This is one of those weeks for our ServiceNow ecosystem when we all feel a bit like we’ve dropped into uncharted territory. Concerns are evolving daily as new cases of COVID-19 (and presumptive positive tests) are expected to rise throughout the week.
We are getting a lot of questions from concerned clients and employees around travel, remote work and even attendance to upcoming events. This is certainly an evolving situation – and one that we expect to continue to change over the coming weeks.
As Jen Miller, our VP of People, shared with me this morning, amid the news coverage and uncertain details on the spread of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, it’s fair for organizations and their employees to be concerned – especially for those who regularly interact with, or serve as primary caregivers for elderly parents or other at-risk populations. The key to approaching “crisis management” mindfully is to develop thoughtful and flexible policies that take into account both reasonable fears, and also the need for the good everyday work and your ongoing transformation strategies to go on amid this changing environment. For a lot of firms, that means increasing their remote meetings and adopting more remote-first strategies.
With that in mind, we decided to take some time this week to share how our team is preparing itself to support clients right now. While the earth is still moving a bit, we are developing strategies to effectively manage a host of needs, whether clients adopt stringent no-travel policies, ask for remote work options, or continue to maintain a “business as usual” approach.
The good news for our team is that Acorio has been a remote-first organization since our inception, so we’ve been set up since the beginning to conduct effective remote meetings. So, it’s not too far a stretch to prepare and deliver workshops and even entire projects offsite.
Here are some of the latest recommendations from our Delivery, People and Sales leadership, as we try and parse through the right decisions, best practices on how to lead remote teams, and how to communicate and lead during trying times.
Dealing with Travel Restrictions
We are starting to see some of our clients adopting a fully remote or zero travel policy. When that arises, we respond back with assurances and planning for remote workshops.
Because we know a remote strategy might be a new motion for many of our clients, we have added training and resources for our entire delivery organization to help support and educate customers as they develop new online strategies.
Best Practices for Remote Conversations
While holding online meetings might be a new motion for some, there are still ways to maximize engagement and maintain momentum even when you’re conducting business over the interwebs.
I asked members of our Leadership and Senior Management teams to share some of their best advice on how to maximize the effectiveness of a remote conversation.
Vice President of Delivery, Marci Parker, shared the following thoughts:
I’ve worked remotely for the last 17 years of my career. It is my “normal” – but it isn’t that way for everyone. Here are my thoughts on how I’ve maximized success while being remote.
- Responsiveness– being remote will challenge you to re-commit to how you communicate. Leverage the tools within your company to be responsive and speedy.
- Emotion– You’re likely to have an increase in written communications (email, chat, text). While a speedy response is desired, the emotion behind your message can be lost. There’s no “sarcasm” font so your dry wit might fall flat.
- Be Present– Being remote means lots and lots of phone conversations, hopefully, video too. Commit to being focused on the conversation. The temptation for distraction is stronger.
- Take a break– It’s easy to find yourself working longer or more consecutive hours than when in an office environment. Get up, walk around for 5 minutes. Being remote doesn’t mean glued to your computer.
- Proactive Communication– share progress with your manager and your team. In an office setting, you keep others informed of progress with quick conversations in the break room or as you walk by their desk. Replace those with a weekly (or daily, if urgency is high) email to the interested individuals.
- Dedicate a space– if possible, set up your home office. A dedicated space with space to work. The ideal will be near what your office workspace has. (Double monitors, desk space, for example)
- Extend grace to your teammates– This can be an adjustment for everyone. Be kind to each other and recognize this is a time of transition.
Vice President of Innovation and Client Success, Adam Mason also thinks presence and being “on” is the key to a successful remote meeting. He shares two keys to staying engaged while communicating digitally:
- Turn on your video for training and managing. Presence in remote situations is key for engagement.
- When working remotely, build a routine similar to working in the office: get out of bed, shower/exercise, get dressed, get to your “desk” for the day, take “moving breaks”. The first one is the hardest…
Acorio Delivery Manager, Tom Sweeney has run both in-person and remote teams for over twenty years. He shares some of his best practices – which fall into the realm of being aware when you are online but also conscious of developing a new working style:
- Make time for your co-workers and for yourself.
- Don’t suffer in silence, reach out of you are stuck, in a rut or need a virtual chat.
- Get a routine, get on and off your laptop on schedule.
- Avoid distractions – Shut off the TV, rope off your office from the kids, spouses, and life when you need to get stuff done.
- Take a few minutes at the start of your day and prioritize your tasks (if it’s Urgent & Important get it done first if it’s Not Urgent & Not Important strike it from your list. Everything can’t be a priority and everything can be eliminated, if you need a sanity check run it by your co-worker or manager, they’ll help.
Working remotely can be a great chance to catch up on work and minimize the distractions that come with being in the office (anyone else want to walk and get some coffee??), but it can also leave you or your teams feeling a bit disconnected or disengaged. By following the tips above, you can maximize both connection and output if you are self-quarantined or facing new remote work recommendations.
Practical Advice from Long-Time Leaders
Finally, amid evolving situations like the Coronavirus, your teams will be looking toward your leadership to set a strong example of what “normal” looks like in today’s times.
To help think about setting the right tone for your employees right now, I also asked our senior managers what they’ve learned over their careers around managing and leading during evolving or tumultuous times.
Chief Sales Officer (and former Marine Corps Infantry Officer), Brian Murphy shares his thoughts on setting the right tone and creating the right environment for success:
Leaders are always looked to for guidance and their body language and tone of voice are often what people key on. The importance of training can never be over-emphasized. Give people the tools they need, the training to master skills and the leadership to let them use it well. In crisis great leaders carry themselves with a calm sense of urgency, walking with a purpose to assess, bring order to chaos and focused on making sound decisions, making it easier for everyone around them to execute well – hence the reason training must be effective
Finally, when all seems impossible, there is always a solution. Never give up on finding a way forward. I remember in 2008, during a recession, the new business pipeline was halted in my company because “no one could afford to budget new initiatives. After a lot of thought, we put out an industry survey with surprising results showing our customers out-performed their peers in nearly all financial categories. The Result? In a negative CAGR year, we showed 50% growth in new business.
Client Partner, Josh Scott, talks happiness and safety;
What have I learned in my career about managing during evolving or tumultuous times? Always put your people first and think outside of the box. There’s nothing more important than the happiness and safety of your peeps. When times get tough, adapt your approach. There are many different ways to deliver the same level of value to our clients… find the one that’s right for both the team and the client!
Director of Client Delivery, Grant Pulver, has seen a lot of client chaos over the years. Here are his top tips for preparing for crisis situations:
- Have a plan for where your support goes if you have to shut down a center.
- Keep people calm by having some activities to distract them from the chaos, for example, bring in lunches, have some incentivization games to maintain momentum, etc.
Finally, one of my go-to colleagues to keep me sane amid crazy times, VP of Strategic Initiatives, Juliet Acuff, shares some thoughts around keeping teams grounded:
Throughout my career/life I have learned that during tumultuous times, whether they are physically impacting you or not, it’s easy to feel anxious. When you feel anxious, your body responds with adrenalin, which of course is handy if you are in danger — but can provide some challenges when you want to stay on task and make good decisions.
During times like this, I have found that keeping my “to-do” list current allows me a physical list to look at and prioritize. Using this list, I can focus on the major things that need to be worked on to keep things on track and see the challenges that need to be tackled.
Beyond my list, there are also tried and true calming techniques that can improve the situation, or how you respond to it, including; meditation, yoga, walking, and ensuring you are getting enough sleep.
When we are feeling grounded and can see the big picture, we can handle the challenges, communicate effectively and make smart decisions.
So, while the ground seems to be shifting around us right now, your critical transformation strategies still matter – in fact, for some, they are becoming more important than ever. We hope these suggestions above are helpful and are happy to share other thoughts on remote best practices. Feel free to connect at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about remote support options.