

John Hester:

Even the location of where you work. Not many people in the world, and if you look at our audience today, it’s very global, there are not a lot of places in the world where people have the space to have two different offices for two different people in the home, and a place for the kids to do their homework and all that kind of stuff, the quiet place to do the work as well. A lot of things you’ll see.

I’m using a folding table, I love that. [Aleta 00:16:52] says, “For me, it’s eating all the time. That’s been an issue as well?” Certainly don’t stand up as office. Lots of challenges. There are great benefits, but we recognize that there are challenges as well. When you look at the research around working remotely, these are the big three. Staying motivated, that sense of isolation that I’m out here by myself, and that feeling of stagnation that often I’m forgotten about when it comes to development opportunities, growth opportunities, new projects, promotion, those kinds of things.

These are the key challenges that come out of the research around pre-COVID-19. Again, I think there’s all kinds of different issues that are coming up for that.

Then, let’s shift the question to, what are some of the challenges you’re having leading people who are virtual or remote? Put that into the chat. What do you see being those biggest challenges for you leading people who are remote?

David Witt:

Yes, this is going to be an interesting shift on the question. We talked about our own personal challenges with working from home. For those of us that are leading others, what are some of the biggest challenges we’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks now? Boy, they’re coming in quickly, now, John. A lot of things I’m guessing that you’ve seen before, when you’ve asked this question.

John Hester:

Absolutely, how do I build trust? How do I encourage and motivate? How do I keep engagement? How do I build community? How do I make sure people feel supported? How do I keep people focused? Focus one is an interesting one because of COVID-19, especially in the early week or weeks, first couple of weeks. I’ve struggled, and I had a session I was doing with a client that was normally very present and they were struggling with being present in the training.

I think we’ve normalized a little bit around this, but certainly look at other comments, engagement in meetings, meeting our deadlines, just getting the level of productivity. But a big one is the balance, that balance between getting the results that I need from them, but also keeping them engaged, keeping them feel like they’re cared about. Those kinds of things are definitely coming up. Anything else, David, that you see in that that I’ve missed as they’ve been scrolling through?

David Witt:

The only other thing that I was just curious if people would be thinking about with all of us working at home, I think there’s a background as far as people concerned about their jobs. I know that’s one of the concerns that managers have raised in the past is continuing to work in a new situation when folks are worried about what the future holds for them also.

John Hester:

That goes back to their research that was done looking at what jobs could be done well from home? They figure a little more than 50% of the jobs worldwide can be done from home. But will those jobs even exist with all the struggles that we’re having right now? That is weighing on people’s mind. Lots of things to cause challenges to make this more difficult.

In order to really reap the benefits of work from home and remote work, and to mitigate a lot of these challenges, leaders need to do these three things. They need to ensure performance is happening. They need to be able to keep their direct reports and themselves focused and engage, and they need to be able to coach and develop their people from a distance.

These are the things that when we were looking at developing a training for meeting in a virtual team, these are the things that we were looking at as we looked at the major challenges for both team members and remote managers.

Our company founder, Ken Blanchard, made this statement many, many years ago before working from home was a big thing and he wasn’t thinking about this, but I think it fits so well, that as a manager, the important thing is not what happens when I’m there, it’s what happens when I’m not there. In the past, I would say, your success as a leader is really determined by, can you take a two week vacation without checking in with your team, and know that everything is gonna run great while you’re gone? That’s a sign of good leadership. Well, I think in a remote world, this is definitely a true statement. I need to be able to know that without me being there to see them that not only are they getting great work done, but they’re staying connected, engaged, et cetera.

We all deserve a caring and capable leader, and that is more true in a remote world. We want to make sure that leaders of remote workers have a way to lead in a way that creates motivation, alignment and drive results. Those three things are what we were looking at as we develop this workshop around leading virtually, is how can we lead in such a way that they feel cared for, but that creates a motivating environment, they’re aligned with what we’re trying to do as an organization, and getting good results? That’s the focus of this leading virtually.

We’ve found that there are three major practices that we need to adopt as a virtual leader. The first one is to be attentive and mindful. You’ll see that next to each of these, there are four, what we would call habits to be attentive and mindful, and then to foster community, and then to accelerate performance and development.

These are the three practices that we think are important for any virtual leader. Our training program really teaches leaders how to interact the best way they can with their remote workers, to really understand why this is harder, and how to do this virtually. To focus on those subtleties that make all the difference, because the reality is, many things that we probably should be doing when are face to face, we get away with not doing, but you can’t get away with them in the virtual environment. The stakes are higher, it’s so much easier to lose trust, to lose commitment, to lose engagement. So, how do we balance both that soft issues around people, and then the hard issues around performance and ensure both that engagement and performance are happening?

That’s the focus of what we’re trying to do with this program. Let’s talk about the first habit, which is, again, be attentive and mindful are the first practice. The four habits here are to be present, to pay attention to individual differences, to ask periodically for feedback and to lead with intention. What do those look like? Well, the opposite of being present is multitasking. I actually had someone say this to me recently in a session, “Honestly, I love our weekly team meetings. If it weren’t for them, I’d never get caught up on my email.”

Again, let’s go to chat, and what is the impact when the leader is not present? Think about in a one on one conversation, in a team meeting, even if I’m not responsive to you in instant messaging and emails, what’s the impact when people see that I’m not present?

David Witt:

Let’s go ahead and let’s use that chat panel to answer that question. What are some of the implications when the leader is not present? We’ve got that first one, there’s disengagement. Of course, that’s unprofessional conduct. Time wasted, loss of faith, people disconnect, they don’t respect the leader, inactivity. People stop speaking up. If it’s not, seems to be interesting to the leader. Why am I working so hard at it, right? John, I’m guessing you’ve seen these types of responses before also.

John Hester:

Absolutely. It’s such a temptation because we have access to our email and our instant messaging, and that we’re just all guilty of multitasking in meetings, phone calls, et cetera, and people know, they know by things like having to repeat questions and they can tell by tone, a lack of participation. As a leader, one of the most important things we can do is make sure that we are reducing all of those things that cause us to multitask and really be focused and focused on the individual.

One of the ways that you can do that is have frequent check ins with your leader. I’m curious as to how often you have a one on one… Excuse me, or a check in with your leader.

David Witt:

Looks like Sarah is opening up the poll for us here.

Sarah Gallo:

Yep, everyone take a few moments to pop your answer into that poll on your screen.

David Witt:

Let’s take a look in how often do you have one on ones right now to check in with your leaders? Is it weekly? Is it every other week? Is it once a month, once a quarter? Wow, rarely or never? Go ahead and choose the one that most matches up with your experience. Then we’ll get a chance to see the results in just a little bit when Sarah closes the poll out for us.

John Hester:

I’ve also noted this Deedee’s comment in the chat, “Since moving to remote, it’s actually more than once a week.” I think that we are seeing that. It’s been interesting, I’m seeing more regular connection and communication now that we are in this crisis than we’ve ever seen before, at least that’s been my experience, and with many of the clients that I’ve been working with are saying the same thing. Yes, you’re seeing other ways via chats daily, those kinds of things. I think we can go ahead, Sarah and wrap up this poll.

Sarah Gallo:

There you are.

John Hester:

I’m very happy to see that weekly is at 55%. But it always just amazes me to see the rarely and never still at 11%. One of the things about being present and mindful is to make time for your team members. The one on one or check ins on a regular basis are critical to that. Our best practice that we suggest in a virtual environment is you should be having a once a week as a minimum check in with your team members.

The key is keep them short. They don’t need to be hour long check ins, but the biggest key is that last one, and that is to really let this time be focused on them. I would recommend that use other means of getting status updates. Use tools, use technology to provide status updates, and use this one on one or check in time to really focus on them, and what they want to talk about.

It may have nothing to do with the actual work, but really be more about what they’re going through in this experience. This is what you need to be able to create that connection, to show that you care, as well as to help with their engagement and performance.

David Witt:

John, this whole idea of really setting the time aside to talk about what’s on the direct reports mind is important. I think it’s really a change. I found, for example, when I first implemented this a couple of years ago with my direct reports, we would have this weekly one on one meeting, but because they had not ever been used to talking about what they wanted to talk about, the meeting always became just an update on the tasks they were working on.

I had to actually create two different meetings each week. One was my meeting where we did the goal check in, and then we had a second meeting where it was their agenda where they could talk about what was of interest to them. I have noticed that it’s taking a little bit of learning on both sides, both for the manager and the direct reports.

John Hester:

Very good. Thank you. I like the comment from Chris, that they have the time they can count on every week, but that there’s open time where if they need more than that. But I would also suggest that with especially people who are remote, that you use other technology and tools for reporting. We’ll talk about this actually more in practice three around performance, but use transparent tools to be able to report how people are doing so that you can use the one on one time, the check in time to be more personal about the individual.

David Witt:

It’s great. Thank you, John.

John Hester:

I also would strongly urge you to use video in your communication. Both your one on one communication and your team meetings. Why do you think that is so important? Again in chat, why do you think it would be so important for people to use video in their virtual communication, especially with remote team members?

David Witt:

This is going to be kind of fun because I think there’s been a lot of changing attitudes toward the use of video. If we think about where we first came from, with no one really using video, then we all started using video with Zoom, for example, and now a lot of us are like there’s that whole term, Zoom fatigue, which I think is interesting. What are the benefits of using video? What have you seen, what have you noticed?

John Hester:

A lot of again, very similar things that I hear that are engagement, you get all of the body language, and the facial expressions, it’s more difficult to multitask, so you get better presence. But you really create better connection. Certainly, in your one on ones, and in your team meetings, I strongly encourage you to use video as much as possible. But what Dave said is also true that our expectations for video I think have changed as well.

In the past, if you would read articles about virtual meetings and things, they would talk about having a background or even having a green screen, they have green screens you can attach to your chair, and making sure that you’re professional, and your hair and makeup are done and all this kind of thing. Get over it. We need to be real. I think… I never take care of my hair and makeup anymore, and I’m not worried about being overly professional.

It’s okay if the kid comes in, stop and introduce the kid to the team. If the cat jumps up on your lap, I love seeing that. Make sure that, be real with each other. The other thing that if you’d asked me six months ago, I would have said is, require it, make everybody come on video. With everything that’s going on and things I’ve been reading and having discussions with people, I’ve changed my tune on that. It’s really about just being the example.

When you are in a one on one meeting, just turn on your camera automatically, and let the other person decide if they want to be on camera. In your team meetings, you just go on camera and see who joined you. Over time, you’ll see more and more people will do that. Again, it’s what are people comfortable with and getting that comfort, I think is important.

That is our first practice. The second practice is to foster community. Again, this needs to be something that in the face to face environment would happen more naturally. In the virtual environment, you need to be proactive in doing these things. You’ll see there are four habits here; build trust is the first one, you’ve got to be proactive at doing that, it doesn’t happen naturally in the virtual environment. You want to make sure that you’re providing the technology support that people need. I’m noticing even a couple comments in the chat around that, with the technology and everybody being virtual, video is really a difficult thing, especially in rural areas where they don’t have the strong bandwidth.

But then also invest in the connection with your team, with not only one to one, but get the team to connect with each other. Then make time and find creative ways to celebrate success. That again, these things don’t happen naturally, you’ve got to be creative and proactive to do them in the virtual environment. Some key things that you can do to build trust virtually? The first is to make sure that you’re always prepared to be of support and help to your team. Whatever that means to you to be prepared and helpful, you need to reach out to your team members on a regular basis, and stay connected with them.

But a big one is being responsive. That because you’re not seeing people, if somebody were to come to your door, or your office or your cube and knock on it, you’d respond. But do you do the same thing when they reach out to you through an instant message, or when they send you an email? Are you responsive? Another piece of that is defining what that looks like. Having clear norms or ways of working that you agree on, and we’re going to talk about this in a minute, different channels of communication.

My expectation is, if you send me an instant message, I’m going to respond fairly quickly, where with an email, I might do it later in the day. But as a virtual leader, you’ve got to be responsive to those messages from your teams. You also need to make sure that you’re following through on your commitments, because again in the virtual environment, you haven’t had the opportunity to build what Stephen Covey would refer to as a trust bank account as high. If you make mistakes and don’t follow through, it’s going to erode very quickly, the trust.

Well, you’ve also seen though, what’s been interesting about the COVID-19 situation is that effort team is first face to face, and then becomes virtual. It’s much easier to build community and trust because you’ve had that face to face time. When you are all virtual, and that’s where you started, this is much more difficult.

The other thing in a virtual environment is often people do not feel fairly treated if there are some people that are co-located and others that are virtual. For example, we might be at a team meeting, and that the people who are local gather together in office but the rest of us are dialing in their side conversations in the office. They go to the whiteboard and do things, I don’t get thought about when it comes to development opportunities. We need to make sure that we’re very mindful of that.

Even I suggest if you have some people that are co-located and others not, when you meet, make everybody dial in, make everybody connect through the video, and not get in a room together. We need to make sure that we are getting to know people on an individual level and appreciate their strengths and differences, and people give them support and protection in their roles. Be an umbrella for them for all the things that might be going around them as much as possible.

Those are some ideas to proactively reach out and build trust. The other thing that’s important is especially now that they have support for the technology that they are using. The three things I would suggest around providing technology support, the first one is to make sure that you are investing time and learning the technology yourself.

If you’re using Zoom, you’re using Microsoft Teams, you’re meeting on these technology tools, get yourself competent at how to engage people, how to use the technology, how to share documents, whatever it is that you’re doing, really invest the time in learning the technology yourself. The second one is to really identify the mentors on your team, the experts that can mentor others, and give them opportunities to coach and develop you, other members of the team, do some knowledge sharing, do some training for the team, which is the third one is invest in training around those tools and technology. Because what sets apart a virtual team from a face to face team is you’re using technology as your main way of communicating and working together. We need to invest that time in the technology.

That is the second habit that we need to foster community. The third one is to invest in connection. Once this crisis is over, whatever normal looks like I do suggest very strongly that you get the team physically together as quick as possible and as often as possible. Now, budgets, travel, everything else that goes along with that, this is the best practice. But if we can’t do that, we need to look for other ways of doing that in a virtual environment.

One of the ways that you can do that in the virtual environment is to find ways to celebrate virtually. Really get creative around the different ways that you can do that. Again, it doesn’t happen naturally, so we’ve got to reach out and look for things that we can do.

For example, one of the ones that I’m seeing a lot is virtual happy hours. Getting everybody on video, everybody having their favorite liquid and other refreshment. You can also do some other activities like have a virtual lunch where everybody is bringing their lunch to the meeting and sharing what they’re having. Just really look for ways to celebrate. You can order in for people, you can send them again, wherever this works in the globe, not available to everywhere, but order lunch in for everybody in their home or wherever they’re working. Lots of ways that you can celebrate, but really look for every opportunity to celebrate someone’s birthday, or a special event or significant achievement.

One of the favorite things I do with global teams is celebrate global holidays. I have a global holiday calendar with the team. When it comes up to a holiday that I don’t celebrate, “Hey, let’s have a meeting, you teach us about your holiday. If there’s something that you do in your home, show us that.” Just look for those opportunities as much as you can to celebrate in that virtual environment.

David Witt:

John, one thing I wanted to add into this too, I was just thinking about this whole idea of the virtual happy hours. I like that morning brew, the tea time, and some of the ideas that we’re seeing. It’s funny, I think everybody a lot of times looks to the leader to create that for them. But we had an interesting thing happen in our department at work. Our youngest newest member of our team, said, “I’ll put on the happy hour.” We were all like, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

Our youngest member of the team took that on, and everybody kind of followed in. I think a lot of times people are looking for someone else to get it started. But I’ve kind of noticed that it might not be necessary to always have and expect the leader to be the one generating that.

John Hester:

It’s one of the things, Dave, that I think has happened again, as a result of this crisis, that people are being proactive in reaching out. I actually feel more connected to my team now than I ever did before this because people are doing that. One of my colleagues has done the same thing that he has reached out and every Friday morning, there’s just an hour long zoom meeting that is nothing about work, it’s really about how are people doing in this time?

He just initiated that on his own and out of the 50 team members, about 15, 16 usually join, and it varies each week. Just again, being proactive and doing those kinds of things. Our last practice is to accelerate performance and development that, again, how do we make sure that people are getting the work done, and how do we make sure that they become more self-reliant? Because you do need to be more self reliant in a virtual environment than you are in a face to face environment.

You’ll see four habits here, the first being focus on output. We need to stop worrying about what are people doing every minute of the day. I was just reading an article about how some companies are implementing these horrid tools. I’m sorry, I apologize if any of you work for those companies, or if you did this, but to me, I just think they’re an invasion of privacy.

Tools that have your cameras showing you when you’re in front of your computer, or watching your keystrokes and those kinds of things. Don’t do that, focus on what is the output you need from them? What’s the end goal, and really focus there and let the individual determine how they’re going to manage their time and their day around that, especially with everything that’s going to do that. I see that comment from Leslie, that you have to account for every project hour. Instead, the focus should really be on the output of that time and investment because again, I love that comment about trust.

Tools to do that as well. Using something as simple as a Microsoft OneNote for everybody to keep track of what they’re working on, or an Excel spreadsheet or there’s sophisticated tools like Slack and others that you can use to help people report out. It’s really about being transparent in what are the things you’re working on and where are you at and where do you need help and those kinds of things, so that… Let the tools be managing that instead of you as a leader.

The second one is to encourage self-reliance so that when people come to you with concerns or issues, really get good at asking open ended questions to draw out their own thinking, and having those coaching conversations that encourage greater self-reliance. Third one is to facilitate networking so that, again… I love this quote here, that my chances for career growth feel as remote as my manager. One of my roles as a leader of virtual teams, is to give people opportunity to be able to network outside of the team. My job is to be that connector to help them create that network, to give them opportunities to be visible in the organization.

Then the last habit of practice three is to assist with career development. That if you’re not having these conversations with your team members about the career development, they’ll go have them with somebody else, and then maybe somebody you don’t want them to have that conversation with. It may be a client, it may be… I love that… I hate that, actually, when I hear about those kind of conversations happening, but I need to be talking to them about their career goals, their aspirations, their development plans, and how can I help them to do that as well?

Practice three is really paying attention to both the performance but also their individual development. We’ve taken those three practices and the habits and we’ve developed a virtual training program that is free to our virtual sessions that comes complete with all the materials that you would need. Our clients can either have us deliver it, or they can order the materials with a facilitator guide and leader notes and PowerPoints and deliver it themselves. It’s got a detailed training design and leader notes along with it.

We’ve taken all this research around leading virtual teams and what’s going on in the world and developed this program around these three practices and the 12 habits within each of those practices.

That brings us to the q&a portion. If you haven’t submitted any questions in the QA, and you’ve got some questions, go ahead and put them there. I think we’ve handled some of the ones in the chat. Are there other ones, Dave, that you’ve seen come in?

David Witt:

There is, John and thank you for taking us through that part of the presentation. What great practice areas, great habits? Everyone, if you do have a question, use the chat feature. Now, type that in. We’ll ask John as many of your questions as we can, with the time that we’ve got remaining. John, one of the questions that came in and you’ve touched on this, but I was wondering if you had one thing that you would suggest that top managers do is when it comes to employee productivity, what’s the number one overall thing managers should be thinking about when it comes to managing the productivity of their remote workers?

John Hester:

Again, one of the things that you find with leading people who are remote is the things that… The disciplines and practices and habits we should be doing anyway, become much more critical. A simple basic habit is to make sure that you are clear on your expectations. If you want good results, you’ve got to set clear expectations of what do you need, and then in the perfect world, you would then ask them, when can they get that to you by? Have that discussion with them.

We know we don’t live in that perfect world all the time, and sometimes we have to set deadlines, but it’s really about setting clear expectations, and then letting them provide you with periodic status updates, not pinging them all the time to see where they’re at, but really giving some trust and letting them be more self-directed.

David Witt:

That’s great. Thank you, John. A couple of folks have asked questions about virtual trainings. We’ve got a lot of L&D professionals here, and we know that there’s been a lot of interest in best practices with virtual training. Any general tips that you would say this is paramount when you’re doing virtual training? Then there was a question specifically about showing videos on some of the platforms, Zoom in particular. What are your general thoughts on as people might be stepping into virtual training for the first time?

John Hester:

I think and this is something, Dave, that is interesting about doing a webinar like this. This is not how the training works. The training is much more interactive than we did today. Having a variety of ways to interact with the participants is critical. You should go no more than, I think two minutes of just you talking, but using ways to meaningful interact with the participants around chat, on screen text and annotations, polls, et cetera.

Your training should really find ways to engage in that way. But another critical piece for me is in any… I try to keep my training sessions to 90 minutes, sometimes two hours, we try to keep them to 90 minutes, but sometimes we can’t do that, is that having breakouts. Putting them into small groups like a table discussion in a face to face environment, where they can work on activities, case studies, discussions, et cetera. I try to have at least two of those breakouts in every session, every 90 minutes, two hour session, have a design where they’ve got those more table kind of activities to do, I think it’s critical.

David Witt:

That’s great. Thank you, John. One of our other colleagues, Vicki Halsey, who’s our Vice President of Applied Learning, she’s got a great tip that I always try to keep in mind, the people doing the talking are the people doing the learning. It’s been fun. You’ve seen us try to use the chat feature a lot. I think a lot of us have found that that’s where a lot of the rich side discussion is happening. You do want to, as much as possible, let people hear their own voice during sessions.

John, another question came in with people that are managing groups all around the world, how to set a time for a meeting. What are your thoughts, and what have you seen clients do as far as trying to identify the time differences we’re dealing with?

John Hester:

The first thing is to rotate the suffering. Make sure that if you are… It might be early morning for you one week, it might be later in the day for you another week, but rotate that through the team. Don’t make one group or person really suffer all the time. The other is to always try to find that overlap when you can that might be in a normal workday, but recognize that that may not work.

Then you also look at things like recording the meeting, having really good meeting notes so people that don’t aren’t able to attend can rely on that. Using other things than meetings. If you’re going to provide status updates, our leader just sent out a weekly newsletter where everything was people on video, instead of having a meeting, each person that was going to do something recorded a video, they sent that out as a newsletter. We didn’t need to meet to hear that. You should limit your meeting time to where you need to get the engagement and ideas from the group.

David Witt:

Thank you, John. Another question came, and this was early in the process as far as examples of good one on one meetings, since this is the direct reports meeting, and maybe they’re new to this, what are some examples of how a leader can draw them out during that meeting? What would you suggest some actual language that leaders use if they’re trying to implement this for the first time with people who are like, “Where are we going with this?

John Hester:

Dave, I think your example from earlier is really an indicator of that, that they may not feel competent at leading their own one on one. You’ve got to help them… You almost have to sell them on the why. Why should we be meeting weekly? Why should you be taking the lead on this? That might be your early discussion, but really emphasize that it’s really whatever they really feel the need to talk about. What’s on their mind, what’s happening for them?

John Hester:

The leader can ask those kinds of open ended questions, what now kind of questions to dry out what’s going on. But some people will be very reluctant, and others will be thinking this is the best thing they’ve ever had, right?

David Witt:

It’s a great point. The other thing, I’ve noticed two things, one is don’t feel that there’s a need that we have to use up all the time. Because if you feel like, well, we’ve got a half hour scheduled and we only had six minutes of stuff to talk about, it’s easy to go, “Well tell me about the projects you’re working on.” It’s okay to end if that’s all you have. The other thing that I think is important, and I think I learned this from our coaching services business is give folks some time to talk about what they really want to talk about.

David Witt:

Very often, folks will float out a tester question with you, and they’ll see how you respond. If they say something like, “I’m really struggling with working at home and setting boundaries around time.” Maybe that’s an important question. Maybe it’s not their most important question, but they’re going to see if you just got a snappy answer, and you just bat that back to them. But if you take your time and draw them out, then they’ll ask you their real question next.

David Witt:

I’ve found that too, that people need a little time to practice and trust you with talking about the things they really want to talk about. Is that been your experience also?

John Hester:

Absolutely. I love some of the comments that are coming in. This is a great group for some of their comments in chat. Allowing silence is a good thing. Allowing some silent time, but also giving them other avenues to share what they’re thinking. It could be with an introvert that you might even ask them ahead of time to think about what they want to talk about. So that you have that planned as they come into the meeting. But even someone saying, “Have a whiteboard for them or something else that they can use to communicate.”

David Witt:

Great idea. Then Vicki Halsey’s book, wonderful book, Brilliance By Design, and it’s got all sorts of things that would be of interest to instructional designers, L&D professionals in general. I want to highlight just one of the things that’s on the screen too, because we are getting close to the end of our time together and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get to everybody’s questions. We have set up a special email box to Ken Blanchard Companies’ webinars at kenblanchard.com. If we don’t get to your question or your question was of a personal nature or if you’re like me, you don’t think of your question until after the webinar ends. Feel free to use webinars@kenblanchard.com, we’ll forward your question to John, and we’ll get you a response directly there.

David Witt:

The other question that came in, John, I’m just going to scroll down a little bit. People asking about recording sessions, don’t you need to get consent? I really have not had anybody talk about that yet as far as the need to get consent with recording work meetings. Do you know anything about that or any experience with that?

John Hester:

I’ve heard arguments both ways around this. I have to admit that I don’t ask. Our clients may ask us to record a training session for people that can’t be there, and I just tell people, “We’re going to be recording the session.” But then we don’t record the small group dialogue. That doesn’t get recorded. Especially when you have large global teams, you need to be able to make sure that they can experience the meeting without… If the meeting is at two o’clock in the morning, I’m not going to expect the team member to be on that meeting, unless that’s their normal schedule.

I would set that expectation. But there may be some reasons, maybe some legal reasons, maybe some others, depending on the type of work and the workers, that there might be reasons to not do that.

David Witt:

That’s great. Thank you, John. Two questions maybe as we start to wrap up, any tips, any special tips or tricks you have for drawing out introverts?

John Hester:

I think the more you can prepare them ahead of time, the better. Chat usually tends to draw out more of their thoughts than vocal. Especially if you think about from a training perspective, certainly having multiple ways of interacting, and even ways of interacting that are anonymous. I like with Adobe Connect, you can, and WebEx, you can have chat, but you can also have on-screen text, and the on-screen text is anonymous. You have ways of doing that, because I do appreciate the fact that I’m recording, that some people, it may impact the way that they respond.

Having other ways that they can respond, I think is important. The more you can prepare them ahead of time with what you’re going to talk about, the better.

David Witt:

That’s great. Thank you, John. I saw Brian O’Neill, great to point there to empathize with an introvert, think like them. What would you think would be an appropriate way to draw them out? Well, John, we are at the end of our time. I want to leave a little bit of time for Sarah, she’s got a couple of announcements at the end. If there is one thing that you would like folks to remember walking away from today’s session, what would it be?

John Hester:

I go back to that whole idea of just the need for disciplined practices is so much greater in a virtual environment than it is face to face. That just normal day to day things that you would have in a face to face environment, so you have to be more disciplined to reach out in the way you communicate with people, that your presence, that would be my thought.

David Witt:

That’s great. Thank you, John. Sarah, John, and I’d like to go ahead and turn the presentation back over to you.

Sarah Gallo:

Wonderful. Thank you both for a great and very relevant presentation today.

John Hester:

You’re welcome.

David Witt:

Our pleasure.

Sarah Gallo:

All right. At this point, I would like to invite all of you to some of our other upcoming Training Industry webinars this month. You can register for these and watch past webinars now at trainingindustry.com. Of course, all of our webinars are also pre qualified for a credit hour by SHRM-CPTM and ISPI certifications.

What is CPTM? The Certified Professional and Training Management program, assists you in developing the core skills and competencies needed to manage the business of learning. You can participate in a number of programs here within the US, or join us for a virtual practicum from anywhere across the globe. Learn more about the program at trainingindustry.com/cptm.

I’d also like to invite you to join us for our next TICE Virtual Conference, understanding and developing your remote learners. Happening June 18th, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM Eastern time. You can register now for free at trainingindustry.com/ticevirtual.

All right, John, thank you again for a great presentation today. Of course, a thank you goes out to our sponsor, SAP Litmos, and a thank you goes out to all of you for joining us. We’ll see you next time. Thanks.