Failure is learning as long as we identify what we’ve learned. Not sharing it makes it more daunting, and people start to believe they can’t recover. I love the Michael Jordan quote: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” I have failed many times, analyzed the failure and learned from it. Those failures have accelerated my career
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Becky Frankiewicz.
In July 2017, Becky Frankiewicz joined ManpowerGroup as the president of ManpowerGroup North America. She brings high energy and passion, coupled with strong P&L experience from a large and complex global business.
Prior to ManpowerGroup, she led one of PepsiCo’s largest subsidiaries, Quaker Foods North America. In that role she was responsible for the $2.6 billion business, leading all functions, sales and manufacturing. Under her leadership, Quaker Foods delivered impressive growth as she led the transformation of that brand to be known as America’s “best start to every day.” She was also named by Fast Company as one of the most creative people in the industry, anticipating and adapting to fast-changing consumer demands.
Prior to her success leading Quaker Foods, Becky held a variety of senior leadership roles at PepsiCo across the portfolio of brands. Her experience in these roles, which included leading Innovation, Finance, Strategy, Sales and Marketing across the PepsiCo portfolio, positions her well to lead ManpowerGroup’s strong and connected brands: Manpower, Experis, Right Management and ManpowerGroup Solutions. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Becky worked in strategic consulting with Deloitte and Andersen Consulting and at Procter & Gamble. She has a great educational track record, attaining top marks at the University of Texas, where she earned an MBA in finance and a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
Becky is dedicated to her family, her health and helping others succeed. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three daughters.
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”?
Ijoined ManpowerGroup in July 2017 as the president of ManpowerGroup North America. I am a team-builder and people-developer and enjoy bringing high energy and passion into my work.
A native Texan, I was born and raised on a working farm. It’s foundational to my story as I was raised that everyone could and was expected to contribute. Regardless of gender or physical capabilities, we could all find a way to work to benefit the whole. I also learned to respect the land and the earth around us and that many hands make a lighter load — so early “collaboration” lessons in life. For education, I received my B.A. in marketing and MBA in finance from the University of Texas. As I entered college, I thought I would follow a linear career path similar to generations before me: Pick a discipline, get a degree, commit to it, retire. Now in my fourth career, that’s not how my path worked out, and I’m grateful. We humans have the capacity to continuously keep learning if we are open to the journey.
My career began at Procter & Gamble, and from there I found myself at PepsiCo, where I held a variety of senior leadership roles before moving to Quaker Foods North America.
I am a deconstructionist thinker, marathon finisher and life squeezer! I start each day with a morning workout in Chicago, where I currently live with my husband, and am a proud working mom of three daughters, Parker, Payton and Piper.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
As I grew my career, there were many nights I would come home tired and honestly not my best self. One of my mentors told me I needed to learn to manage my energy so I had something good to give to the people I loved most every day, so they didn’t always get “what was left over.” I took that to heart and started rituals that helped me manage energy — everything from a daily workout to small snacks throughout the day to not checking my email until I get into the office, so my mornings were fresh and committed to my family. Of course, with our health crisis, the office and home are now one, so I’ve had to create some new rituals.
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’m not sure it’s funny, but I believe we should share more of our failures. Failure is learning as long as we identify what we’ve learned. Not sharing it makes it more daunting, and people start to believe they can’t recover. I love the Michael Jordan quote: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
I have failed many times, analyzed the failure and learned from it. Those failures have accelerated my career. I’ll share one story that was foundational to my leadership. I failed at the moment that courage was demanded. I was working for one of the best and most experienced leaders I’ve met in my career, and we were faced with a critical choice for the business. I expressed my point of view and recommendation, but was met with a reaction of “Why would we do that?” I pushed a little, but not hard enough. I was the person who actually knew the best decision, yet I didn’t defend it with sufficient confidence. I assumed that someone else knew better, so I gave in quickly. A few weeks later, it became clear that what I had recommended would have been the correct choice. The same leader came back to me and asked, “Why didn’t you make sure I understood?”
He was right that it was my responsibility to ensure the facts were clear and that I had unique information and perspective on the choices ahead. I don’t regret not being agreed with on the decision; I regret that I didn’t give it my all to be heard. I stopped short when my knowledge was needed most. I’m grateful that happened early in my career, as I’m proud to say I do not have another example like this one when I failed when my experience was most required. It doesn’t mean I always get agreement, yet I do ensure I am clearly heard based on the perspective I have to offer. That’s my role.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Work and personal life are no longer mutually exclusive; they are intrinsically linked. The role of “business” is now a triple bottom line for employees, including growth, learning and well-being. Leadership today is required to be in service of the emotional and physical well-being of people, as well as their career advancement and security. Leaders have to model this first. Self-care is critical to be an effective leader in today’s economy. We have to be at our best to lead. So ensure that you are investing in your own well-being, and ensure your people know this is a priority for you — and an expectation of them, too. This isn’t just your direct team; this is everyone. Commit to continuous learning, and foster your natural agility, adaptability and authenticity for the business and for yourself.
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?
I spent a good portion of my career in sales, so remote, “field-based” working was the only model. I’m grateful for those early experiences, as they prepared me for the pandemic. I knew that people could be productive outside a corporate environment. I learned early that performance and visible presenteeism wasn’t the required model for all areas of business. As we transitioned into remote working at ManpowerGroup, it was with the underlying confidence that we are aligned in our core purpose of providing meaningful and sustainable work. With that clear understanding throughout the organization, employees knew what was required of them each day. Regardless of where the tasks were performed, the purpose remained, and that provided job and cultural alignment.
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?
I think the five main challenges in managing a remote team include:
- Flexibility: We have examples where our coverage is expanded where someone wants to work early evenings to balance their family, and that actually benefits our business.
- Performance outweighs presenteeism: The way work gets done has shifted to accommodate employees’ lives. As an employer, remember that childcare plays a big role. If day cares, schools and summer camps can’t open, employees need flexibility to work around their family. If an employee needs to be focused on their kids from the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. but can still complete their work correctly from 5 to 9 p.m., and it doesn’t impede on a deadline, employers should be willing to have discussions with employees on how to navigate this appropriately.
- Communication: Turn on your cameras and “see” each other. I’ve had so many people tell me they feel they know one another better now during the crisis than they did sitting beside one another for years. Why is that? In my view, it’s because we are in a personal space vs. a corporate space. My kids pop in to ask me a question during a video meeting, my dogs bark, and people get to see parts of my life that weren’t visible in the office.
- Trust your employees: While I don’t believe there is such a thing as overcommunicating, work with employees remotely just as you would in person. If your process is a weekly check-in to discuss deadlines, continue that process. Don’t set daily reminders on their calendars to complete certain tasks just because you can’t see them doing it. If processes in the office don’t translate well with your employees in a remote setting, then absolutely have those conversations on where improvements can be made.
- Technology and training: Ask each other for help and use each other as guinea pigs. Offer test runs of videoconferencing with teammates before finalizing meetings or interviews with clients. Use the fact that your employees are all remote to an advantage and help one another work out any bumps that come up. After all, if one person has questions or faces a problem, there is a good chance another employee will face something similar down the road.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?
- Flexibility: Employers need to be open and willing to embrace new ways of working. Have open communication and understand that home life may change the hours employees need to work or can work effectively. Having these discussions on how flexibility can help employees adjust to remote work is important and can benefit the business. Keep the communications lines open on what works for people and for the business, as both have to be respected. However, you may find surprising synergies.
- Performance outweighs presenteeism: If we shift our mentality from seeing employees work during a traditional 9 to 5 time and take the focus away from when the work is completed to the quality of work that is completed, within reason and considering deadlines, then we can better accommodate our employees and their situations. We don’t have to be physically seen to maximize contribution.
- Communication: We believe in cameras on always — makeup on or not, hair done or not, baseball cap on or not — cameras always on! Open communication on roles, projects and deadlines is even more important when working remote versus in an office. Sometimes we don’t realize how easy it is to communicate when we are in offices and only steps away from co-workers’ desks. That constant communication shouldn’t stop just because we are no longer in the same space. We may not be just a few steps away, but we are only a video call or text message away.
- Trust your employees: We need to show employees that we trust them to get work done and be able to have that open dialogue if deadlines and performance start to become an issue. Acknowledge that there is anxiety as our home life and communities face increasing disruption, and then trust your people to get work done around their other commitments.
- Technology and training: Ensure that your employees are equipped to do their jobs and have received training to use any software or technology needed. We have transitioned from office space to home offices, and in that, it is important to check in with your employees to make sure they can continue to work comfortably and produce the same type of work from their home as they are able to do from the office.
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 importance of having structured feedback practices in place becomes even more critical when compared with a traditional face-to-face setting. Since your virtual employee may not have the regular opportunity to read your tone or body language, establishing mutual trust and reassurance will help if you have to address something they could do better. The key is to let them know you’re on their side and make feedback a two-way dialogue. Be willing to give and receive feedback.
My suggestion for giving constructive feedback is to leverage a video call. If you have the ability to chat face to face, do it. This way everyone is still able to pick up on facial expressions. It will also allow you to better give the feedback and display your own body language, which can help your employee better understand the feedback or criticism. A process I learned early in my career is to ask, “What you are doing well right now and what do you believe you could do better?” Let the employee share their own analysis first, and then offer your views as a manager. Do the same with yourself: Ask the employee what you are doing well right now, and what you could do better. I’ve learned with constructive feedback specifically, we have to ask for it and genuinely desire it for learning. We are good at sharing the positive, which is important for continuing impact; yet we usually don’t offer the constructive unless asked. So, when I request feedback, I’ll say, “Please provide two or three things you see me doing well and one or two things I could do better.” This ratio of good-to-constructive works.
Once you get into the habit of giving and receiving feedback, it becomes a practice, and everyone benefits. I see it as an investment in me when people choose to tell me what I could do better. It means they are committed enough to me and my development to share what could be uncomfortable.
Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
When giving constructive criticism over email, it is important to be as clear as possible. Keep the email professional and concise to avoid misunderstanding. I leverage the same format: Ask them first, “What do you see yourself doing well, and what could you improve?” This can be in general or can be after a specific meeting or event. After listening to their response I share my view. Don’t be vague. I often see people try to soften language, but you should avoid that temptation in the interest of clarity. Ask at the end if the feedback is clear. It doesn’t mean the recipient has to agree, but if you’re taking the time to provide the feedback and your intention is for their development, ensure that the message has been understood. Be straightforward with your employee about what was incorrect and any changes that need to be made. Letting your employees know you trust them to do the job and ending the email by offering the positives as well can help keep an email from sounding too harsh.
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?
Teams that have worked together on location have an advantage, as they already know one another’s work styles. It is still important to maintain the communication you had in person. Instead of walking over to someone’s desk, or looking over a cubicle, you are now sending them an email or text message. We have set up “mini-connects” for a few minutes each week without an agenda, just to ensure we can address “hot topics” that we may have done in an impromptu fashion in the office. Collaboration has to adjust to digital platforms, but it shouldn’t go away. Pick up the phone for a quick brainstorm or send a poll in your company’s group chat. The collaboration and connection you had in the office, while not the same, should still exist when working remotely.
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?
Now is the time when the traditional definition of leadership will be challenged. Leaders are not just leading people in service of the business; leaders now are leading people in service of people. Leaders have to be the example. We have to show our whole self, our whole life, and encourage others to do the same. Now we truly see one another in life. We recognize families and understand both the strains and joys of a whole life.
I ask all my leadership team to remove those camera blockers and turn their videos on. Let’s SEE one another in the fluidity of our day. Let people know we’re all in this together. Have conversations with colleagues and clients about their family lives, even if you never have before.
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. 🙂
One of my favorite activities in person or virtually is to start each leadership meeting with “one good thing.” It’s one good thing from the past week that is not work-related. It can be 30 seconds per person, yet the benefits are significant. It allows every voice to “check in” to the dialogue, and people get to share something others may not know about them personally. I learn something every time, and it’s a significant tool for team-building.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote for decades now remains and is perhaps more timely given what’s happening in our world today. I love it because I believe in the power of the human spirit to drive positive change. I believe that we can go further together than apart. I believe when humanity meets business, homes are happier, communities thrive and nations are strengthened. It starts with a few and grows to the many:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ―Margaret Mead