Remote Work and How to Leverage It

With the 4th Quarter in full swing, it is time to take a look at your business and figure out where you stand, where you want to be, and where you are headed.

Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of having remote employees. I know, especially here in Arizona, a lot of my clients are shifted away from having any remote employees; opting instead for having everyone front and center at the office. But, as we continue to interview for open positions, I find candidates are still searching for flexible, hybrid, and remote positions.

Here are some advantages to having remote workers. Before you discount them completely, take a moment to reflect on the questions I asked above. Where is your business headed? Do you have the resources (and space) to take you to that next level?

The ability to expand your staff, without moving to a bigger office suite.

Your business continues to grow and expand. One challenge I hear all the time is you don’t have space for that much needed employee. It may be difficult to add to your staff when there physically isn’t anywhere to put them or their desk. Enabling some employees to work from home means that you can hire additional employees and not be concerned about where you are going to put them. A compromise could be a desk-share program or hybrid work schedule. Want to work out the details? Give me a call and we can talk it though.

You can hire employees based on their experience and not their location.

We are interviewing for a position that has a very specific skill set. My client wanted someone who had their skills already established and could easy just walk into the job without much training. This can be challenging to accomplish, but my client agreed to list the job as remote. The result? People across the country flooded in to apply for the position. We were able to find several extremely qualified candidates, that lived in a different state, and were able to fill the position within a much shorter time frame. In the end it was wonderful to be able to expand our applicants to people that normally would have been excluded due to their location.

Physical challenges aren’t a problem.

There are some employees who are spectacular employees that can do their jobs well but have a physical limitation that makes coming into the office difficult. Whether the injury is temporary, or a permanent disability, the situation is the same. Does Sally really need to get to work with that cast on her foot for the next 8 weeks and struggle to keep her foot elevated or is it easier to tell Sally to work from home without having to hassle with an Uber twice every day because she can’t drive with the cast on? Let’s think outside the old school box here, does that employee really NEED to be present in the workplace. You get to keep your skilled employee and save yourself the cost of another hiring search.

As small businesses struggle to find their next, best employee, or grow to meet their current commitments or market need it is time to revisit the benefits of remote work. We proved we could work from home and be productive a couple years ago. Why discount and ignore that knowledge? Instead use it to your advantage and give your business, and employees, the flexibility and strength to move to the next level.

This time of year people are beginning to think about pumpkin spice, Halloween costumes and year end performance reviews. Oh you aren’t? That’s just me? And here I thought I was “normal.”

I am a huge Pumpkin Spice fan, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Year-end performance reviews don’t need to be scary or spooky. They are a year-round process, and they begin with your regularly scheduled one-to-ones.  

One tried and true leadership strategy is to focus on your people. I HIGHLY recommend you host one-to-one meetings every quarter at a minimum. Make it a priority. Not the weekly huddles, but the deeper “what do you want to do with your life” type one-to-one meetings. These meetings help you prepare, and stay on top of, the annual performance review process. They keep you in touch with your employees, and where they are in their job duties, their careers, and their goals.

Reminders for one-to-one scheduling:

  • Schedule them. Put them on your, and your employee’s calendar.
    • Not without warning though. I had an employee freak out once because I added a “coffee chat” to his calendar without his knowledge. He obsessed over if he was in trouble for days before he got up the nerve to ask me what the meeting was about.
  • Do not reschedule them, unless absolutely necessary.
    • You want your employee to know they are a priority, to feel heard, and to know you respect them, and their time. Constantly rescheduling the one-to-one meeting is an action that speaks louder than anything you could say.

Still a skeptic as to why you should hold them. “I mean I talk to my people so why do a special meeting?” Here are some benefits to holding one-to-one meetings with staff members.

  1. The one-on-one time creates a safe space for the employee to vent, celebrate, and problem solve.
  2. The airing of grievances. By being able to meet directly with you, employees can address concerns they have with other employees and not have it overheard.
    1. Airing their grievances in private can often be enough for employees to feel their concerns are being addressed.
  3. Established time to help struggling employees create achievable goals. 
  4. Ask the questions the leaders need to know. Some of my favorite questions include the following:
    1. Does the employee feel significantly rewarded, supported, and valued?
    1. What is their preferred method of communication?
    1. Do they have the resources they feel they need to do their job duties well? If not, what would they add?
    1. If they could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing they would change?
    1. What is the best thing about their job, the company, you as a leader?

Hosting one-to-one meetings with your staff can, and should, be a sharing opportunity. These meetings foster strong communication, they help you keep your pulse on what is happening in your office and allow for a growth opportunity (if they provide feedback that stings). Running a small business can have its challenges. Some are fun, some are painfully excruciating. These one-to-one meetings should not be painful but an opening for you to learn about your people, elevate your business, enhance your communication skills, and most importantly improve your leadership abilities.

My husband and I were watching the Thursday night Browns-Steelers game (he is a life-long Browns fan, poor man), and we witnessed the already infamous fight between Myles Garrett and Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph. (In my opinion, that entire game was a hot mess—full of penalties and poor sportsmanship on both sides.)

What struck me in the aftermath was a statement made by Todd Haley, the Browns’ former offensive coordinator. “This comes back to coaching. This falls squarely right on the head coach. Because the head coach talks to every assistant coach, who then talk to their group of players. And there’s an old saying in coaching: ‘You’re either coaching it or you’re allowing it to happen.’” (

You’re either coaching it (the negative behavior) or allowing it to happen. Profound and right on target for today’s business leaders.

What behaviors in your firm are you coaching—either directly or indirectly, by your explicit instructions (“Do whatever it takes to make the sale”), by implication (not asking questions when your most productive employee doubles the numbers of the next in line), or by your own actions (giving some clients less than your best because they aren’t as lucrative as others).

Or are you allowing the negative behaviors of your employees by inaction or, worse, fear. Myles Garrett is (well, was, before the league suspended him for the rest of the year) the Browns’ best defensive player and one of the best pass rushers in the league. He’d also been fined already this season for other incidents. If you’re his coach, especially a young, inexperienced coach, do you discipline him and risk that he’ll stop performing, or do you let him do his thing and keep winning?

Many pick the latter, afraid to rock the boat. But that’s how you create an inequitable system of privilege. We’ve all worked in those companies where the high performers wander in late, treat their teammates with disrespect and disregard, and generally come off as arrogant and nasty human beings—and face no consequences, because, well, they’re the superstars. Meanwhile, average producers face discipline and even termination for much lesser trespasses. This is an instant morale killer.

It’s like those parents who let their kids run around restaurants, grocery stores, and what have you, causing mayhem and endangering everyone else’s safety—because they’re afraid to discipline them. These kinds of parents and coaches—and bosses—are not doing their charges any favors. They are simply enabling bad behaviors—which affect the bottom line.

Are you enabling bad behaviors by ignoring them, by staying quiet, by being afraid to challenge your employees when required? One of my favorite business mantras has always been: to be a leader, you have to have the tough conversations.

There’s another saying in sports my ex-coach husband shared with me: When things are spiraling out of control, it’s often because the coach has “lost the locker room.” In other words, the coach has lost the team’s respect, and the team starts acting like a junior high class with a substitute teacher. Spitball fight! You can’t lead without the respect of your team.

Have you lost the locker room? If so, how can you get it back?

Every business owner is super busy – we all have a thousand responsibilities and items to check off our to-do lists every day. Those duties can suck up our entire day (or more) if we let them. (In the last five minutes, nine new emails and a voice mail popped into my phone.)

Sure, these tasks need to be done, but burying your head in the weeds is not leadership. It’s funny. Many business owners tell me they’re tired of “babysitting” their staff—that their staff should know what to do on their own.

Hold the phone. If you’re the owner/boss, it’s your job to engage with your employees. That’s what leadership is. You set the expectations, values, goals, mission, and culture of the firm. And how else are you going to do so other than by communication, training, coaching, example—by engaging with your employees? Leadership by osmosis is rarely effective. If that’s what you rely on, then you really have no control over what your employees absorb. Wouldn’t you rather guide your employees to do what you want them to than leave it to chance?

As Deepak Chopra and others say: “Language creates reality.” What if we changed the word “babysitting” (I’ve also heard “coddling” and “hand-holding”) to “mentoring,” “coaching,” and “leadership.” That changes everything. Now it is not only your responsibility but your privilege to inspire your employees to do their best work, to reach their highest aspirations.

But leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s like any other skill—it takes time, care, and intention. Some people are born leaders and others have leadership thrust upon them. If you are a business owner, you’ve had leadership thrust upon you whether you like it or not. Think of it this way—the reason you are so busy is that those same employees are supporting your business by fulfilling their functions while you go out and bring in new business, work with your clients, or squint at your financials. In this way, your employees should be your NUMBER ONE priority, because without them, you wouldn’t be successful—you wouldn’t be a business at all. I have been preaching this concept for years, and I am not alone. Richard Branson famously asserts: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

So I ask you again, what negative employee behaviors are you coaching, but not admitting as your responsibility? What negative behaviors are you allowing and not challenging and correcting? If you don’t like your employees’ disruptive behavior, examine your own role. They may simply be doing what you’re telling them to do, whether directly or indirectly. Now that Myles Garrett is out for the rest of the season, he won’t do the Browns much good, will he? This “challenge” might have been prevented with strong and active leadership from the start. 

When you take care of your employees, whether by coaching them in a positive way, working with them on their professional development, providing a collaborative and professional culture and atmosphere, or challenging them when they go off the playbook, you are building a stronger culture and more effective—and profitable— company.

I’m often asked how to create just this kind of positive culture to drive the business forward. That’s the fun of it. Every firm’s culture is different because every business owner is different—each one brings his or her distinct personality to the firm. The answer is to hire people who embody your values and mission and then lead them in an active, not passive, way—coaching in the positive behaviors that help your business thrive; coaching out the negative behaviors that run counter to your mission; and not leaving things to chance by passive omission.

When you hire the right people, leadership is far less of a chore. Let Structure for Success help you hire the right people and structure strong and active leadership into the DNA of your organization.

Let’s schedule time to talk about your goals, your staff and personnel plans, and your leadership challenges.

Together, we can elevate your game in 2020.

What are your expectations of your employees outside work hours? In other words, in the regular course of business, do you expect to communicate with them when they are not working?

I ask this question because with today’s technology, our expectations are still evolving. I am old enough to remember receiving my first company Blackberry and my boss demanding that I pick up the phone or respond to texts and emails within five minutes, regardless of the day or time. She was dead serious. I didn’t work for her for very long.

More recently, one of my executive clients wanted to write up an employee because she took three hours to respond to his text on a Sunday. On a Sunday. When I asked him if it was an urgent client matter that only that employee could handle, he said it didn’t matter. The employee was disrespectful to him (not the client) by not responding right away. Really? Who was the disrespectful one here?

Unless you run a medical service that literally handles life or death issues or a business that requires an on-call team (think plumbing or HVAC), there’s very little that can’t wait until the next work day. Otherwise, it’s just a loyalty test to boost your fragile ego, and these kinds of loyalty tests are a sure way to chase away your best employees.

No, you say. It’s about client satisfaction. What would happen if you explained to your client that you valued your employee’s personal time and would make sure they address the issue during regular business hours? Are you afraid to say that to the client? A good friend of mine, Nancy Hetrick, a consultant to entrepreneurs and owner of Smarter Divorce Solutions, teaches that you train your clients how to treat you. If you set strong boundaries from the start, most clients respect them. For those who don’t, you deal with them case by case. They may be worth special handling—or they may not be. That’s for you to decide.

As of this writing, the United States has not enacted any “right to disconnect” Federal policies. However, France and Spain have both introduced these kinds of laws because employers and policymakers in these countries consider the blurring between work and personal time a health and safety issue. French policymakers adopted a right-to-disconnect law to address rising stress levels among employees who check work emails after hours (HR Magazine,, Fall 2019). If workers are on call 24/7, when do they have a chance to regenerate? This is the law of diminishing returns in action. Burned out employees are neither efficient nor effective.

If you have a U.S. business, you don’t have to wait for the law to do the smart thing. It’s not just a safety issue. It’s an issue of trust, and if you’re smart, you can use disconnect policies as a perk. When considering a position, today’s employees focus not just on salary, but on their quality of life, the organization’s culture, and their ability to grow and develop on the job. I tell my executive clients to set their own boundaries for a healthier work-life balance and stick to them. If we owners are setting healthy boundaries for ourselves, why should we get upset if our employees do the same? If we show trust and loyalty to our employees by respecting their work-life boundaries, they will show us loyalty and hard work in return.

For those exceptions when you have to contact your employees outside of business hours—and they should be very rare exceptions, unless that’s the nature of your business—make sure you state that policy clearly in your handbook so your employees know what to expect. And be fair about it. Don’t call the same person every time—spread the duties around. And if you can take care of the issue yourself, then by all means do so. This will earn your team’s trust and loyalty. If communication outside work hours is the nature of the business, however, you have to explain that up front and in your handbook as well.

With this as with many work issues, I advise you to follow the golden rule. Treat people—and employees are people, sometimes we forget that—as you want to be treated yourself. Employees are a business owner’s largest investment and most important asset and resource. Treat them fairly and with respect. If you help them avoid burnout, you will reduce attrition, and that goes right to the bottom line—in a good way.

My January best practice tip builds on all the hard work you put into creating your Year End Strategic Plan. Didn’t get that done? No problem! There is still time to review what worked and didn’t work for your business last year and to create a custom blueprint for 2018. Strategic plans are living documents, and at their most effective, they change, evolve and grow with your business as the year progresses. Strategic Plans are not chains holding you down but wings to launch your business as high as you want to go.

What else should be on your strategic To-Do list for the beginning of the year? Employee manuals. Do you have one? Is it updated. Every business, regardless of the number of employees, should have an employee manual and should budget to update it yearly. These manuals are not just a list of rules and regulations. They are an opportunity to create and record the business culture you truly desire. Updating your manual is a fantastic opportunity to revisit your mission and value statements and share them with your staff. And most important, they are an opportunity for you, as the CEO of your company, to establish your performance and office expectations.

What are your expectations? My January tip is to re-visit your stated expectations and reflect on whether they are still relevant to your business and culture. After you truly reflect on their relevance, ask yourself if these expectations are clear and understood by all your staff. Have you shared them—clearly and directly—so everyone is on the same page? I always observe that if you find yourself saying, “They should already know that,” the problem is your message, not your employees. Even good employees are not mind readers. Make your expectations clear and put them in writing.

Maybe you aren’t sure if your expectations are clear and well-understood, and you need an objective outside perspective. Structure for Success is here to assist! We specialize in bringing you that outside perspective. We take a look at your employees, your processes, and your culture to make sure they are in sync with your goals and expectations.

Don’t let fear paralyze you. Change can be good. Now is the time to set the pattern of excellence for the New Year.

Contact Wendy at Structure for Success, LLC, to schedule a time to discuss your how to establish your goals and aspirations for 2018, and how to translate them into actionable business expectations for your employees. 

Remember Proposition 206? The one that requires all businesses with at least one employee to provide paid sick leave effective July 1, 2017? 

Another important provision of Prop 206 is an incremental increase in the minimum wage for hourly employees. As a result, the minimum wage in Arizona increased from $8.05 to $10.00 on January 1, 2017, and is scheduled to increase again to $10.50 on January 1, 2018.

What does that mean for your business?  

As of 2016, 58.7% of the workers in the United States were paid hourly. If all or some of your employees fall in this group and are currently paid minimum wage, they get an automatic raise for the New Year. If this is the case, you may have some work to do for 2018.

To stay in compliance and make a smooth transition, be sure to do the following:

·        Include the wage increase in your 2018 budget

·        Communicate with your payroll manager and employees which employees will receive the increase

·        Update your employee records to reflect the new wage

·        Revise your policy handbook to reflect the changes

·        Don’t forget about the paid sick leave in your updates (if you haven’t added that already) 

Do you want to be absolutely sure you’re in compliance with the new regulations? Contact Structure for Success today to schedule your Year-End HR Tune-Up.

We’ll provide checklists of what you have to do, or, better yet, we’ll do it for you. Structure for Success offers several protection plans depending on the services and number of documents you need. Onboarding materials, employee forms and handouts, policy manuals, and templates customized for your business are just a sample of what we can provide.

Don’t let the ongoing Prop 206 changes catch you by surprise. Schedule your appointment today.

Did you say 2018? Where did 2017 go? More to the point, how did it go? Did you hit all your business goals? If you did, congratulations. Set even higher goals for next year.

But if you didn’t, don’t beat yourself up—build yourself up. Now is the time to figure out what got in the way of business success last year and how to change it in the coming year. We at Structure for Success are experts in strategic planning and hiring and will help you do just that.

Many people set intentions and make resolutions in their personal lives, but here’s a chance to do it for your business. What do you want your company to look like in 2018? Is it a year of growth? Is it a year of regrouping? Of refining your business model or reshaping your brand? Maybe all of the above. There is no right or wrong answer. Each business is different. What each business does need to do, though, is take the time to plan for the New Year. Year-end strategic planning is the perfect way to define—or redefine— your direction for the next year and to figure out what resources you have now and what resources you will need to reach your goals and dreams for 2018.

Here’s my Year-End Tip. The first step in planning your future is to assess the present state of your business. This can often be the hardest step in the process. Some of us see our business how we WANT to see it, not how it truly is. Without the objectivity and courage to take that hard, honest look at our business structures, the strategic planning process may never get off the ground.

How does a business owner come to this steely-eyed objectivity? With the help of Structure for Success, LLC. We specialize in conducting an objective assessment of your business structures with particular attention to building your team—who does what for you now and how well. And then the next step. Who do you need to take you to the next level? Strategic planning and hiring.

Don’t let fear of the unknown paralyze your business. Plan for the future and build yourself up with Structure for Success.

Communication is essential. Effectively communicating is a foundational skill for a healthy and complete personal and professional life. Communication needs to be clear and concise for both you and your audience. You want to be understood and you want to understand. There are three forms of communication, written, verbal and nonverbal, however for right now we are going to discuss some simple techniques which you can easily implement in your daily verbal conversations. These techniques will help you, and others, develop more effective communication skills.

First, when engaged in any conversation, whether it is with a child, a spouse or a co-worker, always make eye contact. Let them know you are present in the moment and you are acknowledging their presence and the importance of the conversation. Look at them – do not let your eyes wander around the room. Be involved in what they are saying and looking the person in the eye helps you actively listen to what they are saying and trying to get across.

Secondly, monitor your body language. Show them you are interested in what they are saying by sitting up and leaning forward. Resist the need to fidget, or tap your fingers or feet. By stilling your body language you can create a comfortable atmosphere for the conversation. To practice, you can always try mimicking the person’s behavior when speaking with them – this will help bring your awareness to body language and what yours is saying about you

Thirdly, practice, practice and practice. Yes, practice speaking – both conversationally and for public events. Be conscious of your volume and of your pace. Be conscious of making eye contact and your body language. Practice makes perfect – becoming aware of how you speak and your language will help you feel more comfortable when that big presentation comes up.

Finally, work on developing your writing skills. These skills, especially in today’s world full of emails, blogs and memos, are a key form of communication. Always proofread your emails, your letters and even your notes. Learn correct spelling and proper grammar techniques (or use the spell and grammar check features in the writing software). Be concise and clear, not elaborate and intricate. Get to the point in your emails and work correspondence. Find the balance between “short and rude” and “wordy and long-winded.”

No matter how you choose to communicate, verbally or in writing, effective communication needs to be organized. Always try to organize your thoughts before communicating. This will insure that you don’t miss an important point which you want to cover. And never assume someone understood you, or that you understand what someone said. It is ok to ask for clarification when someone is speaking (“So what I hear you saying is…..”). And it is also ok to ask for confirmation to make sure everyone is on the same page.

I suggest that you try these techniques, in all aspects of your life, for effective communication and to eliminate misunderstandings.