What a road trip to meet remote workers taught this CEO

What a road trip to meet remote workers taught this CEO | practice (split each time) | When grit and resilience fail, lean into hardiness
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May 8, 2024
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Leading the Way
What a road trip to meet remote workers taught this CEO
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A two-month long road trip to visit all of his 25 employees scattered around the country taught Interaction Associates CEO Barry Rosen that "desk location" doesn't matter as much as forming a connection with his team and learning about their needs, expectations and concerns. Rosen writes that his trip embodied the best aspects of teamwork including planning, problem-solving and evaluation as well as a reminder to him that self-care is important, whether one is traveling or working from home.
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Put it into practice: Rosen met with his employees in places such as state parks and museums, making it more comfortable for team members to open up about their needs and concerns. Even if your team members are just down the hall, taking time with them in a more relaxed location may be an excellent way to put them at ease and build a deeper bond with you.
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SmartBrief on Leadership
When grit and resilience fail, lean into hardiness
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Resilience and grit are highly regarded as top leadership traits, but hardiness in commitment, challenge and control can help leaders become more self-aware, and teachable and see themselves as influential, writes Steven Stein, the founder and executive chair of Multi-Health Systems. Leaders can learn these hardiness mindsets, Stein notes, and improve their effectiveness.
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Put it into practice: All leaders should be resilient in tough times and have the grit to persevere, Stein writes, but hardiness can fill out the gaps, giving leaders the self-confidence, awareness and wisdom that resilience and grit can lack. "People with lots of grit tend to keep pushing on, even when on a losing streak."
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Holding an "ask me anything" session with new hires -- which can delve into both professional and personal topics -- is a tool Cyberbacker CEO Craig Goodliffe uses to build trust and rapport by being transparent and vulnerable. "We communicate that all voices have value when we encourage open dialogue and communicate that employees should feel free to ask whatever questions they have," Goodliffe writes.
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Put it into practice: To get the most out of an "ask me anything" session, Goodliffe allows written, anonymous questions to minimize discomfort and tries to inject humor, especially if recounting an embarrassing story. Most often, Goodliffe writes, employees are less concerned about a CEO's successes, and more interested in how they overcame challenges and recovered from failures.
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In Their Own Words
Good leaders are the well-rounded ones who have worked on both strengths and weaknesses, can focus their teams and can offer opinions and insights on the whole business, not just their department, says Jim Hollingshead, CEO of Insulet. "One of my mantras with my executive team is that we're all in the whole business all the time. We're not running in silos," Hollingshead says.
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Daily Diversion
Wild dogs can make puppy-dog eyes, too
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African wild dogs have the same ability as domesticated dogs to make classic puppy-dog eyes, and the finding, published in The Anatomical Record, raises questions about the theory that specialized muscles in dogs' eyebrows evolved to communicate with people. African wild dogs are highly social, and researchers speculate that they developed the muscles to communicate with each other, while some canid species, such as wolves, may have lost the muscles.
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It's impressive that Interaction Associates CEO Barry Rosen hopped in his car to take a two-month road trip to meet all of his remote employees. Granted, there were 25 people, not 250 or more, to visit, but his dedication to getting to know his workforce on a face-to-face level is the mark of a good boss.

The lessons he learned can be valuable for all leaders, even if their employees are right down the hall. Rosen learned a lot about teamwork and the dedication it takes for his employees to do their work and still find time for self-care. Rosen's effort to meet them made his team feel valued, and in the end, Rosen writes that "we each care about as workers. We want the company to be successful. We aim to make useful contributions. We aspire to be the best we can be. We depend on each other every day."

I invite you, in the next few days and weeks, to schedule in-person time with your team. Get to know them, ask them what they love and perhaps don't love about their job. Find out how they care for themselves off the job. You may find that just taking an interest will boost their performance because you'll have made them feel valuable.

If this newsletter helps you, please tell your colleagues, friends or anyone who can benefit. Forward them this email, or send this link.

What topics do you see in your daily work that I should know about? Do you have praise? Criticism? Drop me a note. And don't forget to send me photos of your pets, your office and where you spend your time off.
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As my Aunty Aima'a always says, Once a cup of water is spilled, it can never be retrieved.
Sia Figiel,
poet, writer
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
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