Vladimir Putin: Leadership Lessons

Putin, the leader

In this article I want to extract four leadership lessons from a character who has been able to stay at the head of the largest country in the world for more than 20 years, has been chosen the most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine for four consecutive years and, in the In the last month, he has been able to keep leaders of countries more powerful than his own in suspense. This is Vladimir Putin.

In history there have been many types of leaders with different styles of exercising power. In the attached graph we have some of them in pairs: antagonists, when not staunch enemies. But they all have something very important in common, they all have followers, they are able to convince their tribe to follow them. Thus, Putin won the last elections with 76.69 percent of the votes. Vlodomir Zelensky, his opponent, got 73% of the votes on his side in the 2019 Ukrainian elections. Different leaderships, equal support from his followers.

But beyond the followers you have, the important thing, the really defining thing, is in the decisions you make and, above all, in the results you achieve with your decisions. The votes tend to be volatile, the results endure.

First lesson: the type of leadership you practice does not have to condition your level of engagement as a leader.

Putin has worked on a long-term strategic vision in a sustained manner over time. Since he was appointed President, he has had 22 years to transform the country, with a firm and sustained vision. His transformational roadmap has focused on three key aspects:

  • The structure of the country. He has reduced from 89 to 7 federal districts, he has reformed the Duma or parliament, eliminating territorial representation. In short, he has centralized the state and has directly controlled all the springs of power that sustain it.
  • The army. He has kept his army up to date based on different military campaigns, which have served as a test and as a lever for national reaffirmation. Thus, in 1999, he started the second Chechen war, in 2008, he led the South Ossetian war, in 2014 Putin ordered the invasion of the Crimean peninsula. Lastly, in 2015 he authorized Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war.
  • The economy. When he came to power he changed the composition of the powerful Russian oligarchy, to limit his power to the realm of business so that they would stop interfering in politics. In the economic sphere, his performance has been successful, given the unfortunate starting situation after the dismantling of the USSR. He has managed to reduce the public debt from 92% in 1999 to 14% in 2019, as well as increase its reserves and the dependence of its raw materials on Western countries (especially Germany and Italy).

Unlike Putin, the leaders of Western countries have acted under the tactics of the short or medium term, never with a view beyond the four years of the next elections.

It seems like a winning strategy, but it has a weak point: it is not based on a realistic diagnosis of its starting situation. Thus, the reality is that Russia is far from being a power of the 21st century. His power is only based on one of the three factors that make a country a great power; the economic, the technological and the military. Thus, the United States continues to be the only power that dominates all three factors. China and Europe are strong economically and technologically, but not militarily (note, China is in it), but Russia is only powerful militarily, since a country with a GDP similar to Italy's. Ambition is necessary, realism is essential.

Second lesson: To have a winning strategy, you need more than a tribe committed to an ideal, you need a realistic view of your starting situation.

In a hyper-connected world, the truth always ends up emerging. Putin was director of the Federal Security Service (successor to the KGB). He thus appears as a spy turned President, he is not carried away by emotions, he is cold and calculating, and he has maintained an attitude of controlling communication in his country.

But I think he has made three major mistakes in managing that communication:

  • Lack of diversity in his teams. He has pushed critics aside and surrounded himself with unconditional supporters. These belong to two different groups: the Kremlin oligarchs and hawks known as siloviki or 'the executors' All of them with almost identical profiles: men, between 60 and 70 years old, with training and trajectories similar to theirs.
  • An ultra-charismatic leadership. Being a charismatic leader is not a problem, in fact there are studies that state that 25% of leaders practice this type of leadership. The problem appears when that type of leadership is combined with a coercive style based on the fear factor. To illustrate this, you can see the authentic 'slapstick' he throws in public and before the television cameras at Sergey Naryshinkin, his intelligence chief.
  • Lack of empathy. When you realize how he addresses his close associates, how he sits away from them at huge tables, he seems to be suffering from Hubris Syndrome or arrogance syndrome. It is suffered by some people who hold great power and who end up believing that they are called to carry out great works; they show a tendency to grandiosity and omnipotence and are incapable of listening, proving impervious to criticism.

Third lesson: In the 21st century, communication cannot be controlled, and it can hardly be managed. Empathy should be your guide.

Building teams and not groups of followers is the great task of the leader. For almost everyone else you have technology. But for the team to be really useful, it must provide lateral, diverse visions, not just a predisposition towards the execution of the leader's ideas. And for this, it must generate trust through empathy, a key competence in the SXXI. Because yes, today Leading consists of finding answers in a collaborative way instead of doing it in an individual way. Getting the team to maintain a constant will at the service of the vision but preferring to be respected than to be loved by the team. And the best way to become a respected leader is by respecting the opinion of those led.

Fourth lesson: Now, building teams is the great job of leaders. The main task of the leader is to build leaders, not followers, from empathy.

How to convince a boss

In this article I am going to give you some tips to convince your boss about a proposal, idea, project or product to be developed. To do this, I am going to focus on the different decision-making styles that different types of leaders have adopted throughout their careers. These styles are reinforced with each success achieved and are also modified after each failure.

In any case, according to Gary A. William and Robert B. Miller, there are five archetypes of leadership style, when it comes to how they make their decisions.

  • Charismatic
  • Thinker
  • Skeptical
  • Follower
  • Controller
How to convince a boss, in function of the different decision-making styles 

To achieve these archetypes, they spent two years studying more than 1,600 executives from multiple sectors. 

Note that I am using the meaning leader here instead of boss. I do it by appealing to his position with respect to the team rather than by the attributes he manifests. Some will be leaders, others will remain bosses.

The charismatic leader.

25% of leaders fall into this category. They are distinguished by their enthusiasm and captivating character. Are talkative and dominant people, with the ability to absorb large amounts of information quickly. They are captivated by new ideas or trends and have a predisposition to process everything visually. They are visionaries, but they are not used to making decisions based on emotion, but rather based on proven information.

How to convince a charismatic leader?

First of all, you must fight against the impulse that he is going to lead you to during the interview: that you join his enthusiasm. Instead, you should focus on the expected results or benefits of your proposal. To do this, you must formulate simple, direct arguments, and use visual aids, as attractive as possible. Their attention span is especially short, so start your presentation in the meeting with the most critical or important information.

The thinker leader

11% of leaders can be considered thinkers or thinkers. They are people who require a large amount of data, are risk averse and take their time to make decisions. They are cerebral, intelligent, logical, very academic. And never forget a bad experience.

How to convince a thinker leader?

For a start; Bad news: thinker leaders are the hardest to convince. You must have an arsenal of information and data ready. This means that before any proposal you must have the corresponding market study, customer surveys, case studies, cost-benefit ratio, etc... Remember that he will want to understand all the perspectives of the proposal. You must give him time to come to his own conclusions.

The skeptical leader.

19% of leaders fall into this category. They differ because they are capable of mistrusting every piece of data that is presented to them, especially if that data goes against their a priori opinion on the matter. They show an aggressive, combative, demanding, or even obnoxious style during presentations. However, they are people who are used to assuming responsibilities.

How to convince a skeptical leader?

You will need to give yourself a lot of credibility. If you don't already have it in the first person, you'll need to enlist the support of someone who can influence the skeptical leader before or during the meeting.

The follower leader.

36% of leaders fall into this category, they are majority. Follower leaders make decisions based on how they have made similar decisions in the past or how they have been made by other executives or companies they trust. They are highly risk averse, cautious and cerebral.

How to convince a follower leader?

Since they tend to focus on proven methods, you should introduce references or testimonials as persuasive factors. They need you to make them feel that they are making the right decision because others have succeeded in doing the same thing in similar situations.

The controlling leader.

9% of leaders fall into this category. They tend to abhor uncertainty and ambiguity. That is why they are so inefficient in the VUCA times we are living. They are people who move by logic, they are not at all emotional and they are very detail oriented. They tend to micromanagement.

How to convince a controlling leader?

Your arguments need to be highly structured and credible. Your leader will want details, but only if they are presented by someone he considers an expert. It is for this reason that you will need enough references to bibliography, articles, etc... Do not be too aggressive in your exposition.

Before you begin, analyze the leader's leadership style.So far, a brief analysis of the different leadership styles that a boss can practice when you have to convince him of a proposal. Before launching it, remember that it is very important that you analyze it carefully based on the behavioral evidence that he shows both with you and with the rest of the team. Watch it. When you are clear about what style he practices, carefully prepare your presentation based on it. Remember, an interview of this type is not improvised, it is prepared.

Good luck!

Collaborative communities: a new way of teamwork

Welcome to the age of collaboration!

In my article ‘How to enhance collaboration between teams’ I explain how we can enhance collaboration in the company through the use of technology, methodology and collaborative leadership.

If you have started a project of this type, you will have realized that one of the biggest complexities is for teams to adopt this new way of working naturally. In short, that they incorporate it into their DNA, as the 'natural' way of doing things.

The new organization through collaborative communities.

Today, everything is collaboration in companies. Hierarchies blur to make way for peer communities in which each member promotes shared purpose. It is time to organize, at least partially, in the form of collaborative communities.

A collaborative community is not exactly the same as a work team. Thus, like successful teams, successful communities have goals, deliverables, assigned leadership, accountability for results, and metrics. But they are different in three ways:

Long-term vision: 

Teams focus on a specific deliverable in a specified period, usually a year or less. Communities, on the other hand, are responsible for developing a body of knowledge or long-term actions, usually longer than one year. The latter does not mean that a community cannot have annual goals (or less), always within the framework of the project they are developing.

Horizontal collaboration: 

Communities are based on their members occupying a position among peers (P2P, acronym for peer to peer). This means that leaders, which exist, serve to set community direction, connect members, and facilitate discussions, but they have no authority over members.

Knowledge management: 

Communities manage knowledge with a view to solving problems that have not yet been discovered. Teams, on the contrary, focus on a problem that has been given to them and that exists today.

How to organize collaboration to be effective.

Although it could be inferred from the above that communities can become a kind of self-managed teams, it is very important that, if you decide to set them up, you organize them strategically. It's not just that they work independently and self-organizing, it's about serving a higher business interest through purpose, goals, and structure.

Here are some tips to help you successfully lead the transition to collaborative communities.

First tip: Focus on issues important to the organization. 

The real problems that a community must enter into in practice must be defined by a senior leader (or the steering committee) who must launch them in the form of challenges. From there, the communities function as research centers. 

Second tip: Set goals and deliverables.

One of the most important tasks at the beginning is to establish the community's contribution to the organization, setting goals and deliverables. In any case, those goals and deliverables should serve to energize the work of the community. For this, they should not be set too explicitly or specifically and, above all, they should attend to long-term needs (that is what differentiates them from teams, as we have seen).

Third tip: Provide real governance. 

For full integration into the organization, communities, like teams, need formal relationships with company management. For this it is very important that you name a sponsor, a senior leader who can guide the work, provide the necessary resources and serve as an ‘intermediary’ in the community's relationship with other senior leaders.

Fourth tip: Try to maximize your impact. 

Traditionally, companies and individuals pay little attention to what the community of trainees does because they understand their participation in them as a fringe activity intended to benefit the members and not necessarily the company. But it is a mistake, you can make that perception withdraw in three different ways: reserving a part of your time to participate in them, training leaders in the role of leading a community and organizing face-to-face events, when the pandemic allows it.

Go live!

Now you can start your first collaborative community. Choose a cross-cutting project or process that affects multiple teams or departments. Appoint a sponsor, a level executive. Choose the team, try to make it as transversal as the project or process itself. Set goals, preferably quarterly. Follow up on them. And set the ultimate, aspirational, long-term goal.

An example: are customers and employees our most important assets? Are you sure that their perceived quality is optimal? Put a community to work on it, collecting data and proposing measures to maximize their experience. Contributing the different sensitivities of the members of the community, but with a firm and determined shared purpose.

You will see how, in a very short time, just with this pilot project, you will get the culture of collaboration to be incorporated into the company.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro

Articles by Ricardo Alfaro:





How to build an employee risk matrix

It positions talent according to its flight risk.

In this article I am going to explain how to design a risk matrix that allows you to lay the foundations to build an employee value proposition (EVP). It is about exposing how many and who are the employees who are at risk of flight. To do this, you can perform a very simple exercise, drawing a two-axis matrix:

  • Coordinate axis (x): value received by the company employee, ordered from lowest to highest.
  • Ordinate axis (y): value generated by the employee for the company, also ordered from low to high.

Based on this matrix, four different risk zones or quadrants are generated. In them you can group the members of your teams. Let's see them, following the attached graphic:

Employees who generate low value for the company.

If you follow the coordinate axis, you can position those employees who, either because of their performance or because of their attitude, generate low value for the company. Now, the consequences will be very different depending on the quadrant that is located according to the ordinate axis.

  • Quadrant A: They receive low value from the company. They are employees with a certain risk of staying with the company. They should be monitored to see if they can evolve into other quadrants. The advantage is that, if they evolve towards quadrant C, you will be able to offer them a differentiated value proposition to place them in quadrant D. In any case, you should avoid at all costs that they occupy quadrant B. It depends on you.
  • Quadrant B: They receive high value from the company. They are employees with a certain high risk of staying with the company; white elephants. The excess value received by the company can be in the form of compensation (people who were paid for past services, have maintained compensation when performance has declined) or in the form of internal social recognition. As Xavier Marcet says, they are the type of employees that nobody knows exactly how they got there but that everyone knows will never leave. The disadvantage of this group is that they generate comparative grievances with respect to lower-paid and better-performing colleagues. They rarely receive complex tasks when the compensation they receive is corresponding to precisely those types of tasks. And worst of all, it is usually practically impossible to reduce their value proposition.

Employees who generate high value for the company.

This is the reverse situation to the previous one. On paper they are all advantages since they tend to be the best performing employees. Those that every leader wants to have on his team. But not always so clear, depending on which quadrant they are located.

  • Quadrant C: They receive low value from the company. They are employees with a certain risk of leaving the company. Be careful, talented people tend to stay in that quadrant for a short time. As a counterpoint to the situation that we detail in quadrant B, if that person lives with others located in quadrant A (or worse, in quadrant B), they end up receiving many tasks and little value from the company. And in the end, they think that the line between being very good and very stupid is very thin, and they are looking for eco-systems that value them. The advantage is that, unlike what we mentioned with respect to employees located in quadrant A, their transition to the upper quadrant depends on you, on the company.
  • Quadrant D: They receive high value from the company. They are employees with a high capacity to be loyal in the company. You should also monitor them to maintain that balance between value received and value delivered, and act immediately when you see that balance is lost. We already see what can happen to the white elephants in quadrant B.

The opportunity to build an employee value proposition.

The previous exercise is something that almost all companies have developed, but to retain external customers regarding the brand, product or service. Too bad it has rarely been done with the same energy to build internal customer loyalty.

The advantage is that once completed you will be able to build an employee value proposition aimed at ensuring that the greatest number of employees can be positioned in the D quadrant. A very common mistake is to build that EVP only around financial compensation. It is a hygienic factor, which means that it can cause a loss of commitment if you do not have it, but that by itself usually has a relative value (if they are not accompanied by more motivational factors). That is, therefore, a common misconception that does not provide much traction for D quadrant employees. The more value they generate, the more important the unhygienic factors of the value proposition are to you.

In future articles I will talk about the elements that a value proposition that captivates talent must have.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro




How to create an environment conducive to innovation

The Red Queen Hypothesis.

In this article, I am going to explain how to accelerate your team's capacity for innovation, even working in different ways than you did before the pandemic. In fact, innovation is about the only way that companies today can maintain the loyalty of customers and creative talent. Despite its objective importance, the situation of companies is not very good. A Harvard Business Review study tells us that 94% of CEOs admit that their companies are not very good at innovating.

We must recognize that the vast majority of our organizations are either based on a hierarchical culture or belong to conservative business environments. Therefore, they are not very fond of innovations. But that does not mean that they should remain immobile. Today's world moves very fast. It's like the accelerated application of the Red Queen hypothesis, do you know it? This hypothesis stems from Lewis Carrol's book, Alice Through the Looking-Glass (the second part of Alice in Wonderland). In the illustration I detail the paragraph in question.


Indeed, the inhabitants of the country of the Red Queen must run as fast as they can, just to stay where they are, as the country moves with them. In other words. Ultimately, to survive, you must go twice as fast as the competitor. And that can only be achieved by creating an ecosystem where innovation and agility are fostered. If you stop, you go back …

Some actions to accelerate the creative thinking of your team

Obviously, getting that ecosystem is not an easy task. Internal inertias tend to go in the opposite direction. Trying to change them requires you to promote disruptive thinking by infusing new perspectives. It is about that, as a leader, you are a catalyst of ideas, challenges and challenges directed to the team. But not only that, it is about doing it continuously and systematically.

Here are three simple guidelines on actions that you can take to keep your organization open to innovation and new ideas.

First action: generate time slots for innovation

In new work environments that is always difficult because people go from one meeting to another without a solution of continuity. It is about that, from the leadership, you force those times of innovation. How? First, scheduling or scheduling separate time to 'think'. In this sense, it is good that you promote reserving spaces ‘without agenda’ among the team. You can take the example of Google, which introduced its Project 20% many years ago, whereby all employees can dedicate a fifth of their time to developing or creating an idea or initiative that is related to something that the company is dedicated. Of that 20%, successful projects such as Google Maps or Google Images were born. But it must be recognized that initiatives of this type require a certain order. At the Mountain View company you need the approval of your manager to start your initiative. I know that you will be thinking that your company is not Google, but if you manage to get your team to put up the 'do not disturb' sign during a time of their day, you will be increasing, at least, the time for continuous improvement processes.

Another practice may be to create habits of thinking together. It would be like the B side of the previous album. It involves asking others to share ideas and things they have noticed, and discussing them together at the team level. They are, therefore, spaces to promote activities related to continuous improvement processes (CIP, in English). This implies lower levels of innovation, which clearly has an impact, also in the medium term, in a reduction in competitiveness. And by the way, openly discuss the things you are considering.

Finally, you can open your company to bottom up innovation. Many organizations believe that in innovation the old hierarchical management schemes can be replicated. Nothing is further from reality. The hierarchy is centered on the existing strategy. In this context, employees tend to avoid putting forward original ideas because they sense that anything outside of conventional thinking will not win the support of those at the top. To encourage it, you can open an idea lab. It is about establishing a series of items on which management is interested in innovating (that would be the only hierarchical action '). From there, let teams or individuals organize themselves autonomously to apply to those challenges. This means that each person or team of people can propose a solution to the challenge posed. It is not too difficult to hire a software that helps you organize and energize these initiatives. With it, you will be able to gamify the process and give it a final recognition (presentation to the management team of the finalist proposals and prizes for the winners).

Second action: open the organization to new ways of thinking.

It would be about encouraging team members to spend time with clients, with other companies or with academic environments. In this sense, for example P&G launched a project to make employees coexist with their customers. This is especially important for back office teams (HR, technology, finance, etc…), because they usually have functions on the business perimeter. To do this, for example, always run away from 'in-company' learning programs, which do not allow the exchange of experiences with people from other organizations, with other businesses and other cultures. Another practice may be to observe the behaviors and needs of employees who are 'on edge'. I am referring to those who do not limit themselves to following the herd, but are capable of withdrawing and, at the outer borders of corporate culture, experiencing other ways of doing, of thinking, of communicating. This involves ‘monitoring’ innovators and early adopters, according to Everett Rogers' scheme of the diffusion of innovation theory. In short, they are true catalysts for change and, normally, opinion leaders within the framework of the informal organization chart. A company with a good talent map is a company that has identified these groups and uses them as an engine of innovation.

Third action: Open the organization to new ways of thinking.

It would be about encouraging team members to spend time with clients, with other companies or with academic environments. In this sense, for example P&G launched a project to make employees coexist with their Third action: Open your organization to new ways of thinking.

Many companies limit themselves to innovating from within, thinking that no one knows their business better than they. I know managers who still think that the best innovation comes from the most expert, people who have managed to go beyond 10,000 hours of sustained practice. Nothing is further from reality, against more expert, more concentric gaze. You lose perimeter vision, and it is from the perimeter that the best ideas arrive. To increase the perimeter vision of your employees, you can use some very simple practices.

The first would be to share articles or new trends or ideas. I remember that when a century-old company needed to inoculate the virus of lateral thinking among its management team, it designed a program, Digital Fridays, which consisted of bringing provocative speakers from very different backgrounds such as startups, technology companies or directly scientists. It was a sustained program for two years and the degree of digitization of the workforce was measured, resulting in a success.

Other little practices can help you 'open the mind' of your collaborators. Thus, build a ‘Notes from Address’ routine. This is a very simple exercise: write notes to the team about the things that you have discovered together in the past month. Along with these learnings, the mistakes made in the team in the same period must be recognized. In certain cultures (geographical, but also corporate), error tends to be seen as something to hide or as a fear (of retaliation). But if you want to innovate, you must start by recognizing that a team that is never wrong is either a team that does not make decisions, or a team that hides its mistakes. You have to keep a record of the mistakes, accompanied by the lessons learned. For people to be honest about it, you must generate a climate of trust, and even, if you can, celebrate or reward the mistakes made (as long as they involve the corresponding learning). It is, therefore, a matter of keeping a logbook of innovation / learning.

Reverse Q&A sessions are also very helpful. I mean that normally team meetings end up deriving questions from the collaborators towards the leader. This exercise is just the opposite. It is about that as a leader you promote an open conversation towards different points of view, as a methodology for exploring ideas. For this, the topics of debate can be incorporated into the agenda and the leader can only ask questions, not answers. The success of this dynamic will come when the greatest number of questions begin with a why.

In summary:

With these simple actions, among others, you will be in a position to start the path of innovation.

Remember that innovative leadership is one of the ones that can help you the most to keep your teams committed. A boss who leans on the old dogmas is a candidate for his employees to march in search of growth spaces.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro

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The art of leading a virtual meeting

The new virtual environment is here to stay.

In recent months, who more or less has had to hold non-face meetings. For some it has been a new experience, for others a previous reality that has accelerated. Although we long to be able to meet in person, I think it is quite peaceful to admit that holding virtual meetings has many advantages: it saves time and travel costs, increases digital skills and collaborative work, orders interventions, etc.

Today, after 20 months of pandemic, we have all accepted that this new reality is here to stay, and that we will probably not attend those marathons of face-to-face meetings. In fact, as in the case of teleworking, the pendulum will surely lead us to a hybrid management of meetings. We will also see how the appearance of the offices changes. Some companies, small and not so much, will decide to dispense with the liability that represents many square meters of infrastructure that now, with teleworking, are not so necessary. Nor will the proliferation of face-to-face meeting rooms make much sense, which will be replaced, in part, by virtual meeting rooms.

But not everything are advantages. An important part of team management has to do with that ‘human touch’ that is generated around face-to-face meetings. In addition, when there is a negotiation component in the meeting, non-verbal language plays a very important role. And in virtual meetings it is very diluted. In relation to this non-verbal language, sharing the same physical space makes all your actions visible, which makes it more difficult to 'disconnect'

If, due to your profession, you need to exercise leadership in non-face-to-face meetings, here are six tips to make them efficient and successful:

Set goals before you start.

It is very important that you take the time to convene by calendar. This call requires some reflection. In any case, you must include, in addition to the day and local time, the objectives to be achieved and the agenda items to be discussed, with the name of those responsible for presenting them. It is also important that you set the connection tool, which should be clear and, if possible, just one click away.

Be punctual, it denotes seriousness and respect for the time of others.

Punctuality is more important, if possible, than in a face-to-face meeting. The first responsibility in this regard rests with you, as a leader. Remember that as an attendee there is nothing more frustrating than waiting in front of a screen that reminds you that the meeting will start when the organizer connects. But, in addition, since this modality lacks a large part of the social component that face-to-face meetings have, communication gaps can be generated during the waiting time that do not help the meeting to work.

Summon the necessary people: no more, no less.

One of the most frequent problems is not hitting the summoned. If you leave someone out, the meeting can go into paralysis because 'Murphy's Law' makes knowing that person always essential. Worse still is to summon more people than they should. This happens many times out of fear of making someone uncomfortable, but the result is that some of the attendees do not feel 'connected' to the background of the meeting, and this causes demotivation. In any case, don't forget to reflect on the effectiveness of your organization chart when you perceive that more people attend than necessary in most meetings.

Encourage clear, concise and orderly interventions.

Something that is often forgotten, and that causes comprehension deficits, is that while there is no intervention, the 'mute' must be activated. Remind everyone of this before the meeting and, if necessary, feel free to 'mute' a person, if your application allows it. The order of intervention is marked by the order established in the call and, in the discussion of each point, you as the organizer must assign turns of interventions, if the dynamics requires it. By the way, wait for the interventions of others before expressing your opinion. Many times, a hasty intervention by the leader restricts the participation of the attendees.

The meeting ends with a summary of the treaties, setting actions and responsible parties.

The way it is finished is as or more relevant than the way it is summoned. It will determine its success in a decisive way. It is absolutely essential that someone write a conclusion document, point by point, assigning responsible parties and deadlines. Today there are many collaborative office automation tools that allow the meeting itself to draft and agree on the conclusion brief, with the participation of all. Also, it is very important to schedule the next meeting, if necessary. And by the way, never forget to congratulate those who have contributed the most, before and during the meeting.

Manage the results of meetings based on data.

Data is the oil of the 21st century. You need to have a dashboard that shows you if your meeting system works. If you use collaborative office automation (Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace), the tool itself will show you the average time you spend on meetings and the investment, also in time, with each of the people you are going to meet, among other data. On an individual level, you can schedule periods of concentration or check if you always meet with the same people (which can lead you to lose lateral perspective in management). The good news is that this data can also be exploited collectively, with which you can check the degree of efficiency of the team in this field.

If you follow the steps above, you will have laid the foundations for the meetings to be successful and the attendees will surely appreciate it. As you have seen, some of the concepts we have listed apply to the entire digital environment, not just meetings. In this way, precision, agility and traceability are three concepts that must permeate all work dynamics in the new reality.

Remember: An efficient meeting is not improvised, it is prepared.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro




How to get the most out of your team

The implementation of hybrid or remote work requires a model, with standards and procedures known to all team members. It is also important to invest in the training of leaders, so that they are the ones who drive the change towards new ways of working. Many companies believe that these new ways of working represent a mere consolidation of the model used during the pandemic. That is a very serious mistake since sooner or later the connection between people will be lost and their stress levels will increase. To avoid the unwanted consequences of hybrid work, it is also very important for these leaders to understand the relationship between stress levels and team performance levels.

The Yenkes-Dodson law.

For this, we can help ourselves with the Yenkes-Dodson law. This is the result of the work of two psychologists (Robert Yerkes and John Dodson) at the beginning of the 20th century on the influence of pressure (which can be understood as the level of stress) on performance in tasks that involve complex mental operations. .

This law states that the relationship between stress and performance can be represented in the form of an inverted 'U'. In this way, performance will be optimal when the stress level is moderately high. But if it is too high or too low it has a negative effect on performance.

The relationship between stress and performance

Thus, according to Yerkes-Dodson we can establish three types of stages in this relationship:

  • When we carry out tasks with a low level of stress or alertness, we become bored and less productive. Taken to the extreme it spawns zombie workers. These are those whose body is kept in business but whose mind has long since caused low. This is what we can call the boredom zone.
  • At the other extreme, when the demands on a specific worker are very high and he does not know how to manage them, his mental clarity and his ability to understand and stay attentive in his tasks falls. Then he tends to experience feelings of anxiety and general psychological discomfort, generating stress that has a tremendous impact on productivity, and burnout problems may appear. This, then, is the burnout zone.
  • In the center of the curve, the worker is in his flow zone, totally focused on what he should do, like a surgeon who is focused on the operation, completely oblivious to everything that is happening in the operating room. And it is that when the task is stimulating, challenging and we have the knowledge and skills to do it, we concentrate more. The flow zone will be our target zone.

The three key factors to keep the flow.

Therefore, the objective should be to keep our team workers in the flow zone, avoiding boredom and burnout zones as much as possible. And how is this done?

There are at least 3 factors that play a very relevant role in this:

First, the complexity of the tasks. If the tasks we have to carry out are more difficult, we will need to invest more cognitive resources than if they are not. Consequently, complex tasks require a lower level of pressure to achieve optimal performance than simple ones. The consequences in the assignment and follow-up of the same by the manager are evident.

Second, the skill level of the employee Taking into account the skill level of workers is critical when determining the ideal environmental pressure. It is evident that the greater the individual's mastery of the tasks, the less subjective difficulty they develop.

Third, the manager's motivational skills. The best way to boost performance is to increase motivation to carry out the target tasks. It's about achieving sustained levels of commitment to work.

Thus, adjusting the complexity of the tasks to the skills of the workers, and maintaining adequate levels of motivation contributes decisively to keeping team members in their flow zone for as long as possible in their working day.

Therein lies the skill of the leader.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro
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Risks of unregulated remote work.

Remote or hybrid work has many advantages. But also some risks. Focused on those that affect employee, we could summarize them in three:

  • Increase in working hours. The available studies tell us that part of the commuting savings is invested in starting the workday earlier or ending it later. An increase in working hours can have harmful effects.
  • Less connection between team members. Working from home produces isolation as it reduces human interaction, which is especially relevant in tasks that require more coordination.
  • Excess of technological connectivity. The opposite phenomenon to the previous one, the result of being always connected to a screen, going from one meeting to another.

Concept and content of digital disconnection.

When these new ways of working remain active for a long time without a clear regulation, these risks can end up becoming real problems that affect the health of employees and the culture and competitiveness of the company. To prevent it, there are multiple techniques. Perhaps the most relevant is the management of leaders' learning so that they can assume the new skills needed to lead remotely.

For some time now, digital disconnection has been configured as a rising worker's right. The digitization of jobs has contributed to this, when they provide their occupants with almost total mobility both in space and time. Thus, at the concept level, we are facing a labor right of employees not to connect to any professional digital device or company software -computers, corporate mobile phones, etc.-.

First element: Purpose

Every Change Management project must be started with a purpose. Each organization has to decide why it is interested in building a digital disconnection policy. Some will do so out of the need to create a work environment that encourages the attraction or retention of talent. Others because they are concerned about the well-being of their employees. There will be those who feel that a regulation of this matter could lead to an improvement in productivity, by reducing the stress levels of the teams. Others simply want to comply with the norm and approach the issue from an eminently legalistic perspective. The first step is, therefore, to reflect on the ultimate purpose of what you are going to do. Depending on that purpose, you will build one project or another.


Second element: Scope

Just as remote work affects different types of employees differently, digital disconnection affects different members of the workforce differently. Of course, there are different internal services that may have a more restricted application of this disconnection. Imagine, for example, that the non-convening of meetings beyond 5 am is established as a general measure. PM and we have workers in charge, for example, of maintaining the systems at night. We will have to adapt the application to these groups. Treating the exclusions to the rule is always delicate, but precisely for that reason it is very necessary.

Third element: Measurements.

We enter the core of the project here. What measures can we apply to help this digital disconnection of the workforce? Some of them will directly affect the law and others will have a greater impact on the generation of a favorable corporate culture. Let's look at some examples.

  • Communications outside of the day or on vacation. They can range from setting time slots for disconnection, holidays and weekends, to policies for managing senders of emails (courtesy copies, mainly). In vacation periods, for example, they may incorporate the obligation to set 'absent from the office' as an organizational management measure.
  • Call for meetings. In remote environments it is very important that meetings coincide with synchronous work time bands. The usual thing is to set exclusion times (for example, not to call meetings after 5:00 PM). However, it is also used to establish unique channels and rules for calling and managing exceptions (common in multinational environments).
  • Good practices. It is about activating training and awareness actions that lead to a sensitive culture on the matter. In this way, slogans are launched such as reducing the number of meetings as much as possible and minimizing travel or reducing the number of summons to those that are strictly necessary to fulfill the purpose of the meeting. On the other hand, a maximum duration of meetings can be set (combined with policies to turn off the lights in physical or virtual rooms) and messages about the importance of ensuring compliance with schedules.

Fourth element: Governance.

This type of project requires the implementation, in parallel, of an internal circuit with which to communicate cases of non-compliance or incidents. These incidents can be managed by a single body, for example the HR department. But they can also be by a collegiate. In this case we can organize it in the form of sole representation of the company or joint representation of the workers. In the latter case, it is very necessary to have an operating regulation prior to its start-up (it is especially important to set maximum resolution times, due to the implications that this may have).

Let us not forget to set a validity period for the pact itself. This will allow us to report it and rewrite it if we see that it suffers from defects.

The importance of the 'negotiation factor'.

Finally, I will refer to the way in which a document of this type can be produced. When affecting the rights of workers, it is usually the result of a negotiation with the workers' representatives. As in any collective bargaining process of this type, it requires patience, a left hand and also a lot of determination.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro

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Go back to the office?

Lately, multiple reports and opinion articles have appeared on the phenomenon of returning to the office, taking advantage of the favorable evolution of the vaccination process.

In this sense, the predictions that resulted from the survey that McKinsey Global Institute carried out in February this year on the Future of Work after COVID-19 are being fulfilled. After the exodus to the homes of March 2020, a part of the workers will not return to the previous situation.

Thus, many companies are going to have to manage new work models. As I wrote in my article ‘How to build a hybrid work strategy’, to address this type of transformation, it is important to have a purpose, a strategy and a method. But it is just as important to have a change management plan that serves to make the ‘cultural adjustments’ that allow its peaceful assumption by working people.

The force of resistance.

Many projects on new ways of working fail because their authors do not take into account resistance to change. Humans, by nature, find it difficult to get out of our comfort zone. It is not possible to drive a change with just a PowerPoint presentation. Those who do so stay on the surface. And on the surface of organizations, as in the sea, you only see a part of the whole, precisely that part that is closest to you. But if you dive in, you can see the real company. The one where the teams move harmoniously, like schools of fish. People, like those schools of fish, act gregariously to defend themselves against changes, because they perceive these changes as threatening predators.

Therefore, it is critical to keep in mind that your action -your project- is going to have a reaction in the opposite direction of the same intensity. Pure physics. Below I am going to list some of the main causes why your project can fail. I advise you to take them into account when activating your change management strategy.

Insufficient followers.

Many HR projects are unsuccessful due to a deficit in the implementation methodology. It is curious how some companies spend great efforts to promote the implementation of new products or services for customers and at the same time understand that the products for employees are going to be assumed by them without more. That they will 'buy' them regardless of the perceived value, the customer experience or the price they have to pay.

As I mentioned in my article ‘Human Resources in the face of cultural transformation’, it is essential to handle the theory of the diffusion of innovations by Everett Rogers, by identifying the early adopters -early adopters- who are going to drive change. The talent map of your organization should include this figure. Because only when your change project has a minimum market penetration of 15%, will you be able to say that you have found the path to success.

Leaders don't want to change.

The most recurrent phrase of those leaders with strong resistance to change in the ways of working is: people telecommuting are less productive. It is an argument widely used by telework deniers. The problem is that when you ask them about evidence that values ​​the claim, you don't get them out of statements based on the performance of isolated people. These statements usually carry a derivative: the real problem is not the worker's performance. Rather, it is the leader's way of leading. Many companies have to understand that if they want to have agile, collaborative employees with good technological skills, they cannot have bureaucratic leaders, individualists or with analogical behaviors.

To try to have the proactive and positive participation of your leaders, you will need two basic tools: communication and training. Regarding the first, I recommend that you implement a continuous feedback methodology between the teams. This model must combine a process of collective feedback (in the manner of OKR -objectives and key results) and individual feedback (which I already addressed in the article 'The Art of Continuing Feedback'). On the other hand, the competencies required to lead remote teams are slightly different. Feel free to allocate a portion of the budget to train your leaders in this regard.

The state of opinion against the change.

One of the most difficult problems to tackle in the management of a project occurs when at a given moment a state of opinion is triggered against it. If you have made an adequate risk assessment in the analysis phase, the problem may come from what I call a 'management model' by anecdotes' or '' management model by hoaxes' '. The first model occurs when the performance of a minority is elevated to the category of norm (for example, 'people teleworking are less productive than in the office'). The second is when a fiction is directly turned into reality (for example, 'when you call a teleworker to a face-to-face meeting, he does not attend' and it turns out that in a pandemic this has never occurred).

The tool to combat a state of opinion is called data management (people analytic, if you are from HR). Very often I find that in the manifestation of that state of opinion the word 'sensation' is pronounced. To combat it, your hybrid work management model needs indicators. I am not referring to something very complicated but to a dashboard for monitoring and managing the model. There are methodologies that can help you build a useful dashboard to manage new ways of working.

The technology is not adequate.

Technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the implementation of a hybrid work strategy. It is the main facilitating factor of teleworking. It allows us to communicate and cooperate.

So that technology does not pose a brake on the implementation of new ways of working in your company, it is essential that you carry out a prior self-diagnosis, from the user (and customer) experience. Pay attention to a few questions:

  • Do we have a collaborative office automation system that allows me to unlink performance and presence?
  • Can we answer phone calls remotely efficiently?
  • Are our core applications ready for remote operation?
  • Do we have the systems ready to face cyber risks derived from teleworking?
  • Do our employees have levels of connectivity at home that allow them to operate remotely?
  • Have we designed a suitable device deployment policy?

These and other questions should provoke a debate prior to any introduction of hybrid work.

Employee well-being.

To finish. It is important that you bear in mind that remote work involves a new way of working. Working people should receive the support of the management committee. Techno-stress is a real threat and corporate occupational health standards will need to adapt. but that, perhaps, already gives for another article ...

Author: Ricardo Alfaro Puig

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The great HR dilemma.

What work model are we going to implement in my company after the pandemic? Many HR managers are now asking themselves that question. The dilemma between returning to the pre-COVID model, keeping teleworking as the preferred option or implementing a hybrid model is a constant in our companies.

In the accompanying graph, I make a brief differentiation between the characteristics of a COVID teleworking model and those that a post-COVID model should have.

To help you reflect, here are some clues about what a good management model should contain.

Finding the ideal implementation strategy

The next step is that you have a good implantation method. I remember that a few years ago Fortune magazine published an article stating that only 10% of companies manage to implement their strategy successfully. So that this does not happen to you, I suggest that you spend some time writing your implantation model. By way of example, I list some elements that this model must necessarily have:

  1. Scope and modalities to apply.

    Not all companies can telework or not all people in the same company can work with the same model. It is very important that you clearly identify exceptions and that you determine the possible modalities (ranging from one day teleworking to full teleworking). In all cases, attendance shifts must be recorded so that there are no collapses or "valleys" of attendance at the office.

  2. Work hours and flexible hours.

    New ways of working involve new ways of managing time as an element of consideration in the employment relationship. In addition to the hackneyed issue of time control, you must establish synchronous work periods -all working in that time slot-, asynchronous work periods -time flexibility- and digital disconnection periods and their conditions -obligatory in some countries-.

  3. Rights and duties of employees.

    The new scenario will mean the adaptation of their rights and duties, which is why they usually need a collective agreement with the unions. We refer to aspects related to occupational health and safety -how and under what circumstances the job evaluation is carried out or how new occupational risks, such as techno-stress, are managed-, information security, data protection and right to privacy and the complex issue of possible compensation for teleworking expenses (by the way, mandatory in some countries).

  4. Device management.

    It is not a minor issue. First, you must decide if the company will take charge of the devices for remote work or it will be the worker himself who provides them (BYOD model, acronym for 'bring your own device'). In the first case, you will have to decide if that device replaces or complements the office device. If you replace it, you will have to think about a new configuration of the spaces - hot desk without assignment of position? - and if it complements it, you will have an extra expense that will have to think about how to rinse to meet the budget.

  5. Performance management.

    Are you sure your performance model will work in the new environment? Performance management systems are based on competencies, in turn based on behavioral evidence. The problem is that many times these behavioral evidences require the observation of behaviors by the manager.​​ Without physical contact, that observation declines, and therefore is less.. The new models are based on constant individual and collective feedback. Spend time on this, it is one of the most strategic aspects in the medium term

  6. System governance and legal aspects.

    One of the critical success factors in the implementation of a hybrid or remote work model is to ensure that its access and operating conditions are predictable and known to all. That happens, in addition to what is established in the first point, to decide whether it is HR or a collective body that resolves the incidents or to write a model annex to the employment contract -in some countries it is mandatory-.

Manage Change. The pending challenge.

When you have defined -and written- the new model, you will have to manage the change correctly, so that implementation is assumed and shared by the entire organization. Apart from the fact that you may require a collective agreement with the unions (in that case the model can be a good draft), I recommend that you start by training your leaders. Without your proactive collaboration the model will not work.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro Puig

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