Do You Have What it Takes to Be Successful Working From Home?

As the workplace continues to compete for the best talent, organizations need to consider how they think about where their employees do their work. Though there’s an increasing number of employees who want and need to work at home, organizations must define when it makes sense for both the organization and the employee. Sometimes, employees lack the skills and discipline to be effective in a remote environment. Sometimes, the organization’s business approach or use of highly sensitive information may not lend itself to be outside the building’s four walls. And sometimes, it comes down to this: getting the work done correctly and on time.

As someone who has had a home office for the past dozen years, I have learned some things that work well and other things that should be avoided to ensure effectiveness when working remotely.

If you’re thinking about working from home and need to first get permission, ask yourself two questions:

1. Does working at home make sense for the work I do, the culture of the company and my impact in my job? Just because you want to work from home doesn’t mean it makes sense for the job you have or the way work is done in your organization. Making it all about you is a great way to have your boss say no.

However, if you can assess how working remotely aligns to the work you do, and you can show how it could improve your output while still fitting within the organization’s beliefs and work approach, it’s worth asking about. Showing that you have thought about working remotely from the organization’s perspective is the way to lead in this discussion.

2. Do I have what it takes to be successful in a limited supervision and remote environment? Before you say yes (because you really want to work remotely), be realistic. Are you organized? Can you create a space at home where you can be focused, thoughtful and able to deliver what your role or job expects or requires from you? Can you create a workday in your personal space that does not have you distracted by friends, neighbors, family, pets or other things so that you can be successful with your expectations? Do you need interaction and contact with your peers on an ad hoc or frequent basis to brainstorm, solve or deal with workplace issues? Do you need resources that are best supplied in a centralized workplace environment? What is your real motivation for working remotely? Answer these questions honestly to give you a full reality-check image of what working from home could really be like for you.  

Spend some time with these questions and be sure that your reasons for remote work accommodate both your company and the way for you to deliver your best work.

Now, consider the other side of the story: you already work remotely, but you need to improve your output.

Consider the following things to improve your effectiveness:

  • Assess whether you have the talents and skills to do the job well. Most remote employees with poor performance are employees who are hired into roles that don’t align to their abilities. If you need specific talents to be effective in the role and do not have them, you will likely struggle to perform. If you are missing some skills that would improve your performance, reach out to your manager and have a plan to develop the skills. If you are misaligned in your job, either you can’t do the work well, or are just not that interested in doing it well. The outcome is the same – average performance. Focus on alignment; does your remote job fit you? If not, start to locate opportunities in the organization that better align to your core talents and strengths.
  • Look at your remote workspace and make it a successful workspace. Consider your remote space your “office.” What do you need to have in it to facilitate your effectiveness? What gets in your way that you need to modify or eliminate? It is up to you to create a space conducive to your performance success.
  • Assess your personal organization and self-discipline. If you are not organized, get some guidance in activity management or spatial organization. If you are not self-disciplined, develop a reward schedule that defines your performance expectations and the reward you give yourself the more you comply with your expectations. For example, you may create an expectation that when your office door is closed, you are in work mode. Your focus is on your work and not on other things. When the door is open, you are available to the house, snacking and other things. The door becomes your tool to improve your self-discipline. Or, consider engaging a coach or mentor to help develop your personal organization skills and self-discipline habits. Get them to the level they need to be to ensure your success.

The goal is for you to be as effective, efficient and extraordinary working remotely as if you were working locally. That means you have to be in a job that aligns to your abilities and skills, and that you have the organization, focus and self-discipline to work by yourself. Remote work is not for everyone. Assess whether it works for your organization and works for you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Panic (until it’s time to panic)

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How to Help Your People Improve

There is a lot on your plate. What happens on a daily basis at home, combined with the ever-evolving experience at work, can be a lot to manage. Take a look at work, specifically. The general description “work” has become more complicated and complex; few days at work are the same as the day before.

So, how can you keep your employees engaged and performing at a high level? Through skill development. Having the best skills enables an employee to be more engaged, more efficient and more effective. In my experience, the best way to build education and learning into an already busy workday is through active learning.

Consider these three ways to bring active learning into each of your employees’ days.

  1. Create learning expectations. Add learning a skill, habit or other performance improvement idea to each employee’s weekly to-do list. Have a weekly check in on things done and things learned. This does two critical things. First, it creates valuable manager-employee relationship time and second, it draws attention to the urgency, need and importance of continual learning. This makes learning a cultural value.
  2. Create teachable moments. In every moment, there is always something to learn. Think and act as a coach who uses interactions to ask key questions to help others think, consider, reflect and respond. Consider questions like, “What is another way to handle this?” Or, “What did this situation tell you about your abilities, about our culture, about our customers, about working effectively with others, etc?” Or, “What could you do to make this better?” Stopping for a moment to draw attention to or focus on a situation can help everyone learn from the moment.
  3. Connect your people with internal mentors. Mentoring is the process of accelerating learning where a person with greater skills shares what they know with those who have lesser skills. Identify the skills the workplace needs and those on the team with these skills. Create the opportunity for a mentor to share what they know and feel is valuable and important. When done well and with intention, it leads to a wiser, more able and more connected team.

According to the Gallup Organization, today’s employees want to grow, learn and develop because they are aware that those with the best skills have the best opportunities. This benefits the organization because employees with great skills are more engaged which helps them be more efficient and effective. A true win for both employee and organization.

Take Action
Develop a cohesive active learning plan for each of your employees by defining their success and challenging skill areas. Be clear of the existing skills each employee can further develop, as well as the skills they each need help developing. Use this information to identify your skill mentors to make learning and performance improvement the responsibility of everyone in the organization. Not only does the organization become wiser, but employees build stronger performance relationships with each other.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to Do More

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High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

By Jay Forte

The Gallup Organization’s 2017 The State of the American Workplace reported that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

What does that mean? Let’s break it down.

Disengagement, as defined by the Gallup Organization, means “employees who are checked-out and put neither energy or drive in their work. They get through the day by doing what they need to stay employed.”

Think about your team. Know anyone who fits this bill?

Though the thought of 70% of the workforce being disengaged is alarming – combined with the additional statistic from Gallup that nearly 51% of employees are searching for new jobs or watching for new opportunities – there is a silver lining: if most of the workplace is disengaged and is looking for a new opportunity, then most of the people you meet are open to change.

Knowing that so many people are disengaged in their work and are ready for a better fit opportunity, what is your current process to build a robust talent pipeline?

Though you do have opportunity to hire new talent, you must first understand and address your own disengagement issues. Unless these are addressed, you may lose some of your good talent to other organizations, or create a high turnover rate among new employees.

So where do you start? Some ways you can address disengagement issues include:

  • Aligning employees to roles where their talents and strengths are needed. This helps them feel competent and capable in their work. How does your hiring process focus on role alignment and job fit?
  • Creating an employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and supports employees. How intentional and successful is your employee experience?
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and grow, enabling development in their strengths area(s) and encouraging them to own their performance / have accountability for the direction of their career rather than becoming complacent. What is the quality of your feedback and focus on development?
  • Training managers to act like coaches. In this redefined role, managers work to build relationships with employees, set and manage performance expectations, host performance conversations and work to develop employees’ skills. What is your commitment to shift from managing to workplace coaching?

It’s not too late to create a New Year’s resolution for your company. Empower your people to watch for and connect with talented people who may be disengaged or disconnected from their work or employers. Train your employees to be talent scouts. And be aware of your engagement and disengagement statistics. Make a concerted effort to understand why they are what they are. Be committed to cleaning up your house before you bring new people in.

Most of your world is looking for a better opportunity. Could that be at your organization?

 

Consider reading Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

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A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn in May 2017.

Asking Empowering Questions: Engaging Employees

By Jay Forte

Questions can be a powerful managerial tool. They can activate thinking, encourage ideas, inspire creativity and activate ownership. The challenge, however, is that most managers tell more than they ask. To gain the value and successes associated with the power of questions, it is important for managers to act more like workplace coaches.

Today’s employees respond to a manager who takes the time to build a relationship with them – to know them, care about them as a person, and guide and support them in their performance, purposeful work, clear career alignment and growth. They want increased performance feedback to advance their skills and development. A key way to develop this, and to shift from managing to coaching, is to develop proficiency in asking a very specific type of question: empowering questions.

Empowering questions are thought-provoking, open-ended and action-focused questions that activate your employees’ thinking, ideas, engagement and self-awareness. I’ve heard it described as helping your employees “take their brain out for a spin.” By delivering wisely crafted questions, you help your employees see things differently and consider new possibilities.

Asking empowering questions takes practice because it is at odds with the outdated management style of telling. Though the best empowering questions are created in the moment, here are examples of empowering questions to start your training.

  • Why do you think that is happening?
  • What are two ways to look at this?
  • What have you seen that works in a situation like this?
  • What is your plan B?
  • What lesson did you learn from that?
  • What could you do to see it differently?
  • How does that event force you to rethink your approach?
  • What other ways (2 other ways, 3 other ways) could you respond in that situation?
  • If you could do things again, what would you do differently?
  • What is the first thing you could do to move past this challenge/problem/block?
  • What is the worst/best thing that could happen?
  • What would it take for you to own your commitments?

Imagine the circumstances you could use these questions with your employees. What other questions could you ask? How could having employees answer questions like these change your relationship and the performance dynamic?

Asking instead of telling is key to helping an employee activate their thinking, own their thoughts and become more engaged in their performance.

 

Consider reading How to Deliver Employee Feedback that Gets Heard

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Stop Managing and Start Coaching to Engage Employees and Activate Performance

By Jay Forte

If I asked your employees to describe you as a manager, what would they say?

I recently asked a team of front line employees at a large IT company to describe their manager, and most of their responses were less than supportive. Words like “boss,” “distant,” “intimidating,” “disconnected” and “challenging” were the most frequent responses.

I also asked the same group to describe a coach. The most frequent responses included “encouraging,” “connected,” “interested,” “supportive” and “committed.

What a difference.

Compare the two lists. If the words with negative connotations are how most people think of their managers, it raises significant questions about the effectiveness of these managers to activate employee engagement and inspire exceptional performance.

So, what can managers do to be more successful in connecting, engaging, empowering and activating employee performance?

Shift from managing to coaching.

Here are four areas where managers can start to shift to a coaching mindset to inspire and engage greater employee performance.

1. Connect with employees

Two of the most powerful coaching connection skills are acknowledgement and validation. Acknowledgement refers to taking the time to focus on an employee when they communicate, ensuring you hear and understand what they say, think and feel. Validation allows them to have their feelings and thoughts, and shows you understand and respect their perspective. The value in this, other than treating your people like people, is that the more employees feel heard, the more they share. Acknowledging and validating creates rapport with employees so you can then do what coaches do best – ask empowering questions.

2. Engaging employees

It has been noted that managers tell significantly more than they ask. In fact, the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report published by the Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged in the workplace. Basically, these employees do just enough to not get fired. Much of the reason for this average performance is that employees are not routinely asked to contribute or share their perspectives.

As a result, more of the communication you have with employees should be in the form of questions. By asking questions, you actively involve your employees, activate their thinking, get them to use their talents and greatest abilities, and encourage them to make commitments and own their work.

3. Helping employees find solutions

Once you get your employees thinking by engaging them through questions, help them learn to solve more creatively by guiding them to imagine and brainstorm. Help them invent several options to each challenge or situation instead of proposing only one idea or waiting for your solution. By encouraging employees to imagine new solutions, you help them grow, feel valuable, feel heard and become part of the solution.

4. Guiding employees to achieve

The goal of shifting to coaching from managing is to activate greater employee achievement and performance. Connecting, engaging and solving produce a more committed and present employee, which drives greater ideas and a better working relationship. Coach your employees to achieve.

So, what really is the difference between managing and coaching? It is the approach. Managers tell – they push and pull for results. Coaches engage – they use tools to help employees discover and develop their strengths to see their value, think larger, contribute more and own their performance.

Shift from managing to coaching and see the change in you, and you will see the change in them.

Contact Jay for his summary of the Gallup Organization’s State of the American Workplace Report.

 

Consider reading Are You Ruled by Worry, Fear and Uncertainty?

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The full article originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, February 2017.

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