Collaborate anywhere: Remote Team mastery

by The TogetherDigital Team

S2 E36

Collaborate anywhere: remote team mastery

Join us for insights on saving time, boosting accountability, and building a strong team culture.

Teresa Harlow

Founder, Professional Speaker, Author, Coach, & Mediator
Promethian Problem Solvers

About Teresa
Teresa Harlow, a seasoned problem solver with over three decades of experience, has led diverse technology teams in top global companies, focusing on innovative solutions in digital technology for the financial services and insurance sectors. Her signature collaboration and business results framework, developed through repeated success, is now applied by organizations to streamline solution creation and enhance relationships.

teresa harlow

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The meeting was hosted by Amy Vaughan, the Chief Empowerment Officer of Together Digital, who introduced guest speaker Teresa Harlow, a tech leader with 30 years of experience. The discussion focused on remote work and managing remote teams. Teresa shared her experience of working remotely in the early 2000s and how it made her realize the importance of collaboration.

She emphasized the importance of face-to-face communication and how it can impact team dynamics and success, especially for strategic meetings like kickoffs. Additionally, they discussed the importance of recognizing accomplishments and building relationships in the workplace, and how these can be achieved remotely.

The challenges of remote work were discussed, including Zoom fatigue, scheduling, and teamwork. Personal tips for managing these challenges were shared, such as scheduling regular breaks and using apps for background noise. They also emphasized the importance of intentional team building and understanding team members’ personalities and needs to support collaboration and success in remote work.

Remote meetings were also discussed, including the difficulty of establishing trust and respect between teammates and the tendency for quieter participants to be left out. They offered advice on how to overcome these challenges, such as checking in with team members and being comfortable with silence.

The importance of measuring results and using KPIs to measure value delivered, comparing actual results to plans, and acknowledging achievements and mistakes was emphasized. They also suggested setting clear goals, getting to know team members, and having in-person gatherings at pivotal times. The importance of breaking the habit of relying solely on email and text messages in remote work was also discussed.

They suggested starting a movement to encourage more two-way conversations in the workplace and offered strategies for increasing motivation and accountability in a virtual work environment. They also touched on the role of emerging technology, such as AI and holographic telepresence, in remote work and the need for strategic and thoughtful in-person interactions.

Key Questions

  • How can organizations mitigate challenges when transitioning to remote or hybrid work models?
  • How can leaders measure and enhance collaboration in a virtual work environment?
  • Are individuals more or less motivated while working remotely, and what strategies can leaders use to ensure accountability and motivation?
  • How does emerging technology, such as AI and holographics, influence remote teamwork dynamics?

How To Support Your Team

  • Establish intentional opportunities for team members to get to know each other.
  • Encourage the use of video during virtual meetings.
  • Measure and track results, including value delivered, mistakes, and satisfaction.
  • Opportunities for in-person gatherings at strategic milestones.
  • Foster two-way communication and discourage over-reliance on email.
  • Provide employees with the necessary equipment and resources for remote work.
  • Set clear goals and expectations for remote team members.
  • Celebrate successes, recognize achievements, schedule regular check-ins, and follow-through on commitments.
  • Consider the use of emerging technologies, such as holographics, for remote collaboration.
Amy Vaughan
All right, hello and welcome everyone to our weekly power lounge. This is your place to hear authentic conversations from those who have power to share. My name is Amy Vaughn and I am the owner and chief empowerment officer of Together Digital, a diverse and collaborative community of women who work in digital and choose to share their knowledge, power, and connections. You can join the movement at www together in digital dot com welcome to our last recording of 2023. We have had such an amazing season with a number of wonderful guests who have shared such amazing, insightful stories and experiences. I wanna encourage and invite all of our listeners to go back and take a listen. If there’s anything that you missed, there’s not a lot that we didn’t cover this year, everything from AI to leadership, to managing change, you name it, we kind of covered it, but we’re so excited. We are actually booked out through April, of 2024, so we’ve got season three coming for you soon. In the meantime, we hope while we’re on break, you’ll take the time to go back and take a listen to some of our amazing guests. And as they say, last but not least, we’re excited to invite or to have Teresa Harlow here with us. We’re talking about remote work and how to manage and master remote teams because they’re saying that by twenty twenty five thirty two point six million Americans will work remote. This pretty much suggests that remote work is not going away. Sorry to those who fuel their eyes and are telling their teams come back to the office. Today, we’re going to talk to and gain sights on saving time, boosting accountability, and building a strong team culture. Here to help us along with that is Teresa Harlow. She has 30 years of global tech leadership experience. She is a seasoned problem solver who has shaped diverse technology teams since 1992. She has led groundbreaking efforts in digital technology, focusing on financial services and insurance. Teresa’s proven collaboration framework honed over the years is a testament to her success in achieving remarkable outcomes for her teams. Today, Teresa shares this framework, to help organizations save time, resources, and fortify key relationships. Melding her corporate experience or expertise with a passion for performing arts, such a cool combination, she conducts unique rock and roll keynote experiences and rock shops, R-O-C-K, shops. Beyond her corporate role, Teresa is a coach, mediator, and best-selling author of Combative to Collaborative, The Co-Parenting Code. In this capacity, she guides divorced parents and separated parents to raise children collaboratively after they split. Teresa, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your unique set of skills and gifts with us today. We’re excited to have. Here. Oh, stop. You know went through my head, I was like, and I didn’t want to say it because I try not to make comments on women’s looks. I’m like, not that you could tell by looking at her. But since 1992, seriously, when you told me about a 30 year old, I and I we’ve met in person, too. So, like, again, well done. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. You look amazing.

Teresa Harlow
You. Um I should have left out that 1992 thing. I was five. It’s in spite of me.

Amy Vaughan
Great hydration, good genes, all that stuff. It all counts. It all makes it all, it all helps. And just your energy, too, is for this topic and the other topics that I spoke upon. That was one thing that really impressed me about you when we met a couple months ago was just obvious passion for what it is that you do. So I’m kind of curious, and that’s where I want to start, is what was that defining moment or experience that helped shape your perspective on team collaboration, especially as it kind of comes to remote and hybrid work? Because I feel like, again, like so many of our guests, your journey’s been a little winding.

Teresa Harlow
Winding is one way. I call it a maze, not amazing necessarily, but a maze. But Yeah, I have been around technology a long time and have witnessed a lot of things evolve. And I would say my understanding and recognition of the need for collaboration has been an evolution. I don’t think I started in a place where I acknowledged or realized how important that element was to the success of my teams and me. But in early 2000s, I was a consultant for what we used to term satellite company. It was a boutique consulting firm, didn’t have an office anywhere. Everybody just worked from wherever their client was or from home. And we would go into the client’s location when we needed to talk about status and those sort of things. But day-to-day was a lot of remote work. When we needed to get together because we were bringing an agile type of methodology to the forefront, something that was super rare back in the early 2000s, we would do that co-location thing by getting together in a Panera Bread. I mean I think I spent days on end in a Panera Bread working with my team and drinking way too much coffee. But you know back then, I really think I was focused on You know, really, there’s, I see three elements to any business effort. You’ve got a product or service, you’ve got a process to live within, and then you have the people, right? And I really wasn’t so focused on the people. I really thought that if I knew the product, if I knew my stuff, And I understood the processes and how to manipulate those where needed to pull the levers to change things that the people, you know, as long as I was nice to them, it would take care of itself. So, back in these early 2000s, I was able to work with our largest client to date for this particular firm.

Amy Vaughan
Hey.

Teresa Harlow
To bring forward two projects that finished that they had struggled with for seven years.

Amy Vaughan
Wow.

Teresa Harlow
So we got them both done in a year and a half. And a lot of that I would say was because of the Agile process that we were using. It was kind of a unique brand of that in this particular firm, but it really exemplified all the positive pieces of Agile. However, while the team received like, the CTO received a global award for this achievement, right? I got fired. It was like,

Amy Vaughan
Oh, get out.

Teresa Harlow
Wait a minute, I did a good job. What happened? Something? Yeah. I’m like, do I get to claim anything about this award? As a consultant, you didn’t. It was the client that they awarded that to the internal team, which was fine. But to think that I thought I’d done this great job and I got fired. I’m like, what went wrong? And I’m like, I know my stuff. I you know, pull the levers where I needed to, to knock down processes that weren’t valuable or go, you know, get waivers where needed or create new processes to build those bridges and stuff. I realized that it was this people thing that was the gap for me. So fast forward about a decade, I had taken some time to have some other business ventures between the consulting and this next foray in the 20 teens. But when I came back to a corporate setting and to technology, I was going to solve this problem. I wasn’t going to have this happen again because I really wanted it to be, you know, not just a, here’s this thing that’s out in the environment, but people actually wanted to spend time in my presence, you know? I mean, right. Everyone wants to be liked, but so I was working for this big bank and I decided the first thing I needed to do was get to know the people. Because, you know, I hadn’t really spent the time to do that. I was always too busy. And the first team I had, I was a project manager leading giant programs. And my whole team was in New York, New Jersey, and the United Kingdom. Now, they all had video phones, but those video phones had not come to Columbus yet. And I was the manager of the overall team, you know, the program manager. And the executive sponsor kept saying, why can’t you get video? And I checked and checked and everybody told me there was no way to do it. So we worked through this without that. I went on site to meet with them in person in New York a couple of times, but they really, company was not very open to me needing to travel because they’re like, well, you have everything you need to, you know, you can talk to each other. You can do, um, teleconferences. What else do you need? And not recognizing that sometimes face to face is, is required. And my executive sponsor really wanted me in the room and they would be all gathered around some conference room somewhere in New York. And here I am, this disembodied voice talking to them about what the expectations were. And it was sort of like I was an afterthought. Like they’d be having these, I would hear these side conversations sort of bubble up and I’d be like, is there something I need to be hearing? And I’d have to bring their attention back to me. And it was just a struggle. But we did finish. And the lessons I took from that were that, you know, if if my team has video capability, I’ve got to find a way to make that happen. I can’t be an afterthought. I have to take my seat at the table. They’re always telling us, you know, as women, we need to take our seat at the table. So I had to find a way to insist that happen. And then meeting in person was still something that needed to occur for things that were strategic. In nature, kickoff meeting. I did that remotely, but it would have had so much more impact if I could have been with them in a room, maybe shared a cocktail or coffee before or after. So you really get to care about each other. You know, who do you, who do you want to work hardest for? The people that you care about. Who do you want to support? The people that you care about. And so that was something I worked very hard to achieve given the tools I had. Now, after about a couple of years and we had finished that project, I was handed an even larger program. It was giant. It was global, literally thousands of stakeholders and the direct team crossed eight lines of business for this big bank. And the executive sponsors were like, I don’t know, four levels up from my level of management. And I was expected to lead this group. And so first thing I said is I have to be connected visually. And I got an approval. I just said, I have to have this. This is what I need to succeed. And you have to speak up and say, you want this to succeed. Here’s what’s required. I went out and bought an iPad, actually my husband bought it for me for Christmas, so that I would have it when this project launched in early January. And I set up the iPad and I worked with my tech support to get it done. So, you know, we were able to really work together as if, you know, well, you know, all the benefits of being able to see somebody and that visual cueing that you do to each other when you’re communicating. So the other thing with that program is I got very good at quantifying the results so that we could. Yeah. Spur competition for one across these eight different lines of business, right? Competing executives, always a good thing.

Amy Vaughan
Whatever gets them. Motivated.

Teresa Harlow
And It also gave us a way to recognize accomplishment, recognize how far they were getting, and we could do it in a 30 second timeframe, I could hit a button, had the benefit of a really cool programmer to help me develop that kind of reporting. But we could say at any moment how much value had been delivered. So it was a matter of these tools in addition to my focus on understanding, we need to care about each other, we need to be interested in cheering each other on. That made the difference.

Amy Vaughan
That’s really great. And we’ll definitely get to some of those like KPIs and things like that that you referred to in your dashboard. I do think that is an important aspect of it. I think it does help people who maybe don’t feel as comfortable or confident kind of having these remote relationships feel more confident about it. But as somebody who namely exists as a person within the Zoom box, I can tell you it’s pretty stellar what you can accomplish with other people. And I do think that added element of being able to see them and the body language and Even like their surroundings sometimes and things like that, it just gives you more insights as to who they truly are. And there’s more cues you can take, obviously, from body language. I love that you talk about the fact that you got fired. I think some of us, when we’re talking about our career paths and journeys, we don’t like to talk about the messy stuff, but I feel like the messy and the hard things are where we have the most opportunity to grow. And I also think it makes you more relatable because sometimes people just see the success and they don’t think that they can either relate or ever achieve something similar. And the fact of the matter is, is I dare you to find somebody who’s not been in the working world for more than a decade, who hasn’t faced either a layoff or a firing. And I also love that you mentioned the too busy. And for those who are listening to the podcast, you didn’t get to see the air quotes, but being too busy to get to know your coworkers, I have definitely been there. It really wasn’t until I joined Together Digital and started building my own community and network did I make that correlation, right? Because I was so busy title chasing and working hard and climbing my way up. I definitely felt connected to my coworkers, but I wouldn’t say we were hanging out after work. We weren’t friends. I didn’t know much about, I knew some about their life outside, especially if they were on my team. I took extra time at that point. But beyond that, beyond my immediate team, Again, I was like, again, air quotes too busy. And I also wanted to call out, you mentioned, you know, the, and I do remember I worked remote in 2011. It is, there’s that fear of being out of sight, out of mind. And for those who are listening, which are majority, those who identify as women, women pay this kind of what is it called? Not presence, not attendance, but it’s like it’s another it’s another one of the many penalties we pay, presence, for just not being present, for not being there all the time. A lot of times we kind of pay the price when it comes to new opportunities, because like you said, those sidebar conversations happen, which then turn into new opportunities. And if you’re not standing in that same space, you miss out on that, which is, Share another piece of that, that experience with that giant team.

Teresa Harlow
So, um, you know, I caught wind like about a month into this month and a half into this new program, even though I was having weekly, you know, um, status meetings with a very large contingent of the, um, of the team core team. There was this executive level status meeting happening. It was called a program status meeting. I’m like, okay, they’re having a program status without the program manager there. That doesn’t make any sense. So I reached out to the executive sponsors. I said, if you’re going to have a program status meeting, don’t you think the program manager should be there? And they’re like, oh, good point. Yeah, sure. Come along. And so I ended up, you know, attending and kind of observing the first meeting and maybe just kind of started inserting little things in the second meeting. And by the third and fourth meeting, they realized I was a leading cast member of this meeting. And another two or three weeks went by and they were looking to me to lead the meeting. And I ultimately took over the meeting and facilitated it because. What made sense. And the executive sponsors, there were two of them and they said, well, do we need to be here? I said, okay, look, Yes, you need to be here most of the time. I get it if you have very high level jobs, I get it. But I do need you to show buy-in and the sponsorship of this thing. And you cannot take your name off the invite. Because that gave leverage to me to get the people that were at their level to show up, right?

Amy Vaughan
Exactly.

Teresa Harlow
That influence. Without being at that level is important.

Amy Vaughan
I love your ability to advocate for yourself. I think that’s a big thing to call out to there. If you’re kind of in a semi-remote or hybrid situation, you know, we already pay that penalty of not being constantly present. Advocating for yourself, I think, is such an important way to kind of help avoid that. And then also, I kind of am curious to see over the next few years how, if remote work’s gonna level the playing field for women, you know? Because now everybody.

Teresa Harlow
Here’s an interesting thing. So you can only see me from here up, right? Now. There have been studies and I don’t know the statistics to necessarily rattle them off here, but I know there’s studies that show that shorter people are at a disadvantage. In the professional world. And you can’t tell how short or tall I am right here. Yeah. So it actually takes that off, especially if you’re in the presence of, you know, and I’ve spent most of my life in rooms with full of men and they’re all taller. Right. And so, you know, if you’re physically there with them, there’s that intimidation factor and just that physical. You know, inequity that goes away online. So there’s that.

Amy Vaughan
Good point. So many people say that to me when they fight, because again, like I said, I live in the Zoom box. They see me and they’re like, oh, I think you should tell me I’m taller.

Teresa Harlow
Well, you seem pretty tall to me.

Amy Vaughan
To think that which I’m 5’6″.

Teresa Harlow
I’m shorter.

Amy Vaughan
I’m like pretty average, about as average as you can get height wise, thanks, right. Awesome. Teresa, in your experience, what are some common misconceptions or pitfalls organizations face while transitioning to remote or hybrid work model? Because I think people, even though we’ve kind of been at it for a while now, this still feels like a problem to them. How can some of these be mitigated, in your opinion?

Teresa Harlow
The pandemic hit, I was working for this very large bank and we were sent home just like everybody else. But at work, you know, I would go into this cubicle and work with teams across the world every day where I had two monitors, a really nice chair, like the one I’m sitting in now, a Vera desk, all this stuff, right? For very good reasons so that I could do my best work. And when we went home, the company did not recognize the need for that at home. So the message is people need the right equipment to do their, and you shouldn’t be assuming they can afford to get all that equipment. Now, I did. I went out and bought my monitors, my Veritas, but it was like, you know, you heard Apple and Google and all these, they were giving them like $10,000 to go build out a remote office. And that was an appropriate thing to do. I don’t know about the amount, but I know it was appropriate to give them a way to, excuse me, to get the right things they needed to do the job. The other, another misconception is people don’t need camaraderie. They don’t need to, you know, have the team rah-rah sort of stuff. And I think that’s completely wrong. In fact, it’s probably more necessary because you got to try harder at it. It has to be intentional. It’s not going to happen organically at a water cooler or in a break room or just walking down the hallway, running into each other. So you’re going to have to set up some very intentional opportunities for people to get to know each other and have that camaraderie, that team feeling. I used to do like, when it was the early days of COVID, I started doing themed weekly staff meetings. And I’d say, okay, come as your fantasy career. And so, you know, people would, this one guy, he came in his hard hat and had like construction sort of props. Available. I came with my rock and roll attire because I wanted to be a rock star when I was younger. And, you know, different people wore different things just to kind of have some fun with it and, and just give people something to smile about.

Amy Vaughan
Exactly.

Teresa Harlow
So people still need that stuff. The other thing that can be a misconception that you have to be really careful of is that everyone can work well remotely. Everyone works well autonomously, don’t need a lot of hand-holding, and everyone is self-motivated. That’s absolutely not true. Some people even know. I’m not designed to work remotely. So you have to take some additional measures to figure out how to help the people that are like that. First, you have to know they’re like that, so you have to get to know your people. Understand what challenges them and what their talents are, and then work to put them in positions where their talents shine and their challenges are either mitigated or minimized in terms of how much they’ll be a problem. And of course, you know, 70 to 93% of communication is nonverbal. Even though we have the box here, there’s still a certain percentage of that 70 to 93% that’s lost. I mean, you don’t have full body posture or, you know, you know, stance and all of that stuff. You don’t see gestures they might be making off screen, whatever. So people don’t, yeah, and people don’t necessarily communicate just as well without seeing each other and being in their presence. You know, so encouraging people to take advantage of the tools they have at hand, make sure your video is on. I know a lot of people, and my husband’s company is one of them. He’s right on the other wall from me, I can tell you. All the time, their videos are off, all of them. I’m like, what in the world? And I always insisted my whole team had their videos on all the time. And much to their chagrin, sometimes they’re like, oh, I got to do my hair or whatever. But I’m like, look, you need to see me. I need to see you. My eyes communicate with you. And I know whether you’re hearing me right, whether you’re understanding me. These are important pieces of communication, which you. Lose. Without that visual. And so people don’t communicate as well without seeing each other.

Amy Vaughan
Exactly. I know it’s a struggle. We’ve talked a lot about the in, you know, the, the term will forever live now, Zoom fatigue. So I think it is a matter of being intentional with how many meetings you’re scheduling with people back to back, giving them that time. Also, hot tip for those of you who do feel that Zoom fatigue, turn off your self-view. It’s actually more. Of You. Look at yourself. Fatiguing. Yourself. Than it is anything else. If you’re just focusing on the person you’re talking with, it definitely helps reduce it greatly. But I love that.

Teresa Harlow
Yes.

Amy Vaughan
It’s just, it’s all that extra internal dialogue that you’re dealing with as well. Because let’s be honest, like, as soon as you turn your camera off, you know, that you’re checking your phone more, you know, that you’re looking off to the side for email, you know, that you’re getting up and doing other things, you’re not being fully present. And that’s just not the way you would be when you were in the room physically with someone. You would still have that. It kind of keeps you accountable. But I also do understand the need for some people to, you know, not always have it on and be feel safe and comfortable not having it on because, yeah, it can be quite fatiguing. And I agree with you, too, about the what I thought of when you mentioned those kind of more cultural type events. I think I have found the ones that are just more genuine, intentional and low key. You know, to be the more fun ones where it’s like, it doesn’t feel forced. It doesn’t feel overhanded. It’s not all mandatory. It is. It is a challenge. It is a whole new way to have to approach management and people. And I think I completely agree with you. You have to just lean in that much harder on understanding your folks. Like you said, don’t just assume everybody is self-motivated. Don’t just assume they all can work well remotely. And then if you can, find ways to provide them with additional support, whether that’s additional socialization if they are an extrovert. Maybe it’s letting them have the camera off from time to time if it’s like they’re an introvert and they just need that extra mental space. I’ve found things really helpful for me having worked in agency environments for decades. And all of a sudden, working from home and it’s quiet, it’s too quiet. Like I need noise. So one of our members found this app or this site called Noisily with an I at the end. And I love it because it helps you. You can mix different sounds. You can do coffee shop or trees or white noise, pink noise, brown noise, all those things. And I found it really helped me focus because just having that little bit of background noise For whatever reason, put me in the zone. So I do think taking the time for yourself and for your team to understand like what gives them focus. And you’re in an at home work environment is a really great way to go about it. Those are Yeah.

Teresa Harlow
And you know, to your point of having to be off screen and the fatigue thing, look, I got to the point if I would have left my schedule open, people would have put something on every hour of every day. I know plenty of people who allowed that to happen to themselves.

Amy Vaughan
Oh my gosh.

Teresa Harlow
They’re like, oh, I never eat lunch. I’m like, look, I don’t miss, I don’t miss lunch. I never miss lunch. I always have it scheduled. Not only because I’m one of those people that needs to eat every so many hours. And I’m going to have, I’m going to get hangry and it’s not good for anyone. But I need the mental break to recharge. So I take a full hour for lunch every day. I schedule it on my calendar. Now I may move it if someone needs that time and that’s the only time they can meet, but I get that hour in. So it’s, you’re You’re positioning yourself for greater success if you do those things, which is good for you to do for your employer. Or for your business,

Amy Vaughan
Exactly.

Teresa Harlow
Depending on whether you’re self-employed or whether you’re someone that works for someone else. You’re going to do your best work if you give yourself those Those opportunities to get up and go to the bathroom, you know, get your water, do those things. You are not a machine, breath.

Amy Vaughan
You are not a machine. Right. I agree with that. I think I’m regularly like scheduled, like stand up walk breaks. It is so easy when some of us are a little bit of workaholics. Right. And you feel like because you’re not physically somewhere like for work that you have to always seem like you’re on. Um, and that can be pretty taxing too. So I am, I’m definitely with you. I am a, I’m at my desk at nine every day. I’ll light a candle or something to kind of help cue that start of my day. Um, I, I block time for checking emails. I block time for lunch and then, yeah, I really, truly try to be done at five and just stop everything else because honestly too, I will say, you know, not having those kind of, you between meeting conversations and other socializations, like I obviously get plenty done in those hours to the point that I don’t need to be working late so much. But then as an entrepreneur, I own a lot more of my time. So there’s a little perk for you, any of you considering that route. But let’s get to our next question. Let’s talk about teamwork, because that’s another kind of challenge, I would say, that a lot of folks face. When it comes to teamwork, what challenges have you seen, and how do. How these challenges impact collaboration? You already talked about how you need to get to know each other.

Teresa Harlow
Not only do you need to know your team, people on your team, they need to know each other. So that’s one of the struggles is finding opportunities to make that happen, very intentional. And if you’re leading a team, you’re going to have to drive that and not expect it to just happen. You’ve lost the organic opportunity for that to happen. The other thing that I see, you know, not everyone’s an extrovert. So when you get in this, you know, box format we’re in with Zoom, and especially if you’re using the speaker focus sort of setting, every time you speak, all of a sudden your picture gets really big and that can be, you know, off putting. Maybe not even speak up because they don’t want to be that person that got big on the screen. They don’t want to ask a question to clarify understandings. So, you know, they don’t. And then they think they knew what was intended by something and they really didn’t. There are a lot of managers and those leading teams that leave things to chance. Well, they heard it, I said it once, and now it’s all going to fall into place. I mean, this holds true whether it’s remote or not. But in the remote situation, you’ve lost certain elements of the communication to be clear that they understood you. And so you can’t leave things to chance. And you can position it so that it doesn’t feel like you’re hovering over people or you’re not trusting them. You can check in with your team. Look, I know you had something big coming up today. I want to make sure you have everything you need. Is there anything you need for me to help? And that way you’ve reminded them Yeah, the task. And you’ve also offered, hey, if you got some issues, we need to talk about them now, not after they’ve blown up. Yeah. And I already mentioned the not using video. I mean, use your video. It’s for your benefit. It really is. Do your hair. I’m sorry. It doesn’t have to be great. And use the little lever there to make your, you know, your appearance, improve your appearance, whatever.

Amy Vaughan
You only got to do it from the waist up,

Teresa Harlow
Right. You can wear your bunny slippers. Oh, always yoga pants, and bunny slippers.

Amy Vaughan
Always.

Teresa Harlow
Whatever, yeah.

Amy Vaughan
I just, it’s hard now to just get dressed up and go out. It’s just so much more like mentally labor intensive. I’m like, what, why this is too much.

Teresa Harlow
Work. Now I kind of look forward to it because it’s something novel.

Amy Vaughan
I just can’t. That’s true. It is. It does feel novel now. That’s so funny. But I do agree. I think establishing trust and respect between teammates, giving them time and space one on one, you know, before you expect them to get together to collaborate, such good advice. And then also checking in with your more quiet participants when you’re on a Zoom, because you’re right. You’ll have people who are more extroverted or verbal processors, which is also a lot of fun when you’re on Zoom. And it’s like, OK, you want to give time and space to them, obviously, but then make sure that you acknowledge those who are quieter in the space and say, okay, before we hop off, so and so, do you, do you, Ashley, is there something you need to ask? Or do you feel clear on what we need to do next? Just to even just verbally check in with them and verify that they are feeling seen and heard, I think is also a great way to make sure that you’re not leaving anyone out when you’re on those meetings.

Teresa Harlow
We’re all kind of uncomfortable with silence, right? So something I notice a lot of times happens is that people will ask, do you have any questions? And then they wait like three seconds and they’re like, okay, we’re done. It’s like, it takes people a little while longer to get up the nerve, you know, if you’re an introvert to bring forward your thought. So be comfortable with the silence, count to, you know, I don’t know what the right number is, but- I. Ten because it’s definitely longer than you think it should be.

Amy Vaughan
I usually count about 10 at least.

Teresa Harlow
It definitely is. But if you do that, chances are someone’s going to talk because they’re going to feel the pressure of the silence themselves and want to end it. So it kind of works that way too.

Amy Vaughan
That is true. That’s so true. And then I also feel like encouraging people to leverage different methods of communication too, Right? So like the chat or a poll or something like that can help you get some feedback and questions as well. If people don’t feel comfortable with speaking up. Let’s talk about those KPIs because we love key performance indicators. As all women in digital.

Teresa Harlow
Well, you have to measure.

Amy Vaughan
But what are some examples of KPIs that companies have used or can use to measure and enhance collaboration while working remotely?

Teresa Harlow
People and processes and products and all that, but it’s all about the value you deliver that is important to your work. So measuring those results based on what kind of value you deliver, find a way to quantify that. One program, we were reclaiming large hardware that was associated with the environment for this financial institution. And I found a way to actually keep track of every server reclaimed so that we could tell them, look at this number, it’s real, It becomes real. Um, and so you can do that. And then, um, always comparing your plan versus actual is a good thing. It can be, Hey, we can pat ourselves on the back or it can be an eye opener. Wow. We’re really lagging. Um, and these are not things you wouldn’t do in person. They’re just that much more important when you are taking things remote, um, to keep people kind of in an understanding of what’s going on. So looking at your, you know, actual to plan for your time, your budget, what you’ve produced so far, how much that’s benefiting whomever is getting the end result of that. If you’re creating success stories, that’s always a good thing. But measuring those results, doing it every week, making it very routine and expected so people can look forward to learning what the result is, and also it it applies a little bit of, I don’t want to say pressure, but maybe pressure is the right word, to get to their result by a certain timeframe because they know it’s going to be, it’s going to be out there. And keep things simple though. I came through a a certain training at one of my corporate employers and there was this, I think it was a Harvard thing, to put everything on one slide so that you know you could. If you couldn’t get it all on one slide, it shouldn’t be said. And I would look at some of these slides,

Amy Vaughan
Okay.

Teresa Harlow
I’m like, that is so busy.

Amy Vaughan
I have to say, somebody’s appreciation for design in white space, that feels cringy.

Teresa Harlow
You lose everyone, especially if they’re looking at a shared screen on a smaller screen. You don’t know if they have the large displays or not. Right. That’s another thing to be mindful of is everything gets shrunk down. So any graphics you provide need to be simple and visual. Measuring results includes awarding achievement. Publicly recognizing. Segments of your team or individuals that have done extraordinary things or even ordinary things that have cumulatively added up to success. So public acknowledgement of things going right or people supporting each other goes a long way. Measuring mistakes is also a good thing to do. It sounds negative and all that, but it’s reality and it’s not the mistake. It’s what you learn from it and correct from there. If there’s mistakes in the system, you got to fix them in order to get past them. So, measuring your things that aren’t going right and, you know, finding mitigation strategies for them as you go and maybe measuring the mitigation of it as well. I would have an issues list and measure the mitigation of that. How many issues do I have? How many, you know, are hanging out there for a certain period of time and not getting resolved? So, those things and also measuring satisfaction. Satisfaction of your team, satisfaction of the customer you’re serving, because if you’re measuring satisfaction, you’ll have good insight to how much, well, you can look at retention to see this too. If people are leaving your team. I mean, There’s a reason, and you need to understand what that reason is. You can do that through surveying them, just talking to them directly, and taking account of lessons learned at certain milestones within your effort, and having that kind of coming together to observe that.

Amy Vaughan
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Setting very clear goals for everyone, making sure everyone understands what we’re trying to achieve and how that’s going to be measured. Again, super important when you’re dealing with different people, different places, you know, different backgrounds and experiences and learning abilities or anything like that. But then also I love that other aspect of it is outside of clear goals is having a consistent acknowledgement because how many of us have forgotten that while we’re not in person? You know, I can’t tell you, I don’t think there was a single company that I’ve been a part of over the last 14 years that didn’t have some sort of like annual awards or monthly recognition program. How many of us have let things like that go to the wayside while we’ve been remote? And it’s such an important thing to make sure that we pause and celebrate those moments that people don’t feel like constant machines. That’s obviously kind of one tool that leads nicely into the next question, you know, one tool that leaders could possibly use. But are there other tools or steps leaders can take to encourage intentional communication and build camaraderie among team members when they’re not like physically sharing.

Teresa Harlow
An expectation that you expect your team members to get to know each other and understand what each other needs so that they can do their best work on the team and contribute. To the extent they should. So you know, and, and leading by example, getting to know them and saying it very bluntly, I want you guys to get to know each other, have meetings to understand where you each stand, what you each need, what your challenges are and what you expect of one another in order to succeed. I also think that there still needs to be a recognition of the appropriateness of in-person gatherings at pivotal times in an effort, like maybe when you’re launching a new effort and gathering physically in the same place and at certain milestones, maybe the end of planning or when you have to come together to do your strategic planning. And when you’ve accomplished something again to do those celebrations and recognition. Encouraging actual two-way conversations is something that I think has gotten lost since email became a thing. And I had a manager, and this was a while ago, but he had already become very disenchanted with email. I mean, I think it was back in, Jeez, early 2000s. And he said, do not send me an email. I’m not going to respond. Call me. Pick up the phone and call me. I want to have a conversation. And a lot of times we default to email because we want to do the CYA and copy 20 people or whatever. But if you’re trying to solve a problem through email, I think that that’s counterproductive. You need to have a two-way conversation, pick up the phone. If you need to follow it up with a confirmation of what you discussed, that’s fine. But don’t try to problem solve by going back and forth in an email thread that gets so long that their plot is lost. That happens all the time. And then people start weighing in, then they start a second thread, and then that one goes off in another branch of communication that the first group doesn’t even see. So it’s just wacko.

Amy Vaughan
It’s so interesting too. And I believe it’s such a generational thing as well, right? Because so many of us nowadays, it’s like, don’t call me, text me. And if you’re going to call me, text me first. Like we’re so. Unaccustomed. To. Two. Way. Conversation,

Teresa Harlow
Need to go back. Oh, We. Need to. Go back. To it. So valuable.

Amy Vaughan
I feel like that’s gonna.

Teresa Harlow
I’m going to start a, I’m going to start a movement. To wake up.

Amy Vaughan
It’s good, I agree, like, right. Because you know somebody calls you and you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m in so much trouble it must be urgent. If we have to get on the phone call,

Teresa Harlow
Can easily answer in a sentence,

Amy Vaughan
I don’t know.

Teresa Harlow
You know, that’s a beautiful thing.

Amy Vaughan
But 20 years ago. We did have a phobia when the phone rang. I don’t know why it’s such a thing. Maybe it’s because I have children now and a mom that I take care of It’s like, I’m always waiting for a call from the school or something. But yeah, it’s just one of those things. It’s just phone calls now. It feels like such an uncommon thing. But obviously, I grew up at a time in which I definitely spent hours and hours on the phone with friends when I was a kid. But nowadays, it’s such an uncommon. Even with my kids, they don’t even know how to hold a phone. I will hand them the phone to speak to one of their grandparents. And they’re holding it out. Six inches away from their head. I’m like, you have to hold the phone to your ear. But it just goes to show how little, like you have a good point, how little two-way conversation we have. So maybe working to increase that or have that as a set goal to have more two-way conversations with your remote team. I think that’s really smart. I’m with you on the movement. Let’s start making little steps to kind of get to that bigger movement. All right, I’ve got a two-part question for you with this next one. One, do you believe that we are more or less motivated while working while remote? We kind of touched on this earlier based on what you’ve observed. And then what are some strategies that you find most effective in making sure that team members do feel accountable and motivated in a virtual work environment?

Teresa Harlow
Yeah, so to your first question, Are we more or less motivated? I think it depends on the individual. As we mentioned, some people are really good at autonomously working and others being self-directed is not something they really master very well. That doesn’t mean they’re not a valuable employee that could contribute greatly. You’re just going to need to approach them differently and support them differently. Um, and you know, that employer that pays for the correct equipment, making sure that they set up the intentional communication and building out that team culture and understand it’s going to take more effort, more effort than in person to achieve those same things. Um, so, you know, that’s the, that’s the gist of, um, what I think or whether we’re more or less motivated. Now, what strategies? I think a lot of it has to do with just setting and not just setting an expectation, it’s more than that. Sometimes you’ll have great management setup of something. You’ve got a leader that comes in and says, here’s the expectations for this effort we’re going to do. But then they never check in on it or they don’t do anything to really kind of maintain that. You have to set up the framework to maintain that expectation and make it real to people and live it. I always established what I called a cadence. So they knew Monday through Friday, here was the things that you were focused on. And every Wednesday we’re going to have our status meeting or whatever day it was. Um, and, uh, then the new assignments would come out the next day after that. Establishing those expectations and then, um, making sure to enforce them. Super important. Being as visual as possible. Um, anything visual becomes real. I mean, we believe it when we see it.

Amy Vaughan
Yeah, that’s a great point.

Teresa Harlow
It’s kind of like theory. Make it real for people where you can. Use props if you need to. Or graphics or whatever. We’ve got lots of capabilities in this Zoom platform that take some time to learn those things and leverage them. Be sure to celebrate that success every week, both with team members and individuals, and make sure that the team has what they need to succeed. And those aren’t always things. Sometimes those are your time. You may think you’re as easy to reach at home as you were when you sat in a cube in an office space, but you’re not. They can’t just walk up to you. You may not have wanted them to, but they would walk up and interrupt you. And it was probably because they really needed you then. So, if you say you’re going to be available, and granted, you may not be able to pick up every call, but make it a commitment to return those calls or emails within a certain timeframe. So, I think that’s really what can really make up some of the difference in this remote work setting.

Amy Vaughan
Yeah, I could see that. I think follow through, it is so important. It’s like, and I’m relating to this as a parent. I know not all of you are, but I mean, it’s one of those things that you learn pretty quickly. You can’t just set standards and then not have follow through and hold like the line on things because otherwise they just kind of know, oh, you’re going to tell me like, these are the consequences if this doesn’t get done. But then they know they can just not do it and nothing will happen. So it’s not even about like, making people fearful of getting into trouble. It’s just, hey, you know that I’ve set this expectation and you know that I’m going to follow up with you about it. We’ll help to ensure that it gets done. And then also holding, one thing I have found really helpful too is, you know, sometimes in these like Zoom environments, people do find it hard to speak up and ask questions even in chat or off of mute. So I always try to offer up my calendar. I have Tuesdays and Thursdays blocked for meetings for members. Ambassadors, things like that to really make sure that I have something of an open door policy where people can come and set time on my calendar kind of anytime they need it. We’re getting close to time, so I want to just drop it over to our audience that’s listening with us live to make sure you guys have any questions. We definitely want to get those answered for you while Teresa’s here. And while you’re thinking about your question that you’re going to drop into the chat, I’m going to ask you one more here, Teresa. I’m going to have to pick a couple left, but I want to make sure it’s like the juiciest one. Yeah, you know, we’ve talked a lot about tools and a little bit about tools. We talked about collaboration quite a bit. So the next two are gonna be more collaboration focused still. Let’s talk about technology. With your background in technology, how do you see emerging tech influencing the dynamics of remote teamwork and how do they play a role in achieving success? Because, you know, even Zoom, like all of these tools have really evolved over the last.

Teresa Harlow
Oh, yeah.

Amy Vaughan
You know, few years, even with AI. Hi.

Teresa Harlow
Yep. Everything. Is. A Smart device. Our refrigerators are smart. Smart. Everything learns from you and is listening to you, not to be conspiracy theorists. AI is the big game changer. It seems like it went from zero to 150 in the last year. And so I think it’s like when the internet came about.

Amy Vaughan
And what not. So what. Are. You? I know, right?

Teresa Harlow
For those of us who were already in the workforce when that happened. But one thing to remember is, yeah, AI is a big game changer, but it’s not human. It lacks a soul. No matter how well it’s programmed, it doesn’t have a conscience. And AI can be distorted by its creators and by the biases maybe they hold or the information that they hold to be true. So, you know, it’s crap in, crap out. So. That’s how AI works. We were talking about neural networks back in the late 90s, and that’s what was the precursor to artificial intelligence. I was like, oh, great. It learns from itself. That’s a great and powerful thing, but you do have to remember there’s a human element. Besides AI though, I saw something, I don’t even remember what the news program was, but they were highlighting these holographic telepresence things. Actually put you in the room.

Amy Vaughan
Oh, wow.

Teresa Harlow
I’m trying to figure out,

Amy Vaughan
We’re going full on. Sci. Fi.

Teresa Harlow
I. Mean, as a speaker, I could be maybe, it’s like the next best thing to being teleported to another location. But I think holographics may gain some momentum, at least in the realms of, you know, stage level presentation. I don’t know how much you’re going to see holographics in like a boardroom where someone plants themselves in the middle of the room. That would be weird. But there’s definitely going to be something come there and the continuation of robotics will have some weird impacts on us as well, which I don’t think we know what those are yet. But the bottom line, remote’s not going away, but I do think that there’s a recognition of the need and value of some level of in-person interaction as well. And it’s just making sure we use that where it makes sense in strategic scenarios. Tactical stuff can be done remotely, but strategic things really make sense to get together at least sometimes in order to set the tone.

Amy Vaughan
Yeah, I agree. I think, you know, even as a small business owner running an events-based organization, I have come to realize we are a lot more picky, intentional about how and where we spend our physical time, more than we were before the pandemic. So I do agree with you. You need to be strategic and thoughtful about when and where you’re having those in-person opportunities and sessions because some people will flock to them and some people will avoid them like the plague. But if you work hard to make it feel like a safe space and you’ve been thoughtful throughout, You can get great engagement, get plenty of people together and have a very amazing time because it’s so fascinating to see how many of our members who’ve never stepped foot in a room together, though they’ve done virtual coffee chats, they’ve met on Slack. It’s like as soon as they see each other, it’s almost hard to believe they’ve never shared the same physical space. So we’re proving that we can build meaningful relationships through virtual, but the icing on the cake is absolutely the moment we get to step into the room together. So I hope you all take the chance to do a little bit of both with your teams and your coworkers. It has been such an awesome time talking with you, Teresa. I think we’re at such an interesting point in history of this fusion of both an AI and remote work revolution. The way in which we work will never be the same because of those two things. I love that we talked about AI there at the end. I could do like a whole nother conversation. Oh, totally. But we are at time and we didn’t get any questions from our live listening audience, but you all have Teresa’s website in the chat. If you would like to check anything out about her, connect with her on LinkedIn as well. That’s all we have for you today, everyone. Thank you so much, Teresa, for being our last.

Teresa Harlow
Well, thank you. And everyone, I appreciate you being here to take it in. I hope you found it valuable.

Amy Vaughan
It was very helpful. Thank you so much, Teresa. All right, everyone, take care. A wonderful holiday. Happy New Year. We will see you soon. Until then, please keep asking, keep giving, keep growing. We’ll see you next year. Bye. See ya.

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Together Digital is a collective of influential women in digital who choose to share their knowledge, power, and purpose—making meaningful connections and deeper conversations happen. We are a safe space to speak about and seek out the changes we want to see in ourselves – and the world.

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