Before Hitting the Send Key


What you Need to Know about Cross-Cultural Emailing

Cultural understanding can make or break any team, but especially an international one. Cultural misunderstandings can drive irreparable wedges in relationships. Not only is it important in avoiding potentially expensive and embarrassing blunders but it is also important in building cohesive teams.

When reading the emails of people from different cultures, we do not have the luxury of being able to read their body language as we do face-to-face; therefore the precise meaning of their words is extremely important. This difficulty is amplified when the emailer is from a culture different from your own. Understanding the cultural context of their words is essential to your overall understanding of intent.

How Email Varies from Country to Country

First, be aware that people differ—that we don‘t all have the same perspectives, nor the same assumptions about actions and behaviors. What is polite and assumed in one country isn’t necessarily so in another. For example, Americans generally shoot off many emails quickly and casually, and are generally straight to the point; however, in much of Africa and South America,  it would be considered rude not to add a personal touch and to get down to business right away. Additionally, in countries like Germany, there are clearly delineated formal rules for business emails.

Language Pitfalls

It is paramount to be mindful of potentially confusing idioms, jargon, or too much slang. For Americans, this might mean avoiding phrases like “bite the bullet,” which might be taken too literally by nonnative speakers.

Confusion can occur even between native English speakers from different countries. For example, in the U.K., “To table the discussion” in the parliamentary sense is to lay a topic on the speaker’s table for discussion, while in the U.S. “to table the discussion” means to postpone it until later.

Many countries — but not all — love to use sports references in business–everything will be a “homerun.” People from countries where sports analogies are not the norm may wonder why they have to run home or devine no meaning from a “sticky wicket” reference — it is all but meaningless to those unfamiliar with the sport of cricket.

Generally, to avoid language misunderstanding, make what you think is implicit explicit. Double-check your wording for idiomatic phrases that may not be universally understood.  Don’t assume that your reader understands your metaphors or analogies.

Differences in Culture

Of course language is just a manifestation of the differences in cultures. There are High and Low Context cultures. In High Context cultures, messages have very little meaning without an understanding of the surrounding context. France is very high context culture–you need to understand the culture in order to understand the intent. While a non-French speaker may think they are being friendly by putting “merci” at the end of their email, to a French speaker it is a passive aggressive “thank you–now go forth and do my bidding.”

On the other hand, in Low Context cultures the meaning lies mostly in the message itself. In many English speaking countries, for example, as well as countries like Germany, Norway, or Sweden there is less need to read between the lines, as from a young age they are taught to say what they mean and communicate directly. However, a “yes” in a high-context culture like Japan does not imply a firm commitment but generally means “Yes, I understand.”

If email is the only point of contact you have with someone, and they commit a cultural faux pas, it can be harder to overlook and overcome when all that is seen is the email address and not the person behind that address.

It’s important to know what is appropriate to say and do given a person’s position within the company. Integral to this understanding is Power Distance–which anthropologist Geert Hofstede defines as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. In a Large Power Distance country, the distance between bosses and their subordinates is liable to be more significant, and must be especially observed.  For example, in many Asian cultures, subordinates are more deferential to their bosses and authority, so be careful not to address bosses in a too familiar manner.  On the other hand, in low distance countries like the Netherlands and the U.K., bosses are seen as more approachable “equals” and language may feel somewhat disrespectful or mutinous, if you are in a leadership position receiving communications, as it may be far less deferential than you may be accustomed to.

When emailing to Large Power Distance countries, bosses may need to give permission to subordinates, so they should not be contacted directly. At the very least, the supervisor should be CC’d in the email.

While acknowledging differences in manners and values be careful not to overgeneralize. These are people too, working within their own cultural context of assumptions and predispositions, just we as you are. Not all Americans eat fast food in the slowlane of the highway (credit: the late George Carlin). Be careful not to attribute one action of one person to an entire country.

To mitigate problems of traversing different cultures, be as overt as possible with your intentions. Assume benevolence and don’t assume that actions you find hostile to be ill-intended. Whenever possible ask for clarification! This is a trust building opportunity!

Once you learn how other cultures interact, you’ll see how stereotypes about “rudeness” and other misunderstandings just melt away.

Readers: Please share any experiences you have had with emailing or communicating with people from cultures other than your own! Thank you!

Virtual Leadership: Knowing When to Step Back


People don’t work for a company, they work for a person. Therefore, great care must be taken to foster interpersonal relationships between leaders and team members. In the virtual world that can be especially difficult because of the physical distance and the lessened ability to fully observe body language. Leaders must be able to engender trust between team members such that they can be trusted to work independently. Once trust can be firmly established between teams, a team leader will be able to step back with full confidence in his or her team.

Trust has several forms: “Transactional trust,” based on actions and deeds, can be developed by a good leader who follows through with tasks and commitments, thus encouraging team members to do so as well. “Relational trust,” based on interpersonal relationships, is harder to foster in the virtual environment, but is nonetheless important in creating a cohesive team.

In the virtual arena especially, leaders must accept that you don’t know what you don’t know. In other words, there are more variables and unknowns when dealing with global teams whose habits, customs, or expectations may be counter to yours. You may be surprised by the multitude of reactions that arise among team members from different cultures and backgrounds. A good leader knows which issues to address and which to step back from. For example, how important is it to be copied on every email sent? Or do you just need to know the end result?

So what is a virtual leader to do to bridge this distance and form the trusting bonds necessary to create a dynamic team?

1.  Know Thyself

Fundamentally, a virtual leader must live by the phrase “know thyself.” Good leadership requires introspection: in order to be an effective leader you have to understand your leadership style. Are you a micromanager? In a virtual environment you will have a hard time looking over your employees’ shoulders. Or, is your style more laissez-faire? While this may appear more suited to virtual leadership, you have to able to read what your team needs in order to know when to step in.

Knowing thyself entails knowing your values and what you want out of your team. Once you know what you want, you are more likely to express it clearly to them.

A good leader will practice what they preach: make yourself trustworthy so you can expect it from others.

2.  Know Thy People

In virtual conferences, check-in questions will help you get to know each team member on a human level, thus bridging the geographical distance separating you, while establishing relational trust. Knowing your team members on a personal level will help you understand better how to interact with them: giving direction, eliciting feedback, motivating them, etc. and will aid in establishing transactional trust. Furthermore, knowing your people is knowing what skills they bring to the table, helping you to lead them in a more advantageous manner.

Have your team earn your trust. Once your expectations have been made clear to them, they will be able to work to your specifications with greater success.

In order to work virtually there must be a large amount of reciprocal trust, which you as a leader are responsible for initiating.

3.  Know Thy Resources

You must accept that you can’t control everything: you have to embrace the differences between a virtual and co-located team. A virtual leader’s role is more to guide things, not control them. You are a resource to your team but not the sole resource. Ask yourself: have I done an adequate job of equipping my team? Do they know whom to reach out to when issues inevitably arise? This is even more important in the individually-driven virtual environment.

Often your role as a leader is knowing when to step back and allow your team to learn independence, knowing you’ve equipped them properly. Allow your team to risk failing. When you learn to step back it will allow your team members to learn and grow and become more independent. You may find that the adage “we learn wisdom from failure much more than from success” to be true.

When trust is well established between a team and their leader, the leader should be able to step back comfortably, trusting in his management of his team and in his team itself. Virtually, the best leader–having an understanding of his team and their abilities–will know when his leadership is needed or not. If you can rest assured that your team is capable and equipped from a skill and research perspective, your job as a leader will go a long way to being fulfilled.

Question for Readers: How do you know when to step back and when to step in when leading your virtual team?

Stop Wasting My Time!

simplify meetings

Simplify Your Meetings

Meetings waste time.  This is not an opinion, this is a fact.  The statistics for the average knowledge worker in the US are shocking:

  • 62 meetings / month
  • 50% of time wasted in each one
  • 31 hours of productivity time per month per person
  • 4 working days wasted per month, per person.

Look at your team.  Look at your own schedule.  Ouch.  How do we break this cycle of loss? The obvious advice of simply “having less meetings” and encouraging people to work independently is a good start, but meetings are inevitable in most organizations.

Here’s how to take the next step to turn those inevitable meetings into something meaningful, productive worthwhile.

Invite the Right People – and Only the Right People

Ask Yourself:  Who needs to be involved?

Create a list of the people who are key to the task at hand (not anyone who is simply interested or to whom the task is important — just those who are critical).   Trust us — you aren’t going to offend someone for not inviting them to a meeting they don’t belong at.  You are doing them a favor by not wasting their time.  And, incidentally, you will have a better meeting without them. (If they are offended, then you have a different sort of problem that needs your leadership direction.)

Refine Your List:  Go through it again with the goal of simplifying and reducing further.

Ask:  who will have an active role in this meeting? Who is essential to the purpose of the meeting?  And that’s it.  There’s your list.  Stick to it and see how productivity and creativity soars when small groups of the right people work together (read this compelling story of one person’s experience with meetings at Apple).

Make “OPTIONAL” optional!

Be sure people know that “TO” means come and “OPTIONAL” means it’s optional.  Actually optional.  As in, you aren’t needed in the meeting, but maybe you need to know that the meeting is happening, or you just need the results, not the process of getting the result. Feel free to opt out without so much as a single stink-eye from anyone.

Communicate expectations.

In addition to understanding why YOU want each person at the meeting, make sure that THEY know why they are coming & what you expect them to contribute.

Keep your meetings small.  Each person you add decreases the effectiveness of your meeting and the overall productivity of your team and organization.  Small groups will accomplish greater things when they aren’t bogged down by those that don’t belong.  And, those that don’t belong at your meeting belong somewhere else where they are essential.

Photo credit:  LeadershipFreak
What are your experiences with inviting fewer people to meetings or attending meetings that you simply didn’t beong at?

Managing Expectations of Your Virtual Team

steak expectations

Projects fail and discord occurs when someone’s expectations are not met. Yours, your team, your larger organization, or your customer.

The challenge becomes — were those expectations known?

When you go to a restaurant and order a steak, you have the expectation that the steak will be cooked to your specifications, let’s say medium-rare. This is your expectation. To the waiter this is a requirement. To the chef this is a requirement. But there is another, unspoken expectation — a process expectation — that you will get your steak within a reasonable amount of time, not tomorrow or even two hours from placing the order.

This example has the stated expectation / requirement of how the steak is cooked AND the unstated expectation that it be done in a reasonable amount of time, and presented to you beautifully.

Both expectations are end-products. Both are “project” requirements. A deficiency in either one is going to lead to frustration and disappointment.

Consider your own current project. What are the stated requirements? What are the unstated requirements? If you are not managing these expectations, you are reacting and running your team on a wing and a prayer.

Ask yourself — what are the issues that are currently driving you nuts? More than likely, there are several unspoken expectations that are not being met. They seem obvious to you, but clearly not to others. Chances are, other people have different unspoken expectations that you aren’t meeting and are driving them nuts over, too.

Happens all the time. But it doesn’t have to, or, at least, we can strive to make it less.


Think about it. Talk about it.

Discuss with your team and develop a plan for the HOW aspect of working together. Having these “process” discussions early on in the project can save you valuable time and frustration as the project moves forward.

Specifically, on a virtual team, many of these unspoken expectations revolve around the frequency and quality of communications


  • Do all team members have the same understanding of how quickly an email response is required?
  • Do all team members have access and use some form of instant messaging?
  • How available for phone calls is your team?
  • Does everyone have the ability to “meet” with one other independantly via video whenever they feel the need to?

You, as a leader, have the expectation that your question will be answered.  Do you have an unspoken expectation of how quickly or through which medium that answer will be delivered?

When you are co-located with your team, many of these expectations are fulfilled as you pass each other by at work.  When you work virtually, these unspoken expectations have the potential to ript your team apart.

If there is something YOU truly need from someone, it is YOUR responsibility to speak up.

If there are things that your team needs from you, encourage them to bring it up with you.

Have you had this type of discussion with your team?  What has worked well for you?


3 Evidence-based Ways to Improve Virtual Team Leadership

Leading a team is hard.

Leading a team that is geographically scattered is way harder.

Everyone who has lead a distributed teams knows this.  Traditional, top-down, single-leader hierarchical leadership model diminishes in its effectiveness as distance increases.

Specifically, critical leadership functions, such as motivation, inspiration, and managing team dynamics become significantly more difficult as teams become more virtual.  Distance creates barriers to a leader’s ability to influence and supervise.

Today’s leader needs to figure out quickly how to overcome these barriers in order to lead effective virtual teams.

Thankfully, a recent large-scale study has figured this out for you.

Researchers from Michigan State University measured “team virtuality” along three scales:

    • Geographical distance
    • Level of media-based communications;
    • Cultural differences.

As each of these scales (or distances) grow, the effectiveness of traditional top-down leadership diminishes.

They theorized that structural supports would increase leadership influence and that shifting the leadership model to one of shared leadership would also improve team productivity.

Here’s what they found.


Structural Supports

Structural supports are the routines and policies that substitute for direct leadership influence to assist in regulating team dynamics and behaviors.  Researchers did not anticipate the increased impact these supports would have. The study revealed that “structural supports were more strongly related with team performance under increasing levels of team virtuality.”

In other words, the more virtual your team is — the more it is separated by geography, electronics, and culture — the more valuable these structural supports are in increasing leadership effectiveness as it relates to team performance.

There are two specific structural supports that mitigate diminishing leadership effectiveness across distance.  They are:

1.  Structural Supports — Reward System

A common structural support in any team is a reward system.  In virtual teams, the reward system takes on additional importance as virtual team members often feel anonymous and isolated from their virtual teammates.  These feelings of anonymity and isolation are frequently demotivating for virtual team members.

One clear way to counteract these feelings is to establish a transparent and fair reward system that provides open acknowledgment for people’s time and effort, as well as their final contribution to the the virtual team project.  Since most people work on more than one project at a time, this type of reward system has been proven to motivate people to put more into their virtual team project.

It is important to call out that the reward system must be both fair and transparent to all virtual team members in order for it to have a positive, motivating effect on virtual team performance.

2.  Structural Supports — Communications & Information Management Systems

Communications and information management systems impact the perception of distance between people.  Most virtual teams are comprised of knowledge-based workers.  The flow of communication and information is critical to each person’s ability to perform their job.  When knowledge is shared and teams are comprised of the necessary experts and they each have easy access to each other, performance increases.

Communications and Information Management systems facilitate:

  • Connectivity between virtual team members
  • Organization of information
  • Accessibility of information

Together, these supports diminish the naturally occurring reduced feelings of trust in virtual teams, as well as feelings of being anonymous, and feelings of low social interaction.

The research showed that as levels of virtuality increased, the importance of these structural supports also increased.  In other words — the more “virtual” your team — the more it is separated by distance, electronics, and culture, the more valuable these structural supports are in increasing leadership effectiveness and team performance.

3. Shared Leadership

Shared leadership is the extent to which team members behave in ways to prompt the team processes that underlie team performance.  In other words, when the burden of leadership is shared among team members, the team performs better as a whole.

Researchers anticipated that adjusting leadership style from top-down to shared would improve team performance.  The surprising finding was that the improvement occurred regardless of the degree of virtuality.

Shared leadership increased the stability of positive team performance regardless of the degree of distance involved.

This surprising lack of scalability indicates that this simple shift in leadership style will have a powerful, positive impact on teams with low levels of distance between members.


  1. Structural supports are the strongest mitigating factor in diminishing leadership effectiveness across virtual teams.  As virtuality increases, so does the importance and impact of structural supports.
  2. Structural supports that make a difference are:
    1. Reward systems that are both fair and transparent.
    2. Communications and Information Management systems that are reliable and transparent.
  3. Shared leadership contributes positively to team performance, regardless of degree of team virtuality.  It provides a consistent degree of performance improvement in all kinds of virtual teams.
Leading Virtual Teams: Hierarchial Leadership, Structural Supports, and Shared Team Leadersip.  Julia E. Hoch and Steve W.J. Kozlowski, Michigan State University, Journal of Applied Psychology, 2014, Vol. 99, No 3, 390-403.

I Want My CEO Back!


would your people care so much about you?

It was a typical Tuesday afternoon.  I whipped up a shopping list and headed to my favorite grocery store — Market Basket.

Upon arrival, I was confused by the small band of picketers outside the store — they appeared to be store employees.  Weird.  I had always thought MB was a great place to work.

Market Basket empty shelves

I scurried inside, and was greeted – not with the usual hustle and bustle – but with nearly deserted aisles and even emptier shelves.  The note on the empty seafood case pleaded with customers to “understand” why the store was protesting.  “I believe” posters hung on the walls.  The store was out of chicken, produce, and countless other products.

With only a third of my list purchased, I checked out and headed down the road to Shaw’s.  After unhappily overpaying for my remaining items, I headed home.


What was going on?  When would I get my Market Basket back?


Expecting another organizational cluster in which upper-echelon leadership was crapping all over the little guy, I was shocked to read that the Market Basket situation was the exact opposite.

I Believe Market Basket

Here was a situation in which the employees were so upset at the ousting of their beloved CEO that they were putting their jobs on the line in protest.

When have you EVER seen people with ordinary jobs care at all about who was leading their company?


Could you imagine the check-out clerks at CVS, K-Mart, Kroger, or Piggly Wiggly caring or even knowing who their CEO was or what their board of directors was doing?    Let’s think about this on a deeper, more personal level:

What do you think would happen if you were fired?


What would your team, your department, your organization, DO?


Would your people rise up in protest and risk their jobs to get you back?


Would they make a FaceBook page to save you?  Generate an online petition that thousands of people sign, demanding you back?

Seriously.  Could you imagine that happening for you?  One could hope.

The reality of people taking such drastic measures on behalf of their leader  is so rare, that Christopher Mackin, a lecturer at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, said, to the New York Times, “This is an unprecedented industrial action because it straddles both the management and the rank and file of this company.

Market Basket Employee Rally

So rare, that it is making headlines around the world.

Why is this happening?

Because of Arthur T. Demoulas.

He did what successful business people are supposed to do — he grew his brand, even through a depression — to 71 grocery stores across New England that employ 25,000 people.

So what?  Why do these people care so passionately about Arthur T.?

By all accounts, he genuinely cares about them.  This care extends to the customers, and to the communities surrounding the stores.

He put big money behind that caring.  He paid people well above standard wages, he created a generous profit sharing program back in 1963, he stayed true to his mission of delivering quality merchandise at affordable prices, and he quietly gave millions and millions of dollars back to the community.

There’s more.  He took the time to get to know people.  He called people by name.  He attended employee weddings, funerals, and graduations.  He asked about family members, he was “always nice.”  Employee stories about how “caring” Arthur is are everywhere.

Could it really be that simple?  Not likely.  He’s (most likely) a perfectly flawed human being like the rest of us.  He undoubtedly makes mistakes, screws up, fails.  The family feud surrounding the DeMoulas family is riveting in that train-wreck kind of way.  To paint him as “good Arthur” makes him a fairy-tale, and not the real example of extraordinary leadership that current events suggest.

At the end of the day, however, this leader has the unbridled love and the actionable support from the vast majority of those 25,000 people, his customers, and the communities that are home to his stores.

Without being asked, without a safety net (such as a union that provides strike pay), these people have stood up and risked their jobs because he lost his.

Not many leaders today can say the same.

Market Basket I want my CEO back

I ask you again:  What would happen if you were ousted?  What would the reaction of your people be?  Would anyone  protest?  Would anyone care?


From Pet to Threat: The Journey of Women in Male-Dominated Fields

Pet to Threat: Women in STEM


From Pet to Threat: The Journey of Women in Male-Dominated Fields

Recent research has revealed a (surprisingly unsurprising) trend that has previously fallen under the radar—perhaps because it simply has never happened before. Women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are reporting a strange transition as they progress in their careers, a phenomenon that has been dubbed by prominent diversity researcher, Dr. Kecia Thomas, as “Pet to Threat”.

The Pet to Threat phenomenon describes the common experience of women (especially minority women) who have been treated as “pets” early in their STEM careers, as efforts to diversify these fields have (rightfully) increased. The “pet” term refers to the endearing affection (perhaps even benevolent sexism) that has been shown toward young women as they enter these fields—provided in the form of extra professional development resources, special grants and funding opportunities, and a generous chorus of “we believe in you”s from older male colleagues who know that young women are the ticket to economic stability (a truth that both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have openly preached).

Pet to Threat: Young woman in STEM

All good, right?

But it doesn’t stop there.

According to Dr. Thomas, it seems that these efforts—although chivalrous and well-meaning—do not survive the entirety of a woman’s career. These same young women who were encouraged to succeed in the STEM domain are reporting that their male colleagues are shocked when they actually do. This shock, unfortunately, paves the way for the “threat” portion of this phenomenon’s catchy title.

Of these small groups of brave young women entering STEM fields, doe-eyed and eager to learn, a few of them are—against all odds—surviving to become confident, ambitious, and successful mid-career women. As women transition from malleable novice to competent professional, their male predecessors become threatened by a marked increase in competition. Thus, women in STEM are reporting that the same men who once told them to reach for the moon are now accusing them of being cold, competitive, or difficult to work with.

Pet to Threat: Mid-career woman in STEM

But to be honest, are we really all that surprised?

The Pet to Threat phenomenon is beautifully consistent with the existing work of Dr. Amy Cuddy, Dr. Susan Fiske, and Dr. Peter Glick, three social psychologists who have created the well-respected and strongly supported “Stereotype Content Model”. This model posits that stereotypes can be boiled down to two dimensions: warmth and competence. As you would guess, women tend to be stereotyped as warm, whereas men tend to be stereotyped as competent.

The evidence shows that although we’re ok with viewing men as both competent and warm, women have to choose one and stick with it. That is, if a woman is competent, she often sacrifices others’ perceptions of her being warm (and vice versa; Fiske et al., 2002).  Building on this research, Cuddy and colleagues (2007, 2008) created what they call a “BIAS map”, offering behavioral predictions of how people react to certain stereotype groups.

In the Pet to Threat phenomenon, it is likely that a young woman at the start of her STEM career falls into what Cuddy and colleagues would call a “pitied group” (one that is perceived as warm, yet incompetent). This would elicit active help from colleagues, but also a hint of passive harm (e.g., microaggressions, benevolent sexism). As a woman progresses in her career, however, she gains competence in STEM domains, placing her into the BIAS map’s “envied grou
p” (one that is perceived as competent, yet cold). Women in this group receive active harm from their colleagues (e.g., harassment, competition).

Where do men in STEM fall on the BIAS map? The likeliest place would be in the “admired group” category (one that is perceived as warm and competent), as they seem to be allowed to have their cake and eat it too.

Stereotype Content Model


So how can women in STEM challenge the status quo without ruffling feathers? How can professional women become leaders that are perceived as both warm and competent? How can we as a society allow women to succeed, knowing it will ultimately help us all?

I don’t have an answer. But raising awareness of this phenomenon is about as much as I can think to do at this point. Dr. Kecia Thomas is doing some great work in this area, along with other great researchers who are determined to understand how to pave a way for women in STEM.
Perhaps it will help the women who have encountered this phenomenon to know that yes, it exists, and no, it’s not just you.

Question for Readers: Whether you are a man or a woman in a STEM field, what are your thoughts on this phenomenon — have you seen it?  Experienced it?  We would love to hear your story…

Cuddy, A. J. C., Fiske, S. T., and Glick, P. (2007). The BIAS Map: Behaviors from intergroup affect and stereotypes. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 92, 631–648.
Cuddy, A. J., Fiske, S. T., & Glick, P. (2008). Warmth and competence as universal dimensions of social perception: The stereotype content model and the BIAS map. Advances in experimental social psychology40, 61-149.
Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., and Xu, J. (2002).
A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 82, 878–902.
IMAGE FROM: http://edelman-zippykid.netdna-ssl.com/assets/uploads/2013/09/Women-in-Leadership1.jpg



7 Top TED Talks

7 Top TED Talks to Inspire & Move You

TED talk


As a student of life, leadership, and motivation, TED talks have become a routine part of my week.  Whether I need to be inspired, motivated, or need a fresh point of view to spur reflective thought, there is certain to be an amazing TED Talk to fill my need.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and is “devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).”  TED is driven by their goal of spreading great ideas.

Lately, I’ve been taking an in-depth look at leadership, and want to share with you the TED talks that have moved me the most.

Here are just five talks that every one should watch.

Have a TED talk that you love that isn’t here?  Please share in your comments.


1.  Dan Pink:  The Puzzle of Motivation

If you are a leader looking to increase productivity, then watching this TED talk  might change the way you do it.

Career Analysi Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.


2.  Why we have too few women leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.



3.  Meg Jay:  Why 30 is Not the New 20

“I believe that every single 20-something deserves to know what psychologists, sociologists, neurologists, fertility specialists already know — that claiming your 20s is one of the simplest yet most transformative things you can do for work, for love, for your happiness, maybe even for the world.  This is not my opinion.  These are the facts.”

A TED talk not to miss!


4.  Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

We care a lot about leadership.  Simon Sinke provides a simple but powerful model for leadership and how leaders can use it to inspire cooperation, trust, and change.


5.  Amy Cuddy:  Your Body Langauge Shapes Who You Are

As an organization, Bridging Distance has a lot of research invested in understanding how to develop your own Electronic Body Language in order for others to correctly interpret you in absence of direct body langauge.

In this amazing TED talk, Amy Cuddy reveals how we are influced by our own body language and how we can each make tiny tweaks in our body posture to increase our own confidence while decreasing our own stress levels.  This information — these tweaks — will greatly improve your chances of success in evaluative situations such as job interview, difficult conversations, or presentations.


6.  The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.



7.  Nilofer Merchant: Got a Meeting? Take a Walk

Here it is — support for our “hiking” meetings which have become standard for many of us here at Bridging Distance.  Nilofer’s concept is simple, but profound — “Sittinghas become teh smoking of our generation,” and getting out in the fresh air helps to drive fresh thinking.  This short video is well worth your time.


Question for Readers:  Which of these TED talks has made a difference to you?  Are there any TED talks that have meaning for you that you’d like to share here?


Telecommuting, Outsourced, & Distributed Virtual Teams


Telecommuting, Outsourced, & Distributed Virtual Teams

What’s the Difference for Leaders?

We work in a rapidly evolving environment.  Gone are the days in which everyone worked within the same building; gathered around the same whiteboard; and decided important things around the water cooler.

Today, nearly all knowledge-based workforces span the globe.  Smart leaders understand the subtle adaptations required in both leading and in assessing the performance of their unique team structure.  The seemingly endless variety of arrangements can be sorted into three categories:

  • Telecommuting
  • Outsourced teams
  • Distributed, virtual teams

Telecommuting, telework, flexible working, mobile work are interchangeable terms that describe a work situation in which a person works apart from their centrally located coworkers for some portion of their work week.  All imply that there exists a core of people who are centrally located, even though there may be a rotating schedule of who is in the office on any particular day, and who is working from home (telecommuting).  This type of team structure is increasingly popular among organizations that want to offer flexibility to employees while reducing overhead expenses.  The temptation of reduced expenses, along with increasing employee demands for flexibility, often result in a haphazard structure.   Traditional leadership methods that rely heavily on in-person, informal, and observational information leaves both supervisors and telecommuters frustrated and uncertain.

An outsourced team generally applies to a co-located team of people who work together in a different geographic location from the main project managers.  An organization may have teams of people in multiple geographic locations. Each team is responsible for specific pieces of a larger project. Rarely are outsourced teams cross-functional, each operates as an independent unit, and the pieces come together through the main project managers as the project nears completion.  This category of team structure requires specific leadership techniques to keep each unit aligned with organizational and project goals.

Distributed virtual teams, global teams, and remote teams are terms that imply a dispersed workforce in which everyone functions as one cross-functional team.  This structure allows for individuals to apply their talents to multiple parts of a project, wherever they are needed.  Team members are interdependent — they require information and work from each other in order to complete their own tasks.  The globally-distributed, virtual team is the team structure most common in today’s 24/7 world.

The challenge for leadership is to resist the old, yet comfortable and familiar ways of leading and assessing performance of these global team structures.  It is a tragic misstep to believe that simply replacing traditional in-person communications with equally synchronous virtual communications will yield the same results.  Similarly, assessing the effectiveness and performance of a virtual team cannot be accurately achieved through traditional methods that rely heavily upon subjective, anecdotal, and observational means.


What are your experiences in leading traditional and virtual teams?


Good Leadership through Good Virtual Meetings


Good Leadership Through Good Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings are inescapable.

As organizations become increasingly mobile, global, and networked, the most feasible way to get people together is through technology.

The catch is that successful technology-based meetings require a different sort of planning and conducting skill set than the traditional in-person-gather-around-the-conference-table meeting.

Your leadership will be strengthened when you run good virtual meetings. This is especially important as today’s interactions with subordinates, superiors, peers, and clients may be predominantly virtual.  This  may be the only — or primary — vehicle for your image!

Use the following tips to plan and keep your virtual meeting running smoothly, and to keep your “virtual presence” a positive one.

Before the Meeting

1.  Arrive early to check video and audio equipment each and every time.  Yes, I know this is tedious, but if you can prevent embarrassment, then you should.

2.  The happy path isn’t always happy.  Technology is glitchy and you need show both foresight and grace under pressure. Establish a backup form of communication with remote site(s) such as email, chat, IM, text, etc.

3.  Balance Lighting. Harsh or uneven sunlight from the back or side will make you & room hard to see.  Check for glare off polished surfaces.  The amount of indirect light found in a typical office environment is generally sufficient.

4.  Consider what you are wearing and how you will appear on-screen.  That red suit jacket might send a powerful, confident message in-person, but reds often become distorted and distracting when viewed on-screen.  This is also true for many vibrant colors, plaids, and other patterns.  As much as you might dislike neutrals, consider them when professional visibility is high.

5.  Be mindful of careful inclusion of virtual participants.  Ensure they are being addressed by name, provide them with specific points in documentation, slides, etc, so conversation is easy to follow.  Nip side conversations in the bud, and let them know what’s going on off-camera to keep them in the loop.  Allow for silence necessary to compensate for the “lag” of virtual communications.

What are your top Virtual Meeting tips?