Seventhman Blog

  1. The Telecommuting Case: Innovator or Disruptor?

    "telecommuting"Just when the flames of Yahoo’s telecommuting memo is slowly dying, we hear Best Buy adding more fuel to the fire.  I can’t resist not to jump in and make a case for telecommuting.  Last week, I wrote about Employee Appreciation Day and how flexible time can become the highest motivator for your people to do their jobs well.  Guess what?  A case against working from home is posted on the Web, saying that such activity is not only counter-productive, but a creativity killer as well.  While I’m not against research, they have forgotten to mention that collaboration technology is improving and more employers are saving valuable money that would have been spent on travel and office space.  Do they have the most current study on work patterns?  If innovation is said to happen in those unexpected moments when you bump into someone from another department, then.. there’s simply no need to plan team huddles to brainstorm an idea as it can happen in a snap, right?

    It’s Not the Distance

    For over two decades of having worked with remote teams across the globe, I would say that it’s not an issue of where you work — but how you manage your team to produce the best results.  By management, I’m not talking about micromanaging or this destructive habit of trying to make marionettes out of your team.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with remote work and it can even help you attract top talents to your brand.  But at some point, telecommuting has to be managed because the potential for abuse is still there.  Honestly, if someone’s consistently producing great work – I don’t really care much if s/he’s working from Jupiter or Mars.  If they can’t do their job well from a distance, what makes you think they will do better when they’re only six feet away?  But, each time I hear someone saying that s/he has the right to telecommute, the problem is always about how things are being managed from within; not telecommuting.

    Remote Work: It’s Not Picture-Perfect

    Like working in the office, telecommuting has its share of benefits and drawbacks.  One thing’s for sure though – employees are happier when they are given a chance to be home-based.  This is why they were aghast when Yahoo’s Chief announced that telecommuters report back to the office by June.  Those who are running a work-at-home program can do well if expectations are clear from the very start – from defining the job scope to deadlines.  There is a major difference between working from home occasionally and doing it all-year round though.  Managers may just not be readily available when you need instant help.  Then, there are also issues on data security, poor performance evaluations and lesser promotions for people who work from home.  If you ask why people still clock in from 9-5, they might tell you it’s all about that good ol’ feeling of how your colleagues think highly of you even if they don’t know what exactly it is that you do.

    The Reality of Working from Home

    Did you know that majority of corporate America spends telecommuting hours – only after they have worked in the office?  That’s time spent on checking emails and writing reports after office hours.  The truth is that managers are still glued to doing the old way of things, that your commitment and productivity is measured with the time you spent in the office.  This is why they want to see you and are leery of those who are out of sight.  Also, they are having difficulty measuring how well you have worked if you do it out of the office.  While there are tasks that will benefit more from face time, the future of work tends to shift from this as people are finding balance between regular communication and working as one.  Digital tools have yet to solve the issue on how to get things done when work becomes more complex.

    There’s no doubt that we will see better technology to make telecommuting seamless.  The question is not much about which platform to use – It’s more on how the company culture support autonomy.

    Do you think that telecommuting is the future of work?  I leave you with that question.

  2. Managing Virtual Teams: Five Keys to Success

    "virtual team management"Do you believe that teams working remotely can outperform those who work in the same location?  Virtual collaboration is shifting from trends to norms as more people are working from anywhere in the world.  They all have to thank mobile technology with this new-found freedom.  There’s no denying that we are entering the age of the global workforce and soon, team members working in the same cubicle will be obsolete.  We see teams working from their homes, across cities and even across the globe.  Everyone works independently this time.  Aren’t we so lucky to live in such a digitally-connected world?

    The Fallacy of Face-to-Face Meetings

    While it is undeniable that nothing beats the usual way people meet to brainstorm and synergize, leading teams across different time zones and conquering cultural divides can be felt in the virtual world.  Small businesses are taking advantage of running a virtual team as it means flexibility and minimal cost.  Though studies have found that collaboration across distance is tougher to manage, it is manageable still.  Proximity may promote frequent communication, but it can also be a hurdle when trying to accomplish complex tasks that need more focus.  A good example is those in the research and development industries, where their network of operations are scattered across the globe as they compete and work towards excellence.  The degree of expertise in these teams are more extensive, where they can work for the same goals while having a higher tolerance for diversity.  This diversity may cause problems in communication but overall, it enhances problem-solving skills so everyone can come up with a faster and better solution for a particular project.

    How You Can Lead a Virtual Team to Succeed Anywhere in the World

    I have worked with virtual teams for over two decades now and managing people in dispersed teams means helping them realize their potentials.  There are many socio-emotional barriers to cross and making sure that your remote team commits to your business goals is a learning process, even after this long.  What’s the secret formula?  There is NO secret! The future of work starts with having people skills so you can create trust, connection, communication, collaboration and commitment among them.  You have to:

    1. Place trust at the heart of your work relationship with your virtual team and employ strategies for building relationships over time

    2. Promote the idea of self-leadership among your team, so they can be self-sufficient in managing their work

    3. Set expectations early by communicating with your team what you expect for them to accomplish – from work hours, deliverables, status reports, to conference calls

    4. Stay virtually connected by utilizing platforms like Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangout and many more.. It’s all about creating an online water cooler for your team to feel that they’re stepping into the office.  It’s all about sharing ideas and breaking the ‘virtual ice’.

    5. Use new technology wisely as there are a plethora of tools available for you to use in managing your virtual team

    It all comes down to RESPECT.. and 360 degrees of communication at all levels.  By fostering a global mindset among your team, everyone will feel that they are part of something bigger than their geographic location.  This will make them respect the diversity of work, its schedules and stay committed to each other in meeting deadlines.  The degree of competitiveness lessens and collaboration heightens.

    Are you ready to keep your team together?  

    Bottomline is – the workplace has changed and we all have to adapt to survive and thrive.

  3. The Next Big Idea: When Entrepreneurs Think Outside the Box

    "brainstorm"Back in the days of jotting down your idea on a cocktail napkin, the excitement seems so overwhelming that you need to capture that ‘magic’ moment to the next million dollar dream.  Like sugar rush, ideas can also crash.. because you haven’t had time to find out if it’s viable.  For a gifted few, imagination comes so easy.  But reality is, one need to lay down the foundations of a plan, to have a clear idea on what makes your product unique, on how to build a demand in the marketplace for it.  So, the real question is this: How can you turn that big idea into a profitable business?  Can you manage without having a partner, taking a loan or writing a business plan?

    Going Beyond Your Unique Value Proposition

    It’s starting to feel a lot like summer and I can’t stop thinking of this beach vacation under a beautiful weather.. and yet, I have to keep my focus somehow as I prioritize my list to making this new idea a reality.  If there’s one good advice I’ve read today, it’s this post  on military training techniques you can apply to business.  I love what Louis wrote, “Intelligence is a Key to Staying Ahead”.  Nowadays, everyone’s on the rush to come up with a new product or service that they often forget to do market research.  The data you can gather will prove invaluable in determining the success or failure rate of your plan.  This is why we often see many aspiring entrepreneurs waste dollars in activities that lack direction.  You don’t simply state what makes you unique, but you need to have a road map to follow in making sure that your research will help you fine tune that idea into something a customer will want to purchase.  Even before you think of innovation when it comes to brand development, try to see the SWOT of your idea ( as in strength, weakness, opportunity and threat ). Your analysis based on these will help you fix flaws before people try it out.

    Challenges in Brainstorming: Where Traditional Meets Digital

    Sometimes, it is better to get less advice because the more you do, the more distracted you will be.  Should you just ignore everybody instead?  It’s just that the more unique your concept is, the harder it is for you to get like minds to help you brainstorm ideas.  There are those moments when solitude works best though, where all that brainstorming sessions and focus groups do more harm than good.  What intrigues me most is that in this digital age, those who collaborate using new technologies often come up with creative ways to work on ideas.  When there is time pressure on compiling data and predicting trends, the very same idea can be burned through overthinking.  The challenge, therefore, is how to run a criticism-free session that’s free from fear, stress, ego, beliefs, absolute truths, conformity, doubts and bad habits.  The very process of sharing becomes the very problem itself, don’t you think?

    Is There Really a Market for Your Idea?

    This is a very crucial question to answer.  The problem with running surveys is that quantifying results based on a few number doesn’t really justify the target market as a whole.  How can you really solve your customers’ pain points?  When you present an idea to a group, things become interactive and participants are free to share their thoughts about your idea.  Sometimes, it is how we question things that define what we observe and this can be very limiting.  The marketplace is crowded and having your slice off the pie means creating the ultimate hook where fishes bite the bait.  It all comes down to making things simple and sticking to your promise.  If you build it right, the right customers will come..

    There is chaos in the creative thinking process. Things can get out of control.  Don’t panic. It’s only normal.  Pay attention and just do things better this time.