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How to schedule a perfect virtual meeting?


VideoConferenceOther day, I was attending this virtual meeting, and within 5 minutes in the meeting, I realized that some of the key stakeholders wouldn’t be able to make this meeting due to their time zone difference. Within 10 minutes into the meeting, I also realized that other participants were not well prepared, and we might have to convene some other day to discuss these same action items.

Obviously, scheduling a perfect in-person meeting also requires some level of preparation, but to schedule a perfect virtual meeting is a challenge in itself. You don’t just need to make sure that the meeting agenda is well defined and thought out, but you also need to handle logistics challenges imposed by difference in time zones and technology limitations. Thus, in this blog, I will provide you with few tips through which you can schedule your perfect virtual meeting.

Be agenda ready: Whether your meeting is virtual or in person, you should always have a well-defined agenda for your meeting, which should be clearly stated in the meeting request itself. If, for whatever reason, you can’t explicitly mention your agenda in the meeting request, you should send out an email to all the participants with this information beforehand. This approach will not only help your participants to set some basic expectations about the output of this meeting, but it will also help you to make sure that your participants are prepared beforehand with the desired information, so that they can respond to your questions and come up to some kind of an agreement.

Keep time in mind: Whenever you are scheduling a virtual meeting, you need to always be aware of different time zones from which your attendees will attend this meeting. After all, you won’t be attending a meeting at 3am in the morning, unless it is very important, right? Same goes for your meeting attendees. They are not going to put an extra effort to attend your meeting at 3am in the morning, just because it is convenient for you. Thus, before scheduling the meeting search for your attendee’s time zones and schedule the meeting at appropriate time.

Share the pain: Sometimes, due to the vast time difference between two virtual teams, it is impossible to schedule these meetings within the regular working hours (8am to 5pm) of both the teams. And hence, it is very important to share the inconvenience across your team rather than always have the same person/team meeting before breakfast or late in the evening. If you have to schedule regular meetings across multiple time zones, then you should rotate the pain across the board by changing the team each week that has to stay late to attend the meeting.

I hope, this blog can help you in scheduling a perfect virtual meeting for your team. In my next blog, I will provide you with some more insight into how to schedule your virtual meetings better, but in the meanwhile if you have any recommendations from your side, then please feel free to share it here through your comments. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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What should you look for when hiring someone in your virtual team?


Virtual InterviewVirtual Teams are slightly different from your normal teams, and hence, they require slightly different skill-sets from your team members. Working in a virtual team is not for everyone, only certain types of individual can perform well in a totally remote team. They should be highly motivated, enthusiastic, and flexible. Thus, it becomes very important to hire someone who can work effectively with minimal supervision than hiring someone who is familiar with a particular toolset. And hence, I would like to provide you with some tips through which you can assess the personal qualities and the tools experience of a candidate during his/her interview.

Technology competence: If you are hiring someone who can work remotely, then you need to make sure that she is comfortable with technology. You can perform a simple test during the interview itself to gauge the competence of the candidate with technology. Just set up the interview using the technologies that you would use when working with the team, such as VoIP, web cams, email, instant messaging, and so on. It will quickly become apparent how comfortable the candidates are with working with the technology and how they handle it when things go wrong.

Self-accountability: Here is where the behavioral and scenario-based questions come into play. You should ask very specific questions which can help you understand how the candidate reacts to a big problem and how she holds herself accountable for the work that she does. You can ask questions such as… How do you organize your workspace? How do you plan your day? How do you keep up with the office when you are traveling for work? How do you manage distractions when working from home/office? What types of distractions are the most difficult for you to overcome? Etc. With these questions, you are trying to find out if the candidate can work on their own, or will they require hand holding to perform their basic tasks. After all, working in remote team is no joke.

Ability to work remotely: Once the candidate answers your questions, ask more detailed questions that examine the candidate’s motivations and behaviors. It is very important to find out how comfortable is the candidate with working remotely. Ask specific examples about the time when the candidate has worked remotely. Tell them to elaborate on their experience. For example: How was your experience working remotely? Was it positive or negative? What did you not like about that experience? What organization techniques have you implemented to identify your priorities? When working virtually, how do you establish a rapport with teammates you have never met? By asking these questions, you are trying to figure out if the candidate is comfortable working remotely, and how she will fit in your remote work culture.

Synergy with your team: As with any hiring decision, skills alone are not enough to ensure that a candidate will be successful on your team. The candidates must also possess personality and character traits that fit with the other team members. If you have a choice between someone who is knowledgeable but obviously difficult and someone who is less experienced but enthusiastic, consider choosing the less-experienced-but-enthusiastic person. You will likely have far fewer personnel issues, and may get someone who will build team synergy.

I hope, my blog can help you find the right candidate for your virtual team. If you know any other ways through which we can improve the hiring process for a virtual team member, then please feel free to share it here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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Motivation techniques that don’t cost you a fortune


LoyalEmployeesI have seen and managed many employees over the years. And through my experience, I have realized one thing; money is not even the primary factor of motivation for the people who work for you. For some employees, the new healthcare plan might be the perfect motivation boost, while for others the same exact plan might prove to be depressing. No one can find out the perfect formula for motivating everyone, but you can try to implement some practical solutions through which you can motivate majority of your team. Thus, in this blog I will talk about some practical ways to motivate your employees without breaking your bank.

Be positive: No one can make you motivated or demotivated about something. Only your own thoughts can make you happy or sad. In the same manner, no one can make your employees sad or demotivated; their own thoughts make them demotivated. So, when your employees come to you for finding the meaning of the new directive or the new process change, then it’s your duty to give a positive meaning to that new initiative. If you keep positive attitude towards your work, and if you keep yourself motivated at work, then you can create a butterfly effect of positive attitude around you. After all, people feel motivated only when they think motivated thoughts. Thoughts rule, circumstances do not. The closer your relationship to that truth, the better.

Tell the truth: Great leaders are always transparent with their team. They share a common habit of telling the truth to their team, faster than their other counterparts. Though, as managers, we won’t be able to tell every confidential matter to our team, we should at least try to be as transparent as we can. There are some managers who tell their team – “There’s nothing I can do” or “I am helpless and powerless”. It might be partially true in some situations, but you can always do something better. Even if you don’t have answers to your employee’s question, you can always ask someone and get the answer for them, and communicate those to your employees. If you remain transparent to your people and try to involve them in decision making, then you will never have to worry about motivating your team.

Care about the individual: Some managers are more of a project managers than a people manager. They think that there is nothing more important than meeting our team’s objectives. And when we meet our team’s goals, motivation comes inherently since the team recognizes that they have contributed towards this goal. Even though I agree that meeting team’s objectives are very critical for the business, making sure that your team recognizes their contribution in this big picture, is even more important. As a manager, you shouldn’t just concentrate on your business priorities, but you should also try to understand the mindset of each individual in your team. Try to stop by their desk everyday, and if that is not physically possible, then try to IM or Mail them every single day to find out if they need any help. After all, we are all humans, and no matter how far we have come, we still value personal interactions more than anything else.

I hope, my blog can help you motivate your employees. If you know any other ways through which we can motivate our employees without money, then please feel free to share it here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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How to clear your mind and think?


HumanPsychologyIn today’s day and age, when we are surrounded by so many things from mission critical problems to materialistic things, it is difficult to clear your mind. When your job is to put out fires everyday, it is very challenging to clear your mind. After all, how do you find time to think, when you are so occupied already? But at the same time, ignoring the need for thinking allows seemingly healthy, active businesses to fail because of the change they never saw coming, until it was too late. Thus, as a leader, we need to develop a habit of stepping away from our day-to-day activities, and clear our mind. Hence, I am writing this blog to provide you with some pointers through which you can manage to clear your mind, while managing your busy schedule at the same time.

Block your calendars: As a leader/manager, we are used to organize our day through Outlook or Gmail calendar. Then why don’t we use the same mechanism to remind ourselves about clearing our mind for a while? This is the least we can do for ourselves, right? So before another week goes by, clean your schedule for hour or so, and make sure that you keep this meeting with yourself. During these thirty minutes, think. Don’t write, read magazines, or clean your desk. Just think. It would be great if you could do it with your office door close and your computer shut down. Avoid normal distractions, which would otherwise lead you to a different path.

Change your environment: I am sometimes tired of sitting in my office, and I often look for a change to clear my mind. There is no easier way to do that than just taking a walk. A short walk of half an hour provides a great thinking environment for me, and I encourage you guys to try it as well. And yes, during your thinking time, try not to question your mind with a day-to-day problem, although this works well for that, too, but try to think about general stuff or changing environment. For example: What’s changing in my environment that I haven’t thought about? What new skills will my team need in the next year? What barriers exist to my team’s success this quarter? Etc.

Try new things: As a leader, we are often occupied with a routine, where all of our activities are predefined and we follow a same schedule. From playing golf to hanging out with our friends, we become used to a same routine. As a leader, we shouldn’t just challenge our work, but we should also challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zone. Thus, we should try to go to a museum, an art gallery, or a library. Or just visit a mall without any intension of shopping or fly a kite. At the end of your excursion ask yourself, What did I see or experience today that taught me something about my work or my life? Don’t push for the answer, but don’t give up too quickly. There’s always something there; you just need to think till you find it.

I hope, my blog can help you not only clear your mind but develop a practice in your life to think outside the box. If you have any other recommendations, then please feel free to share it here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Software or Tool selection strategy that you should be using in your organization


Software

Recently I was called upon to help one of our local business to fix their existing ERP System, which they had outsourced couple of years ago. After some initial investigation, I quickly realized that this was not the right tool for their business. They were using an all purpose ERP system, which was made for bigger organizations, and they were trying to use it for a very specific purpose. Due to the complexity of the entire software suite, no one really knew how to use this tool completely, and they always ended up hiring some help to fix even a minor issue. Thus, through this blog, I am trying to provide you with some pointers that can help you select the right tool/software for your organization.

Finalize your requirements: Let’s assume that you own a Gas Station and a Convenience Store, and now you are thinking about streamlining your inventory through an automated system. Since you are a small and locally owned business, and you don’t have much knowledge of IT, you decide to hire a third party to help you with your IT needs. Stop right there. Before you even hire someone for helping you with your software needs, you need to have some rough idea of your technical and non-technical requirements. Maybe it is difficult for you to come up with your technical requirements, like – How many servers will we need? What kind of back-up system will we need? etc.; but you should at least jot down your functional requirements, like – What are we trying to achieve? How this new system will help you with your day-to-day business? Etc. Once you have the list of these requirements handy, you can then use this list as your checklist while selecting any software/tool for your needs.

Don’t go overboard: Even though there are many latest and greatest tools available out there, you shouldn’t be choosing your ‘tool of need’ just on the basis of how new and powerful it is. Sometimes most powerful tools might not suffice your actual needs, while some not-so-latest tool will do. Obviously, this is a very difficult decision to make, and hence, you should be evaluating your options based on selected attributes along with their respective weightage. This approach will take out all the human emotions from the tool selection process, and it will help you get the right tool for your specific needs. You should use license cost, training cost, user friendliness, and tool’s features as your attributes; while giving the higher weightage (a high number) to the most relevant attributes during tool selection process. Once that is done, you can then make your final selection based on the final score calculated for the tool(s).

Start small: Most of the executives and small business owners that I have met, try to implement everything at once. After all, they are buying a software/tool to help them out in making their current process efficient. Unfortunately, not everything works right out of the box. Thus, as a business owner, you need to go back to your requirements and identify your top 20% of requirements that you absolutely want to have, and then start it from there. Make sure that the consultant or the company that you have hired shows you incremental deliverables of the product that you are buying. With a pilot run, you will have the opportunity to provide your feedback in real time, and you won’t waste lot of your money before you realize that this software doesn’t meet your requirements. If the pilot run is successful, you can purchase the license or acquire the tool.

I hope, my blog can help you select the right tool/software for your business. If you have any other recommendations, then please feel free to share it here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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How to be a rock star at your workplace?


SuccessHave you ever felt unable to get your point across at your workplace? Or have you ever wondered why people don’t take you seriously at work? Not everyone feels that way, but if you do, then please read on. Recently, one of my friend talked to me about her insecurities at work, and how she can’t seem to perform well at her work due to her insecurities. So, I thought of writing this blog which can help many people like her to become a rock star at their workplace.

Give credit to yourself: If you don’t credit yourself for your work, then why do you think others will. I understand, many folks are honestly intimidated by large crowds and their superiors. But there is nothing wrong with giving yourself some credit on the work that you have already done. By publicizing your work to your superiors and decision makers, you are not doing anything wrong, you are just providing them with some facts about your work. If you develop a habit of advertising the work that you (or your team) does, then when impacts to potential strategies are being discussed, I am sure that your name will pop-up as the subject matter expert (SME).

Be positive: By being positive, I am not telling you to agree with all the decisions that are being made at your work place, but I am rather recommending you to change your perspective towards how you see things. If you want to be seen as a collaborative problem solver, and not as someone who has to be “convinced” all the time, then please try using phrases like – “Sure that sounds interesting. Let me do some research and get back to you” instead of using phrases like – “No, we can’t do that”. In this way, you are aligning yourself with the crowd instead of setting yourself up as a roadblock, all without being a yes-man.

Build trust: This is easier said than done. Building trust is a long process. You can’t force someone to trust you. You need to demonstrate your integrity to your coworkers to build the trust relationship between you and them. Thus, you should always try to be transparent with your coworkers. Try not to participate in any gossip or spread rumors about decisions that are not done deals; likewise do not divulge confidential information. How many times have you heard rumors about a strategic decision being made that in the end was not true? If you want to earn people’s trust then then you need to pay attention and use some discretion. Just treat others, the way you would like to be treated. Period.

I hope, my blog can help you become the next rock star at your workplace. If you have any other recommendations for my readers, then please feel free to share it here through your comments. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Motivation mistakes that many managers make


Motivation MistakesThere are many motivation techniques that a manager can use to motivate his/her employees. Unfortunately, managers are so busy in managing tasks than managing people that they would rather concentrate on making their employees happy than dealing with real issues and guiding them to success. Thus, in this blog I will talk about some of the common mistakes that managers make while motivating their employees.

Give them more money: Most managers and leaders think that if we pay enough money, we can find people who will do almost any job. And hence, most managers believe that when they give bonuses to reward their employee’s past performance, they will usually become very happy, unless they were expecting a larger bonus. Money is definitely a motivating factors for some, however, this happiness is short-lived. Within few months, your employees will have difficulty in recalling that bonus and it might not have the same impact that it did within the first few weeks of receiving it.

Ignore conflicts: Most of the managers are concerned about being liked by their employees. Though it is a good thing to be liked by your workforce, it is not always going to be possible. People have differences, and hence, you will also have conflicts with your employees at some point in time. Unfortunately, many managers try to ignore these kind of conflicts at any cost, because they don’t want to ruin their relationships with their employees. Some managers would rather “let something go” or “sweep under the rug” than make an issue out of it. This practice is not going to lead you anywhere. If you keep on avoiding conflicts for long time, your employees will think that you don’t have any power, and they can do whatever they feel like, and it will eventually poison your relationship with your employees anyways.

Keep them happy: I have seen many managers, who will often go to great lengths to keep their employees happy. As a manager, you should always be invested in your employees, its your job. But that doesn’t mean that you have to go through great pain just to make your employees happy. I have seen many managers, who offer game rooms for their employees, or an early day off on every second Friday, or company paid lunches every other week. The theory behind all of these actions is – if you keep your employees happy, it will translate into increased motivation and productivity. Unfortunately, this is not very effective in practice. If you provide frequent benefits like these, your employees might get used to it, and this practice will become the accepted culture within your team, where some of your employees will continuously abuse these benefits.

Some are not motivated: Most managers believe that their poor performers are just lazy, and not motivated enough to do the job. This is a very common misconception that most managers have. As a human being, we are all motivated to do something, but our reasons for motivation can differ. Walking through the offices, the manager may see someone playing computer games or sending personal e-mail, this could be seen as the individual is not motivated because he’s not attending to the job tasks. But that may not be entirely correct. At that moment, the “aimless” employee is motivated, perhaps even highly motivated. But that motivation is not work directed, nor is it productive for the company.

No motivation for smartest: Some managers believe that their top performers don’t need to be motivated; since they are very quick to learn new things, and adapt to new technologies, they don’t require any other motivation. Unfortunately, these managers are completely wrong. Intelligence and self-motivation do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. You might have a smart employee who hasn’t been able to find out just what motivates her personally, and hence, she might get bored or frustrated easily. As a result she might lose her interest in her work, which will reduce her productivity eventually.

I hope, my blog can help you find out some of the ineffective motivational techniques that you might be using, unknowingly. Let me know, if you can think of any other motivational techniques, which are hurting your employees rather than helping them. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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