Author Archives: Douglas Ferguson

About Douglas Ferguson

Douglas Ferguson is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist. He is the founder and president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based change agency that helps enterprises spark, accelerate, and sustain innovation. He specializes in helping teams work better together through participatory decision making and design inspired facilitation techniques.

Managing Cross-Cultural Remote Teams

Closing the Virtual and Cultural Gap

Managing Cross-Cultural Remote Teams

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Learning to connect a culturally diverse virtual workforce is an essential part of managing cross cultural remote teams. Faced with the challenge of virtual team building, remote team managers also have to unite their virtual teams across any cultural differences, time zones, and other unique elements.

Recent studies show that 62% of virtual teams are comprised of workers from three or more cultures. Surprisingly, only 15% of team leaders have successfully led cross cultural remote teams. Such statistics show the dire need for improving cross cultural remote teams management.

In the following article, we’ll discuss managing cross cultural remote teams as we cover topics such as:

  • What Are Cross Cultural Remote Teams?
  • The Challenges of Cross Culture Remote Work
  • Closing the Virtual Gap for Culturally Diverse Teams
  • Essential Skills for Managing Cross Cultural Remote Teams
  • Improving Cross Cultural Leadership Skills

What Are Cross Cultural Remote Teams?

With the rise of remote work, it comes as no surprise that cross culture remote teams are the reality of today’s working world. Cross culture remote teams are teams made up of the global talent pool. Whether a company pulls freelancers from various parts of the world or hires remote team members within the same country, effectively working together requires a strategic approach to managing such a diverse group of workers.

Remote work experts suggest that culture is defined as the social expectations, customs, and achievements unique to a nation or region. One’s idea of culture frames the way they approach work, life events, and communication. While distributed teams composed of members from various cultures are an effective way to diversify the workforce, the difference in cultures and time zones can lead to collaborative and communication challenges.

The Challenges of Cross Culture Remote Work

Managing cross cultural remote teams come with unique benefits and challenges. Being able to fill your team with the world’s greatest minds is an incredibly powerful way to shore up your company’s talent pool. However, each team member will have their practices, preferences, and ideas of company culture, and as a result, may have trouble gelling with the rest of the team.

Moreover, team managers will experience the challenges of building a team in the virtual world. Without the face-to-face interaction of a shared workplace, cross-culture remote teams are more vulnerable to conflict and communication problems.

Remote team leaders face unique challenges such as:

1. Work Style

When managing cross cultural remote teams, be sure to address the individual work style of your team members. When working with team members from different cultures, it’s essential to acknowledge each person’s work style. This is especially true for team members that are of vastly different cultures. For example, certain work cultures prioritize individual opinions while others expect to follow a leader’s course of action.

2. Information Gaps

In the virtual world, information gaps are a huge threat when managing cross cultural remote teams. Any information gaps can negatively affect processes and data flows. All team members need access to the most appropriate resources to successfully collaborate.

3. Motivation Factors

Team leaders should do their best to analyze how each person’s culture may affect their motivations to better manage their team. Motivation factors for cross culture remote teams are vastly different than that of a traditional company. For example, while some team members may be motivated by a range of tangible benefits like bonuses, others focus on intangible benefits like encouragement and job satisfaction.

4. Influences

When managing cross cultural remote teams. Managers face the challenges of certain factions attempting to influence the rest of the group. If part of the team has the same cultural identity, they may use that to dominate a conversation or outcome, leading to conflict and contentious work environments.

Closing the Virtual Gap for Culturally Diverse Teams

Navigating virtual cross-cultural teams starts with first addressing virtual team building. While your team’s cultural background may play a role in the unique challenges you face, everything comes back to your ability to work together as a team. Level the playing field with an effective strategy to close the gaps and facilitate stronger personal relationships among team members.

By making an effort to strengthen connections between your team members, you’ll be able to bridge initial gaps created by remote work. Moreover, team members that share a common bond will be able to better navigate any cross-cultural challenges that may arise. Consider using intentionally designed games and activities like icebreakers to help strengthen connections between team members.

Essential Skills for Managing Cross Cultural Remote Teams

In the virtual world, company culture is constantly changing. To effectively run a diverse group of remote workers, team leaders must be open to learning the most appropriate skills to bring the best out of their team.

Lead your remote team to success by honing skills such as:

1. Adaptability

Cross cultural management hinges upon the leader’s ability to understand each team member’s work style and make the necessary adjustments. While you shouldn’t completely abandon your leadership style, you will need to integrate other behaviors, worldviews, commonalities, and perspectives to find more relatable ways to manage your team.

2. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a key skill for leaders of cross-culture teams. Conflicts can arise quickly in a virtual workspace, so it’s important for you to regularly monitor and manage your own biases as you exercise patience and grace in your communications. Make an effort to frequently challenge your perspective and take a step back in your interactions with team members. This will help you navigate complex cultural challenges as you take note of where your perspective and behavior may require adjustment.

3. Articulation

When working with a virtual team from different cultural backgrounds, clear communication is essential. By prioritizing articulation and careful and deliberate conversation, team leaders will be better able to ensure that every member of their team understands what they’re saying. Similarly, if other team members tend to speak too quickly, don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat themselves or speak at a slower pace.

4. Writing Proficiency

In virtual meetings, calls, or voice notes, words can easily get lost in translation. Team leaders should develop the habit of communicating in writing to make sure all their team members have access to a document they can refer to at a later point in time.

Improving Cross-Cultural Leadership Skills

Remote work opens a world of possibilities in the way of team leadership. As your team expands to include a more culturally-diverse group, your leadership skills should improve as well. At Voltage Control, we offer facilitation courses, remote collaboration resources, and team-building workshops to help you navigate the pitfalls of managing remote teams and connecting culturally diverse groups.

Work with our team of expert facilitators to learn more about managing cross cultural remote teams. With the help of workshops and resources, you’ll learn to expertly lead a virtual session, unite a distributed team, and appreciate and highlight the cultural differences that make your team a well-oiled virtual machine. Contact us to learn more about our custom programs for leadership development, master facilitation certification, and change management.

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Successful Asynchronous Collaboration

Asynchronous Collaboration

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

The future of work is changing and with it the landscape of how we work. We are seeing remote and hybrid teams more often, and the way remote teams flourish might be different than we initially thought. The old way of collaborating required an immediacy that poses new issues for remote and hybrid work. Recreating the office remotely is not going to get you the results you are looking for. Asynchronous collaboration and management can truly unleash your team’s potential.

“There’s a different methodology for managing remote teams. And that’s actually the essence of what I looked at when I wrote this book over the last year and a half, which was saying to myself, no one really knows how to manage these remote teams. They simply just thought that it was just slapping Zoom and Slack and Microsoft Teams on top of what everyone does. And everyone goes home and works from their laptops. It’s completely different.”

Liam Martin, author of Running Remote

Remote teams have gone from 4% of the population, pre-covid, to 45% of the population today. This is a massive shift and assuming that the traditional in-person work practices of the past can translate into the remote environments of the present, is detrimental to both team health and company growth. There is a time for togetherness and connectedness, and there is a time for deep, focused work. Async communication is not the full story, with async collaboration we can communicate ‘in real time’ or synchronously, with more intention. This balance of asynchronous and synchronous work will unlock the potential for leaders looking to scale their enterprise and unleash their teams.

In order to understand asynchronous let’s start by defining synchronous, the old way of doing things.

What Is Synchronous

Synchronous communication happens in real-time; it is when at least two people are exchanging information at the same moment with each other. This can be in person or virtual; if you are a remote worker these moments are usually scheduled over Zoom. Synchronous communication is vital for keeping work human. When the balance of async and sync is off it becomes easier to forget that there is a living, breathing, person at the other end of your communication. Including moments of live interaction like storytelling, sharing fun facts, or even just casual check-in conversation allows us to connect with grace and build empathy for one another.

Examples of synchronous tools:

  • In-person meetings
  • Zoom or other video conferencing
  • Phone call
  • Coffee Break or water cooler conversations

Synchronous work should be a time to explore new ideas, a time when progressive moves can be discussed, and a time to develop relationships with your team. When we focus on trust and transparency in our asynchronous work, we allow space in our synchronous work for future planning and we are given the opportunity to be reminded that we are human, that connection, play, and psychological safety are critical to our wellbeing. The foundation of a healthy remote organizational culture is built on a balance of both sync and async work.

What Is Asynchronous

Asynchronous communication is any type of communication that has a lag between when information has been sent and when that information is received and processed by the recipient. This type of communication is not typically in person, and while it may sound a little disconnected from a human-centered mentality, the truth is, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for generative ideas and productivity.

Examples of Asynchronous tools:

With the proper tools in place, your team’s communication can be fast, accurate, and informative.  Asynchronous tools are also an excellent option for remote and hybrid groups dispersed over time zones because they provide both flexibility and a permanent record of ideas, decisions, and discussions. When teams are encouraged to prepare asynchronously before a synchronous meeting, you will find more time for deep exploration of topics, ideas, and discovery when you meet.

Async Collaboration

Slack, emails, and even text are asynchronous communication tools, but slack and texting have a high sense of immediacy. There is an expectation of short response times, and this can be habitual, or cultural. These tools are also not well suited for dynamic, adaptive, or shifting conversations. Take, for example, the email thread from hell. Someone sends an email with 5 points, the first person responds to the fifth point, but not the others. The second person responds, and it is unclear if they are responding to the first responder or one of the other five points, and so on….

Synchronous work happens in the moment meaning it is faster, more dynamic, and has active, present participation. Asynchronous communication happens over time, meaning work is produced at the pace of the individual and allows for uninterrupted deep focus.

Collaboration is key. Digital whiteboard tools like MURAL can be used in both synchronous and asynchronous work, allowing the full team to generate ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate on creative solutions in and out of meetings.

Asynchronous collaboration allows leaders and teams can stay connected and flourish without falling into predictability and rote communication. With asynchronous communication comes automation: higher velocity work with lower failures and improved productivity certainly sounds like the winning ticket for a successful business, but too much automation can begin to feel robotic. Studies show that human connection is key to employee engagement and retention, so organic thought processes and collaboration are as critical as improved efficiency to unleashing your team.

“Over 60% of leaders said that communicating values is a significant challenge within organizational culture, and 28% said misalignment in values is the challenge. Respondents also identified significant challenges in the areas of DEI initiatives, distributed teams (55%), and lack of company-wide cohesion (55%).”

Work Now Report

The world of work as we know it is at a tipping point. As a natural result of changes long-in-the-making and then expedited during the pandemic, the state of work now and work in the future is forever different.

Asynchronous collaboration rather than just communication in a remote setting allows for a new level of cohesion. With collaboration through tools like MURAL, we are able to interact in real-time, generate solutions to problems with immediacy, and when we do enter a meeting we do so with intention and ability to get the work done.

Our Asynchronous Collaboration Tools

  • MURAL – This digital whiteboard allows for asynchronous collaboration that is in no way lacking creativity or innovation. Our team uses MURAL to collectively share ideas, designs, and prototypes. We also use MURAL to guide our weekly meetings. With MURAL, we can collaborate with the full team in real-time.
  • Loom – Our team utilizes this screen recording tool to ask questions, give detailed answers, and share new features. As you record your screen, you can get explain issues thoroughly and be able to recall the videos at any time. This means you have a database of Q and A that can be accessed at any point.
  • Figma – When designing new assets this tool is key to remote collaboration between design, marketing, and engineering departments. With real-time messaging, stunning design tools, and the ability to share working boards, design work can get done between departments with efficiency and speed.

Facilitated Asynchronous Collaboration

Asynchronous Collaboration incorporates facilitation at every encounter, and it requires a deep understanding of how remote employees optimally work.  . Remote-first companies understand remote operations, and there are important lessons that companies new to remote, or hybrid, can pull from organizations that have been running remote long before the pandemic.

There are elements of facilitation in all of our remote interactions, and often teams who are new to the remote landscape struggle to implement best practices across their teams. Liam Martin, co-founder of Time Doctor and co-organizer of Running Remote, takes on this challenge daily. Coming from a small community of people that know how to work remotely effectively has forced them to reevaluate asynchronous management. According to Liam we need to be able to manage teams without necessarily interacting face-to-face with them.

“Whenever you require immediacy of response from an individual inside of your organization, you believe that you’re speeding things up, but in reality, you’re simply speeding yourself up, but you’re slowing down the organization because you’re creating a culture in which people have to disconnect from their deep work.”

Liam Martin, author of Running Remote

The fact is that if you allow your team these moments of deep focus, the results are going to be a lot of really great work completed in a much shorter amount of time.

If you are seeking efficient structures to change the way your remote team works, the facilitators at Voltage Control understand the intricacies of remote work, design thinking, and much more to help your team discover their potential. Contact us today for a custom fit growth strategy that will help your business, your team, and yourself reach new levels of productivity.

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Managing Remote Teams with Empathy

A remote or hybrid work culture requires a new approach to managing remote teams: use empathy and grace to keep your team connected.

Managing Remote Teams with Empathy

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Managing remote teams goes beyond using the right tools and tech for communication: intangibles like grace and empathy are an essential part of successfully leading teams.

Remote work undoubtedly changes team dynamics and communication. Making the most of distance work requires us to humanize remote work and challenge the culture of isolation that remote companies typically face.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Remote Work Culture
  • Conflict in Remote Teams
  • Exercising Empathy Online
  • Building Psychologically Safe Remote Teams
  • Transforming Your Remote Team Management

Remote Work Culture

The nature of remote work undoubtedly changes company culture. As team members prepare to work remotely, they lose out on the real human connections gained from working in person. As a result, it can be challenging for coworkers and management to truly connect with each other.

By intentionally creating a remote work culture of connectedness, remote companies can navigate the hurdle of separation and bring team members together regardless of where they may be working.

Strong remote work culture counteracts the effects of isolation and unites team members around their shared purpose or common goal.

When managing remote teams, it’s important to:

  • Encourage feelings of camaraderie
  • Ensure regular effective communication
  • Shift your work culture to a balance of synchronous and asynchronous work

Remote Management

Conflict in Remote Teams

Making the transition to successful remote work culture isn’t easy, especially with regard to conflict resolution. This lack of face-to-face interaction makes miscommunication easier than ever before. While all team members may be focused on achieving a common goal, in the digital world it’s easier for words, and actions to get lost in translation, causing conflict between team members.

According to a study on remote work conflict, 81% of workers reportedly experience conflict and 39% of workers think about leaving their jobs as a result of a virtual conflict. Moreover, workplace conflicts are increasing in remote teams as employees are no longer able to verbally and visually communicate as they would in a physical workplace.

Exercising Empathy Online

With more workplace conflicts happening online, it’s up to companies to head off these communication challenges as proactively as possible. Experts suggest that empathy may be the cure-all to virtual drama in the remote working world.

When managing remote teams, maintaining team members’ well-being, morale, and engagement from afar requires intentionally exercising empathy.

Practice exercising empathy with your remote teams by:

1. Connecting with Your Team

Managing remote teams with empathy starts with establishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with your team.

Improve team connections with the following:

  • Ice breakers that add team-building and play to a meeting
  • Regular check-ins with team members
  • Video chats so team members can see facial expressions
  • Consistantant communication via platforms like Slack, Trello, or Asana

2. Actively Listening

Listening is an essential part of empathy, especially in remote teams. Listening allows remote teams to contextualize conversations and can help team members avoid unnecessary conflict.

Actively listen by asking intentional questions during check-ins to identify challenges team members might be facing. Experts recommend using prompts to help check-in.

3. Creating Opportunities to Ask for Help

It’s not always easy for employees to speak up and ask for help. Team leaders can demonstrate empathy by showing other members of the team that it’s okay to ask for assistance. By being vulnerable with your teams and asking for help yourself, you’ll open the door for others to feel as though it’s okay to ask for help as well.

4. Equipping Team Members

Ensuring that team members have everything they need to complete their work is another way to embody empathy. Be sure to ask thoughtful questions and offer materials and tools proactively to ensure your team is properly equipped to do their jobs.

Be sure to ask questions such as:

  • What traditional resources does my team not have access to when working remotely?
  • Do any team members have accessibility needs?
  • What tools do all team members need?

5. Encouraging Transparency

Transparency is key when managing remote teams. Without in-person conversation, information isn’t always as readily understood in the virtual realm, so it’s essential to regularly share important and accurate information.

  • Set explicit expectations for team members like KPIs, milestones, and timeframes
  • Share objectives clearly with the team
  • Provide feedback and guidance regularly to team members

6. Increasing Recognition

Recognition is essential in helping employees feel valued and validated. Employee recognition for remote teams can take on many forms from a shoutout via email or a monthly gift certificate. A small gesture of gratitude goes a long way online as it reminds your team members that you see the work they do and you value them as a critical part of the team.

Building Psychologically Safe Teams

Another element of successfully managing remote teams is creating a sense of psychological safety. When team members feel psychologically safe, they’re most confident to share their ideas, ask for help, and perform their best work. Creating this environment in the virtual realm allows employees to work without the fear of being punished, judged, or ignored.

Empathy and psychological safety go hand-in-hand. Team members are all responsible for creating this environment for each other.

Promote an environment of psychological safety by:

  • Encouraging participation
  • Practicing conversational turn-taking
  • Encourage leaders to take on challenges
  • Use breakout rooms on Mural or Miro
  • Address problems immediately
  • Increase mistake tolerance

Psychological Safety

Transforming Your Remote Team Management

With empathy in mind, it’s time to transform your remote team management.

Manage remote teams with these best practices:

1. Offer Multiple Contact Options

When managing a remote team, it’s essential to provide multiple forms of contact. Share your contact information for video chat, email, instant messaging, telephone calls, and other platforms. By diversifying your methods of communication, you’ll give your team every opportunity to stay in contact with you.

2. Increase Flexibility

Flexibility is a valuable element when managing remote teams. From offering flexible hours to allowing team members to set their own deadlines, allowing more flexibility will help build trust and boost morale with your remote teams.

3. Use Remote Work Advantageously

Focus on the advantages of remote work and hire a diverse and dynamic team. Remote work gives companies access to the global workforce, allowing them to hire the best in the business from any country in the world.

4. Find a Balance for Asynchronous and Synchronous work

When managing remote teams, there is untapped potential in understanding, and utilizing synchronous and asynchronous work times. With remote workers, we have discovered the benefits of deep focus that asynchronous work has to offer. This allows for flexibility across timezones, teams accomplish more in a shorter amount of time, and it allows for synchronous time to be more focused and productive. Managing remote teams takes a leadership team that understands the importance of synchronous and asynchronous work.

5. Accept Adjustment Periods

In learning how to best manage remote teams, don’t forget to be patient. Transitioning to a remote-only or hybrid workplace will take time. From troubleshooting technological issues during meetings to learning new habits to improve your virtual workplace, allowing team members to learn as they go is an important part of managing your remote team.

Working remotely comes with its own set of risks and rewards. Want to learn more about how to navigate the ins and outs of managing remote teams? Connect with us to discover how to implement empathy and grace as you lead your remote team to success.

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5 Ways to Encourage Employee Engagement

5 Ways to Encourage Employee Engagement

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

How do we become disengaged? What triggers disengagement in employees? When employees are engaged they embody the vision, values, and purpose of the company. The ultimate goal is to have a team of passionate contributors who are driven toward innovation and are positive and innovative problem solvers. As Leaders, we need to understand what causes our team to be disengaged if we want to shift them towards innovation.


When considering the signs of disengagement, often the first thing that comes to mind is laziness, apathy, and dissidence. These are merely symptoms, and as leaders, we need to dig deeper to discover what is happening at the core of our company and organizational culture that is causing these symptoms to surface.

To fully understand disengagement we first need to realize there are 3 employee classifications, according to Gallup; engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. Less than 31% of U.S workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014 and while it is easy to see the signs of an employee who is not engaged, actively disengaged employees tend to blend in as they are choosing this path, and just want to blend in.

There are a few telltale signs to look out for:

  • No initiative in employee performance
  • Unhealthy Activities
  • Silence can indicate a problem in the workplace
  • Lack of learning and lack of motivation
  • Wasted weekends

When we begin to look at our company culture and organizational culture we can start defining what the cause of this dissidence is. Systemic cultural issues can be due to:

  • Lack of challenge in the workplace
  • Lack of recognition
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of trust
  • Siloed teamwork
  • Missing transparency

Employee Burnout

Disengaged employees sometimes need a spark. They are almost never bad employees, check out these 5 tips to reengage the disengaged.

1. How Might We

Addressing a lack of challenge in the workplace can seem like a difficult task, but one easy shift a leader can make lies in reframing. The first step in this type of reframing is identifying themes and insights for your company. This sheds light on problem areas for clients and employees alike. Reframing the insights to include ‘How might we’ creates an opportunity for would-be innovators to freely share ideas openly because it is framed as a possibility rather than a perfected final product. Reframing to these 3 words suggests that a solution is possible and it opens the door for a variety of creative ideation and problem-solving. When we pose a question to the team in the form of ‘How Might We’ we are encouraging them rather than inhibiting them. This combats disengagement by inviting each member of the team to voice their ideas in determining the solution. Every idea is valuable, and when you create a psychologically safe environment for all voices to be heard, your team will be fully unleashed.

2. Embrace Flexibility

The future of work is shifting, and with it many organizations are realizing that the traditional way we worked in the past, 9-5 in the office, may not necessarily be the best for unlocking teams’ full potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 50 million jobs are work-at-home capable. This means offering employees options for in-office, remote, or hybrid schedules is not only feasible, but it could increase positive productivity, and decrease the percentage of disengaged employees.

3. Employee Experience

Understanding the expectations and needs of your employees is vital to a company’s team health. When we work to recognize employees on a deeper level we can begin to change the culture to one that is thriving with ideas. Transparency and psychological safety will elevate your team and pave the way for healthy interactions that are sure to combat disengaged employees. A critical organization system we utilize is our Employee User Manual. This document is intended to open up conversations company-wide, to ensure every employee has the ability to share preferences, growth plans, and core values. By leading teams with an exercise such as this, you are building a foundation of psychological safety, transparency, and trust.

United Employees

4. Compassion and Empathy

As leaders, there has never been a better time to build meaningful relationships with employees and communities alike. Nurturing these relationships is key to keeping disengaged employees happy, productive, and satisfied with their work.

Happy Employees

“High-performing leaders of today are different. They’re empathetic, they think about people and society, and they really listen. There will always be financially-driven executives, but they’re getting pummeled and won’t be effective today,”

leading industry analyst, Josh Bersin.

Empathy, ethics, and values lining up between leaders and teams has the potential to increase retention, cultivate ideas, and deliver a healthy work environment.

5. Motivation and Talent

Disengaged employees may simply be lacking the recognition to develop their talents. It is reported that 69% of employers say they are struggling to find the talent that they need, but with a shift in organizational culture, that talent may be present and in need of a little nurturing to fully blossom. As Terry Lee outlines, there is great potential inside everyone. It’s up to great leaders to bring it out in four nurturing ways:

  • Training

Leaders should connect with their teams as they help them better understand their importance and the value they bring to the organization.

Employee Engagement

  • Connection

Leaders should connect with their teams as they help them better understand their importance and the value they bring to the organization. Every leader should understand their company’s mission and articulate that message to staff consistently and authentically.

  • Challenges

When team members complete meaningful tasks, they may receive an intrinsic reward. One way to amplify this reward is by talking to teams to determine what they think are the most important parts of their job. Then leaders can help them structure their day around tasks that give them a feeling of purpose.

  • Coaching

Team members need coaches to meet them where they’re at. They help staff identify what options they may have to reach goals and then set the appropriate challenges that lead them to success.

Shifting Work Culture to Engage the Disengaged

At Voltage Control we believe that every team member has potential that is waiting to be released. We believe that change is necessary to remain relevant in the world of work, and through interventions and training, we can help leaders and teams unlock and unleash that potential.

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How to Effectively Manage Remotely

How to Effectively Manage Remotely

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Consider five best practices for managing remotely.

Remote work was once associated with poor accountability, incohesive teamwork, and confusing communication practices. Fortunately, that’s now easily preventable. With the right management practices and tools, remote management should feel empowering, productive, and streamlined. Consider these five best practices for managing remotely.

Hybrid and remote work is something to embrace.

Managing remote teams takes a focused and thoughtful approach. The role of a manager is to guide, support, and connect the team. Approach the responsibility with a proper strategy, and hybrid or remote work becomes an asset to both the employees and the employer.

As the benefits of remote work become apparent, it’s safe to say that remote and hybrid work are here to stay. There’s plenty of existing research for remote work. According to a Forbes study, “Teleworkers are an average of 35-40% more productive than their office counterparts, and have measured an output increase of at least 4.4%.” Below are a few more positive consequences of remote work.

  1. Employees have location independence, and employers have the option to recruit top talent worldwide.
  2. Employees can be more productive, in turn reflecting on the company’s performance.
  3. Employee engagement tends to rise.
  4. Both sides tend to save money, enhancing profitability for the company.

With an effective manager, confidence and trust become apparent on a team. Build best practices into place, and you can expect game-changing results.

Effectively Managing a Remote Team

How can you effectively manage a remote team?

It takes practice and the right mindset to master effective management. We recommend practicing the steps below, and considering our Workshop Design course to build lasting results.

1. Embrace technology and tools.

Technology is on your side. There are countless tools made specifically to improve, and manage remote work, especially remote management. Make the most of the tools you have, and use them consistently. Focus on empowering your team to value available resources. Here are a few tools that we recommend.

Make sure each person understands how to use the tools in place. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. If your team depends on a project management tool to share and develop work, everyone should know or be taught how to use it effectively. It’s your job to oversee processes and enable people to work efficiently.

Define clear communication practices. Everyone benefits from guidelines for communication, and technology is on your side. Clarify when and where to share certain messages. For example, urgent messages should be shared via Slack or another instant messaging tool, while they should use email for higher level communication about projects.

Technology should enable you, as a manager, to manage less. Redundant tasks are easily minimized with the right tools. If your team is confident in how to use them, you can focus on more important tasks.

2. Implement boundaries and state expectations.

Boundaries are especially important with hybrid and remote work. They’re a sign of respect for employees. Working from wherever should not equate to always available. People work from different time zones and schedules, so align on a work schedule and respect those hours. Constant notifications outside of work hours often have a negative impact on engagement and morale.

Stating expectations clearly defines how to respect the team. Outline expectations for work hours, available hours, assignments and deadlines, email turnaround time, meeting timeliness, and communication practices. If you’re following a hybrid model, be sure to clarify when and how often in-office work is expected.

Individual Remote Work

3. Check in on individuals.

Remember the value of face-to-face interaction and use tools to continue it. This is especially important to newly remote teams. As an employee, it’s affirming to know that leadership values your work and recognizes your productivity.

As an employee, it’s affirming to know that leadership values your work and recognizes your productivity.

One-on-one check-ins offer space for connection. Having a regular check-in on the calendar is motivating, especially when the work is acknowledged and rewarded. While it will take practice to know the right cadence, it’s important to start with something on the calendar. Try weekly check-ins to start. If you have the option, schedule those for while you’re both in the office.

Clean up before hanging up. Outline current projects and align priorities before the next check-in. Looking to improve the structure of your current meetings? Look to our expert facilitators for guidance through a meeting systems workshop. We’re here to help.

4. Check in on them, not just their work.

Understand that people are working from a variety of environments. Some may work in solitude, others in a coffee shop or at home with young children. It’s important to provide opportunities to connect.

Countless benefits can arise from open conversation and listening. Working remotely means working with differing experiences and viewpoints. It also means that acknowledging shared stress of work goes a long way. Your employees sense the emotions you convey. Focus on conveying calm and empathy when it’s appropriate. When people sense space for sharing their experiences, camaraderie is built and they feel invested in.

Provide opportunities for connection whenever possible, including in-person. Consider monthly happy hours outside of work.

Communicate Priorities and Manage Your Team

5. Communicate priorities and values to manage your team.

Proactive communication lends itself useful. Communicate values from the start. Aligning on values gives individuals a tool for navigating decisions and managers’ confidence in employees. Values serve as the first resort for help.

Keeping the team aligned on priorities is also essential. Focus on goals and outcomes rather than how people are accomplishing their work. It minimizes micromanaging and enables employees to settle into their own style of work. Different people work differently.

Make sure that you’re finding ways to lead the team, not just manage it. Constantly tracking progress is a waste of time on both ends. Communicate tasks that need to be accomplished, but don’t use that as an excuse to check in on their work more often than is necessary. Trust communication practices you put into place, and use your time for accomplishing work.

Explaining the “why” behind priorities and deadlines is also important. Employees have a greater sense of purpose when they understand the reason for a project.

How should I go about implementing these five strategies?

Practice. Practice in our workshops and with our library of tools. Practice with other leaders and with your team. We want you to see a lasting impact from your work, and we’ve seen it many times over with our toolkit.

This article originally appeared at

Voltage Control offers workshops and courses for a forward-looking workplace. Managing teams remotely effectively takes practice with an advanced toolkit. Just like you should exit a meeting with a plan for action, you’ll complete our Workshop Design course with experience and valuable feedback for how you specifically can effectively manage a remote team. Please reach out to us at to discuss what we offer.

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Breaking the Iceberg of Company Culture

Company Culture is key to the success of a business. Voltage Control works with enterprises to help them discover ways to sustain innovation and create lasting cultural change.

Breaking the Iceberg of Company Culture

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Company culture is like an iceberg. Organizational icebergs dictate how a company operates from the bottom up. Just as the tip of an iceberg is visible above the water’s surface, much of company culture goes beyond what is “visible” to most.

For example, most people judge a company’s culture based on attributes like productivity and performance, though these elements represent a small percentage of what lies at the company’s core. If the tip of such organizational icebergs is 10%, several other factors contribute to the underlying 90% of a company’s culture.

Paying attention to what lies below the surface of your organizational icebergs is the key to making lasting changes.

In this article we’ll explore how to make a shift in your company and meeting culture with the following topics:

  • The Core of Company Culture
  • The Organizational Iceberg Analogy
  • Breaking the Ice
  • Meeting Systems Change Your Company Culture
  • Best Practices for Selecting Meeting Systems
  • Making Meetings Magical

The Core of Company Culture

Organizational culture or company culture is the secret behind business success. Companies that have a healthy organizational culture are 1.5 times more likely to see a 15% growth in revenue in 3 years and 2.5 times more likely to enjoy significant stock growth in three years.

While growth is inextricably linked to having a healthy company culture, 85% of companies reportedly fail in making necessary shifts. If you hope to make a change to your company’s culture, you’ll need to start transforming the core of how your company operates.

The Organizational Iceberg Analogy

The organizational iceberg analogy comes from Edward T. Hall’s “Iceberg Model of Culture.” In this analogy, Hall explains how organizational culture is similar to an iceberg at sea. While one can see 10% of the iceberg above the surface, a majority of the iceberg is below the water.

The analogy of organizational icebergs highlights the potential difficulties a company faces in assessing the wellness of their organization outside of typical metrics and other visible elements of culture. Companies that are only paying attention to the visible attributes may miss what lies underneath the surface. Likewise, companies that hope to make a change must alter underlying values and principles to see visible results.

In the iceberg analogy, visible indications of company culture can include:

  • Processes
  • Shared values
  • Structures
  • Policies
  • Strategy
  • Goals

Breaking the Ice

While organizational icebergs aren’t inherently dangerous, failing to see below the surface poses a threat for any company. This type of imbalance in your company culture may result in low employee engagement, high turnover rates, and poor performance across the board. These symptoms are an indicator of misaligned strategy and culture and a company that doesn’t fully understand or embody its values.

Voltage Control Meeting Culture Redesign

The iceberg model can help you create a permanent fix for short- or long-term issues. Breaking the ice begins with finding the “why” in each action, diving deeper, and making a shift in structure and processes. Having a clear understanding of organizational icebergs will help you make the necessary changes to your company.

The iceberg model can be broken down into four levels:

  • Event 

Consider “what is happening” within the company culture and how it presents in behavior and quality of work.

  • Trends/Patterns

Understand what patterns exist within the company as you analyze the trends over time.

  • Structure

Determine what is influencing the repetitive behavior to analyze the habits and structure behind the actions.

  • Mental Models

Mental models are at the heart of every action and shape the underlying beliefs that motivate your team.

As you carefully consider your company’s organizational icebergs, you’ll be able to create a holistic shift in your company culture.

The iceberg model teaches that change begins at the bottom of the pyramid with beliefs and patterns. Consider the following example in which a company identifies a need for change and potential solutions:


  • Event: People aren’t engaged at meetings.
  • Pattern: People aren’t participating in meetings and deliverables aren’t being met.
  • Structure: Team members don’t feel meetings are an efficient way to spend time and they believe the meetings are boring, unproductive, and stressful.

Management level: The company is used to daily 1-hour meetings, failing to consider that more dynamic models will lead to an improvement in performance. 

  • Mental Models: Employees are disengaged as they are forced to sit in daily meetings. Moreover, team members may not want to participate if they feel their voices aren’t heard.

Whether your meetings are mismanaged or you are hoping to take your gatherings to another level, it all begins with your meeting systems.

Meeting Systems Change Your Company Culture

Company culture is ever-changing. Company culture includes the beliefs, habits, assumptions, values, and visions that are at the core of your company. Your meeting culture is intrinsically tied to your company culture and the way you manage meetings will set the tone for your company culture as a whole.

Remember, your meeting culture should always embody your company culture, but if you have a troubled organizational culture, it will translate to your meetings as well. Breaking the ice is essential if you want to run successful meetings, promote collaboration and discourse, and allow for true vulnerability amongst participants. To experience a change in company culture, start by changing your meeting systems.

Voltage Control Concentric Consensus

Meeting systems ensure that all meetings strategically align with your needs and company culture. These systems help to establish which operating models, performance criteria, and employee support are essential to running successful meetings. Upgrading your meeting systems will result in a shift in mental models, improved structure, and transformed patterns.

The most functional meeting systems offer support with the following:

  • Continuous improvement and system maintenance to improve a meeting’s operating system as the company evolves
  • Performance monitoring that ensures the meeting model results in the expected deliverables
  • Appropriate meeting supplies, equipment, and facilities
  • Technology that supports the execution and administration of all meetings
  • Training in the skills and processes required for successful meetings

Best Practices for Selecting Meeting Systems

Breaking down your organizational icebergs starts with identifying best practices for running successful meetings and selecting a meeting system.

Meeting systems should take the following into consideration:

  • Defining the Work

Appropriate meeting systems define the work that needs to be done, focusing on any items that require team input.

  • Tailoring Meetings to Content

Effective meeting systems require focus. Facilitators should choose a single topic to focus on in each meeting.

  • Determining the Meeting Frequency

Meeting frequency plays an important role in structuring sessions. Urgent topics and problems should be discussed regularly while less urgent topics may be discussed on a less frequent basis.

  • Choosing the Length of Each Meeting

No two meetings need to feel the same. While some topics require more in-depth discussions, shorter meetings help to keep the energy in a session alive. Longer meetings should be reserved for topics that require more discussion and exploration.

  • Planning for Overflow

Meetings that flow seamlessly rarely allow for extraneous discussion. Planning for overflow is an important strategy to ensure all meetings are as efficient as possible. An overflow session allows for additional discussion on topics that aren’t appropriate for other meetings.

Voltage Control Magical Meetings Story Spine

Making Meetings Magical

There are countless meeting systems available for organizations to effectively facilitate any type of meeting. Finding the best meeting system for your organization will improve your meeting culture while streamlining the process.

Not sure how to go about selecting the proper meeting system for your organization? Let our expert facilitators lead you through a meeting systems workshop. You’ll learn tips and tricks to improve your facilitation as you discover the best ways to incorporate organizational icebergs into a winning facilitation strategy.

Sign up with Voltage Control to learn more about our meeting systems workshop and how you can fast-track your meeting culture transformation.

This article was originally posted at

Image credits: Pixabay, Voltage Control

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Invest Yourself in All That You Do

Invest Yourself in Everything You Do

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Diversity of thought and diversity of perspective is crucial to innovative solutions within teams. Building a work culture around diversity and inclusion is proven to provide performance rates that outshine the competition.

“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” — General George S. Patton Jr

The market environment that we find ourselves in is ever-changing, especially when we look at ideating and problem-solving in a remote or hybrid landscape. Being acutely aware that not only do you have a diverse workforce but that there are measures in place to promote psychological safety within that diverse pool of ideas and emotions will lead to a transformation from complex problem solving, into simple and often beautiful solutions. The critical fact here is that we must always be exploring ways to unleash everyone in order to promote true idea-sharing.

Matthew Reynolds, a dear friend, and peaceful warrior built a Diversity and Inclusion Consultancy inspired by finding a sense of belonging within the industry. By exploring how to shift the consciousness of humanity we begin to open the door to whom we think we are, we begin to discover our authentic self, and with that knowledge, we can shift our consciences to a more inclusive mindset. To hear more on Crafting Your Equity Lens, listen in on the Control the Room Podcast with Matthew.

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When we listen to ideas, like the one Matthew presents, and we take a moment to look inward, we begin to make important shifts within ourselves that have an outward effect. As John Coltrane says, “Invest yourself in everything you do. There is fun in being serious.” When you brake that down, and truly invest in shifting your perspective to one that embraces diversity and inclusion there is a natural shift into building a psychologically safe foundation for your community. When that is achieved, there is much and more fun to be had! Every voice being heard and appreciated means new ideas, and it means more effective problem-solving.

We hold diversity, equity, and inclusion very close here at Voltage Control as one of our core values and we invite you and your community to do the same.

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What You Must Know Before Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

What You Need to Know Before Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Leading a design thinking workshop can completely transform your company for the better. According to the 71% of brands that champion design thinking, making a shift to a design-centered mindset will dramatically improve productivity and work ethic amongst your staff.

Are you ready to take your team to the next level?

If you’re ready to take your team to the next level by leading a design thinking workshop, it’s essential to know the basics of design thinking first. Having a deeper understanding of this human-centered approach will make it easier to get your team on board with this process.

In this article we’ll cover the basics of design thinking and the best way to approach leading a workshop for your team with the following topics:

  • What is Design Thinking?
  • A History of Design Methodology
  • The Six Phases of Design Thinking
  • Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

Understanding Design Thinking

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving method that centers on the needs of the end-user, by considering them first when creating products or services. When you authentically understand the wants and needs of the consumer, you can develop successful products and services they value and use to improve their lives.

Ultimately, a design thinking approach helps you understand the experience of the end-user by adopting the end user’s mindset and creating your product or service from this perspective.

A History of Design Thinking

The human-centered design process is an extension of the design thinking methodology. Though scientists, creatives, scholars, analysts, and engineers have studied this methodology for the past several years, the idea to apply a design mindset to problem-solving as a business strategy didn’t exist until the cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon coined the term in 1969. Simon explained the modern idea of design as an applicable way of thinking about business in his book, The Sciences of the Artificial.


Since Simon began the conversation about the design thinking methodology, many academic elites and experts have adopted this concept and expanded upon it. Yet one thing remains the same: the user should be at the core of any design process. The human-centered process is an exploration of how to accurately and innovatively create a product or service that satisfies consumers’ wants and needs.

“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.” –Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity

Women with Laptop Pexels

The Six Phases of Design Thinking

Let’s take a look at the six phases of the human-centered design process to learn how to create with purpose as you prepare for leading a design thinking workshop.

1. Observe & Understand Users’ Behavior

The first phase of the design thinking process is to observe and understand the end user’s behavior to learn as much as possible about their needs. This allows you to better understand the people you are designing for as you approach problem-solving from their perspective. Doing so will allow you to deeply empathize with them and identify opportunities to better cater to and address these issues.

By identifying the end user’s behavioral patterns you’ll have a clearer understanding of what your customers enjoy and what they are dissatisfied with. This phase allows for greater innovation as you build trust and connect to your consumers.

Women Collaboration Pexels

2. Ideation

The ideation phase focuses on brainstorming new solutions based on what you learned by observing the end-user. Remember to stay focused on a human-centered design process while generating ideas. The use of divergent thinking is critical in this stage to foster creativity and generate as many ideas as possible.

In the ideation phase, everything is fair game. For example, instead of worrying about the details of how your potential ideas will work, focus on “why not?”

There are no right or wrong answers, only potential creative solutions to the problems you’ve identified. When you prioritize the needs and desires of the people you are creating for, you’ll arrive at the most successful solutions that you’ll continue to refine through the rest of the design thinking process.

3. Prototype

Now that you have potential solutions, it’s time to bring your best ideas to life with rapid prototypes. In this phase, you’ll test your ideas in real-time with real people to get their feedback. Rapid prototypes are quick and easy versions of the ideas you want to create. Their role is to ensure that your vision is on target and it allows you space to make amendments based on feedback before you make the final product.

This experimental phase isn’t about perfection. The goal is to create a quick, tangible prototype so that you can test it.

Group of People Whiteboarding Pexels

4. Feedback

In the feedback phase of the design process, you’ll test your prototype. This is perhaps the most vital part of the human-centered design process as it will determine whether or not your idea works for the people you are designing for.

Get your prototype in the hands of your target consumer and ask them: how and why does this product/service achieve or fail to reach your needs and desires? During this stage, you’ll want to collect as many details as possible from testers as you’ll use this feedback to finalize your solution.

5. Integration

The integration phase of the design thinking process helps you to identify the usefulness of the proposed solution. Consider the feedback you receive and how you can implement it into your design to make it better. This is a fluid process: integrate, test, and repeat until you reach the best version of your idea. Once your solution is fully-fledged and replicable, it’s time to share it.

6. Application

It’s time to send your idea out into the world! During this last stage of the design thinking process, make the final prototype and share it. It’s important to keep an eye on changes in your target audience and their needs and desires as time progresses so that you can make adaptations to your design as necessary.

With each new update, return to phase one and repeat the process for best results. Remember that the user’s needs change over time, so it is important to anticipate future alterations to best serve consumers’ changing needs.

Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

When we approach innovation with a human-centered design process, we are able to empathize with and therefore better understand the end-user and what they truly desire. Everything we create is an extension from t

When we approach innovation with a human-centered design process, we can empathize with and therefore better understand the end-user and what they truly desire. By leading a design thinking workshop, you’ll encourage your team to innovate in this human-centered way. As you create everything from this level of self-awareness, you’ll ultimately develop better products and services as you improve your company and team as well.

Once you have a clear understanding of the design thinking process, you’ll be able to lead your design thinking workshop with your team. Whether your design sprint is a few days or a few hours, a well-executed design thinking workshop will help you keep your customers’ needs top of mind.

Hiring a professional facilitator is one of the best ways to lead a design thinking workshop at your company. At Voltage Control, our team of facilitators is happy to assist you in your design thinking needs. With a clear understanding of this methodology and an effort to lead your team with the same mentality, you’re sure to see the benefits of adopting a design thinking approach.

This article originally appeared on, you can find it HERE.

Do you want to learn more about human-centered design?

Voltage Control facilitates design thinking workshops, innovation sessions, and Design Sprints. Please reach out at for a consultation.

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