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[00:00:25]

hello and welcome to our new episode here at Virtual Frontier. my guest on the show today is nadine soyez. nadine is a management consultant for virtual teams and has a company that provides consulting services to other companies that want to explore or professionalize in the field of virtual collaboration. apart from that, she is a lecturer for technology and management at universities here in germany. i am especially happy that our podcast worked out today. we have for a while, we have been buzzing around each other the nadine and.

[00:01:16]

i have been talking about LinkedIN for months now and could always see how she was also in similar groups on similar sites like me, which all somehow revolved or are revolving around the topic of remote work, future of work and virtual teams. and i am therefore especially happy that we have come together today and have been able to take the topic of virtual collaboration again from a professional perspective.

[00:01:57]

thank you very much for the invitation to the podcast and i'm glad that we finally got the chance to talk to each other. as i said my name is Nadine Soyez, i'm a management consultant with my own company Virtual Team Heros, officially based in frankfurt but of course remotely and worldwide. we support teams working virtually or the distributing processes especially in project management, it project management or other project management environments to increase the performance, so really we say we go into the processes, we go into the workflows, look at us How can we increase productivity there?

[00:04:24]

what does such a virtual team need to bring along to be productive and to achieve best possible performance? and have there... do in-house workshops, before Corona. now we do much more online workshops during Corona and i hope to go to Corona. so we now have everything remote with our customers. our customer base

[00:05:41]

i would like to take a step back again, because we have just touched on this briefly. in the last weeks and months, of course, a lot has changed and a lot has moved, as you have just mentioned. companies that perhaps have already consulted before, that were rather trimmed for presence when it came to your presence and a presence. these are now also somehow virtualized, simply because of the external circumstances. what kind of experiences have you made there?

[00:06:12]

what kind of impressions have you collected in the last weeks, regarding these change processes, especially from companies or also from individuals regarding what work is currently, let's say, compulsorily virtualized. but overall in the thinking and change processes that you have encountered, you have some impressions or experiences that you can share with us.

[00:06:36]

yes, i'm starting a bit earlier, maybe 12 years, 12 years before that. if you have introduced tools or such distributed work processes or communication tools, you will have them now too. so many companies have focused on that in the last few weeks, we have to use the tools. that was the only focus and i see it a bit critically, but maybe we can talk about that again another question. back then, clearly in 2005/2008.

[00:07:46]

they introduced web 2.0 solution, and there it was quite clearly the managers meant that my employees were not allowed to communicate privately. yes, we are afraid, and that's where it starts with the loss of control we are afraid when the tools are used to start private communication and private discussions. there were really guidelines in companies, if you introduced such, please only for business communication. everything else was completely forbidden. so and that's how it really stayed.

[00:09:08]

long, long time

[00:09:14]

letting go is definitely an important point. especially when it comes to virtual collaboration, because you can't really control what your employee does in the virtual environment, but trust plays a part in it. and above all, i think it's your own trust in yourself as a manager.

[00:09:39]

yes, definitely. it's a mindset shift. i say that's actually a virtual team is 90 percent mindset, and ten percent strategy. if i as an executive have a great strategy, great processes, but i have the wrong mindset, then the whole thing won't work because i'm always falling for this micromanagement. a lot of people are now trying through corona, ok we transfer the office work environment one to one into the virtual work environment. it doesn't work that way of course.

[00:10:12]

example, started with You have to be online for eight hours somewhere. i want you to be online for eight hours, from 9 am to 5 pm. of course that doesn't work because i have, we have, in offices maybe it works. we have a context as employees, as a team, as a manager. only when i work somewhere else. everybody has a different context, and everybody has to organize themselves. it's not possible to control working hours.

[00:11:11]

for me it's a managerial task to act differently there. it always starts at the base. if i as a manager don't know how to set the right goals for my team, my employees, if i don't know how to clarify expectations, what do i expect from my employees? if i don't know how to set measurement criteria for performance, then i can't get out of letting go. so i have to learn as a manager to set goals so that my employees understand what is expected and also understand how to end up

[00:12:18]

Especially explicit, because it just started in an office in the office environment with ad hoc check-ins or just looking at what the employee is doing and getting a feeling for it, whether or not. But it is not really explicit. And if you move the whole thing to the virtual world, to the virtual collaboration, then such misalignments or missing things become visible very quickly. If I don't have processes set up properly or if I really only go for presence and feeling what the employee is doing and now the whole thing goes into the virtual world, then the errors become visible very quickly or if something is missing.

[00:13:04]

or even conflicts are subliminal, they come up subliminal, because the employees don't understand their tasks or don't understand their expectations and even then they can't deliver the performance. it's already a strict leadership task to lead a virtual team. you can't just say that. i'm introducing some tools now and then we have our team meetings and everything is great. so there's a lot more to it. and again to come back to corona. that's what i'm seeing right now, we're just at a point.

[00:13:44]

we've introduced all the tools, we can bridge a couple of weeks somewhere with virtual calls, and everything is there, only if this situation lasts longer then you have to think like this, okay, how can i as a leader now execute and improve my leadership task in virtual space? because many people think i'm leading some tools now, and that's what it's all about to work together with the digital one.

[00:14:17]

what i also noticed in the last weeks. i think we also talked about it very briefly in the chat. what was most visible in the beginning, during the corona crisis, was that many people who perhaps had kept their distance before or had had a rather distant attitude towards remote work suddenly became experts. and the postings and the postings have shot up like mushrooms. and somehow you get the impression that almost everyone is an expert and has attributed a guideline to it or otherwise made some kind of contribution to it.

[00:14:56]

which is not bad in principle, it's great. but i found it relatively exciting to see how many people who actually had nothing to do with remote work and virtual collaboration before have swung up to become experts.

[00:15:13]

yes, it's two sides, firstly companies. i think from the company side, it's more of a branding image. you say okay, we've done it, we show it, and of course we want to position ourselves. and it's the issue when you talk about social media that you say to post something too remotely. that's okay too. the company shows it works, and other companies see it works. there is of course a push for the whole world, the whole virtual work environment for digital coloration, for remote work.

[00:15:56]

what i see a little bit more critically is that other people from the industry who were trainers were consultants, suddenly saw the opportunities in a completely different area and started to consult on this topic, and since there is a lot of fooling around with the content, i think it's great that the more workforce or force we have, power we have, the more people do it, the more we can bring the topic to the table. it's just that i see it as a great opportunity to get the topic out there.

[00:16:39]

you can say that, i'm productive in my home office in my own experience. but we go deep into leadership topics. and especially into workflow and process topics. it's just an example. as natalia, my business partner and i have been doing this since 2005, and we've gained a lot of experience. it's just an example of what people have been saying so quickly. they say that as quickly as we go into pure asynchronous work. it's great that everyone can determine their own working time, has their own productive time, their deep dive work, and is as productive as possible there.

[00:17:29]

that's great, that's a great advantage of virtual collaboration. but this synchronous collaboration is then demonized. and i see this quite critically because i'd rather say that from a process point of view we need a good balance between synchronous and asynchronous. because the more synchronous, asynchronous working time i have, the more costs and effort i have for coordination and documentation process

[00:18:06]

and you can only really know that if you have spent years balancing such workflows and processes, because i also see the internal cost side. because if you do it wrong, if you make the wrong recommendations for a framework for virtual collaboration, then you can suddenly make the costs explode in such a virtual working environment. and i see that critically. and that's also the thing where i have specialized a bit in seeing this business side as well. the advantages of balancing the disadvantages and setting up the right processes there.

[00:18:50]

and if many consultants jump on the bandwagon. that's great. people, do that. but then you see the same thing said over and over again. people always talk about what you have to do, what you have to do, what you have to do. only if you ask how to do it right now? then suddenly there is a lack of knowledge. and that's where i think the chaff will be separated from the wheat next week.

[00:19:21]

i think this is clearly to the point, like you said in the beginning, that the first weeks we have now been able to get used to the tools. that was always a bit, that's the fascination for me. hey we move into a new office, everybody until they have set up their desk and the server is up and knows where the coffee kitchen is. but now we actually get back to work, and now it falls on who is actually consultant or expert in the field in the practical part.

[00:19:51]

because the practical part, like you said, is actually much more complex and not just to deal with some guides or whitepapers in two or three pages. there is a lot more to it, and that's much more complex.

[00:21:36]

it will be very exciting to see how companies decide. and perhaps you've heard that our federal minister of labor is now presenting a law, by september, that remote work will become a right, meaning that everyone who can work remotely as a knowledge worker from the processes at the workplace in general will have a right to do so. it's also very exciting to see what's really going to happen in the next few months. do i want everyone back in the office because the managers are getting scared again that they won't get their other processes sorted out.

[00:22:13]

or to say that this has brought us advantages and my employees want that. and as an employer, i would also like to offer that in the future. i have to think about how i can improve processes.

[00:22:26]

yes, i think there will probably be too many people back in the office now and are happy about that even after all the abstinence and isolation in the last weeks. but i think the door to virtual work has been opened for many people who have now realized, maybe even before, wanted to but couldn't because the environment or the company didn't allow it and now, in the last weeks or months, have seen, hey it works with virtual work, we've done, we've produced.

[00:23:04]

why should i come to the office five or six days a week, when i can do it just as well two or three days from home, let's work on the processes.

[00:23:16]

i think there will be a transition after that. maybe everybody wants to go back to the office somehow because of the colleagues, that's what a lot of people say. i miss the colleagues. but maybe it will be a 50/50 percent solution. but then it will go to the point where i say okay, maybe i'll do remote because i can't find any talents. i'll go openly to fill positions remotely now and then. or if an employee tells me one day is enough for me that it's okay.

[00:24:20]

so i think that's what everyone decides for themselves, what they want to do. i also know people who can't and don't want to work remotely. that's okay then. but you have opened the door for recruiting, for talents, so to fill positions differently, to recruit talents worldwide, especially in the IT sector, which is quite difficult to find good and affordable programmers in germany for example. and that it's okay to say okay to expand the talent pool

[00:25:25]

what i find exciting from many people, maybe you can explain to me in detail now, because you and Natalia together with your company are working for many big companies and groups, which have been working virtually for decades, if you want to. especially if you have groups that operate globally. these are virtual and distributed teams that have been common practice for a long time. how has this changed in these environments in the last months? or what changes have you noticed in the cooperation in such teams or asked in a different way?

[00:26:14]

what can we perhaps take with us, also for smaller companies or medium-sized companies that have little contact with this topic, to copy what has been going on for a long time with big companies.

[00:26:31]

it is always the case with large companies that the first question is always IT security. it is always a big question. the european central bank started working virtually remotely on 13th march, and they first had a test phase to see whether it could withstand the IT security. the first thing is IT security IT security IT security IT security. this is more of an issue with large companies than with smaller ones. what i see is that it is always a bit more of an IT problem where you say okay, which tools do you use, do the tools have a german cloud.

[00:27:14]

with the smaller companies it is more like this, they are more flexible when it comes to the use of tools. they tend to go for more flexible tools. yes, security is right and so is data protection, but you are a bit more flexible when it comes to introducing other tools, so you don't have these big barriers. the smaller hierarchies are a bit more flexible in terms of the hierarchies, the large companies still have a lot of hierarchies.

[00:27:48]

but i really have to say that this has changed enormously

[00:27:55]

i now have one of these customers, they've done a good job in the last few years, they've completely converted a large area to agile. of course there was a big bang at the parent company companies, which still worked in the classic waterfall or classic way, the interfaces were not right. getting a grip on that, getting a grip on the interfaces. what can you learn? well, i think they all have the same problems. because. of course consulting is not that much different for a large company than it is for a smaller company.

[00:28:38]

because even the large companies, they always say the tools first, only my tools and the processes are not right either. in my experience, i think that's actually not that little different now. in terms of team spirit, in terms of solidarity, in terms of management tasks, leadership training will be exactly the same.

[00:29:06]

you have already mentioned it briefly, maybe i'll do it a bit differently in terms of the wording. what would you say are the challenges that such large companies have in terms of switching over to virtual collaboration or making it possible? or even small and medium-sized companies. where do you see there, or what do you get as a consultant for feedback apart from the tools, where the big challenges are?

[00:29:35]

letting go is a big topic. you already told me that the basis is always clarifying expectations and setting goals. then the big topic is the mindset shift from working, controlling work and attendance, to going more towards result orientation. also that i, as a manager or generally as a team, also have this connection. so how can i manage to have everyone working in a different context but still have the same context? we need the same context in order to be able to pursue common goals.

[00:31:01]

how can i create a common context even from a distance? this is an organizational question. how can i organize myself in such a way that a, everyone understands their goals? the tasks are delegated? that we have a good balance between synchronous and asynchronous cooperation in order to have optimal workflow costs and process costs. how can i, as a manager, also guarantee that i have the connection in my team to my employees?

[00:32:18]

and then you think the other one is unproductive or he's sitting on the couch at home in the home office and doesn't do it. then you make assumptions. but it's rarely the case that someone doesn't want to work. someone doesn't do the actions or doesn't do the tasks because he hasn't understood it. but it's my job as a manager to ask. did you understand it? it's also the question or maybe you've had the situation. i'm doing online meetings, and nothing happens afterwards.

[00:33:31]

it's simply a managerial task, and it's different to demand accountability in the virtual team, i.e. commitment and this engagement. it's completely different. i can't... managers then go into the command form, you have to do that and then resistance arises again among employees. so to demand this commitment - that's an enormously high managerial task that you have to learn. because i don't suddenly, after the team meeting, when i have delegated and generally

[00:34:43]

What strikes me above all is that companies are indeed often still stuck in old hierarchies and patterns of thinking, have now been pushed into the virtual world and yet often, perhaps especially in the German or German-speaking context, a lot of work is still done in companies with fear and guilt, You didn't, I didn't, and you are, you did the job and the German, the German classic is definitely still perfect and often a lot in the virtual as well as in the normal environment is not really perfect, and we have to find a way, especially in the new, agile environments, to achieve results and to remain or become productive.

[00:35:35]

yes, especially the germans are like that, they tend to formulate things in a negative way from the hand position. but an example like this, if you reflect on how you write texts, don't rephrase it in a positive sentence, and think about the effect on the other person, it has a completely different effect. so let's leave out all the negative words like "i don't want to, you don't have". let's think about how I can frame this in a positive way of expression, and then it comes across very differently in the other person.

[00:37:04]

well, that's also part of virtual teamwork. not only the tools and how we organize ourselves asynchronously and synchronously and the team spirit. because that's where it starts, very classic ... and these are also the critical situations where conflicts arise. so reflect on how I communicate myself, how I write messages myself. I also have to over-communicate much more in the team. we germans, we send something out. watch out, do that. just the word "watch out" when

[00:38:24]

I find it quite exciting to see that even though the environment and the technical requirements are getting more and more complex and there is a lot going on in the area of digitalization... I just remember when you meant "at the beginning", so you started with small tools, like Internet 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0.

[00:38:52]

Or the first sharepoint version, if you know what I mean.

[00:38:54]

that has developed incredibly fast. on the other hand, i don't think that leadership has really developed as fast as the tools have developed. my question to you, now again when we come to the conclusion. how can companies or managers get into action? because if it hasn't happened until today, but from now on from today on how can they get into action, get into action, get into action, to close this gap, this scissor, and get into one direction.

[00:39:36]

i think it depends a lot on your maturity level, where you stand. so we have to look first, what is your maturity level as an executive, or your team, or a company. are you zero complete silo hierarchy. you have to start completely different than when you say a little bit, i have already developed a mindset i want to do it. and i'm critical when people say you have to change overnight. that doesn't work. or this one, just talking about change.

[00:42:02]

people don't buy change we don't want change, they want improvement, they want benefits. and you have to start working completely different in the communication with the customer. i never say you have to change overnight. i always say, what do you want to achieve anyway? where do we start? where is the next step for you? can also mean that you make a list with leadership tasks, what he has, because it's remote, and says

[00:44:22]

yes, i completely agree with you on that. since we are all kind of creatures of habit and strive for as little change as possible in our basic attitude, it's definitely a good approach to do this step by step, to look where we need change, where can we use it in a meaningful way. and then, just like you do in your consulting, to actually look at how it fits together in the whole construct. so where are the tools, what does that have to do with the costs?

[00:45:06]

to see this as a holistic thing and not just limit it to tools and then to ride around on them and then at some point determine that tools are a means to an end and not the be-all and end-all in the whole story. do you have a shining example at the end where you say, ok, it works great with virtual collaboration or with leadership above all, or even experience where we can give the listeners, where

[00:45:45]

There are many experiences, there are so many...

[00:45:47]

Your highlight...

[00:45:49]

so buffers do it pretty well. you know marcus wormwood. you can invite him to your podcasts, very good. i don't want to mention the names of the customers now, because i don't know if i'm allowed to. i have big customers, that was just now. i'm in the project management team, in this virtual project management team, and i'm an external consultant. but i've taken on a lot of things on the side. for example, we're sitting in separate locations - berlin, frankfurt, cologne, stuttgart, munich, and now some of our colleagues from the uK are joining us.

[00:47:49]

colleagues from france, so we're going to do the whole thing interculturally. there are other things to solve. intercultural communication is also a big topic, you could make your own podcast about it. and it's really a great balance between asynchronous, synchronous collaboration. you also know that's very important if i have a problem with who i want to talk to.

[00:49:11]

that's actually a pretty good point for the conclusion. what i also want to say is. it takes, it takes time. companies that started out now or started working virtually, have switched to remote work. it takes time. so processes take time to settle in. employees need time to get used to them. managers need the space to learn, to let go. it doesn't happen overnight. i think we've taken a pretty good step in the first direction now, a giant step.

[00:50:20]

and now it's about people, about you and i think also about companies like flash hub, where we're currently supporting many companies and showing ways to just go ahead and move on. and in the next months and years it's just going to settle in much better. just like you meant in the beginning with internet 2.0. they came the tools. it was

[00:51:13]

Thank you Daniel. Bye.

[00:51:17]

Take care!