Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Confucius Would Recommend That You Buy Video Equipment

by  Holger Reisinger

A man will follow your lead till the end of the world, if you let him share the cause. I cannot remember when or where I heard this, but it has been resounding in my head for the past week or so. I think it strikes an essential cord when it comes to successfully managing and developing true excellence from teams, both dispersed and office-based.

Creating a common vision and purpose, one that your teams can make their own, is of ultimate importance if you want commitment, excellence, and perseverance. While this type of commitment is as rare and precious as diamonds, it can be yours with a little planning.This is why I suggest that you take the advice of the fourth century Chinese philosopher, Confucius, and buy some video equipment.

This was true for me when, in 2008, I was heading up the Jabra EMEA Central sales team out of Germany. We were tasked with executing a brand new strategic approach, including new products and value propositions. It was a big change for many of my people who were spread all over EMEA. This was where I felt, first-hand, the power of the 1,600-year-old quote by the visionary Confucius, and it is as valid today as it was back then. He said: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Dictating strategy and policy will (according to Confucius, many a global team manager and myself) cause your wise words and carefully crafted plans to go in one ear and out the other. Adding a couple of hundred PowerPoint slides will make it stick with your otherwise disciplined and professional teams for approximately 21 days before everything goes back to normal. While getting your team to engage with the strategy, hands on and face-to-face, will provide you with the path for success.

Building trust is the key

My team at the time was comprised of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Arabs, Austrians and Dutch, and face-to-face meetings were just not possible. Yet, we had to break down the barriers and push through. It took some clever team engineering, and I eventually broke it down into four steps:

Get the team together for a virtual meet and greetOnce you are ready to kick off, have a meeting where you share your passion for the strategy. The meeting should include sections where each member of your team gets to speak as long as it takes for everyone to feel as if they have chipped in and have made it their own. Allow plenty of time for team members to get to know each other better, personally and professionally. This meeting is also for getting the ground rules and infrastructure in place.

Create the rules for communication
When time is short and you need results, establishing rules on how and when to communicate is pivotal. Virtual teams benefit from video meetings where everyone meets in close proximity, face-to-face, discussing best practice and obstacles. In this way, everyone will experience that the contextual and emotional cues — such as commitment to the project - will come through quite clearly.

Get the best communication technologies for the job
Collaborative, shared workspaces, social platforms, and multi-point video conferencing will make your and your team’s life easier. When you organize this, make sure that all members of your team have equal access and know how to make the equipment work. Teams will drop technology like hot potatoes if it takes 20 minutes to set up or connect. It is essential for your team to be able to do, share, and get under the skin of the project. Technology will need to be a friend.

Share the leadershipYou do not have to run everything yourself. Don’t fall into the micromanagement pit. Involving others in the leadership team will foster commitment, buy in, and drive. Trust me, you will get much more than you give by doing this. By sharing leadership, you will not only increase commitment but also be even greater at what you do as a leader.

The people who led the EMEA project to success with me are still with the company today. As such intense projects often go, once the job was done, I know that we all felt elated with just the tiniest twinge of regret of no longer being part of the tightly knit project team, and I know they still check in on each other now and then.

The way I feel is that it is all about people and the ability to fuel an existing need for purpose and vision. You can do this with the help of Confucius, because it is not about the glitzy, glamorous features of your technology solution, but rather it is how you connect to, engage with, and commit to the people who use it and how their actions can change the world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Switch Off for Business’ Sake!

by  Holger Reisinger

The expectation of being online around the clock is a fact of corporate life. However, in my opinion, constant availability has a few significant flaws that I think are bad for us as people and bad for business.

I was at the dentist the other day, sitting in the waiting room, waiting my turn; I picked up the latest issue of Time Magazine from the surprisingly well-stocked and up to date magazine collection. The lead story of the issue was about how wearables are going to change the way we are online, by their very nature, strapped to the wrist. It was quite unsettling in a very Kurt Vonnegut kind of way. So I was almost glad to hear my name called.

Since then, I read the piece in its entirety and it has played in the back of my mind. I have decided that while the article may paint a grim picture, it has a point. You will never be offline again and you will have to find a way to deal with that fact. Because only then will we succeed in living reasonably balanced lives which let us disconnect from the fever pitch pace of the online world.

Bad habits are a waste of time 

First of all, the constant pressure of information, emails, texts and messaging will force even the most productive and experienced professionals on their heels. If you try to keep up, you will end up just commenting on other people’s work, never getting beyond the tactical level and never having time or space to form a single strategic thought of your own. I have seen this happening and it is not pretty. Worst of all, working this way can become a habit that is hard to kick, removing any kind of strategic foundation for decision making, which, as we all know, is bad for business. So what do we do? We can’t just switch off. I am going to suggest a radical notion, but stay with me… Yes, we can! Moreover, we must, for the sake of our mental health and for the sake of our businesses.The expectation of being online around the clock is a fact of corporate life. However, in my opinion, the constant availability has a few significant flaws that I think are bad for us as people and bad for business.

We need to change our habits and our perception of the truth. Just a little bit. You as a person have to stay in charge so you are not suddenly ruled by your devices. I love technology and find it very useful in my everyday life. I am talking about striking a balance. First of all, switch off now and again, allowing time to talk to people, interact and experience things that give you energy, inspiration, and ultimately make you more interesting company to those around you. Once in a while, when I get too engrossed with work, which happens to everybody occasionally, I have to reboot. When that is the case, I start with something easy, like visiting a family member or going for a walk outside of my usual habitat, without my smartphone, to get me back on track.

However, there are other ways, and you don’t have to take up paragliding or venture off in a mad dash to climb K4 and prove to the world, and yourself, that you are now truly off the grid. Have lunch with your colleagues while your smartphone stays safely in your pocket. Do it tomorrow! This will revamp your network and offer quality interaction. In addition, you get to hear what people are working on, which will give you a fresh perspective and ideas, and you may actually learn a thing or two. You can always email and text, but the face-to-face interaction will bring other topics and trains of thought to light and great things can happen.

Unchecked streams of email will tire you out

Email can be a blessing and a curse. I have started to use instant messenger much more and have asked not to be CC’ed on every single process mail. This has helped tremendously on the internal mail-load; however, I still round around a hundred mails in a 24-hour period. This used to stress me out, as I was always trying to keep up, until I realized that this was never going to happen, and that the answer is “choice”. I now choose what to follow closely and when to respond, and getting out of the toils of the instant response craze has made all the difference. I truly recommend it.

Another good way to get time to yourself is to earmark time or space. I don’t answer emails on Sundays before noon, as a matter of course. The sky would have to be on the verge of falling before I head for the keyboard on those precious mornings. Sunday mornings are for coffee and doing things offline, like reading an actual paper or nothing at all. This block of earmarked offline time gives me more inspiration than a full day at my desk. 

You can vary the theme endlessly; go to the gym, the theater, a seminar, talk to your friends. Blocking time and going to the dentist can have similar effect, especially if your dentist, like mine, does not have Wi-Fi!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Bracelet, a Watch and a Pair of Sunglasses Will Define Your Future Success

by  Holger Reisinger,

Never mind your smartphone. A new generation of wearable devices are coming and they will revolutionize the way we do business. A big statement on the back of a smartwatch launch, you might say. Yes maybe, but wearable devices will soon do more than just being a really expensive pedometer: they will be a revolution for the industry, and I think it will change the professional world.

I am going to get a smartwatch. I am not going to lie to you, I am going to have to try one out and I am itching to get my hands on it. I hope that when I do so, it will change my world profoundly. Remember when you got your first smartphone? If you are like me, you remember the day like it was yesterday. Never before did I feel so exhilarated and mystified when I transferred the SIM card from my much-loved N95 to a brand new IPhone. Little did I know, like the rest of the world I am sure, the real implications of being always-on.

According to a survey from last year by New York based app company Locket, users unlock their phones on an average of 110 times a day, 23 times a day for messaging, 22 times for voice calls, and 18 times to get the time. The remaining times may well be to check their twitter account during meetings, but I am just speculating. The survey, however, has an interesting point: before our devices got smart, life was profoundly different and for better or worse, being connected 24/7 has changed us and the world, and it is just about to get a whole lot smarter.

Wearables are here to stay

Wearables, as a category, have existed a long time. The first smartwatch saw the light of day in 1971 with the launch of the digital watch with built-in calculator and then came Bluetooth headsets, heart rate monitors and pedometers. The difference between then and now is that the wearables created before have been reactive, a tool, something we could pick up and use when we needed to make a call while on the road, count our steps, or indeed calculate something exceedingly difficult at the spur of the moment. The new devices are a part of us even more than the smartphone is. Perching on our wrist, they will actively alert us of the going-ons in the outside world as they happen – and that is new.

It is also the reason I think that the new technology will take some getting used to, and why the category itself may not be an overnight success with the consumer. I am sure that it will happen, but aside from the obvious data and security issues that these devices pose, it is the reality of always on – right on your wrist, all the time – that I think will be the biggest hurdle the category will face. However, I think smart devices will be a hit with business.

In a report by Techpro from April of this year, a full 92% of the professionals asked were interested in wearables for business. 11 percent have already allocated budget and 25 percent are planning to allocate budget to purchase and implement wearables in their organization. This follows the early adopter and early mainstream purchase pattern to a T. The survey also states that the healthcare industry, business services/consulting, IT, and technology sectors are the most eager to deploy.

These professions share in common that they are not exclusively deskbound yet reliant on real-time information to work effectively. This tells me that we are back to the familiar concepts of value and communication. How can we benefit from these devices? If the doctors and consultants can benefit from real-time information, what about the factory floor and education professionals? If those issues are highlighted, the category holds enormous potential. A conversation needs to get started on the true value of wearables in business. I am sure that the market will warm up as soon as apps are available and the industry informs decision makers of the uses and values of the devices in their field of business. After all, the category has a lot of work to do if it is going to meet the predicted $19 billion worldwide spending on wearable technology by 2018.

In any case, I am going to do my bit to get them there by ordering my first device online right now. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Guide to Ultimate (Work-) Happiness

by  Holger Reisinger,

The zone is where it is at. That is where the magic happens, where you are the most productive and… yes! Happy. Getting there on demand is hard, but with a little planning, the zone may not be out of reach.

The Hungarian psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, wrote of the intersection between productivity, creativity, and pure happiness, the place where workers and athletes alike flock to produce impressive results. Flow, the zone, the groove, it is all the same: it is the magnetic place where you are at your best, and where you produce high quality and high value work.

I do not get to sail much at the moment, so I do not reach the athletic Zen nearly as often as I would like. A couple of weeks ago, I spun records as a guest DJ in a Lucerne club as my not-so-secret alter-ego, DJ Nordic. That evening, I could certainly recognize the exhilarating flow I used to feel when working on the boat with the team in high winds. The music, the happy dancing crowd, and the ambiance made the tracks and the time fly by. It was great – and it is good business, too!

Large and innovative companies like Google have made a science out of creating spots where employees can achieve work flow together or alone, playing with colors, shapes, themes and space to create a place where this magic can happen. For example, Google has invested in ski gondolas in the Zurich office, a pub-like meeting room in Dublin and sidewalk cafe in Istanbul, and they claim that the product of their HR or People Operations Department efforts can be measured in double digits. I am sure they are right.

It does not take a budget to create happiness 

Most companies, however, do not have the budget, nor the headroom to build ski gondolas. Workers must settle for the occasional quiet room or quiet corner and in some cases, working from home or outside of the office in a coffee shop, for example, is the only option to obtain the elusive flow. I have found that there are some – I would not call them short cuts because that would be selling the emotional and physical journey of reaching flow short – but there are some guiding principles that I find can help me get there:

  1. Find the right surroundings. Maybe it is not your office. It may be your living room or a coffee shop. To me, the environment is crucial. I find that I get into the zone easier when I have people around me, but at some distance – my office with the door open usually does the trick. However, I have friends who need absolute silence and some who work their magic in the kitchen when the kids are in bed and the only sound is that of the humming dishwasher.
  2. Find your props. It may be that your best work is not done on your laptop, but on your 2-in-1 devices or on your tablet. I like working on my laptop with a pad and pen handy – it enables me to make a note or calculation without having to grapple for a pen and risk falling out of the zone while I look. Or indeed, later find that the key calculation is in the trash, as it was scribbled on the back of a grocery receipt (true story).
  3. Silence or sound? I am a music man myself, so I like nothing better than the tunes – they often shoehorn me right into the zone. I find that the sound/no sound question is critical and actually the big divider on which people have the strongest opinions. I have a friend who says that music has her humming or singing along in her head, losing focus. Other people, like me, get carried away on the emotional highs of music which lands them right where they need to be. It is deeply personal, so choose your flavor.
  4. Find your ultimate rhythm. I love evenings and get my best work done after 8 p.m. While I find that I can get in the zone at all times when the task is fitting, evenings are my best time. I can get a lot of super good work done in 90 minutes before I have to come up for air with a break and maybe then do another stint of an hour or so.
  5. Find you level. It is not all activities that can get you in flow. Flow demands that you find the activity that is just hard enough so that you need to concentrate, but not so hard that it will interrupt your train of thought. Doing something for the first time will not get you there, for example. Finding a task which is too easy will lead you to drop your focus, disengage, and you may end up losing a hand in the machine.
Flow is all about an emotional state of undiluted focus – and it is not easy to attain, but it can be practiced and it gets easier as you go. I hear meditation is good as well, but have not tried it myself. There are plenty of paths to the zone and you will have to find yours. Once you get there, it will be worth it. I will upload some of the tracks from my DJ gig last week – if you are the music type, you can catch them here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Four Jobs That Will No Longer Exist in the Future

The digital revolution is upon us, and for all of us, it is a do or die situation. But who will be doing and who will be dying will be up to you and me – today!

I was at a marketing conference not too long ago, and while these conferences often do little to truly enlighten the audience, this time “the future” hit me right on the chin. The organizers had invited a 20-something YouTube blogger to take part in a panel debate about digital communication to large audiences. Her work was interesting in itself, but she really caught my attention when she answered a question from one of my fellow dinosaurs about what she would be doing in five years’ time. After the question was asked, she looked surprised, smiled, and said, “I really don’t know. Five years ago my current job did not exist - I am sure that the job I will have in five years’ time does not exist yet!”

Interestingly enough, her answer is the key to the future. So many jobs have changed or disappeared since we started introducing modern technology into the workplace. The postal worker will most likely be next, as licking a stamp and finding a mailbox will soon be a thing of the past. E-mail is simply a stronger business case, and with improved security, it will soon be the norm: to run all correspondence from the PC. I thought to myself that this is just the tip of the iceberg, so I sat down and made a list of all the jobs I could think of that will change or disappear. I am sure that you have plenty more to add:

The HR Manager
Links between the employee and the organization are becoming ever more fluid. Generation M is simply not that interested in the single employer gig that our generation took for granted. Generation M is largely freelancing. This will ultimately mean that the HR Manager will be replaced by the Community Manager, whose networking and engagement skills will ensure that each project is staffed with a winning team, that the corporate image is kept fresh, and that successful projects for your company are valued items in the Generation M portfolio.

Product Development
Yes! I can tell that you are shaking your head. But the situation is that consumerization will be the future, and we will see a lot more influence on products from consumers than we have seen before, which can have an effect on headcounts in product development. Also, as Generation M grows up, there is good reason to build dispersed ad hoc teams for product development as this generation will insist on freelance gigs and working from wherever they want. It is all happy news! In this way, everyone gets it all: expertise, enthusiasm, and fresh eyes in the development process.

The Coder
Ha! You didn’t see that coming did you?! I don’t believe that this profession will die out, but web creation systems are getting so good and easy to use that as digital natives enter the work force, more web-based tasks will be transferred from the coding dungeon of the IT team to the height adjustable desks in the sales and marketing department. That’s where needs for quick tactical decisions can be immediately met.

The Social Media Manager
This job has had a good but short run, and it will, like The Coder, have outlived itself quite quickly. The way I see it, as long as the people in charge of businesses and the majority of their employees are non-digital natives, there is a need to manage the social media output. However, once the digital natives come of age, social media etiquette and habits will become so ingrained into employees’ lives that there will be little or no reason to manage them or the things they put out for their peers to see. I expect the few remaining tasks that the Social Media Manager is charged with from day-to-day will not encumber the communications department much.

The great thing about this new reality is that new and better jobs and opportunities will be created in areas we did not even know existed, and I doubt very much that the above professions will find themselves without prospects, much like the young YouTube blogger. As we go, new needs and new experts will fill the reincarnated positions and be much successful, doing just that. In the meantime, I will keep an eye on that blogger and see what future she dreams up for herself…and us!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are Your Employees Really Using UC?

by Pete Fox, President of Jabra North America

Getting your UC to work is one thing; making it the key tool for your employees is quite another. Making the cultural change happen is not a one-man job - you will need help!

UC is great! I use it every day. I think it makes sense in a modern organization to cut costs on telephony, manage disbursed teams, and get all the benefits that the software offers. At Jabra, we could literally not do without it. Here in North America, we’ve built our people strategy around the existence of UC, by hiring the right person for the role, considering geography as a secondary criteria.  We believe that the war on talent requires employers to be flexible about work location.

However, like all other significant change, a successful UC deployment takes courage, leadership, a ton of planning, and a good 360° view of the organization. People don’t necessarily want to change the way they use the telephone, so asking them to do so, even with the promise of improved collaboration and performance that a UC deployment entails, is sometimes not enough.

That is something a good friend of mine, John, quickly realized after setting up and rolling out his company’s new UC platform. Being a fan of useful technology, like myself, John had spent significant time on evaluating UC platforms and choosing the right product for his company. He also took time to inform and engage senior executive leadership.  Getting their buyin ensured that the rest of the staff would understand the business rationale behind the change.

The UC technical deployment went smoothly, and HR did a great job on the training. Yet, after a month, John called me for advice, as he had realized that people were still doing business as usual - all of the in-house meetings were still carried out face-to-face and people were still driving in and attending meetings in person. Plus, there was the disturbing report that otherwise cooperative Linda from Accounting had thrown a fit, which could be heard on the entire floor, when IT had tried to remove her desk phone.

“It’s human nature, isn’t it?” he sighed into his brand new headset. I could only nod and try to comfort him and tell him that it would all be all right. But change is hard and does go against human nature, as John put it.  Even when a deployment goes well technically, people have to want to change for it to reach it’s full success and meet the Return on Investment (ROI) as planned in the business case.

So what does a leader do to ensure the use of UC in their organisation?

Start by engaging your end-users in developing an understanding of what the communication and collaboration needs of the organization are.
Great change management requires that the people you are asking to change have had their voice heard.  If the end-users see that their needs are understood, and can be a part of the planning for the change, they have the time to prepare for the change and can see the benefits of something they are a part of, bought in to, and are actively helping to come to fruition.  This requires more than typical end-user surveys.  Set up user councils and workshops.  Find the champions for change in those settings, and engage them and you will have them on your side for the entire deployment.
Make a point out of using UC yourself and ask your leadership team to do the same. You need to lead by example, take an hour a week in the roll out phase where you make yourself available through UC to your direct reports, or anyone in the company if that is what it takes, and ask your management team do the same. Also, insist all internal meetings leverage the UC system.

Create a Change Communications Plan that builds and maintains awareness and excitement about the benefits of the new platform. HR or Internal Communications are key players in the UC roll out, so getting their help when you stand before a cultural change is pivotal. Make a project team that can help with a plan that features guidelines, and maybe some tips and tricks to make the UC tools interesting, helpful, and relevant to all departments.

Remain steadfast and consistent in your support of the new platform.
You can bring a horse to water… most of your employees are probably highly accomplished in the software disciplines they use every day, and they are rarely digitally inept. But they may be scared of the new technology or feel irrational fear about change (we have all been there!) Most of us have grown up with the desk phone, and all of us use a mobile device today. UC is a whole new way of working, which may be out of their comfort zone, and they may need a while to get their heads around it. Asking how people are doing with the new platform can help you wear down the resistance and create more interest in your employees to want to use UC.

Highlight and reward best practice teams.
Highlighting best practice is a no-brainer; take some time to hear from the people who are depending on UC the most, the 100% remote worker may be a good place to start. How do they feel about the new software? Has their life improved? Are they closer to HQ after the new platform has been put in place? Mention great working teams and reward their efforts.

Keep it simple!
Today, in my own organization, we often have our meetings using UC even though all participants are in the same building, because it is easy and a whole lot quicker to do it that way. Nobody has to book a conference room, and meetings tend to be shorter. When we are finished working and the chit chat is over, we are done! I find that we cut approximately ten to 15 minutes from UC meetings. With two meetings a day over a year’s time, that frees up approximately 62.5 working hours a year.  Don’t be the person who insists on ALL meetings being face to face.

In 2012, we did a Global UC survey that showed that the US, Japan, and Australia in particular were at the forefront of the UC implementation, having removed up to a quarter of all desk phones in favor of mobile and softphones, a trend that I am sure is even stronger now.

UC is definitely the future, and as futures go, it is a pretty good one, even though it does not come about without effort. I will be visiting John in about two weeks for a cup of coffee to hear about how the cultural change is coming on – and whether Linda has adjusted to the new reality.

Are you able to help your own “Linda” make the change?