Some insights as we all transition to working from home
The expression, and now world mantra, “we’re in this together” has become a shining beacon of assurance that we will in fact get through this together. A few short weeks ago, as our worlds turned upside downside, both personally and professionally, the team at HighRoad realized that if we were going to get through this and thrive, we were going to need to lean on each other for support and guidance. While not experts in the medical field, we have been virtual since the inception of the company and we decided to tap into our collective experiences to see how we could reach out and help our clients manage this turbulent “new normal”.
We’ve started a “Group Therapy” webinar series that kicked off last week. The intent is for the series to be a cathartic exercise for members in the association world to share what’s working, what’s not and hopefully teach us something good that will brighten what could otherwise be a stormy day.
We were lucky enough to have Nick Powell, Director of IT at the American Association of Individual Investors, Elena Ziebarth, Director of Marketing at the Futures Industry Association, and Dennis Sadler, Director of Operations at the National Association of Secondary School Principals join our panel as we delved into the immediate challenges faced as many shifted to using tools like Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams to meet daily and communicate.
First, I want to thank our panelists for joining us for a very candid conversation about the changes that they’re seeing in the association world. Not only are many associations managing remote work setups for the first time, but remote management and technical challenges that come with keeping the teams engaged and productive when not within the confines of the office.
Dennis from NASSP, noted that some employees are finding the lack of office structure challenging, or like the “wild west” as he called it. For example, staff that had been accustomed to using their Helpdesk ticketing system were no longer using this method in the remote setting. His advice is to control the channels so that teams are being effective with communication. Remote work is still work, so try to keep existing processes, protocols and standard operating procedures in place. He also shared that he’s spending a lot of time motivating and inspiring his team, which can be very challenging. However, Dennis is self-aware of the fact that, as he puts it, his “IQ is higher than his EQ.” Knowing this, he realizes that he must attend to the human element, understanding that some people are caring for their house-bound children, and some may be or have people living with them that are in the high-risk category. Taking a step back to recognize the human component can offer an empathetic view into the situation of others. Patience is key.
Elena, from FIA, is running a global marketing team, so she’s accustomed to steering a ship across multiple countries and time zones. She mentioned that it used to be considered a privilege to work from home, which changes things a bit now that it’s a necessity. Microsoft Teams is a tool that helps her, and her team stay connected and organized even when they’re not physically together, through IMs and video conferencing. Although remote work is not new to her organization, having colleagues who are working from home with their kids is a bit of a curveball. Her advice is to have communicated clear and realistic expectations, while understanding that productivity may come in shifts, perhaps two hours at a time, break, repeat. Having compassion and understanding for employees and colleagues will build and strengthen relationships long past this crisis.
Nick, from AAII, has said that working remotely takes a bit of getting used to for some, mostly younger team members, however it’s second nature to him. Although, he added that his team has learned to keep meetings more concise, and more focused on the topics at hand. They use a ratings system to score meetings to improve processes. Since in-person collaboration is a big part of the association culture, he and his team have set up Go-To-Meeting account offers for local chapter offices. This way, they can empower the local chapters to still communicate and feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie when they’re not physically together.
As for wins for the group, this smiling bunch had plenty to offer. Dennis shared that his Starbucks spending had decreased dramatically, which was funny (and relatable for many). Elena was clearly seeing the glass half full and shared that she was taking midday walks every day, and just trying to get outside. Being that she lives in Washington, DC, she has the cherry blossoms almost literally to herself. Lastly, FIA just launched their new website and she felt very good about the work that she and her team put into it. To wrap up, Nick shared that the bright spot for his week had been working tightly with his developers to both build and fly the plane to support all teams.
It was a great panel discussion that uncovered even more topics to explore further. For those of you who couldn’t make it, check out the panel recording.
Our next panel is scheduled for Wednesday April 8 at 12p Eastern and I hope you'll join us! Based on the questions posted during last week’s panel, we’ll cover how associations are building team culture in a virtual environment. So please do join us for a little more group therapy!
About Bridget Shaw
Bridget is based in Lovettsville, VA, and recently joined HighRoad as our newest Strategic Account Manager. Bridget has more than a decade of software sales and account management experience including planning technology solutions. She offers unique consultative and proactive approach, and enjoys seeing projects make a real impact on her client’s daily operations. She is familiar with working remote and has a good sense of her strengths as a team-player contributing to growth. Those that have worked with her in the past describe her as someone that has their ‘foot on the gas’.