WAYNE TURMEL is the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute and the co-author of The Long Distance Leader: Rules For Remarkable Leadership. In this interview, we discuss what makes a good remote leader, how to build trust on virtual teams, and how to give great online presentations. (http://wayneturmel.com/)
Wayne’s tips for remote leadership:
- Make your online presentations more interactive: use the whiteboard, use polls, intersperse questions, use chat, get to know your tools.
- Check out WebAround for a portable webcam background.
- Leading remotely is as much art as science.
- Be mindful of your leadership behaviours. Most of us are just busy doing our jobs.
- If micro management is your leadership style, then remote leadership is going to be impossible.
- There are three components of trust: proof of alignment, proof of competence, and proof of motives.
- As a leader, help bring visibility to your team.
- Consider outcomes, others, and ourselves.
- Stop and think: What would a leader do in this circumstance? What is the right leadership behaviour? What is the best way to address that leadership behaviour under the current circumstances?
- Buy a copy of The Long Distance Leader: Rules For Remarkable Leadership. 🙂
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Great, and we’re live. So welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely, and have I got a great thing remotely for you guys today, today I’m talking to Wayne Turmel. Hi Wayne, you’re the co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute amongst many other things. You had a podcast before podcasts were cool, called The Cranky Middle Manager Show, which is great. In 2008 you started greatwebmeetings.com which was a company dedicated to teaching skills to present online amongst many other things, train and present. And then in 2015, you started The Remote Leadership Institute and as I was writing my book, I saw yours on the shelf and your book, The Long Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Leadership. So we’re going to talk about a whole bunch of those things. But let’s start with the first question. What does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
Wayne: My virtual office is like so many people, you know a spare bedroom in our house. The nice thing is we’ve just moved house. So I was able to do something that I have not been able to do before, which is put my desk in the right corner of the room so that I have a blank space behind me, and I don’t have to worry about my cockatiel climbing his cage and being crazy and all that kind of stuff. Um, I actually was very reliant on my Webaround, are you familiar with Webaround?
Wayne: Oh these things rock, somewhere somebody is solving a problem at all times, right. This Webaround is this thing, it’s a collapsible screen that slides over the back of your chair.
Wayne: So that it will hide whatever messy, craziness, you know if you’re working from the North end of the dining room table, but I no longer need it. It’s lovely and it’s fabulous, but I no longer need it. So I’ve got my blank space behind me. My walls are covered with travel souvenirs and pictures. And I have a very important, uh, thing on my desk, which is the cactus, which is the only living thing that could survive in the nightmare that is my office
Lisette: Good old cactuses.
Wayne: So I get, well you know you have to work to kill it. And that is very important when it comes to me and plants.
Lisette: So you’ve got a spare bedroom in your house, but I also would… before we started the interview, we were talking about that it’s pretty nice that you’re very close to an airport. So I’m assuming that you’re on the go quite regularly.
Wayne: Um, not as much. It’s funny, uh, I have clients all over the world and I never get to go there now. I used to complain about all the travel I had to do and now my travel consists of, you know, the good news is you’re teaching in Prague. The bad news is welcome to four in the morning. Um, because I live on the West coast of the United States and so, you know, on the one hand, I’m not traveling as much as I used to. On the other hand, I am a victim of time zones and I did that. We just moved from Chicago and, of course, if you’re working in Europe, those two hours make a big difference.
Wayne: Like I need to tell you.
Lisette: YES but uh, but 6:00 AM is different or 4:00 AM is different than 6:00 AM. So if you were in Chicago, but I mean, you know, 6:00 AM is definitely uh, yeah two hours of sleep, I’ll take it.
Wayne: Yeah, now, fortunately, you know, I need less sleep than the average human and I’m pretty much solar powered. So early morning is way better for me than, than in the evening. But that’s, you know, so my office is kind of set up for that. I’ve got a window that looks out but it doesn’t stare directly into the daylight sun and life is good or at least beats all known alternatives.
Lisette: Huh, so okay, we’re going to talk about that. But first I want to talk about The Remote Leadership Institute. This is super interesting. What is the remote leadership Institute and what do you guys do?
Wayne: The Remote Leadership Institute is really set up to help leaders and organizations demystify remote work and apply good leadership skills to this new environment. It was formed from the remains of my previous company, which I had started greatwebmeetings.com and Kevin Eikenberry Group and Kevin and I have been colleagues and friends for many, many years and he, of course, is very well known in the leadership space, remarkable leadership and that sort of thing. And I was teaching virtual communication skills, uh, presenting on WebEx, leading good virtual meetings. And we were getting a lot of crossover from our clients. People were asking me for leadership stuff, Kevin was being asked specifically about remote, and so a few years ago we smushed, I think that’s the technical business term, our companies together and created The Remote Leadership Institute, which is part of the Kevin Eikenberry Group, but I kind of lead the charge on that. And it’s really specifically about working in leading remotely.
Lisette: So what is Great Remote Leadership then if we can just sort of dive right in. What’s the difference between an in-person leader and a remote leader?
Wayne: It’s really, really easy to say not a lot and if you think about it, it’s kind of true. All right if you go down the leadership competencies, whatever model, whatever version of leadership you want to subscribe to and you go, ‘do I need to delegate? Do I need to set a vision? Do I need to coach performance?’ The answer is yeah, you have to do all that stuff. So the way we look at it is what we have to do as leaders hasn’t changed particularly, but it’s how we do it because we’re doing it mediated by technology, which impacts us in all kinds of ways obvious and not right. It’s always been possible. I mean, Genghis Khan ruled half the world had never held a WebEx meeting. Julius Caesar did great out in the field. It’s when he went back to home office that things got sticky. So it’s easy to say that there isn’t a difference, leaders are leaders and this notion of how do we communicate in a vacuum? How do we develop trust that overcomes those barriers? How do we use technology to do the things that we have to do? That’s entirely different.
Wayne: And that’s where leading remotely is as much art as science, right?
Lisette: Well, yeah, because you’re… it’s a different style, right? You can’t see your colleagues much of the time or maybe it’s hybrids, you’ve got some people in the office and some people remote, so you’ve got to sort of a… you’ve got to do be the best for both worlds in that case. And I think that that’s probably a very difficult skill.
Wayne: Well, the most difficult thing I suppose if you’re going to narrow it down, is being mindful of your leadership behaviors. Most of us are so busy doing the job that we just do it and a lot of us are lucky enough that we’ve got whatever natural skills we’re born with, right? We’re good communicators or we build relationships or we will whatever the skills we bring to the party, right? We’ve got those and those have gotten us to a certain stage and some of those translate very well to the remote environment, some don’t. If you are a micromanager, remote leadership is going to be the death of you, because not only does micromanagement not work really well, it’s physically impossible when you work remotely.
Lisette: Right, you can’t have her unless you’re doing some sort of awful tracking employee tracking or monitoring or any of that.
Wayne: Right, you know, if you’re tracking keyboard strokes, in which case, you know that’s against the Geneva Convention anyway, so-
Lisette: Oh, interesting. That’s a whole other topic but in general-
Wayne: Well I’m sure it’s not technically against the letter of the law, but it’s evil and should be discouraged is I guess my point.
Lisette: So you know the argument for monitoring that I’ve heard is there are some companies out there that are so reluctant go remote because they don’t trust or they’re afraid that people won’t get the work done and so in order to convince them to dip their toes in, they will start to monitor employees. That’s sort of the only reasonable response I’ve heard to that.
Wayne: It is a, I suppose it is, if that is, it’s like everything else, what are you measuring, right? How do you measure success? And the problem is that if you are using a 19th-century piecework model, right, you started this hour of the day and you end at this hour of the day and you do X number of things and that’s how we judge whether or not you’re working. Okay um, you know, if I’m in a call center, I’m still going to be judged by whether or not I make those calls, right? I understand there are some things where the nature of the industry is such that, yeah, I need to make X number of outbound calls a day in order to keep my job and somebody’s probably going to monitor that.
Lisette: Right, well, that’s one the other measurable.
Wayne: Right it’s a measurable and you do what you do. Now, um, are they going to say you must be sitting at your desk in your home office and you cannot do it from the back deck or you cannot do it, uh whatever and you must log out if you’re going to go down and throw a thing of laundry and, and log back in if you want to torment and torture your employees I suppose that’s your right but then don’t complain to me that your remote employees are disengaged, because you’re doing everything possible to disengage them.
Lisette: Right, so how would a good virtual leader build trust across distance without the monitoring?
Wayne: Uh we talk about this in the book, not to do a shameless plug for the book, but, uh, we have a model that we use in a lot of our RLI content, and basically it says there are three components to trust. Whether it’s a marriage or a remote relationship, you need proof of alignment, proof of competence and proof of motives, right? If we’re not all pulling in the same direction, we’re going to have a problem. If I don’t believe that you are as competent at your job as I am, I’m going to have a hard time trusting you. I’m not going to include you in conversations. I’m not going to use you as a resource. I might ignore your presence, right? And motivation. Do I think you have my back? Do I think that you’ll go out of your way to help me? Uh, and all three of those things need to be in alignment. The problem when we work remotely is that we have a very small data set from which to draw. If I see you every day, and I know you come to work and I know that when you’re in meetings you don’t say much, but you take lots of notes and when you do speak up, you contribute. I’m storing all that away and I’m going, ‘okay, Lisette is very good at her job and she’s kinda quiet and whatever but if I don’t know you, you’re a voice on a conference call. And by the way, I rarely hear that voice. I have no idea what you do all day and you just missed a deadline. Obviously you’re an idiot and you know, so what happens when we work remotely is the things that we need to build trust are harder to quantify, and we draw from a much smaller data set, which means trust is very easily broken. As a leader, are you not only getting the information you need to help you draw good conclusions but are you helping the team get that visibility, right? If I’m on a team with you and I have no idea what you’re working on all day long and well, here’s a really simple example. Uh, you do something great. So I get on zoom and I say, ‘Lisette just wanted to let you know you did a great job on that.’ You and I are the only ones that are aware that conversation ever took place, right? I’m I taking the time to say, send out an email and say, ‘hey, did everybody see that great job Lisette did?’ Or on our next meeting, do I take the time to say, ‘hey, you know, you got to check this out.’ That’s what I mean by mindfulness, right? If we’re just busy doing our thing and my thinking goes as far as I need to make sure I tell Lisette she did a great job.
Wayne: I’m missing out on things that will help the rest of the team know how fabulous you are,
Lisette: Right, and to maybe no for the rest of the team, what are the behaviors that are valued in this organization? So what are the things that are really valued by the leadership, by other team members? So yeah, I can imagine.
Wayne: And a lot of those things get picked up just through osmosis when you’re in the office.
Wayne: Right, when you see it every day and you’re in contact with everybody and there’s lots of non-business phatic conversation going on, you pick up all that stuff. When we all live in our little, uh, our own little worlds, right. The only thing that belongs in silos is grain and nuclear weapons. Human beings should not be in silos. Uh, and yet we are [inaudible].
Lisette: Yeah, we’ve sort of organized ourselves that way based on old, yeah patterns of working. But you’re dealing with a lot of leadership, leaders obviously, that are thinking about going remote or who are maybe having to go remote because that’s sort of the nature of the biz these days. You know, we sort of have to in a lot of ways are we’ve been doing it for years. What is the reluctance, do you think of most leaders? What are they afraid of what you’re seeing?
Wayne: Well, it’s funny, most of the reluctance that we’re seeing is at the senior level. And some of that I think is the bean counters saying, ‘hey, you know, how are we going to know that so-and-so is working X number of hours and putting in their time and we’re getting our money’s worth. Cause how do you measure that stuff, right? Our old measures have always been do you punch in and do you punch out.
Wayne: And by the way, I can get out of my desk and I can walk to shop floor and I can see whether you are diligently applying the widgets or not. And we can’t do that. So if that’s your frame of reference, it’s a little more difficult. The other thing not to put this too harshly is senior leadership is in most cases by definition, ‘senior’ and we worked, ‘we’ look at this,
Lisette: I’ve got a great [inaudible 15:44]
Wayne: Um, you know look at this face. We were able to work, survive our entire vision of what it is to have a job comes from our own experience. And many of us didn’t have the experience of working remotely, it’s a totally foreign thing to us. We have developed the ability, when we want to brainstorm, we want to run to somebody’s desk and say, ‘hey, can you help me with this, and let’s grab a conference room and let’s do it,’ and that’s how we’ve always done it and so that’s how it’s done.
Wayne: And you know, I begged patients for some of us because when I got my first corporate management job in 96, the very first job I had was rolling out email in my company.
Wayne: There was a time when email did not rule our existence. It wasn’t even a thing and I had to convince our senior leadership that email was something we needed to do. I know that 90% of the people watching this are oh struck and wonder where we parked our dinosaurs on our way into the office. But business was done that way for several thousand years before email came along. Um, so the change in technology, in work styles and all that stuff is a big piece of it. The second thing is what I call stealth remote working, and this is where it sneaks up on you. You know, it starts with, ‘hey, it’s snowing, you know, can I work from home today?’
Wayne: Or my kid’s sick or whatever, and they say, ‘yeah, go ahead.’ And then you go, ‘oh, this is kind of cool. Maybe I’ll work from home more often.’ And then somebodies spouse gets transferred to Denver and you don’t want to lose them. So yeah, we’ll let you work remotely and before you know it, real quick story, and you can feel free to edit this out. I was working with a client, we were in her headquarters, it was a European company headquarters, but it was their US headquarters and we were walking on our way to her office, which was at the back of the building. And she’s telling me, yeah, ‘we don’t have a lot of remote work. You know, everybody’s supposed to come to the office, blah, blah.’ And as we’re walking through, I’m seeing a lot of desks and 50% of them were empty. Somebody’s occupied them, right? There’s pictures of the cat and there’s deflated birthday balloons and whatever else is going on at the cubicle, but people aren’t there. And I’m going, ‘well, what’s the deal? You know, where all these people, Oh, Bob’s in Dallas today, and uh you know, Jennifer is working from home so she can finish a project,’ and I went ‘half of your people aren’t here. How can you tell me that you don’t have a remote workforce?’
Lisette: Yeah, it snuck in on them.
Wayne: It snuck up on them and so they’re and everything they do still presumes the same model of everybody’s working in the same place and they all have a desk and they all have an extension and they all have that stuff. So they all work together, right except they don’t
Lisette: Now is their model, was their model in that case where if you’re not at your desk, you’re sort of out of touch with the team because that was sort of an older style model of telecommuting in the beginning. You know, you worked from home and then that day you were at home and you were like relatively out of touch with everything happening at the office.
Wayne: I think like everything else in life, um, the Workarounds began long before anybody gave it thought. This is the point, I think that was getting to what you were asking me. At a team level, at an individual level, people have been making this work for a long time. It’s just now it’s so prevalent or somebody has filed an HR complaint because they’re not getting promoted or they’re not getting the assignments and all of a sudden senior management is going, ‘holy cow, we’ve got to deal with this.’ Or HR says, ‘our existing processes don’t cover this. How do we do this?’ Or, you know, managers go, ‘holy cow teams aren’t collaborating and brainstorming,’ and then there’s a reaction at the top. In a perfect world, they go, ‘wow, we need to get our hands around this,’ in a less than perfect world they panic like they did at Yahoo or certain parts of IBM and just say, ‘no, no, no, no, no. Everybody needs to come into the office.’
Lisette: Right, yeah tragic they lost a lot of good people during that move.
Wayne: Well, that’s, it’s interesting, uh there was a company in Houston when the hurricane, last hurricane, and floods came through. They had a no telework policy, ‘thou shalt not telework, thou shall come to the every day,’ and all of a sudden, you know, the office is underwater. So people started working from home, but as soon as the water receded and the carpet got replaced, they said, okay, ‘come on back,’ and they got a lot more push back than they thought they would get.
Lisette: I can imagine, I can imagine.
Wayne: If you’ve ever been in Houston traffic at eight-thirty in the morning, this makes perfect sense, right?
Lisette: Yeah, I mean it’s one of the main things that I’m always amazed by. Every time I traveled to a major city, I usually have to travel during the commute time to get to where I’m going because everything starts at 9:00 AM or 9:30 or earlier, and I’m always amazed by how many people are torturing themselves in commutes every day, especially in these really busy cities. I mean, when I lived in Los Angeles, it was, I mean it’s seven lanes of traffic, bumper to bumper for an hour. I mean, it’s almost amazing, and in London, it’s the same. It’s a, it’s a bit insane. And then the Netherlands just this morning, they had that something in the newspaper saying that they’re trying to figure out a way, how can they possibly figure out a way to make the rush hours a little bit less, a hellish than they already are. And I thought, jeez man, it’s a, it’s not rocket science. It’s like, you know, there’s some flexibility things that we can put in place here. So yeah. Uh, the amount of self-torture is kind of astounding.
Wayne: Yeah and you know, it leads to a lost productivity because not only am I, you know, killing myself for however long to get there on time. Then the first half-hour of the day is spent complaining to everybody about how awful it was, and the second half-hour is figuring out how can I get outta here early to beat the traffic. And so even though I’ve gone into the office and my workday is supposed to be this, how much productivity am I getting? Now on the flip side, and I feel obliged to say this, it’s not like remote working solves every problem or that it is right for every organization or that it is the panacea to all the world’s ills because it isn’t.
Lisette: Right, right.
Wayne: And certainly if it’s not done mindfully and intentionally, um, it may not work. And I am perfectly okay with people saying, ‘you know what, my company, my rules, this is what we’re going to do.’
Wayne: As long as you’re making the decision for the right reasons and you’ve thought it through and you’ve considered the possibilities and that’s life, that’s everything in life, you got to do that.
Lisette: And people have to decide where can we work, where we’re most productive? And some companies are going to be more productive in person at the office together than they are going to be remote, and that’s just a fact. Their culture lends itself to it, whatever it is and so I just like that we have a choice that people have a choice where they want to work. If you want to work in an office, great work at the office.
Wayne: Yeah and I don’t think we’ve really considered the social changes that this is going to bring. And the biggest one to me is, I was talking to somebody and we were talking about the fact that you know a hundred and twenty-five years ago everybody worked at home. Unless you were a coal miner, right? If you were a blacksmith, where did you work? You worked in your shop, which was under your house.
Wayne: Right, everybody worked from home. This idea of going to work is only about a hundred and twenty-five years old.
Lisette: Right and man, it’s sticking.
Wayne: It sticks.
Lisette: Hopefully not for long, I mean it is an efficient way to work. So I want, I don’t want to go too long without actually getting into your book. The Long Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Leadership and I mean, you know, like we’ve both written books on remote working. This one seems like it’s really targeted towards leaders and leadership. Why did you write this book and what can people expect in it?
Wayne: Well, I think that’s the point, right? Is that what we were discovering is that a lot of managers have had remote working thrust upon them, I was minding my own business and suddenly I woke up one morning and half of my people aren’t in the office or you know, I’ve got people scattered around the world. Now sales managers have been dealing with this for longer because they’re used to a distributed regional kind of model. Um, but yeah the original impetus for the book was, I’m a manager. I don’t know how this is working. I’m working longer hours because of time zones. I am stressed out. I’ve got some people in the office, some people not. I’m trying to do a good job. I want to be the best leader I can be and this is making me crazy. And long-distance leaders are suffering burnout at a higher rate than those who just manage people in the office and it kind of makes sense. Uh, so what we tried to do is we came up with these rules, which if you read them, I would say that over half of them should be followed by duh. But we don’t stop and think about it. It’s really designed for people to stop just long enough to think about what you’re doing.
Wayne: Because we don’t do that. You know, and I know your book covers, you know, both from the individual worker to the leader. Ours is really, really focused specifically on the leader.
Lisette: Yeah which is a great focus because those are the people that are, from what I’ve seen the most reluctant and a little bit the ones who are a little bit more apprehensive about leading and the most to lose on leaders.
Wayne: Well that’s it they’re the ones that are going to take the heat.
Wayne: If they suffer turnover if they get HR complaints because you like the people in the office better. Um, what’s interesting is, and we touch on this a little bit in the book, it’s going to become more and more a focus I think is what I call the dark side of, uh, servant leadership. One of the things that’s really impacting leaders is we want to do a good job and we generally sacrifice for the good of the team. So if somebody needs to make that call to Hong Kong, fine, I’ll do it at 10 o’clock at night or all be on the phone to Prog at four in the morning and I’m taking, I’m taking the bullet, right. I’m making the sacrifice. I’m answering email twenty hours out of twenty-four. I’m doing all that and I don’t know if I’m doing it right. I’m just paddling as fast as I can. When we did the survey that that led to the book, at first we were a little disappointed because we expected, ‘oh, the building is on fire and work. We’re terrified, and we didn’t…’ That wasn’t what we found, what we found was most managers said, ‘yeah, it’s working. We’re getting it done. Yeah, I’m working harder and I’m more stressed and I’m, you know, I’m less sure of what I’m but we’re getting it done.’
Lisette: Right, [crosstalk] harder.
Wayne: Exactly, they’re getting it done through brute force and a lot of them are doing the right things instinctively but they’re getting no coaching or support or help saying, ‘yeah, this is, you are doing the right thing. Or, you know, you could be doing this instead.’
Wayne: And that’s the purpose of the book. And frankly, you know what we do at Remote Leadership Institute, it’s all connected to that.
Lisette: Yeah, I can imagine, and oh I wanted to also ask about there was a model that I read about in your book when I was looking through a, through it on Amazon. It was the three O model, which I really liked. It was that you think about outcomes, others and ourselves.
Wayne: And this kind of builds on what I just said, about taking one for the team and this idea of being servant leadership. As managers, of course, we’re thinking about the organization and the outcomes, right? This is all about getting the work done and we’re very mission-driven and we’ve got to get the work done and failure is not an option, which is a stupid statement because it’s always an option. It’s just not the one you want. So you know,
Lisette: It’s not the one we think we want, but often our failures is where we learn the most.
Wayne: Well, yes and we all are still trying to stay employed, right? So we’re focused very much on outcomes. And then if you’re a good manager, you want to have good relationships and you want to support your people and you want to do all that stuff. So you’re doing that right? And you’re building relationships and you’re managing your communication and you’re learning how to communicate through tools that you don’t really want to use, but they’re what you got, and what we often don’t pay attention to is ourselves, our own development right? We’re taking one for the team by taking calls at all hours of the day and night and we’re constantly connected and we’re sacrificing our work-life balance for something else and things that we would coach other people to never do. We’re taking on ourselves and so a good effective long-distance leader obviously has outcomes in mind because if work doesn’t get done and deadlines don’t get met and nobody has a job and you’re building good relationships and supporting your employees and keeping them engaged and doing all that and you’re taking care of yourself so that you’re not a burnt-out shell of a human at some point, right. Which is happening, managers are burning out faster than they.
Lisette: Sure, yeah, well in fact, I often say on the show, people who listen to this podcast you know, we always say that managers are worried that people are going to work remotely, they’re going to be lazy, they’re going to sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day. But actually it seems like the opposite is true, not just with workers, but with leaders too. We’re all working ourselves to death. Burnout is much more prevalent than laziness.
Wayne: Yeah, a couple of things about that. Number one is there’s always been some percentage of workers that don’t work very hard and some do lack self-discipline, and you do need to put in some metrics and some performance standards and it’s not necessarily how much time do you spend in the chair? I mean we need to work from a piece work kind of arrangement to outcomes, right? This is the work I expect you to do over the course of a week, is it getting done? Right, are the numbers getting crunched, are the reports getting written, are the customer complaints being handled? And if the answer is yes, I’m far less concerned about whether you do that from your couch or your deck or Starbucks than I am whether or not they get done and they get done at a high level.
Wayne: Right, so there is that transfer that has to occur, that move towards goals based on outcomes and finished product as opposed to all the tasks associated with it. One of the big mistakes that the people who manage keystrokes, uh, like to do is they confuse activity with productivity.
Lisette: Right, I’m just thinking back to my own days, you know, there’s some days when I have my best ideas when I’m out running, or in the shower after the run, you know, the shower whiteboard because that’s of course you know, you’re always like ‘oh yeah of course,’ as you’re having those moments and uh, yeah and those are moments that are not necessarily on the clock but are still really important. So it’s almost, I mean I have a hard time sometimes thinking about well how do you, how do you log that time, that thinking time when you’re just out for a walk or you’re talking with your spouse and you have an idea or they have an idea. And those are all those moments that are not on the clock. And indeed moving to results-oriented working is, is far more, I don’t know it seems motivating for anybody.
Wayne: Well there’s a couple of other things too, which is really interesting when you start measuring the behavior of remote workers. Number one is they get more done, which is a two-sided thing. If you’ve ever left the office to work from home so you can work on interrupted, you know that you can be highly productive. But what are you working on? And what studies, including Harvard business reviews show is people get very task-oriented and they go deep into their silos. They take care of the things that they can take care of because they want to get it checked off the list. Some of that is self-motivation, some of that is if I don’t get all this stuff done, my boss won’t let me work from home. So I need to show her that I’m working right. I need to keep-
Lisette: Very important.
Wayne: Some of it is that they are working longer hours because they don’t have a commute because they don’t have this stuff. The email starts the minute they get up in the morning and they’re still checking email after dinner and because there isn’t a start and end time, they don’t have the structure that they need to monitor themselves. Um, so you know, when people say, ‘well, people get more done when they work from home.’ In some cases that’s true, but what are they working on and are they truly being as productive? If you’re not getting the same amount of work done in the same amount of time as you do in the office, are you really being productive?
Lisette: Yeah it’s an interesting question. It’s a really interesting question to answer. We’re not going to answer it here. We don’t have time for, we have a, I’m running out of time, but I still have a few questions that I really need to ask you because you created greatwebmeetings.com, so dedicated to teaching people present how to present online, how to train online. What are some of your top tips? What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when they’re presenting training online?
Wayne: Well, there there’s a few things. One is that we tend to forget what we know about being good communicators, and sometimes the better of presenter you are in person, the worse you are working remotely because you’re not getting the feedback and the joy that you get. We get an energy when we appear in front of a room.
Wayne: When we present online, if I’m presenting a webinar, there are two maybe three major things getting in the way of my success. The first is I’m not getting the love from the audience. I’m not getting the energy. The energy is all going out and I’m not getting anything back, so it’s draining. Maybe the biggest thing is that when we present live when we communicate, we’ve got all of our adult, all of our lives and a couple of thousand years of human evolution that have taught us how to do this right. We know how to make eye contact, we gesture, we do all that good stuff and it comes naturally and we literally don’t think about it. When you add the technology component, you have now taken something that is hard but has been internalized and added a layer of complexity to it. Here’s the analogy, you’re driving late at night. You’re trying to find an address. It’s pouring down rain, so you turn down the radio so you can see well.
Lisette: Yeah, I’m guilty of that, that’s for sure.
Wayne: We all are, its human nature, right?
Lisette: It’s a concentration thing.
Wayne: Our brains can only take so much. So we concentrate, so if I’m a presenter, if I want a sales call with a client, I would never say to that client, ‘hey, I’m going to talk for forty-five minutes. Sit down, shut up, and I’ll take your questions at the end.’
Lisette: That’s so true.
Wayne: Right we would never do that, if I was leading a class and I said, ‘hey, I’m going to talk for about an hour and I don’t want to take your questions, and by the way, I’m not going to look at you and I don’t care if you look at me,’ how engaging would that class be? It would be awful, right?
Wayne: Think about the way webinars are constructed. Sit down, shut up. I’ll take your questions at the end and oh, by the way, we know that is the worst possible way to communicate our message. But because I’m uncomfortable with the technology, because I’m in an environment that I am uncomfortable with, I’m going to focus on getting my message out because I know I can do that.
Wayne: And we forget what we know, so a simple thing when I say to people, well, take your questions as you go. Give people a chance they can put them in chat, they can raise their hand, they can just pipe up depending on the size of your audience and they freak out. They go, Oh, I can’t do that. I’ll lose track of time. Well, how do you do that when you’re in the room?
Wayne: Oh, you know, when we talk about leading meetings remotely, ‘well, what would you do in a regular meeting?’ ‘Oh, well I’d ask for a show of hands.’ ‘You know, there’s a button right there that says raise hand.’
Wayne: Or you can use the chat. ‘Oh, I really like to use flip charts.’ There’s a whiteboard feature in every good presentation tool, and by the way, you never run out of paper and the markers never run dry. So why aren’t you using it?
Wayne: Because there’s multitasking involved and I’m so busy concentrating on just trying to get through this content or just trying to get through this meeting that I haven’t taken it to the level of how do I do that most effectively?
Lisette: One of the things that I find is people don’t know how much pain they’re in until they see how much better it can actually be, and that’s sort of one of the difficult things about convincing people to get training for their online presentation skill or get training for virtual leadership skills, for example, is I think people, you know we’ve been hobbling along for so long doing what we do and it’s been working. You know, we had the spider phones in the middle of the conference room tables for a long, long time and it worked. You know, we communicated it wasn’t great, but it was better than nothing.
Wayne: Nobody died, nobody dialed 911, we got through it.
Lisette: Yeah, we got through it and people are still hobbling along with the same old ancient, the technology now, and indeed, if they knew how much easier and more engaging it could be, it’d be a different story.
Wayne: Yes, and it’s more than that. Most companies, if you’re a company of any size, you probably got enough tools to get the job done. The problem is that 80% of people use 20% of the features. So if you’re using Skype for business but you’re not using the webcam, you’re not using the whiteboard, you’re just screen sharing. You’re not uploading your presentation and doing all that other good stuff with it. And by the way, I just said probably two of three things that just made somebody’s head explode and say, ‘I didn’t know you could do that in Skype for business, which is the point, right? We’ve got something that’s really hard to do. Leadership is not easy at the best of times. Now we’re being asked to do it in ways that in human history we’ve never had to do it before, and Oh, by the way, we’re only using 20% of the features of the tools at our disposal. No wonder this feels so difficult and it doesn’t have to.
Wayne: If you start with first principles; if you start with what is it as a leader that I should be doing now, what do I have at my disposal that will allow me to do that? If I know that I need to have one on one coaching conversations, what do I have that allows me to do that since I can’t get on a plane and be with Lisette today? Well, I can do it by phone. Okay, but is that the best way to do it? Why don’t you get on a webcam so that you’re getting the facial expressions and the body language and the real-time communication? Oh yeah. Okay.
Lisette: So one quick question about the webcam, do you see a reluctance on people you wanting to use it?
Wayne: Less than there used to be? There is still some of that and it’s being overcome by demographics and technology. Uh, the demographics is you’ve got an entire generation of workers who have been on face time since they were babies.
Wayne: Right, the idea of the, of being on camera doesn’t necessarily freak them out. There’s also the technology side. It is harder to buy a computer that doesn’t have a camera built-in than one that does. It’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere, and bandwidth is easier. The tools are easier, Zoom, which we’re using is free and fabulous for one-on-one vacation skills and the objections that people, well my office is a mess. Microsoft teams have a border background feature.
Wayne: As long as you’re not moving around too much, you’re running out of excuses and when once people use it. Once people see a tool used and they experience what it’s like to be on the other end, it’s easier to get them to use it.
Wayne: When we do our classes, very often people are reluctant to put their cameras on and I say, well do you like the fact that you can see me? Cause I always have my camera on. ‘Do you like the fact that you can see me?’ ‘Oh yeah, it’s great.’ ‘Okay, why aren’t you using your camera?’ ‘Weeeell,’ and sometimes it’s, ‘hey I just got back from the gym or my office is a mess,’ or whatever it is. Well, you know what, if you know you’re going to be on camera today, take a shower,
Lisette: Yeah but just put on a nice shirt and you’re-
Wayne: You only need to be a grown-up from the belly button up, that’s the beauty of webcams.
Lisette: So true, so true, nobody asked-
Wayne: I’d put a big boy shirt for you. I just hope you appreciate this.
Lisette: Totally, totally okay so I have to get to our last questions. Oh, this has gone so fast, but the one thing I would say is for leaders who are just starting out, what advice do you have? Where would you start? First of course besides-
Wayne: Besides buying The Long Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership? Yes, that would be the first step. Um, really just stop and think, what would a good leader do in this circumstance? There’s kind of a hierarchy. What is the right leadership behavior? And most people, if they stop and think about it, right? Should I coach this person or I should I send a snarky email? Well, you know what the answer is. Right now are you willing to coach the person because it’s a whole lot easier to send that snarky email, but it starts with what is the leadership behavior? What would a good leadership leader do regardless of the physical circumstances? Then given the constraints of my job, right? Can I call that person into the office for the day? Should I get on a plane? No, none of that is an option. Okay. What is the best way? Not the easiest, not the cheapest, not the whatever. What is the best way to address that leadership behavior under the current circumstances? What are the tools at my disposal that allow me to do that and then will I use those tools effectively? If you do that if you follow that kind of hierarchy you’re going to do the right thing most times because most of us know what the right thing is if we take the time to stop and think about it.
Lisette: So really it’s just taking the time to think, why am I doing this? What is it that I need in this situation? And it doesn’t take too much time. It’s just, it’s a mindfulness exercise in some ways.
Wayne: It’s all mindfulness, that’s all it is. The problem is that we as human beings and as busy managers and people who are… the irony is the thing we most need to do is stop and breathe and the last thing we think to do is stop and breathe because we’re so busy doing it, that we’re doing it on instinct and when we do it by instinct, we resort to what is easiest or most comfortable. And that’s not always the right thing to do.
Lisette: And what we’ve done before in the past, and as we know the modern world is creeping in, uh, whether we like it or not. So it’s time to adjust.
Wayne: So you know all of this, why are you talking to me? You know this.
Lisette: Yes, I’m pretending, I’m pretending you’re on a great book and I really want to, I really want to promote that amongst the listeners here. So this is a safe place. So for everybody listening, The Long Distance Leaders: Rules for Remarkable Leadership. Wayne, last question for you, which is where can people find the book and where can people find more about you?
Wayne: Okay, well they can find the book anywhere you buy books. Uh, so that’s easy, right? It’s actually going into three other languages. It’s coming out this year in Mandarin, Italian and Polish, so there.
Lisette: Whew awesome!
Wayne: Yeah, how’s that for something. Uh, you can certainly find out what we do and how we help clients at remoteleadershipinstitute.com.
Lisette: Great, and I’ll also put that on the show notes to make it easy for people to find.
Wayne: Absolutely and of course you can always, you know, LinkedIn, Wayne Turmel here I am. I am at your disposal.
Lisette: Great, well, Wayne, thank you so much. It’s been an honor. I’ve been waiting to interview you for a very long time, so I appreciate your time today.
Wayne: Well, we’ve been in each other’s orbit for a while, so it’s nice to finally connect formally and uh this, this will happen again.
Lisette: I hope so. All right, everybody, until next time, be powerful.
Interview, Managers, Podcast, Teams