Elizabeth Eiss: “Set clear goals or results to be achieved”

Be the spark that inspires your team to problem solve and perform. Go beyond what seems possible and be innovative and resourceful, even within the protocols of a corporation. Create the environment for possibility and imagination. As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I […]

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Be the spark that inspires your team to problem solve and perform. Go beyond what seems possible and be innovative and resourceful, even within the protocols of a corporation. Create the environment for possibility and imagination.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Eiss.

Elizabeth Eiss is a results guru who helps others get work done well. Elizabeth is a sought after expert on the future of work, the gig economy and has redefined staffing models based on virtual and freelance talent trends.

She is the founder and CEO of ResultsResourcing®, THE freelance platform that comes with your own recruiter. ResultsResourcing® helps organizations scale by leveraging virtual freelancers who are vetted and hand-curated using proprietary technology Elizabeth designed and co-developed.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’m delighted to be doing this interview with Authority Magazine! Thank you.

My backstory, well, I’ve always had a passion for people and have effectively led many remote teams beginning back in the day when the only remote collaboration options were the phone and conference calls! Throughout my corporate career, I was also an early adopter of technology and how systems and process can enhance and scale value delivery. After a successful career as a C-suite executive, I decided to trade it all in for the world of entrepreneurship and joined my first start up — which was focused on creating cloud-based expertise networks.

That’s continued to be my focus ultimately leading me to start my own company as a “tech-preneur” focused on matching small businesses with vetted, virtual freelancers. We empower small to medium size businesses to scale, leveraging quality fractional talent we curate for them.

While there are plenty of freelance platforms out there, we were designed from the ground-up for small business. What’s unique is that I created a way to integrate technology with humans and their insights, to curate custom contract talent cost effectively. We’re THE freelance platform that comes with your own recruiter. Our platform and services are high tech/high touch at a rational price point, in terms of absolute dollars and return on time (opportunity cost) for SMB.

Talent is online today and the drawback to most job platforms is that “do it yourself” recruiting is time-intensive and, unless you’re skilled in recruiting and remote work practices, it’s an uncertain value proposition. I believe Thomas L. Friedman articulated it well: “While there is growing AI (artificial intelligence) there is a faster growing need for IA (intelligent assistance) to help people use technology for their benefit. And IA can only be provided by human beings.” SMB needs tech augmented by human help to find and utilize the best virtual workers.

That’s what I focus on today: human beings… leveraging technology… to find great talent to empower SMB to scale.

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

My whole career has been extraordinarily interesting and has been an ever-expanding platform for thinking about what’s possible. So, this is not a story per say, but an observation.

I’ve come to learn that scarcity is one of the best drivers of innovation.

Whenever I’ve been resource constrained (such as time, funding, staff, systems, professional contacts), it’s caused me to re-think the problem and develop new approaches. Scarcity of resources when confronted by big goals, forces me to question assumptions and invent new ways to achieve objectives — while remaining true to my purpose and principles.

This philosophy drove my intrapreneurial thinking in the corporate world and has blossomed in my entrepreneurship and inventions. It’s a mindset and iterative method, driven by the customer, supported by agile technology development.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve told this story many times since I learned so much from it. When I was interviewing for my first job as a manager, I was quite ‘young’ for the role, and would also be switching companies. I was sure I was the top candidate and was asked how much I wanted to be paid in the final interview. I said ‘Well, at least the minimum” — having no idea what it was except that I knew it was more than I was currently making. Of course, I got the job and my wish — the minimum salary for the job.

This all happened before the days of data ubiquity, but I learned to:

  1. Always do my homework to gain context and know what I want to achieve.
  2. Constructively assert my worth in the context of project objectives.
  3. For a win/win relationship, compensation should reflect value brought to the table.

I’ve followed those lessons ever since, even as an entrepreneur.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be the spark that inspires your team to problem solve and perform. Go beyond what seems possible and be innovative and resourceful, even within the protocols of a corporation. Create the environment for possibility and imagination.

Make sure you’ve set your team up for success by setting clear goals, establishing leading measures of success, fostering team alignment followed by 360 communication and performance processes. Then get out of the way — except to run interference for your team.

Be a mentor, not a master (except when events require this). Lead by example. Create the strongest, most versatile team you can, based on what needs to be accomplished. Diversity in every sense of the word will result in better, broader thinking and solutions that fit today’s and tomorrow’s world.

I’ve found these approaches enable teams to deliver the result you need to deliver — and go beyond what you may have deemed possible.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

Decades. I’ve been on and managed virtual teams for nearly my whole career — in corporate, as a consultant and as a business owner.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of these challenges.

There are many stories that resulted in this list of top 5 challenges and the solutions that consistently worked with my remote teams:

  1. Leadership to build successful team dynamics:

The fact that a group of people assemble together in a location does not make a team. Building a team takes leadership, communication, common goals, and collaboration — all things leaders do naturally when on location. So, think about the same techniques you’d use onsite and find ways to replicate that virtually. Don’t focus on remote being a barrier, just embrace it and apply common sense to choose leadership and team building approaches that fit the situation. Most people don’t even consider collaborating with another group in another office as remote teaming — but that is remote teaming that has existed for years. Working with an outsource partner is remote teaming too. We do know how to do this.

For sure, what makes a remote team harder is missing casual, social interaction, which can impact team morale. There can also be collaboration challenges if tools are limited or people need training to use technology. And, mass working from home has new challenges with kids, space, lack of equipment and the general stir-craziness we all feel. These are each human factors that need to be acknowledged and addressed in the leadership approach to remote teaming. Be human, use common sense, don’t try to lead alone — embrace your team.

2.) Set clear goals or results to be achieved:

If you haven’t defined your goals, you won’t know if you ‘get there’ and your team won’t have the proper context for decision-making. Choose to measure progress using both leading and lagging indicators — the leading measures (e.g. # of customer touch points) will keep you on the right track and increase the likelihood you meet the lagging (end) goal (e.g. customer purchases and revenue or profit).

3.) Provide clear structure & process to achieve results:

Establishing structure and processes will ensure your team is efficient and work is done consistently the way you need it to be done. This will also help surface issues where there are gaps in process or structure. Often gaps are masked when people are on site and there can be significant productivity loss. Gaps in process jump out when working remote. Embrace the team to identify and help solve these and you’ll end up with a better process that will optimize results and value delivery.

4.) Manage results, and resist the urge to micromanage:

Since you can’t ‘manage by walking around’ the temptation is micromanage the how. Resist — for your sake and for your team’s. “How” should be addressed by establishing clear process and creating — upfront — regularly scheduled checkpoints on leading indicators and for quality control. Don’t just meet when something’s off. Check points can double as motivating, rapport building one-on-one interactions or to challenge the team to problem solve.

5.) Communicate regularly:

Communicate both ups and downs, and continually frame the communication in terms of the success measures and engage the team to solve issues early. Again, create upfront schedules and methods for the team to meet and for you to meet with team members. The team should feel this is part of the business process and best practice and not something that only happens when there is a performance issue.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing 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 employee?

The foundation for constructive communication is regular communication that builds rapport and enables the “manager” and the “staff” to know one another. Communication should be steady and consistently focused on the objectives to be achieved. If regular group and one-on-one communications are occurring, delivering performance news should not be significantly different when it’s in person versus remote. The assumption is people do a good job handling conflict in person, (the giver and the receiver) which I don’t think is always the case. In person or remote, building rapport and regular communications is key so performance correction doesn’t come out of left field, is taken wrong or the staff says, “I only hear from management when something is a problem.”

As mentioned earlier, I believe in setting goals and focusing on leading and lagging indicators. These indicators exist for not only key performance indicators but also how a result should be achieved by an individual performer. This means you have tools to get out ahead of performance issues and course correct with staff when issues are still small adjustments. Don’t let things slide.

I also like to frame performance issues in the context of the “what and how” of results achievement. I often pose questions to get the staff to self-recognize and get involved for lasting change. Examples might be: “Here’s what I see in this report and it’s not where we all agreed we need to be. What do you see? What can we do to accomplish a different result?” Engage the staff in problem recognition and resolution — early and regularly in the process.

When constructive criticism is warranted, hopefully you have a track record of communication to lean on as mentioned earlier. Here are practical suggestions that have worked well:

1) Find a mutually good time to meet when you both have time. Avoid sandwiching it into a 15-minute slot before your next Zoom call.

2) Put yourself in the staff person’s shoes (e.g. are there kids at home or no privacy?).

3) Get your remote environment right — good lighting, minimize distractions, prepare and then, when you’re in the session, look the individual in the eye and focus on the matter at hand. Watch for the same human signals — maybe they won’t be as clear as in person, but they will be there.

4) Have a conversation about the result that needs to change, sharing your concerns constructively, authentically, in a way that fosters engagement and offer to help.

4) Come away with an agreement on resolution that the staff puts into writing. You’ll sense then the buy-in and how the conversation landed — and whether additional conversation is needed.

5) Make performance discussions iterative and ongoing, not a special event. Performance reviews in my mind, in person or remote, are not once-and-done, it’s a nurturing process to advance lasting performance and results of the business and the person.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Again, when constructive criticism is warranted, hopefully you have a track record of communication — both verbal and written as the foundation for rapport and a relationship.

First, I would not use email for constructive feedback on any serious issue. There is too much chance for miscommunication and misunderstanding, and email provides no immediate feedback that seeing someone in person or over the web will reveal.

I will use email for smaller, less serious course correction or editing. In writing these kinds of emails I like to phase them in terms of “this is how this landed on me, it this what you meant?” Or, “what you wrote in your email caused me to think about the matter in new ways, how about doing it this way?” Or, “I don’t think we’re on the same page, so here are some thoughts. Would you get back to me or can we hop on a call to discuss.”

Draft the email and send it to yourself. Wait a bit and then review it as a receiver. Often, I will see what I wrote in fresh light and that helps me make it clearer or more constructive (and fix grammar/typos!). It helps surface emotion or preconceived notions or conclusions I need to address differently or omit so I don’t blame or personalize. I may do this repeatedly until I get message right. Depending on the nature of the issue, I may also have a trusted colleague review my email for feedback/edits before I send it to its intended recipient.

Again, performance improvement is not checking a box by delivering an email message and then it’s once and done. The purpose of the communication is to foster a lasting change in behavior that the staff member embraces, which improves future execution without requiring intervention. That email is one milestone along the journey of jointly achieving performance standards.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

I think there is a lot that is different about working remotely than working together on location — and some are obstacles to effective teamwork — from each worker’s home environment to how prepared a business was to have staff work from home (e.g. formal process, collaboration tools).

No matter the situation, leadership is needed to pave the way to working together in new ways — to create new structures, new and more regular team communication processes, figuring out what tools you have that will best foster teamwork (or investing in new ones).

To some extent this also is a mindset issue — people are social, coming together on location is probably one of the things people like best about working, based on studies I’ve seen. So, leadership’s job is also to foster a new mindset and help plan and foster a work environment that enables the social aspects of teamwork, plus clears a path to getting work done well so customer value is consistent delivered.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

In our conversation, I’ve spoken about a number of ways to create a healthy and empowering work culture for a remote team. At the core is leadership that sets the tone for new ways to work, sets structure, process, and tools and articulates goals and expectations. A consistent and regular communication framework is vital to a healthy team as it sets the foundation for rapport and working relationships. Leaders should focus on results, using leading and lagging indicators, which establishes guardrails for performance management. Trust and verify.

Embrace change — have some FUN working in a new way.

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. 🙂

A couple years ago, a study by Babson College and Goldman Sachs/10k Small Businesses stated, Small businesses have the power to transform AmericaEveryday, small business owners apply their extraordinary potential to spark competition, drive innovation, build communities, and better the quality of life for its citizens.” This inspires me.

Most businesses in the US are solopreneurs, or non-employee firms. Of the small businesses with employees, 96% have fewer than 50 employees.

Our mission is to empower these small businesses to scale by matching them with curated virtual talent who can add value and accelerate their timeline to mission success. My purpose is to empower their purpose.

I also hope I can inspire other women to believe that they ‘can do it’ — whatever their “it” is. Great ideas come at every age — be curious, commit to making the most every opportunity before you, one day at a time.

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

My current life lesson quote ties to my passion for ResultsResourcing®. It’s a quote from Peter Drucker who said (over 50 years ago): “Do what you do best, and outsource the rest.”

We help businesses focus on what they do best, by finding the best freelance talent suited for the work those businesses can outsource. In doing so, our clients achieve more, deliver more value to their clients and spend their time doing what they are passionate about.

I am a purpose-driven entrepreneur. I connect dots; I help people believe they can and then provide them the talent to help them do it.

Thank you for these great insights!

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