Maintaining Productivity and Company Culture When Working Remotely
A Training Unleashed conversation with David Veech
On May 20, 2020, Training Unleashed’s host Evan Hackel was is joined by David Veech for a stimulating podcast. We are pleased to publish this edited transcript of their talk.
David is an author, teacher, coach, consultant, and founder of Leadersights – Loving, Learning, and Letting go. Currently, David is focusing on practices for leaders who need to manage remote teams and keep company culture strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about David, visit davidveech.com.
Evan: Hello everyone and welcome to Training Unleashed. We’re going to have an absolutely fantastic episode today. And we’re going to talk with a true expert about how to create culture working remotely. There are ways to really keep the culture alive and that’s what we’re really going to spend time with.
David, what does Leadershights mean and what are you up to now?
David: Well, a lot of people are concerned about the state of things now. They just can’t wait until things get back to normal. But I think it’s clear that normal is gone. If we actually try to go back to something, we will be regressing. So we’ll lose a lot of things that we’re actually gaining by being remote and learning new processes, learning new ways to connect, and learning new ways to communicate.
If we go back to normal, we’re going to be worse off. So we need to be thinking right now, what are the things we can do to go back to better? Can we actually improve some processes while we’re working remotely? Absolutely. Can we improve relationships? Absolutely. Can we solve problems? Absolutely. And can we find activities that we want to do permanently going forward in this new kind of constrained environment? Absolutely. So I’m pretty excited about the prospects of what companies and organizations are looking to get back to better, instead of freezing up and getting back to normal.
Evan: You know, it’s interesting that my company’s been virtual for seven years. And you know, we love being virtual. We’re very used to it. But so many companies are going to have no idea how to do it. They have no idea that this actually is better, and that they can work this way. And I think it’s a big revelation and I totally agree with you. We should take the learnings and move them forward.
You know, one of the things that I think scares people, and why I was so anxious to have you on the show, is that people are concerned around how they keep culture. You know, we’re all sort of working on our own, we’re huddling. We’re not talking around the water fountain. We’re not casually bumping into people that are maybe even not in our department. So maybe the broader question is, how do you create and build culture when you’re working remotely?
David: Well, culture is the collective way that we get things done in any kind of organization. So I think maybe the constraints of the office where we were before, and the way leaders would lead in those environments, set a kind of culture that is really not as effective as what we’re getting now. That’s because we actually have to think deliberately about how we’re communicating with our people, and how we’re checking on them and making sure they have the support that they need to achieve the goals that we’ve given them.
Evan: So given your concept that culture is the way an organization does things, what advice would you share?
David: Well, the first thing I always tell companies is, you’ve got to huddle. You just have got to. Every single day, every day you’ve got to huddle! But what is the huddle going to look like?
Well, you get on Zoom, you get six folks or seven folks around, with all their little pictures there, so you can make eye contact with everybody. And you spend seven to 10 minutes reviewing what happened yesterday, teeing up what’s supposed to happen today, asking if anybody needs any help with anything, and celebrating a few good things. Then you give a virtual High Five to everybody and get off the session.
Evan: So simple. It’s a quick grounding on what we’ve accomplished, where we’re going, what we’re focusing on.
David: Exactly. Now, the problem with that is, if you don’t have a plan for the work that you’re supposed to accomplish today, what are you going to talk about?
Leaders have some homework to do. When people are working on big projects, leaders assume that they can meet with them once a month, and everything will be fine. But people are doing work every day and you want to make progress every day. So you need to huddle every day.
So a leader needs to take that big-scope project or problem that they’re working on and break it down and say, “Okay, this week, we need to be able to achieve this. And here are the steps we need to take this week to get there. And we’ll team up in such and such a way to do that. So our plan for today is to complete step B. How far do we get yesterday? Do we have everything we need to get there today?”
Evan: How about in large organizations? Suppose you have 1,000 employees?
David: Okay. Company leaders might have 1,000 people in a company, but maybe seven or eight direct reports. That’s who they huddle with, then those seven or eight direct reports huddle with their direct reports. And it goes all the way through the organization until that first-line supervisor is meeting with their small team. But it ought to be a small team. Otherwise, they’re not working as effectively as they could.
I think this is one of those practices that’s going to serve as well. When the quarantine lifts and we can go back to work, I think this is still going to be a practice that leaders will really want to continue.
Let’s continue to touch base with our folks. Let’s really reach out and build relationships, eyeball-to-eyeball, so I can actually see you. People cannot become just another bodyless voice on a conference call in a conference room.