Five Joys of Being a People Manager

Five Joys of Being a People Manager

Five Joys of Being a People Manager

So on the back of a rather negative post focused on managers avoiding bad behavior, I thought it would be good to write a blog that shares five of the biggest joys I experience when managing and leading people.

  1. Seeing people grow. I love to see people accumulate experiences and become better people. Better at their job, better at life, better at relationships. Too often we look at people only through the lens of performance. But when we hire people, we hire the whole person, and we need to appreciate all the ways they learn and grow.
  2. Learning from my team. I know there are a lot of things I still need to learn, and I love learning them from my team. Diverse teams bring different perspectives and a variety of knowledge. I think good managers become better managers when they open themselves up to the knowledge of their team and drink deeply.
  3. Watching stress turn into celebration. We have all experienced difficult projects that create stress. We are over budget, out of time or the customer isn’t happy with result or progress. But you know, we come through all those difficulties, and many times after passing through the trials, we can look back and celebrate our accomplishments. Those difficulties teach us about our business, about the world, and about ourselves—and I think they can create powerful moments of personal and team celebration that recognizes joy in overcoming a difficult path.
  4. Learning through new eyes. The more we learn and experience ourselves, and the narrower our focus becomes, we tend to forget the pure joy of learning something new—the delight in revelation of new ideas or relationships. I not only enjoy seeing people on my team get very excited about their work, but also thrive on the energy passed on to me—and the reminder that I need to keep pushing myself to find new experiences that will bring me that joy directly.
  5. Staying connected to former colleagues. Perhaps one of the biggest joys comes from the friendships that cross the boundary from work to personal. That can be a tricky thing for those who currently work for you, but retaining a friendship with former peers and colleagues is a pleasure.

You may have your own list, but regardless of which items fall into your top five, I think you will agree that managing and leading people should be something you really enjoy doing, something that thrills you and inspires you. Our businesses are important, but they wouldn’t be nearly as valuable to our customers, or to us, without the great people who contribute their time, their intellect and their physical being every day.

How to Avoid Being a Management Turkey

How to Avoid Being a Management Turkey

How to Avoid Being a Management Turkey

I’ve had the privilege to manage people for many years, and I’ve watched others manage as well. Fortunately, I have not experienced all of these behaviors myself, but I have seen some—and I have heard the horror stories from friends and colleagues about the others.

In the spirit of the holiday, I offer ten behaviors managers should avoid so their employees, partners and peers don’t think they are acting like turkeys.

  1. Saying one thing, doing another. Inconsistency damages organizations because people never know what to expect, and that leads to inaction across the board.
  2. There is just no excuse. Anyone who is asked to lead or manage other people needs to, if nothing else, respect the people he or she works with. If you don’t respect people, you cannot expect them to respect you, which means that any achievements will be the outcome of fear or politics, not commitment and excellence.
  3. Not apologizing. We all make mistakes. We need to say we are sorry and mean it. A real apology doesn’t include a “but” or an “explanation”. A good manager owns his/her mistakes and his/her apologies. The best apology is action that isn’t repeated.
  4. Blaming others. This one goes hand-in-hand with number 3, not apologizing, but extends it from the individual to the organization. Passing off your mistakes to others hurts the organization by rapidly degrading trust.
  5. Holding a grudge. People who design things expect failure, and therefore, create designs that forgive users for mistakes. We don’t design most organizations, they just happen, and too often, when mistakes reflect on a leader, he or she holds a grudge rather than thinking through how they forgive and move forward. I like the idea of resiliency, as resiliency means that the recovery from an error makes things better, not worse. I see forgiveness as a tool of the resilient organization.
  6. Encouraging politics. Humans are political animals. We really don’t have a choice, but we can recognize politics, call it out and try to rise above it for the greater good. The manager who encourages and gets caught up in politics only helps those that help him or her, which isn’t how an organization learns and grows together.
  7. Taking credit for other people’s work. This represents a simple decision to do the wrong thing. There is no excuse for this. People work hard, and good managers recognize those who deserve recognition regardless if a person wants the accolades or wishes to avoid them out of humbleness or selflessness. Taking credit for other people’s work steals goodness from the work experience.
  8. Avoiding decisions. Some decisions are tough. Some are easy. Many prove unpopular. But one of the primary responsibilities of a manager or leader is to make decisions.
  9. Not trusting people. Managers who don’t trust others end up ineffective for many reasons. Most importantly, they either do everything themselves, or feel compelled to be so involved in everyone else’s work that they might as well do it themselves. This results in poor team productivity because everybody knows that no matter what they do, it just won’t be good enough unless the manager adds his or her touch or spin.
  10. Always being right. Always being right is just as bad as not trusting people, because it leads to teams who don’t trust themselves—and that means little learning and little progress. Stuff just doesn’t get done well or very fast.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving. If you are a manager, may you return from the holiday refreshed and self-reflective—if you are managed by another person, may you discover the assertiveness to confront bad behavior, and therefore make the world a better place for all.

Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

Handmade Banner Refugees Welcome - Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

The recent presidential debate reminded me of the importance of sharing the responsibilities across nations to help solve the refugee challenge. I talked with colleague and friend Daniel W. Rasmus at Serious Insights about innovative ways to approach the refugee crisis [see his post here].

I started with the work I did a few months ago with the U.S. State Department, where I learned about the plight of refugees inside of countries across Europe and elsewhere who find it hard to find work, or are denied work in their skilled profession based on local regulations around certification and licensing.

We started thinking about the Gig Economy which Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, called the secret weapon of the US economy in his last interview on The Street.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - SEPTEMBER 15, 2015: Female Syrian refugees are picking donated clothes at charity collecting point. They are listening to an announcement made by aid worker.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – SEPTEMBER 15, 2015: Female Syrian refugees are picking donated clothes at charity collecting point. They are listening to an announcement made by aid worker.

Considering how technology enables more of that “gig” technology, we started discussing it as the solution to bringing much needed paying work to refugees, reducing the burden of acclimation by local governments and reducing the incidents of violence spurred by perceptions of refugees displacing native workers.

Samasource is helping with what they call “the bottom of the bottom,” by providing projects to people inside refugee camps that pay significantly more than equivalent hours of manual labor.

We kind of both started saying the same things. What if we flipped the model so that businesses around the world provided access to remote jobs for skilled workers around the world, who may be displaced by circumstance—but still highly qualified to deliver their expertise.

And at the core of this, those companies could increase the value of these workers by helping them learn English, which would reduce their costs by ensuring the understand work assignments, and that they deliver quality results.

While experiments like the Samasource and Crowdflower to GiveWork app attempted to bring together refugees with quality monitor in the U.S., no one has scaled a solution. What we need to do is take the flipping idea even further and help make the landed refugees citizens of the world first. I’m not suggesting that they abandon loyalty to the country in which they settled, but that in order to contribute locally they will need work, and it might well be that global work will be more accessible than local work. The faster we can make them citizens of the world, the better it is for them, for their employers, and for the local economies.

There is no magic formula that is going to help the millions of displaced workers tomorrow, but we believe that the world needs innovative ideas. The number of displaced grows daily and we have to find new engagement pathways—and encouraging global companies to take on not just citizenship efforts that pour money into third-party programs—but programs that bring refugees into organizations so they can contribute through global collaboration and communications systems.

I’m committing that in the next six months I’m going to find a way to hire a couple of recently settled refugees. I ask my fellow leaders to join me in finding an answer to the question: Can the Gig Economy Bring Relief to Refugees?

Managing Uncertainty in a Time of Chaos and Shifting Realities

Confusion Diagram Shows Direction Or OptionsManaging Uncertainty

Change is inevitable, and it arrives from many sources. Last week, those in the United Kingdom, the European countries, and most places across the world felt a wave of uncertainty as the Brexit measure passed in the UK. This left governments, businesses and individuals with many uncertainties about jobs, trade, regulations and many other areas. This one event is precipitating uncertainty across the globe.

Closer to home, uncertainty is a huge issue in technology-heavy places like Silicon Valley, where many have worked for a company that has been acquired, re-organized, or perhaps just ceased operations.

We all face what I call the dysfunction of transition, the chaotic time of moving from one reality to the next. Individuals make a choice of letting the future happen to them, or participating in the co-creation of the future. Those who worry about protecting the past will likely find themselves on the wrong side of history. Those who help co-create the future also help find their place in the future.

As leaders we can help our team when facing uncertainty. Here are 4 practices that I redouble in times of uncertainty and ask of the leaders and managers in my organization:

  1. Keep moving – Manage deadlines and priorities. Uncertainty does not mean that things stop. Leaders must manage to deadlines with great vigilance in times of uncertainty because even the best employees start second guessing what is important. In less stressful times, it might only be necessary to reach an agreement, and the staff will go off and do what they have committed to. In times of stress, people get distracted and miss deadlines and let other responsibilities, like maintaining good customer or partner relationships, suffer. Unless a company is closing its doors, those partners and customers are part of the new future, and it is important to remind people that the best future is one that arrives from a strong present.
  2. Increase communication among the management team. It is very important that the management team be on the same page and deliver consistent messages. In times of uncertainty, knowing the right thing to say can be difficult, and just making a statement from experience may not result in the best statement to share with a team or individual. The management team needs to discuss any questions that aren’t clear and come to a consensus about how to answer those questions consistently. Managers need to look to each other to keep their own issues with uncertainty in check, and to shore up their personal safe guards in order to avoid making the already difficult situation of change into something negative.Businesspeople sitting at the table during a meeting in office
  3. Create as many learning opportunities as you can. One of the drivers of fear in the face of uncertainty comes from being too routine, or too personally connected to a particular skill or discipline. Most businesses give people opportunities to stretch their experiences, learn new areas and challenge themselves. I find that those who do this are much less fearful of uncertainty because they know they can align with whatever happens. Instead of wasting time worrying about what might happen, take that worry time and focus it on learning.
  4. Listen, console and coach. Not everyone has been through major changes in their lives or careers—and some don’t deal with change well, even if they have been through this before. Managers need to recognize this and make maintaining a cohesive, engaged and productive organization their priority. That means listening to people, coaching them through transitions and reminding them of priorities. Sometimes it may mean consoling them because something they believe is important is going away, be it a technology or a process, or perhaps a colleague. Good managers are at their best when they help the people who rightly or wrongly perceive themselves as facing the most risk, work their way through the transition.

It is important that we see change as a learning opportunity.

It is important that we see change as a learning opportunity. I learn something new about myself, my organization, about the world, every time change occurs. It is important for me to pass along this love for learning to my management team and to the entire organization, as I believe that only by actively learning from change do we find a way to face it without fear.

My Wellness Routine

My Wellness Routine

I received some immediate responses to my wellness post. Most of the questions were about my wellness routine, so I drafted a brief overview of my daily process of preparing my body to support my mind.

Early morning

I leverage a Priming My Mind exercise I borrowed from Anthony Robbins.
 This exercise activates my mind, helps me embrace gratitude, and focuses me on my goals. This exercise proves very powerful for me every day.

Running woman in forest fitness trainingI also exercise regularly before starting my work day (or alternatively late in the evening) at least three times a week. I go for a short run. I just put on my running shoes whether at home, or in a hotel when traveling, and I run.
On Saturday mornings, I share my social ritual with my husband and our running group for longer runs up to 12 miles. These Saturday rituals are as much about exercise as they are about catching up and bonding, killing two birds with one stone.
 Once a week, on Fridays, when training for a triathlon, my husband and I go for a long bike ride in the mountains close to home. The ozone I breathe brings so much to my body—and again this is a great bonding time with my partner which is much needed in our busy lives.


Days off are not really off.
 On days without a run or bike ride, I start with a fifteen-minute Yoga routine to awaken my body for the day and get my energy rolling.

What I eat

Of course, what you eat is also very important. 80% of what I eat comes from high water content foods, like fruits and vegetables. 50% of my food is raw, the source of most of my vitamins.

I know that not everybody has the time or the inclination to create a wellness routine like mine, but I encourage everybody I know to create a routine that works for them. Wellness drives my continuous learning as much as anything else in my life.

Wellness at Work: Take Time to Manage Wellness into Your Day

Wellness at Work: business man practice yoga at network server room

Wellness at Work

I have always been an active person, but until a few years ago, much of that activity was directed toward work.

When I moved to the US, the culture of working both on one’s mind and body enabled me to commit for my first half marathon. Now six half marathons and three Olympic triathlons later, exercising is part of my everyday life. Three days without exercise significantly impacts my mind and my body.

While I was preparing for the marathon, I realized that there is an inverse relationship between health and mind. Elite athletes talk about their mental preparation all of the time. In the most recent football season, quarterbacks in college and on professional teams used virtual reality systems to help them learn to read defenses. Golfers practice swings on courses around the world in simulations. These are all examples of mental preparation.

Rarely, though, do I hear executives get out and talk about physical preparation for work. For those of us who spend most of our day with a computer, it is the organ in our skull that we think is most valuable. But that organ, our brain, requires blood and oxygen—and it requires it efficiently.

Wellness at Work: Decisions and Empathy

I talked to a few of my CEO peers about exercise and work, and while our roles might differ, we all spend a lot of our time on two key areas that are highly impacted by wellness: decision making and empathy.

First, a large part of our day is spent making decisions on matters which cannot be resolved before we arrive at our desk. For most of the issues we deal with, there are no black or white answers. It is really making a decision as the Latin origin of this word means – de caedere, a cut off, or the death of one option over another.  Decisions are never perfect.

Second, we spend a lot of time working with our teams—managing challenges, dealing with emotion situations and helping people and our ecosystem to thrive. It often requires a lot of empathy, compassion and patience which we never have enough of in our very active business life.

Wellness at Work: Closeup of metal dumbbell holded by young woman athleteIn both of these instances, I heard too many times that my fellow CEOs all had bad memories of actions and behaviors influenced because they were on the edge—too stressed, not enough sleep, mentally exhausted.

We live in an era where there are plenty of studies that establish a clear linkage between mind and body. The ability to manage both our mind and body to operate at peak performance is our responsibility as leaders.

Let’s be honest, I’m not an elite athlete, but I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in terms of operating at my optimal self – this is what matters, not the volume of muscles or how fast I finish a race. In fact, we have to be cautious for as much as exercise is good for the mind, some people can become obsessed with it to the point that they suffer from conditions like “excessive exercise” and “overtraining syndrome”.

Wellness at Work: Finding Time

When I decided to add more regular exercise to my day, the biggest challenge for me was finding the time. My preparation exercises taught me that I have to make real time for staying healthy. I can’t just work it into my routine and do a couple of crunches in the lunch room, or knee bends waiting for a conference call to start. I think in a way my body knows when I’m paying attention to it. It is part of the design of my life. This body & mind preparation became an official block on my business calendar.

I have to make time for my body—for my heart and lungs and muscles—as much as I make time for strategy, evaluating the competition and nurturing the career goals of my staff. Balance is an important idea in design. We must find a balance that lets us be whole people, not just brains with bodies or bodies with brains. We have to design our own personal mind-body experience.

This isn’t new wisdom, just a new realization.

As the Buddha said:

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

Continuous Learning: Get out of your comfort zone, but on a schedule that fits your lifestyle

Get out of your comfort zone
Get out of your comfort zone…

To put it simply, you have to get out. Out of the office, out of the house—you have to get out of your comfort zone. Our global connections let us learn anywhere, but there is nothing like the conversation after an interesting presentation as people descend on snacks or a sunny patio. If you can’t afford, or aren’t invited to major industry events, you can still get connected to local groups or associations like Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce, as well as more topic-specific clubs. Many cities now hold regular networking meetings coordinated through organizations like Network After Work. I am always fascinated, and often humbled, by the people I meet. I usually go to an event with a question in mind, or a hypothesis I want to research — sometimes the best question is just: “What brought you here tonight?”

…but on a schedule that fits your lifestyle

I have two very personal thoughts about events. First, local events need to recognize that people have families. Rather than starting at 5pm, they should consider starting later so people can get home, share time with their children, eat a meal together, and then go out after the children are asleep. My Lean-In Circle starts at 8:30pm in recognition of this need and this reality.

 While you have to balance priorities between work and family during a regular week, when you travel, your priority should be to get as much out of that trip as possible.

The second event thing for me is using travel as a time to meet people and connect. When I’m traveling, I run on a different schedule, so I leverage that to go to everything I can and to meet all of the people I can. I don’t think it is a good use of your time to go to an event, paid for by your company or yourself, and spend all of your time in a hotel room working or watching television. How many opportunities do you have to meet and interact with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people who can provide you insights, potentially buy your product or add value to it, or to just hold a good conversation? While you have to balance priorities between work and family during a regular week, when you travel, your priority should be to get as much out of that trip as possible.

Continuous Learning: Patiently connect the dots

Continuous Learning: Patiently connect the dots

Continuous Learning: Patiently connect the dots

If all you do is execute all day—go from one thing to the next to get everything done—you may miss one of the best learning opportunities that humans can experience: reflection.

As I understand it, our brains, through dreams, are made to reflect and organize, hone and emphasize our experiences. That is a passive experience. I think it is important for people to take the time in areas they want to explore, in areas where they want to learn, and think about and trace out the relationships between the different aspects of the concept. Are there gaps? How are these things similar? How are they connected? Is there some causal relationship? Or even—do some of the ideas not fit at all, and if not, why did I think they fit in the first place?

When you watch police shows that put the detective in-front of a wall covered with pictures and notes, an image where long-lengths of string connect faces to fact, what you are seeing is a very visceral, physical way of connecting ideas. That kind of organization can be used for anything you want to explore or solve. But it doesn’t have to be physical; many tools—from electronic cork boards to mind maps—can help you think about ideas more inclusively and holistically.

You do, however, have to make time to do this kind of analysis.

In my current job I keep Fridays open for meeting people who don’t regularly work with me or for me. I use the time when I’m not meeting new people to brainstorm and to think about how things are related.

I come from a Latin culture, where not all meetings and situations are planned. In my current job I keep Fridays open for meeting people who don’t regularly work with me or for me. I use the time when I’m not meeting new people to brainstorm and to think about how things are related. I think of this as an aspect of diversity. Diversity in people by getting outside of those I know really well — and diversity of time by allowing myself to do something very different one day a week. I find that being perceived as a connector is also very positive for managers and learners, as it helps create a circle of trust and credibility that creates even more new dots to connect — even more opportunities to learn.

Continuous Learning: Working with mentors and giving back

Working with mentors and giving back

Working with mentors and giving back

Learning from mentors

I love learning and some of my best experiences come from mentors. Some large companies formalize mentorships, and that is okay. I tend to like finding people I respect, and once I get to know them, I ask them to become a mentor. Some people have been my mentors for years, some of them are new—and some I have lost in job transitions. I am always honored to be mentored, regardless of the length of time, or just while I’m working at a company. To have someone take interest in your life and career is a special thing.

One of my great mentoring experiences was with the person who hired me at Microsoft. He threw all kinds of things at me that I needed to learn. I learned by stretching, sometimes reaching beyond my comfort zone. He set very high standards. It wasn’t enough to learn something, I had to master it.

As much as he was giving me this opportunity to learn and stretch, perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that I own the perception of what ‘good’ means. Other people can define good performance or good learning, but they are defining it for themselves, not for you. I learned I have to be satisfied with my own work, and no one can give that to you. Praise from others is great, but as you move up the organization, the pool of people to praise you gets smaller and smaller, as do the opportunities to greatly exceed expectations (because expectations are set pretty high!). So you need to define what good means to you…and you have to learn to appreciate your own accomplishments.

From a mentor at Oracle I learned that when things get intense, you need to remain calm. As a leader, amping up negative emotion or stress just makes things worse. One of the best skills of a leader is self-awareness — a sense of how others perceive you. When things get intense, step back and ask how other people might be reading your behavior, and act the way you want to be perceived, even if inside you are just as scared or angry as those who work for you. I am not saying it is easy, but by working hard to create stronger mental muscles, persevering will help you reach standards you set for yourself!Working with mentors and giving back

Learning, meeting standards, satisfying your own sense of accomplishment…none of that means anything if you burn yourself out, and burn out those around you. You have to control your hours. You have to have compassion with yourself — in making mistakes and learning, it takes time to do the things you love, and be with those you love. Learning and execution have to be sustainable or your successes won’t last long, nor will your career.

Giving back – learn by contributing

I find being a mentor one of the best learning experiences, because those I mentor challenge me, often without even realizing they are doing so. People have such wide range of experiences that they see even common things through lenses I can’t even imagine. So when they share their ideas and perspectives their questions and insights, I’m always amazed at what I learn as I’m sharing my own perspectives.

I was at a big Microsoft sales meeting and a person came up to me and said that I helped him grow and get a new job in the company. He didn’t tell my boss…it was a private conversation. But I felt very fulfilled.

Working in a Connected World

Working in a Connected World

Working in a Connected World

Much of my team doesn’t work in my Silicon Valley location. They are distributed throughout the United States, in cities like Seattle, and around the world, in countries like Mexico. And we have partners and customers in many countries. I could not do this job without this wonderful, very dedicated distributed team.

I grew up professionally working as part of a distributed organization. For about 10 years neither my manager nor my team was located in the same place.

In the past, most jobs required, or at least were perceived as requiring, physical co-location. If you got a new job, you moved to where the job was located. But today, we not only have the technology to connect and collaborate globally, business models have changed so there are benefits to creating a distributed organization.

Before I get into my observations about working in a connected world, I have to say that I moved from Europe to the US for one of my jobs because it required me to be in the same time zone; I did not move for personal reasons, but later found a job and a location where my family decided to live. And on that move, I did something I never thought I would do. I bought my new home without ever personally visiting it.

Attracting and retaining talent

In places like the Bay Area, it is very expensive to move people to this area, and it is very expensive for them to live there. If you find the right person, and they are very connected to their local community, why uproot them and bring them someplace new and make them re-establish their lives. Perhaps more importantly, they wouldn’t have to adjust to new levels of spending on mortgages or rent. If they live someplace with lower costs, a new job with a salary increase would really improve their disposable income, which is a good retention tool and very positive for the economy.

Some people may want to move because they want to live in the area where their company is located, but it is becoming less necessary since companies are more distributed and current technology makes it unnecessary — and I think, letting people live where they want, near their families and friends, helps them transition to the new job faster, and it also helps distribute the company brand. If you have volunteer programs or matching contributions, those can go to local causes for remote workers, and that will connect you with them and enhance their connection to the community. I find that people will stay in their jobs longer if they feel connected to the company and to their local communities.

It is particularly true when you are determined to have a diverse team and bring more women onboard. The importance of having a strong support system around you can be a primary reason why women prefer not to move geographically. In addition, when a woman moves for a job, almost 100% of the time, her partner also needs to move, and aligning two careers is much more difficult. By allowing flexibility of where both partners work, you support diversity.

Retaining people, however, doesn’t just happen. It requires a good design for engagement.

Staying connected to the company: Designing for engagement

engaged team working in connected worldYou have to think about people in a very personal way when they work remotely. You can’t just drop into their office and ask how things are going. You have to set expectations for yourself and for them. And those expectations you set for yourself are a promise. If you set up regularly meetings, you can’t cancel them, or the remote worker is not going to feel important or needed. And you have to make it clear that their participation is also a promise. Be very cautious about people who don’t meet and just say, “everything is OK,” because it probably isn’t. The one thing that you can be sure of in that situation is your communication isn’t OK, and you don’t have visibility into what that person is thinking, the challenges they are facing — and they don’t have access to what you know about the company, questions you may have or ideas that would be better expressed by voice and video rather than by e-mail.

Ensuring transparent visibility on key milestones across the company is critical. ‘Over’ communication on important milestones is better than ‘under’ communication.

Building and maintaining trust – Micromanagers not wanted!

Engagement is the first level of building a trusted relationship. You are trusting that someone you don’t see everyday is doing his or her job, and they have to trust that you are looking out for their interests, keeping them in mind for interesting assignments and creating open channels so they can attend the meetings they want to attend. Your confidence in their ability to do their job remotely is very important. If you do have someone who isn’t delivering on their commitments, that is a problem, but it is a problem if that person works locally or remotely. I don’t think trusted, engaged remote workers are any more or less likely to do their work. If you build the engagement models and create a reciprocal trust relationship, people will do good work regardless of how far they are from their manager.

Going back to key milestones, and any other information you think everyone must know, that information needs to be posted in a common place, even shared in a traditional weekly report. Transparency promotes trust at the same time it keeps people focused on outcomes. It is important that managers share the goals, but don’t micromanage all of the details, trying to control everything. That does not promote trust because micromanagement, by its very nature, suggests that the person doing the micromanaging doesn’t trust those he or she manages. It is also very hard to micromanage at a distance, so those who want to micromanage should avoid managing distributed teams.

The technology of distribution

People around the globe - working in a global world

It is important to support distributed teams with good communications technology. I use tools like SharePoint, WordPress, Skype, and of course, e-mail. I like to see people, but I also want people to work effectively and not feel like they have to have the team working with them simultaneously, so collaborative portals, blogs and enterprise social tools can be important. I don’t want to specify what is best for your organization, but I will emphasize that you should choose a set of tools, use them yourself as a leader so that others will use them, and try to master them so that you can be effective. Too often organizations buy tools and don’t use them as well as they could, which results in communications friction. I like to encourage people to use the best technology for the moment, and to take the time to use it well.

Leveraging time shifters

Time shifting is a very important element to relationship building, and it is also a good place to think about employees in a personal way. If you have a night owl working for you, for instance, perhaps they are the right person to work with Japan or China late into the West Coast night of the United States. They might rather get up late and work that way, than to get up early and put their sleep deprivation on the company. Find times that you overlap, or perhaps occasionally time shift yourself to synchronize with a time shifted worker.

Facilitating gatherings

There is benefit from bringing people together. I sponsor meetings a couple of times a year where we bring everybody together to discuss the company, our strategy and investments and to hear from each of them personally — and for them to build their own relationships. This isn’t inexpensive, but I think it is necessary. It reinforces connections, builds connections for new people and creates a touchpoint in time and space that helps people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

Future: Cities as talent hubs?

I think there are also some interesting models that cities should consider. Perhaps rather than attracting companies, they should consider becoming hubs for talent. This would require great technology infrastructure, good services like day care and community colleges that teach people how to collaborate globally, along with good access to an airport — think about that shift: being recruited by a city because they want your talent to enrich their community. Since the city is attracting great talent, companies look there for people who already know how to contribute remotely, and they know that they will have great connections and the ability to get to other places without too much difficulty.

This would also be great for cities because they would have the opportunity to leverage their local talent for improving their policies and infrastructure. It would be a very positive feedback loop.