- Working Remotely
Every business needs great leadership, and that does not always come from the top – it comes from everyone in your business. You will have leaders that are appointed to roles, and it is important to have them as these leaders set the tone and ensure that the work that needs to be completed is aligned to the strategy and goals of the business.
For these leaders, they normally come through the ranks of a job or the business. At Hello Monday we see a lot of this happening with the clients we work with in the SME space (20 to 65 employees), which I think is fantastic. However, it is imperative that the owners and senior leaders of these businesses provide training, coaching and mentoring to them. Yes, it may cost – however, how much is it costing you not to provide them with tools to be effective leaders? In the same vein, the senior leaders themselves need to upskill or have a coach or mentor. This is one of the first questions I always ask the leaders of the clients I work with. It gives me good insight into how they operate. I have a coach and several mentors. I am still growing and developing my leadership capability, and I know I still have a lot of work to do.
If you are not sure where to start to provide tools for yourself or your leaders, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 021 94 55 94 or have a look at our leadership program Active Management Program (AMP), which is designed specifically for frontline leaders. We already have AMP with several clients, and they have seen a notable shift in their leadership teams.
As mentioned above, leadership is owned by everyone in your business through their actions. Like great sports teams and the military, when you have a strong leadership structure in your organisation, you will have a strong business structure and direction.
The culture of your business is what separates your business from your competitors, your market, within your industry, and the establishment of your brand as a player. Culture is part of our DNA – we want to be aligned with something we can relate to and want to be a part of it. That is why when you get your leadership structure right, this dictates your culture. It’s like saying good morning, thank you, you’re welcome and asking someone how they, even though you may not be feeling 150% for whatever reason. And it’s these little things that add to your culture. So many times, I’ve been to businesses, and when I walk through the doors, I can already tell what their culture is like, even though the website says that their people are their most important asset.
Getting your culture right takes a lot of hard work and effort. If it were easy, there would be no need for HR. I say that with respect to my profession. During lockdown I was able to have good conversations with a good cross-section of people, and when culture came up, we talked about the people that were hired and the impact they were having on the culture of the business. More often, it was how negative they have been for the culture. So, I asked what a great culture looks like, and people described what they want. One of the most common themes was the hiring process and company values. Now, you would have noticed I didn’t add values to my top five because I believe that your values are a baseline that should be already established in your business, because I believe you can’t build a culture without values. Now, it is about taking those values and engraining them as a part of your culture. This begins from recruitment (hiring, onboarding, employment) to making critical business decisions. From there your culture evolves – it’s like the All Blacks going from boozing in the sheds to cleaning the sheds, leaving it the way they found it before the game, and even the captain is sweeping the floor. Make your culture about actions that matter and push your business forward in the direction you want.
When I set-up Hello Monday nearly six years ago, the process was so easy, but getting business systems and processes was so daunting. I had what I considered really basic systems up until two years ago. When I reflect on why it took me four years to start embracing technology to make my job easier, it was because I was stuck head down trying to get runs on the board. That is a decision I made because I’ve chosen to be the sole Director of Hello Monday. Now that I have an Advisory Board, a coach, and some great mentors, I have the headspace to look at technology to help shift Hello Monday to the next level of growth. For example – all our files are on Google Suite, and I can access them anywhere in the world. Nothing is saved on my desktop – I’ve learnt the hard way when my laptop crashed. I have an iPad for all my meetings so that I don’t have a notebook that runs out of pages. When I need to recall a meeting from six months ago, I can simply search it and bring it up on my iPad instead of trying to find that notebook.
We did an exercise on our customer journey, which is still work in progress because this aspect of your business is always changing and evolving. I wanted to know how, aside from delivering our service to our customers and prospects, we could make our engagement seamless, because HR issues are already a pain in the backside for all businesses. I looked at the business transaction aspect of signing terms of business. Our terms of engagement were edited in Word on a template, then tailored for the service, then saved to PDF and then emailed. Sounds easy, but it was extremely time consuming and tied up several resources. I asked our clients, contacts and within my network what people were using, surprising a lot were doing the same as us, except for a handful who recommended some online proposal, CRM and terms of trade tools. After looking at several, we ended up going with PandaDoc (we don’t get any commission this plug!). I am sharing this with you because it completely changed how we managed our proposals and our terms of engagement process with clients and prospects. We can now track the document, see when it was opened, what pages people spent most time on. We can put an expiry on the document, and clients and prospects can make comments on the document. The interface is so easy to use. Also, the value of the job helps us with forecasting and a host of other insightful information that I didn’t have when doing it the way we had been since I started Hello Monday. The best thing of all is that the service to set up this tool was seamless even though our support person is based in the States and it is so cost-effective.
Another example was during lockdown, and I needed to renew some documents for a service provider. They sent me the documents in PDF, and I couldn’t convert them to Word to complete as they had been locked and my only option was to print and write on the documents, then scan and email back. The printer was at work! I had to go to work, get the printer, bring it home (in case I had to print other documents) print the documents and complete it, scan it, rename and save the document, then email the file to our supplier. This exercise took me nearly two hours, when it should have taken 30 minutes. I had not prioritised the task because our home printer was out of ink. When you are consulting like I do, two hours is precious time. Yes, I could have been organised and not let the printer run of out ink. However, it also got me thinking what if I didn’t have a printer at all, then what would I do? In your business, always think about how you make it easy for your customer, even if it is a simple form.
Keep looking into areas of your business where you can use online tools to automate your workflows. Also, think about how you make it easy for those you provide a service for and those in your organisation that provide that service. In the short six years I have been leading Hello Monday, technology has evolved so much that it keeps amazing me when I come across businesses that haven’t embraced it but also when I find a piece of technology that can help me get closer to my goals and aspirations.
We are all now used to this globally as a result of COVID-19. For some, at the start of lockdown – and I can only speak for New Zealand – it was a daunting and uncertain reality. How do I know what people are doing? Will they be productive? I can’t keep an eye on them, they don’t have the technology to work from home and a myriad of other thoughts.
Well, it’s fair to say that we can work from home when we have the right setup, technology and mindset. It takes 21 days to form a new habit and eight weeks in lockdown is plenty of time to form the new habit of working from home. The challenge I believe all businesses will now face is how to manage the requests from their teams to work remotely. Right now, I do not have the answer. What I do know is that the traditional way of working has been turned on its head. I grew up in a generation where it was get to work on time, don’t ask questions just get on with it, take your breaks and leave when the job gets done.
Now, there are some good values in that. However, how do you apply that thinking to what we have just experienced in lockdown? A lot of my peers who grew up in that same generation are in leadership roles now where they need to look at how they structure their business and teams to have the ability to work from home because right now they are getting requests from their teams to work from home. This is quite a fundamental shift as it changes things like leadership, culture, technology, and environment.
I believe working from home or remotely is here to stay. I personally really like it, as it means that I can do so much in the same time I had before without interruptions, and I am quite a social person. This was a shift for me; it also gave me time and space to think clearly and make some good decisions about the business, like letting recruitment go, which at one stage represented a large portion of our revenue. It also meant that I didn’t have to rush around every day across the city to and from work, battling through traffic, being late for meetings, missing out on meals and so on. I also know that as a leader, I need to have the physical presence in our office as this adds to our culture. It is going to be a fine balance.
Hello Monday as a business was purposefully set up from the start to work remotely as I wanted to be with my family, like on holiday or long weekends, and be able to chip away at work during downtime. Even now, I am still thinking about how I can use remote working more as our business grows and evolves, for example; online mentoring for sole HR Managers or new leaders who need someone to talk to about an HR issue without having to leave a building (office or home).
We all have the technology to work from home, and it is here to stay, so do think about how you will embrace it or not. Whatever decision you make it will have an impact on your culture and how you structure your business model.
It was at times spectacular to be able to run through the streets of central Auckland and not have to contend with any traffic, noise, or pollution. Most of my runs were early morning, and I got to run past Spaghetti Junction, down Symonds Street and along K’ Road and other areas within my neighbourhood. While running, I really noticed how beautiful Auckland City is and how much we must look after our city and its environment, and to keep it in great shape. Here I was, taking advantage of the clean air, but I felt guilty I was not giving back in some way. This has triggered thoughts of some things I can do, and I have a few ideas that I now want to put into action. Watch this space.
During lockdown we noticed in our backyard at home that a lot of native birds were turning up that we don’t normally see. They were sitting in the trees singing away, and it was a beautiful thing to see. Lockdown opened my eyes to think about how we can let birds sing permanently in the city and for nature to thrive and how we can look after our environment a lot better. Even the simple act of starting your own vegetable or herb garden in your backyard is a great start. I read so many interesting stories in New Zealand and around the world where our environment was healing itself because of less pollution. For example, in India, they could see the Himalayas for the first time in over 30 years. That was exciting, but also sad that we let that happen.
Each day as I worked from home without leaving the house except for my morning jogs, my carbon footprint was reduced. I started thinking of how we can continue to service our clients without having to travel by car or even have a business without an office, and what other initiatives our business can contribute to making the environment cleaner. Thinking of ways not to print paper, ways of recycling household items like containers. For example – rather than buy a holder for my pens, I’m using an empty yoghurt container.
I know that working from home will be a topic a lot of employers and businesses are now going to contend with, and especially the jobs that can be done from home. If you are thinking about, or not sure about letting your people work from home, because we have all proven during lockdown that it can be done – consider it. It is the organisations that are willing to look at change that will continue to survive and thrive. If we can reduce the amount of traffic on our roads and give people back time and not have to spend up to three hours a day in traffic, imagine what that could do for productivity, engagement, culture, leadership, ways of working and our environment.