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Forge Strong Virtual Teams

As we know from our own experiences, forging strong teams – that collaborate and trust each other enough to invest their individual energies to produce a collective perspective – is difficult under traditional conditions where people share offices. It’s likely more difficult when people aren’t working in the same spaces. However, by being aware of the challenges we can strengthen the process. 

In a recent Korn Ferry blog What Really Makes Teams Click Today, Gary Burniston shares a framework  based on an analysis of 150,000 leaders, of what it takes to identify what it takes to lead dynamic virtual team environment  The ADAPT approach focuses on the need to:

Anticipate tomorrow

Drive to elevate energy and others

Accelerate with agility

Partner to tap “collective genius:

Trust to create elevated interdependence. 
As you and your people adapt to the evolving distributed workforce model, think through these five attributes to create more effective virtual teams. Then, share with us what challenges you encounter with each, so we can all forge more effective virtual teams, especially when it comes to spurring creativity to develop innovations.

Stay Focused

With everything that’s happening today, are you being so distracted that it’s reducing your effectiveness?

The implications of the Covid pandemic – working from home, taking care of family, schooling children, managing/supporting other workers – have to be distracting. Add to that increased attention to diversity and inclusion, a national election, economic survival, etc., and it’s not surprising that people are experiencing more stress and are being distracted.  

Now more than ever, you need to take steps to stay focused.   Brent Bailey, a Chair with Vistage Worldwide, shared a story about times he spent with John Wooden, one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time. He notes that staying focused on what counts was key to his success. for instance, rather than focus on the outcome – winning – he focused his attention and that of the players on “performing to your potential”. Coach Wooden saw this as a higher standard, one that you could control and which would lead to success as a byproduct.  Brent used that approach as his business shifted its focus from being a generic product provider in many markets to a focused approach of building a consumer-brand product.  

We’re seeing this play out in the presentation arena as well. Audience’s attention has shortened (again) and people want you to get to the point more quickly. This means you need to focus in several ways:

  1. Focus the message on the key elements that people need to know. Unless it’s a core concept or essential supporting point, it’s being perceived as a distraction and drains energy/attention from the parties to whom you’re presenting. 
  2. Get to the point quickly; there’s a tendency by many speakers to make sure they set a solid foundation before getting to the key point. However, not everyone needs such an introduction and all too often the audience’s attention is lost before getting to the meat of the presentation. Worse, the speakers then find that they run out of time and speed through the crux of what mattered! (Indeed, when I facilitate new speaker meetings, I often set time limits on the introduction and encourage speakers to check the understanding-assumptions throughout the presentation. The impacts of this focus are greater audience engagement and more discussion on how to apply what they learned.)
  3. Focus your preparation time as well so you can deliver a focused presentation. Use the time-management systems we’ve talked about in prior blogs (e.g., scheduling sufficient, uninterrupted time for specific projects, and taking advantage of your biorhythms when executing) so you can thoroughly (a) think through your ideas and (b) organize and design the material so it is quickly and fully grasped by the audience. 

In sum, now more than ever, you need to stay focused to live up to your potential for each activity and in that way achieves the results you want.

Be Creative and Diversity Your Products

As the fallout of the pandemic forces you to rethink your product line and customer base, consider diversification as a solution.

Over the past few weeks, as restaurants have had to stop serving customers on premises, many have analyzed their strengths and weaknesses and concluded they could continue to service at least some customers by diversifying.  Many have shifted some resources to a new or enlarged pick-up service. Some have focused on serving their existing clients and local communities; others have targeted new groups, such as the health workers and other essential workers. In many cases, they’re doing good while doing well: they’re paying the workers to help prepare food they are donating.

Others are discovering new products or services they can offer. Several restaurants realized they had access to fresh produce and groceries that were in short supply in traditional stores. For instance, Panera Bread opened a Grocery-drive in service; it also introduced a month coffee service. Other companies have accessed their alcohol and fabric supply chains to provide hand sanitizers and protective gear. As I write this, one B2B specializing in competitive intelligence is considering how to take its enterprise level service offering, and diversity with a new SAAS service + consulting service to help small companies access their capabilities.

How innovative is your team? How can you diversify your product lines and/or serve a wider customer base by carefully taking stock of your competencies and capabilities and analyzing customer groups that are under-utilizing your services (including not at all!), and then inexpensively and quickly extending the business scope?  Share with us what you are doing through the pandemic lockdown and recovery, so we can share it with others!

Lifelong Learning: Are You Doing It ?

How are you using the extra time you have at home, now that you don’t have to travel to work? One answer from many of my CEO members is that they and their families are increasing their dose of online learning.

Most of my clients, CEO members, and friends are, like me, lifelong learners. We have, what Investor Business Daily calls, “a beginner’s mindset”.  We’re motivated to learn new things, and when time permits or when we’re under stress and need a positive distraction, learning something new is a great option. Today, there are countless online programs, including MOOCS with professors from top schools, available. 

As we move from 2019 to a new normal, we all need to adopt a beginner’s mindset when exploring the many changes that will occur post-pandemic. As we’ve been collecting people’s projections, forecasts and  predictions for how society will change, it became obvious that many of these people are lifelong  learners constantly asking why things are the way they’ve been and how the can be different. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, adopted a beginners mindset when he wondered why computers and music couldn’t be made portable.  Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, did the same when he wondered why sales database software couldn’t be in the cloud, instead of on hard-drives. Both created new products and transformed industries.

So while you’re still spending more time at home, unleash your beginner’s mindset and learn something new that can propel you to new adventures, knowledge, wisdom and/or innovations.  Then share with us what you’re learning and where it might take you!

What’s the Best Recovery Scenario?

it’s time to brush-up on your scenario planning skills. What’s the best strategy for your company to revitalize business and take advantage of the many post-pandemic changes we will experience?  

If you’re like me and the dozens of CEOs with whom I work, these are high-pressure, fast-paced times. When the pandemic hit, we had to leave our offices and mobilize our teams to work from home – assuming we still has a business with customers to serve. (My CEOs sit along the entire spectrum, from losing all business to growing faster than ever imagined.)We needed to take care of family, employees, customers, partners and investors. We had to quickly file for PPP and other local and national aid programs if appropriate.

Now, we need to plan for the road back and, more important, how to make changes in our business to thrive in the new normal – before our competitors do! Some things we know: we’ll be walking into buildings with enhanced lobby-based ID checking stations to check for covid-hazard to others. (Expect temperature readers and bioscanners.)  If you’re not in businesses that require your presence (e.g., manufacturing and restaurants) you will be balancing increased demand for work-at-home arrangements. Expect supply chains to change with more domestic content.  Which customers will still be alive; when can they pay? Which ones are shifting their business model which will change your relationship?  Lots more.


The big challenge is to look into a crystal ball and decide what opportunities exist for growth, what risks and benefits are associated with each, and what is your ability to actually execute on a strategy going forward?

This is what scenario planning allows you to do.  Michael Godet explains in Creating Futures, the steps are to:

  1. Formulate the problem – e.g., to narrow or broaden your customer /market/industry focus
  2. Identify key internal and external variables based on experience
  3. Diagnose your firm: what are your areas of competence and impact on strategy choices
  4. Determine your competitive advantages in relation to the market:  competitors and customers
  5. Identify impact of external scenarios – megatrends, new trends, threats and opportunities and risks.
  6. Develop strategic options and possible actions
  7. Thoroughly evaluate the options with additional objectivity
  8. Finalize plan and implement.

Because this is so important, I’ve re-invited our resident Vistage Expert, Gideon Malherbe, to spend time with one of my CEO Boards to apply scenario planning tools to members’ situations. If you’re a local CEO and have an interest in attending his presentation on May 28, contact me at: jerry.cahn@Vistage.com.

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