Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . .
For many jobs today, work can be done very differently, sometimes even completely virtually. On one of our previous Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars, we discussed these ideas with Kyra Cavanaugh, author of the book, Who Works Where and Who Cares? We also invited two leaders who manage virtual work teams to share what’s made their teams so successful.
Since this webinar, Chris has been promoted, but he continues to manage his new team virtually. We’re also proud to have Chris as a member of ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leader group, and on one of our recent calls, it was fun to hear how Chris is still using these important flexibility tools today.
Tool #1: Define performance objectives. Kyra underscores, this is not just an important tool to use for flexible work teams – but for every work team.
As Marketing and Sales Leader at Marriott, Chris learned that successfully managing a virtual work team can come with a few curve balls, but through prioritization, communication, and trust he was able to build on his team’s success. It also helped that Marriott clearly defined performance standards. Productivity goals were carefully defined as a way to promote key priorities and related behaviors. Activity logs and weekly updates also kept the team on track to help drive results.
Tool #2: Capacity and resilience. Kyra explains, managing the long-term resilience of a work team doesn’t just benefit the individual team member it also benefits the organization.
Chris has become an expert in understanding how much work each of his team members can handle while also supporting them to have time and energy for their lives outside of work. Chris learned this requires open and honest communication and feedback. It also meant getting to know, and supporting the different ways his team members needed to work. Some were parents and their schedules varied around their children’s school day. Others tended to work a more traditional 9 to 5 schedule. Taking into account his team’s different work schedules, as well as his own preferences, Chris made himself available for both types of worker, or let them know who they could be in touch with when he was away from work. Over time, he even learned that he could match team members who needed extra support with others who were experts in integrating work and life responsibilities. This way they could learn from each other.
Tool #5: Communication. No surprise, the key to all of this is good communication.
Chris knew the glue that held everything together was good communication. Not only did his employees have to communicate their capacity and work preferences, they also had to communicate what they wanted to make time for in their lives outside of work. Chris also communicated what was going on in his life, especially if it was going to impact his availability. In fact, if there were life issues that would impact their ability to complete a task on time, all of them were responsible for communicating that to the rest of the team. What he noticed from all of this, is that it helped everyone build up a strong rapport with one another, which also helped them hold each other accountable for the work they were doing.
Our discussion with Chris and Kyra helps underscore how flexibility will look different in every organization, and how support from upper management will always make it easier.
When Marriott made the shift to a flexible workplace for departments like marketing and sales, the organization had to learn what it meant to manage remote staff. Chris learned that flexibility requires more trust and greater transparency. Marriott helped by clearly defining expectations. Employees did their part by clearly defining their work capacities and obligations outside of work. Together – individuals, teams, managers and senior leadership – we’re able to optimize a new way of working that benefited everyone, including the bottom line!
Thank you Chris and Kyra for leading the way to creating truly 21st century workplaces!
Want to learn more? Check out the “integrated leadership” section of our website – discover how men and women are advancing in their careers while also creating plenty of time for their lives outside of work.