A terrible first day at a new job. You show up only to find your wonderful new boss is not ready for you. Nobody greets you. I would like to say I am making this up — but it happened to me. I once sat in the lobby for over an hour waiting to get going at a new job after graduate school.
This is a tale of a company at a crossroads. Innovation had stalled. Teamwork was anemic. It was a time of stagnation. Leaders wrung their hands over the ailing enterprise. So they issued a decree. “Hear ye, hear ye! Remote work is banned. All employees must return to the closest regional office.”
Extreme openness. This was the original intention of the open-office design. Breaking down walls would also break down barriers — everyone could exchange ideas throughout the day. The organization would realize a hyper-state of transparency where the best ideas would always win. But I bet you have experienced a different reality with this floor plan.
We are living in unsettling times. In 2016, you may have found yourself saying “What?!” out loud a lot. And I am betting that this year your knee-jerk response has become, “Now what?” But uncertainty in the world is nothing new. And it definitely is no stranger to business.
My friend Mary recently shared a recurring nightmare. It involved a twisted metamorphosis into a donkey. It was Disney’s fault — specifically, the film Pinocchio. You know, the scene where the mischievous boys transform into jackasses? It scared the heck out of her as a kid. But these days a different type of donkey haunts my friend.
I was recently talking with a CEO who was having trouble hiring and retaining good people. He was considering opening new locations and adding a few remote workers. His thinking? More people. My thinking? More problems. Guaranteed.
Crazy quotas. Anything to close a deal. Pushing customers no matter the cost. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know how I feel about the traditional approach to sales. Customers have changed, yet the selling process has not. But here is a surprise — I am about to come to the defense of salespeople everywhere.
I was wary at first. My previous company gathered everyone for an all-hands meeting. This was several years back when I was working at a fast-growing software company. About 150 people crammed into a room that was meant for maybe 25. People were practically on top of each other. Disaster ahead?
Getting lost used to be much easier. One wrong turn and you could lose your way. You might pull over to unfold a faded paper map. Maybe even ask a stranger at a gas station for directions. Now smartphones and GPS have changed the way we navigate. But even the best technology cannot tell you where you want to go.
I learned how to write business models in graduate school. Although, it really felt more like writing long and complicated novels. I once spent three months working on one for a hypothetical home services referral website. I even conjured up crowd-sourced reviews for my would-be business. The process revealed a depressing plot twist.
I studied philosophy. (True.) You know the old cliché about the tree falling in the forest. If no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? Well, remote work may seem that way for some. After all, how can you be sure people are actually working if you are not there to witness it?
I am always thinking about what’s next at work. (Even on vacation sometimes, like now.) But at our recent, all-team meeting I made a conscious decision to stop. And I did something I have never done before — I interrupted my presentation and asked everyone to stop too. I wanted us all to take a moment to be in the “now.”
Do the words “offsite quarterly business review” or “annual sales kickoff” make you want to run far, far away? You are not the only one. Sitting through endless presentations in stale conference rooms — ugh. But these kinds of large group meetings are especially important for remote teams.