By: Wayne Turmel
January 1st means absolutely nothing in a physical or cosmological sense. Yet, it looms large every 365.25 days. We obsess over it, plan our work around it, and even use it to make momentous life changes. It’s arbitrary (we have to start and end somewhere), illogical (if you’re going to start a year in the middle of winter, it should be on the solstice, not three weeks later) and inconvenient (really, right after Christmas?). Although the actual date holds no real meaning, we should at least develop our leadership and communication skills to benefit both our team and ourselves, as remote leaders. After all, if you’re Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or almost anything else in this world, January 1st isn’t even the real start of the year. Yet, every culture does recognize the need to stop, reflect on the past year, and utilize time developing future implementations. In the spirit of reflection, let’s get the ball rolling. (Seriously, grab a note pad and a pen, and block out an hour from your schedule.) Here are 5 questions for remote leaders (or any leader) that will help you start 2016 successfully:
How are we doing with our milestones and task completion? What’s working and what’s not?
Yes, you’re tracking your milestones and deliverables; it’s right there on your dashboard or monthly numbers. The second half of that question is just as important. Specifically, consider the reasons why you succeed in some areas, but lack skill in others? What can you do about it? Where should you be focusing your efforts?
Are there individuals on the team who excel? Who’s struggling? Why?
It’s easy to identify the top and bottom performers on most teams. The important thing is to identify why these differences exist. Is it attitude, skill, training? How can you leverage the strength of your top folks to help the rest? Are there ways to share knowledge, delegate tasks, or create opportunities for team members to mentor each other?
Are the tools we’re using working as expected? What needs to change?
We are usually too busy using tools to examine how well we use them. Take a moment and ask yourself; does the way we use email (or virtual meetings, or Skype, or anything else) get the desired results? Do we need to upgrade our tools or our skills?
What is the best thing I did this year, and why does it matter?
If you’re like me, it’s easy for honest reflection to turn into obsessing over personal faults. Turn the question on its head; what’s the best thing you did this year? Why was that so effective? How can you do more of it? How can you apply that same success to other areas of your team and your work?
What is the one thing (even though it’s probably impossible) I could do that would fundamentally change how we work?
We know you have no budget, your people are mutinous and your bosses don’t know what they’re doing. That’s old news and doesn’t really help anything. If you could do one thing to make things better, what would it be? Is there some small piece of that in your control? What is one concrete step you can take in the next week to help you achieve that goal?
There’s nothing magical or scientific about these five questions. I could easily swap these for five other areas of inquiry. There are two things that really matter:
• You take the time to actually ask yourself these questions and ponder the answers
• Your questions turn into action. Even small actions can have outsized results.
We need to give ourselves permission to make a scheduled portion of time for reflection. If it takes an arbitrary date on the calendar to make that happen, so be it.
W. Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and corporate drone who lives in Chicago Il. He is the founder and president of Greatwebmeetings.com, a co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute and the author of Meet Like you Mean it, a book that helps virtual and remote teams collaborate more effectively.