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Deepak Lalwani: “We’ve seen a pick-up in two areas”

Video or teleconference work great when you are having a touch base or one on one with people, and video conferencing works best when you want to build a better relationship with someone based on trust and mutual respect. Meanwhile, teleconference or phone call works fine when you already have an established relationship. It also works […]

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Video or teleconference work great when you are having a touch base or one on one with people, and video conferencing works best when you want to build a better relationship with someone based on trust and mutual respect.

Meanwhile, teleconference or phone call works fine when you already have an established relationship. It also works fine when you have an established relationship and you want to drive through a set agenda.


We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently to communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deepak Lalwani.

Deepak Lalwani is a principal and management consultant with Deepak Lalwani & Associates, LLC. They are a relationship-oriented boutique management consultancy that specializes in change and transformation projects including SaaS technology implementation (SAP, Workday, and Salesforce.com), business process redesign, shared services, and organization restructuring.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sure, I received a graduate degree in Organizational Psychology with a focus in Organization Change from Columbia University. That degree gave me some options in the working world including exploring a career in consulting. One of the great things about consulting is that you get a chance to work with a variety of industries and companies.

Once I entered the working world, I got to explore this career path. So from working at big consultancy such as Accenture to then working at a couple of mid-sized consultancies, it not only helped me understand my career path, but it also helped me understand how I can market and segment myself as a boutique consultancy owner.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’ve had the good fortunate of working for almost 20 years to include the last 7 years operating my own consultancy. During that time, I once worked with a global consumer-packaged goods (CPG) company that had operations in Pennsylvania.

I remember one Sunday evening where I was frantically packing for the trip to stay the week, and I forgot to pack a proper pair office pants! When I got the hotel, I opened up my travel bag only to realize that I neglected to pack a pair of office pants and a belt.

So I ended up calling my wife and we both laughed about it. Fortunately, we identified a Walmart Superstore near by and I was able to buy myself a pair of office pants and belt for the start of the work week on Monday.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That’s a tough one. But if I pick just one quote, I would say that “patience is a virtue.” I say that because have a consulting career is very up and down. Between dealing with challenging stakeholders, and then adding travel to that mix, it can be very much a roller-coaster. You’re also very likely to have projects during your career that you may not be happy about.

So patience is a virtue because as you get older, the ups from the wealth and successes you build will off-set the downs of the challenging projects you take on.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Well, I’d like to thank my wife (Donna Lalwani). I’ve been married for over 10 years now, and she’s been with me through my ups and downs both personally and professionally.

The story that immediately comes to mind is obviously helping me with my travel including getting new office clothing while I was away at the aforementioned client from above.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

One of the main benefits is the opportunity to connect in an ad-hoc manner. In other words, we can connect with stakeholders including team members between scheduled meetings. You can also get to know a person better and build a relationship based on trust knowing that you can turn to someone in-person.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

One of the main challenges is that there is a bigger chance of having disconnects and misunderstandings. For example, when using telephone or email, you may not have a chance to follow-up with a person about something because there’s a chance they become unavailable.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Here is what works best for our partners, prospects, and clients, (both large and small). For one-way communication, examples include:

  • Email
  • Newsletters
  • Intranet website updates
  • Setting up an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

For two-way communication, we break this up into two parts:

Asynchronous (Not Live)

  • Texting (SMS)
  • Instant messaging (to include Slack)

Synchronous (Live)

  • Teleconference / phone meetings
  • Video conferencing (such as Cisco WebEx, MS Teams, and/or Zoom Video)

Here are the specifics:

  • 30min video or teleconference work great when you are having a touch base or one on one with people, and video conferencing works best when you want to build a better relationship with someone or discuss a sensitive subject.
  • Meanwhile, teleconference or phone call works fine when you already have an established relationship. It also works fine when you have an established relationship and you want to drive through a set (structured) agenda. This is good for managing tasks.
  • 60min video or teleconference meetings are best when your audience size increases over two people, and you want to have more of an open discussion with people (unstructured)

Here are some great tools that work for us:

  • We mentioned Slack as a good remote communication tool that’s similar to instant messaging. It’s not considered live because the recipient may not be available. But it is definitely more personal than email.
  • We also like video conferencing (such as Zoom) because it’s adding value during this pandemic when social distancing and social isolation is needed, but you still want to build a relationship with people.
  • The user experience is also great because you have many options such eliminating video or one-way audio (audience audio), and want simply focus on the speaker or content without people chiming in, (instead you can have people raise their hand and unmute them to speak, or have them simply participate through the chat function).
  • Lastly, I like using the paid version of Uberconference and tying it to my Calendly scheduling tool. This way when I need to communicate live, I can send out an email to someone with my schedule, and they can select a time to speak live that works best for them.
  • In doing so, I eliminate the back and forth of scheduling a time to talk live. I also eliminate the ‘who’s calling whom’ concern because I’ve inserted an Uberconference dial in (with no PIN through the paid version). The company also includes a link for international or video calls.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

With partners, prospects, and especially clients, this has definitely been a challenge. For example, I once had a client who would not use video calls and that made it more of a challenge to connect and build a relationship with them.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences, which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

Video or teleconference work great when you are having a touch base or one on one with people, and video conferencing works best when you want to build a better relationship with someone based on trust and mutual respect.

Meanwhile, teleconference or phone call works fine when you already have an established relationship. It also works fine when you have an established relationship and you want to drive through a set agenda.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

As I mentioned, I like using paid dial-in number and tying it to a scheduling tool. This way when I need to communicate live, I can send out an email to someone with my schedule, and they can select a time to speak live that works best for them.

In doing so, I eliminate the back and forth of scheduling a time to talk live. I also eliminate the ‘who’s calling whom’ concern because I’ve inserted a paid dial in with no PIN number.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

Yes, I think it has. I believe one of the leaders is and will continue to be Microsoft and Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams represents an all-in-one solution to include video and audio conferencing, instant messaging (chat), as well as email, calendaring, and document repository (MS SharePoint) all in one solution. That can’t be said with Zoom and Cisco WebEx.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

As a hybrid of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality offers the best of both worlds. With that said, products teams that include designers and engineers (for example), could create 3D models with their own hands. In doing so, this presents an opportunity to accelerate product phases to delivery much faster.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

As with any new technology, it’s not good or bad but how you use it. So with Mixed Reality, we don’t want to comprise product quality because we can get it to market more efficiently. Rather, we want to find a good balance between the two.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

We’ve seen a pick-up in two areas. One is in using enterprise instant message tools such Slack and MS Teams. The other is in video conferencing tools (including Zoom) because it’s adding value during this pandemic when social distancing and social isolation is necessary, but you still want to build a relationship with people.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

This is a good question. Here are some suggestions:

  1. I think this should be done face-to-face over video conference.
  2. Assuming you want the feedback to be accepted and adapted, I think this should also be done very delicately.
  3. I say that because the feedback should be about the issue at hand rather than the person

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

One of the best things you can do is spend some time celebrating wins (however small). The challenge is that we live in a world that focuses on fixing problems rather than celebrating what we have, where we come from, or what we’ve already accomplished.

We have to remind ourselves that over 500,000 people have died in the United States because of COVID-19. So it’s important to be grateful, but also be gentle on ourselves. And one way to do that is to celebrate our successes and wins.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

That’s a good question. Today, I am in my third (3rd) professional recession, and there’s been a significant change in the job market. So the days of staying at corporate job for 20 years (or even 10 years), is long gone. With that said, what can people do to earn a living?

Now it’s far from me to tell people to get a job or create their own business. But what I can tell you is that they need to save and invest their hard-earned dollars. So I believe it’s important that they save and invest their money wisely by reading good investment books, (for example).

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Best way to reach me is through my website (www.deepaklalwani.com), through email at [email protected], or through my LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/deepaklalwani

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


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