Tina Paterson: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine


“Outcomes over hours” is a phrase that I coined about twenty years ago and discuss in-depth in my new book Effective Remote Teams. Instead of looking at the number of hours that a person puts into a task to make a deadline, this perspective allows the leader to gauge how effective the employee truly is.

As a part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Tina Paterson.

With a wealth of experience spanning over 20 years, it’s no surprise that clients describe Tina as inspirational, strategic, and instrumental. Having worked across multiple industries around the world, Tina has led large departments, governed billions of dollars of assets, and steered teams to deliver transformation programs and projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The epitome of commitment and passion, Tina lives life by the ‘unbusy’ principles she practices. A mother of two and wife to husband James, a multiple marathon runner and million-dollar charity-raiser. She takes three-month family sabbaticals every five years, runs a successful business with clients across six continents, and nurtures 10,000+ blog followers.

She dispels the entrenched notions of time and effectiveness and instead teaches the hard-earned strategies she has learned first-hand, to move from exhaustion and being overwhelmed to a happier, healthier, more productive leader, wife, and parent.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

It was about eight years ago when I was working in a senior role in a fast paced, global corporation. I really loved my job. I thought I had everything under control. I spent a lot of time with my husband, James, and our children, who were six and four at the time, and I felt like I was doing a good job at leading my team. I ran three times a week. I did yoga once a week. I caught up with my friends on a regular basis. I had balance, despite the demands of my intense corporate job.

One day, the CEO asked me to take on a special project in addition to my normal responsibilities. I saw it as a great opportunity to learn from him, so I was super excited to take on the project. And it was going to be great for my career. Why would I turn it down? Burnout doesn’t happen straight away. It took me about three months. At night, I’d put the kids to bed, open my laptop, and sit on the couch to get some extra work done. At about 10 p.m., I’d clear out my email inbox. I’d work until midnight to try to get on top of things. I wanted to feel like I was in control. At 6 a.m., I’d get up, do what I needed to do to take care of the kids, and start my workday again.

At the end of each day, I’d take a look at my workload and make a decision. Do I go for a run or get more work done? Do I do yoga or do more work? Each time, I chose work. Even when it came to sleep, work won. After that, other bad habits crept in. I’d pick the kids up from school and day care, go home, and start thinking about what to make for dinner. Because I usually hadn’t given it any consideration beforehand, I’d look for the easiest option. And I ended up on this downward spiral until one weekend, when I knew I wasn’t well. On the Sunday night, I opened my work laptop. I stared at my calendar, with the goal to figure out when I could take a sick day that week. I thought a day off was all that was needed to make me feel better and then I’d be back to 100 percent. But as I stared at my calendar, all I could see was important meetings. Every day. Monday through Friday was filled with important meetings, which left me no time for a day off to get better. So on the Monday, I simply showed up at the office for work. I was coughing and fighting fatigue, but I pushed through. By Wednesday, my cough was sounding like a barking dog. I just kept pushing. I was focused on getting to Saturday, thinking that would be my day to recharge. But on Friday, while meeting with my boss, he said, “Tina, are you OK?” He was genuinely concerned. I paused, took a deep breath, and said, “No. I’m not.” I knew we were in an important meeting, but I couldn’t function properly. I had to leave right then. I packed up my things and went straight to my doctor.

Within five minutes, he sent me to the emergency department of my local hospital, where they diagnosed me with pneumonia. I had worked all week with pneumonia. As I lay there in the emergency department with James now by my side, I kept apologizing. I kept saying to him, “I tried to be strong and push through.” I’ll never forget what he said to me. “Tina, no job is ever worth you lying here in the emergency department.” Of course, I knew he was right. No job was worth being so sick that I needed that many painkillers and antibiotics running through me. But I didn’t know how to fix my problem. I had prioritized everyone else over myself. My husband, my kids, my team, my stakeholders, my boss. My health came last. And while lying there in the emergency department, I thought, I’m not being a great leader for my team. I’m not being a great role model for them. I’m not being a great employee. I’m not being a great wife. Or a great parent. I hadn’t returned any of my friends’ phone calls, so I thought, I’m not even being a great friend.

I was putting everyone else first. James had called his parents to look after our kids so that he could be at the hospital with me. I felt like I was letting everyone down. The reality was, I had let myself down. That wasn’t the life I wanted. I didn’t want to be so exhausted that I needed the emergency department. Telling this story now reminds me of the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water. If you put the frog in the water while it’s boiling, it immediately jumps out. But if you put it in cold water and turn up the heat slowly, then it doesn’t realize it’s too hot until it’s too late. I was the frog and the pressure I had put myself under was the water with the heat slowly turned up.

I’d been making micro-decisions, focused on work instead of myself, and that led to a serious burnout. After taking a month to recover, I realized that I wanted a different life for me and my family. Even though I loved my corporate job and I wanted to continue to have a wonderful career, I had to make changes. I analyzed my old habits in detail and sprung into action. I took the time to look for every article, video, and piece of information I could find on how to have a successful corporate career AND a life outside of work. For me, that meant having a strong marriage and raising our kids aligned with our values. It also included yoga, running, giving back, traveling and many other activities associated with an active and meaningful life. However, I became really frustrated, because all the advice I came across said the same thing. You’ve got to fit your own oxygen mask first. It was an analogy. Like being on a plane where there’s an emergency, they always tell you to fit your own oxygen mask before you help someone else fit theirs. In other words, they were telling me that I couldn’t lead my team effectively or care for anyone else if I wasn’t taking care of myself. I got annoyed because I agreed with them.

It made sense. However, every article, book, and video fell short of telling me how to do it. I knew I needed to look after myself, but I didn’t know how. When I had back-to-back meetings from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and my “real work” started at five, when I had to pick up the kids, make dinner, and try to get eight hours of sleep, that seemed like an impossible task. How could I fit it all into twenty-four hours?

So, I went on this journey of discovery, experimenting with different work, productivity and well-being hacks. I read everything I could find on the subject, to find out the secret to this thing called work-life balance. I wanted to know what actually works for a leader in a fast-paced company, not just the theories. Every time I found a nugget, something I wanted to experiment with, I’d ask myself, “Could this work for me? Could I apply this to my role as a senior leader in a large, global company?” I wanted to work out which tips were practical, realistic, and sustainable.

To do this, I’d try them on myself, and check to make sure they stuck over time. Once I started seeing results, I started teaching my teams, colleagues, and mentees how to apply them too. In parallel, I knew my leadership style was different from most other corporate leaders. I’d led my teams for several years with the mantra, “Outcomes over hours in the office.” My team knew that I didn’t care when or where they worked, as long as they collaborated effectively to get their most valuable work done. Way before “remote teams,” “hybrid teams,” “virtual teams,” and “distributed teams” were phrases common in today’s corporate language, my teams worked in this way. We worked out together what was needed to make this way of working … well, work. And this is what I now teach to leadership teams in other large, global organizations.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you started?

When I first started, I was coaching for leadership teams; I wanted to live my mantra of working smarter. Instead of spending hours making beautiful PowerPoint presentations, I scribbled my diagrams on paper, took a photo of them, and pasted that into the PowerPoint as my presentation. I thought that this was clever since I was working smarter, not harder.

I quickly got feedback from my clients that my training content was repulsive, and it distracted them from my presentation by having these hand-drawn scribbles. What I realized was you need to meet your clients where they are. The scribbles might have suited me, but that didn’t suit my clients. My clients were these excellent, large corporate companies who were used to slick PowerPoint presentations. I realized I just needed to pull together the presentation once, and I could move on to more effective work.

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

When I first started out on my own, I was working out what to do with my business. I decided to have 40 coffees with 40 people in 40 days. I reached out to people I’d worked with who knew me well enough to ask them, “How do you think I could be of most service and add value as I’m thinking about starting my business?”

One of the people I met with for coffee was an executive I had worked with about ten years ago called Anthony. I was sharing with him how I was starting to think that maybe I should work with working moms to help them juggle how to have a great career, as well as their family and other things outside of work. After I shared this, Anthony said to me, “Why would you deny what you’ve got to offer to half of the market? I’m a dad who works crazy hours, and I want to see my kids more. What you can offer would help me just as much as any working mom. So please don’t consider only that target market. I think what you’ve got is needed by leadership teams in corporations, all across the board.” And that advice from Anthony was one of the critical foundations that led me to do what I now do of helping all corporate leaders, whether they are male or female, whether they’ve got kids or not, to help them to be more effective at work. When these leaders are more effective at work, they can free up time for whatever and whoever matters most for them outside of work.

Extensive research suggests that purpose-driven businesses are more successful in many areas. When you started your company, what was its vision, and what was its purpose?

My purpose was straightforward. It was to make sure that as many corporate leaders as possible didn’t go through what I went through. And that meant helping at the root cause of helping corporate leaders to understand how they could work smarter, how they could get their work done effectively, how they could permit themselves to look after themselves so that they wouldn’t end up in an emergency department or in a major breakdown as I did.

I know that corporate leaders make similar micro-decisions to what I made leading up to my burnout. At 10:30 at night, they choose to either get a little more work done or get some sleep. They have the micro decision of, “Should get up early and go for a walk or a run? Or should I get into work early and do more work?” I know that most times, the work wins out.

My purpose is to help leaders so that they can make those micro-decisions earlier and easier so they can realize they can have a great corporate career and whatever’s essential for them to the outside of work as well. I also realized that I knew it was essential to fit my oxygen mask first. Every article I’d read had told me that that’s what I needed to do. But no article, no video, no expert was telling me how to do it. I realized, “Well, someone’s got to do it. It may as well be me.”

Now I teach corporate leaders how to practically and efficiently get their work done. Even when they have got back-to-back meetings from eight till five, and they get a couple of hundred emails each day, I teach them how they can get their work done effectively and still have time to prioritize themselves and the people they love outside of work.

Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you led your team during uncertain or challenging times?

It was about 15 years ago. I was leading an operations department of a few hundred employees, and our business had just launched a new product introduction. This new product did way better than anyone expected, three times more. I ran the contact centers. What that meant was all these new customers were calling into the contact center, and we were significantly under-resourced to deal with the issue. Because we were working with a major client, they wanted to understand why it took so long to answer the phones and what we were doing about it.

I had people in my organization come from every department, speaking with people in my department to work out what was going on, the call wait times, how many people we were hiring, et cetera. I realized that we had gone into significant firefighting mode, and I knew that this was not sustainable. I told my team, “I’m just going to go and shut myself away for an hour or two and think. I need to reflect on how we can move from this reactive mode to being proactive and getting back under control.”

What I realized from that introspective contemplation was that all the different departments of this client all wanted similar information from my team and me. I went into the CEO’s office and spoke with him. He received me openly and said, “What do you need from me?” And I said, “I need you to send an email telling everyone that my team will send out a daily email of the statistics, the report, and what we are proactively doing to get our resourcing back, to be able to handle our customer call volume. If we do this, could you please ask everyone to give my team the time and the space to get on with recruiting people?” He agreed.

Every morning, we would send out this daily report so that the people who needed the information got 90% of what they wanted, and my team could focus on the challenge at hand. Taking a tiny bit of time out to think about how we can do things better, how we can do things more innovative, and how we can payback in spades made all the difference. I was able to come up with a clear solution to solve the problem and get the team back into productivity and out of reactivity.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

What I do comes from a deeply personal space. I know other leaders are like how I was the month before my burnout, where I ended up in the emergency department with pneumonia. For me, it’s an inspiring reason why I do what I do, and that inspires me to keep going. In the early days, when I first started coaching corporate leaders, I wondered, “Am I the right person to be doing this? Who am I to think that I can help all these leaders?”

It’s such a big issue around burnout, I questioned if I was qualified to help them. And then I remembered all my teams who had themselves transformed into working in a completely different way, where we worked from anywhere and were more effective. I also recognized all the books on my bookshelf, where I had read every expert tip out there. I applied all these tips from other experts along with the fact that I had experimented and tested on myself. I tested and learned for over seven years about what works for a corporate leader who feels they don’t have time, energy, and control. How do you work smarter? How do you not be in meetings from back-to-back from eight until five? I wondered, is it possible for me to help these teams?

And I realized, “Yes, I know how to do this.” I’ve worked with many of my teams, and they’ve proven that it works too. It’s now time to get my message out and help as many corporate leaders worldwide as I can.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during talent challenging times?

I think it’s communicating the course, recapping what’s the vision, the purpose, what’s the North star that their team’s heading towards, and what are the key priorities to get there.

People like working with people who care about them as a person before their work — so communicating the vision, even when it’s changing. When things are changing so quickly, it’s essential to show that you care. By being a “person first” leader, you are showing that you care about each team member above any deadline. If and when those priorities change, the leader needs to adapt and communicate quickly. It really comes down to just being a decent human being along the way.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team, trust, and connection?

When I interviewed senior executives around the world in my book, Effective Remote Teams, I asked them what critical skills leaders need to lead their teams when they’re not in the office together all the time. The themes of trust and connection kept coming up. The easiest way to build these two elements is to have regular check-ins with your team. It’s essential to have check-ins as a team together and check-ins one on one with your team as individuals. This is on top of checking in with them on the work side. This level of overcommunication with your team will show them that you care about them beyond just the work deliverables.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Creating those foundations of trust and connection is the best way to deliver difficult news. Whatever the challenging news is to deliver, it will be received so much more if done in a relaxed, authentic way, which comes from that trust and connection. Being clear what the priorities are, where the roadblocks are, how things are progressing, but also checking in on the personal side. When you engage your team on a personal level you are being a person first leader. They will see that you care about them more than what they deliver for your organization.

How can a leader make plans when the future is unpredictable?

When the future is unpredictable, it’s important to build in time, as I did in that situation when my department was significantly under-resourced. Creating time to reflect, think, “How can we do things differently? It’s like the cartoon with the caveman where they’ve got square wheels and someone’s standing by with round wheels saying, “Can I help?” And the cavemen with the square wheels are saying, “No, we are too busy.”

Taking time to reflect is the opportunity to find those round wheels and the way to do things differently. When I do this, I do this every month by a retrospective, which is an agile term of thinking through, “What went well? What didn’t go so well? What did we learn?” I think about it and on different time horizons. As a leader to consider, there’s the three to the five-year vision you might have, that North star. But also, down to, “What does that look at an annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily level?”

My signature program called “Outcomes Over Hours” is based on this foundation. There are three elements to my program: as a corporate leader, it’s essential to be 1) effective, 2) efficient, and 3) energetic. Effective is about what you choose to focus on, and to be able to reflect on how you’re progressing towards that vision. What’s getting in the way to find those round wheels? Efficient is about how you go about doing it. And energetic is the rocket fuel, yourself having the energy to do everything else. But there’s no point in being efficient and energetic if you’re not being effective. If you’re not working on the right things in the first place, it’s a waste of time and energy. And so, when the future is so unpredictable, taking that time to think about, “Well, what is effective?” What are the things that matter is essential to work out when it’s time to hold the course and when you need to adapt.

Is there a number one principle that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Keep coming back to your purpose, your North star. It unifies and inspires the team to all head in the same direction.

Can you share three or more of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during challenging times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

These are turbulent times; anyone can tell you that. With the changes in corporate work and life comes a need for leaders to adapt and pivot, and corporate leadership is evolving faster than ever. The things that used to work in the old-school way, where you could walk into an office and see your employees and your team working in the same environment, have completely gone out the window because of the global pandemic. What is evolving is a new style of leadership that is beyond the physical environment. It moves into higher levels of understanding, compassion, and empathy to get your team to be inspired and stay inspired on the task of deadlines and performance.

As a global cultural pioneer, I have been both behind the scenes and in office environments where certain leaders have refused to evolve, and I have witnessed the chaos of the culture that unfolds. It is only a matter of time before the employee morale starts to dip, and they ultimately jump ship. Or it can be a slow, long and painful drop to the bottom where deliverables fall behind, and the quality of the work suffers. Many people don’t equate the end of a business to the culture, but we see that this is usually the key indicator of where the company’s health lies. As a leader, you need to be able to zoom out and zoom in — to see what your employees are struggling with emotionally and personally beyond just when they are in their work environment. You can no longer separate yourself from work and life, they are now intertwined more than ever before, and this pattern will only increase.

Here are the top five things leaders need now more than ever during these turbulent times.

  1. “Outcomes over hours” is a phrase that I coined about twenty years ago and discuss in-depth in my new book Effective Remote Teams. Instead of looking at the number of hours that a person puts into a task to make a deadline, this perspective allows the leader to gauge how effective the employee truly is.

Gone are the corporate days where you could drive into an office, punch in a time clock, and then be trapped in the same building where you can precisely oversee what your employees are doing. As a leader, you must evolve your thinking about being productive in today’s world. This perspective of focusing on the outcomes, where the results are the measurement instead of the time put into accomplishing the deadline, will empower both the employee and the leader.

When you remove the time quota or even the time measurement on an individual, they can perform at their speed and at their best time of day. This is an empowered way for the person to own responsibility for completing the task. It will also allow them to manage themselves and determine when they are most productive.

Focusing on outcomes instead of hours completely goes against the old-school way of saying you have to be in the office from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. This flexibility legitimizes the employee’s ability to determine their best schedule. When they have this freedom of flexibility, they have greater ownership and responsibility in delivering extraordinary results.

When a person can control their schedule, it relies on them to check in periodically throughout the day and ask themselves, “Am I being most effective at my most optimized state?” This self-reliance is inspiring and very productive because they are the ones responsible for the outcomes they are delivering.

Suppose you are forcing your employees and your team to go back into an office environment during this global pandemic that still rages across the globe. In that case, you will be met with hesitation and resentment, and fear and anxiety will prevail. Many employees are dissatisfied and uneasy about returning to an office environment. At the same time, the pandemic still rages on, and not respecting this and turning a blind eye to your team’s emotional and psychological needs is a recipe for disaster for your corporate culture. You cannot expect people to perform at their best when they are in a state of fear and uncertainty.

When you prioritize outcomes over hours and look at their performance, then you altogether remove the physical barriers of having to be in an office under the same roof. You also illuminate the time necessary because people can work on their schedules by focusing their attention on performance instead of the amount of time they put into a task. You will find that people are more engaged and grateful because they have been given a sense of self-responsibility to take their tasks across the finish line.

2. The second thing leaders need to focus on during these turbulent times is to be very clear on their vision and to communicate it often. Leaders make the mistake of thinking that they share their vision once and that the team automatically understands it. However, as things change faster than ever, we need to over-communicate our vision. The vision is the North Star of the organization. It affects everything from product development and customer support to completing deadlines to fulfill the company’s mission.

The vision not only signifies the direction of where the company is going, but it is also the lifeblood and the spirit of the company. The more clearly defined the vision, the more the employees will find their commitment to the bigger vision at hand. Without a clearly defined vision, employees quickly lose their way and a sense of purpose inside the organization.

It’s so easy to neglect the communication of the vision because we get so caught up in tasks and deadlines. However, the more you spend time and energy on the vision, the fewer minor mistakes and less confusion from your employees there will be. Communicating and re-communicating the vision is essential for your team to feel like they have a grounded and safe harbor to dock their fears and insecurities. The vision articulates the purpose and the reason why the organization exists. And for companies to not only survive but to thrive during these turbulent times, the vision needs to be crystal clear. While the rest of the world is full of turbulence and confusion, that clarity of vision will give your employees that safe sense of strength and cohesiveness of what they are all doing to move together in one unified force.

3. Be a person-first leader and understand that your employees have other things going on in their lives too. Long gone are the days when people lived to work and only invested their hopes, dreams, and desires in their careers. This global pandemic has caused hundreds of millions of people to reevaluate their perspective on life and what matters to them. Now that they have been forced to spend more time at home with their kids and their families through longer stretches, they have seen how important it is to have more quality time to invest in their personal lives. Leaders who do not accept that employees have personal lives with families and hobbies and dreams and goals outside of work will only lose employees in the great resignation.

More employees are jumping ship and leaving companies than ever before because they now see that they have options, and they don’t want to sacrifice their families and their health to fulfill their career success. As a leader, you want to recognize that each person has their desires and goals to fulfill in their lifetime. The more you can see them evolving and growing on all levels, the happier and more productive they will be.

Start to see that your employees have entire lives where they have friends, family, and social life activities. People even want to have time for travel and adventure to explore all aspects of themselves. Most of all, allow your employees to take time for their health because if they cannot take care of their health, then it is only a matter of time before they have an emotional, physical, mental, or psychological breakdown. The statistics show that we can no longer separate our health from our success and productivity. It is only a matter of time before it all starts to unravel. By being a leader at the forefront of inspiring your employees to have whole lives, you will be giving them the freedom and the flexibility to invest time with their families and take time for their self-care. You will be a leader who demonstrates not just through words but through action that you do care about your employees and their overall well-being.

4. The fourth most important thing that leaders need to do during these turbulent times is to be the example instead of just giving lip service. When you are the center of the culture in an organization, what you do is more important than what you say. When you’re taking breaks, exercising, getting enough sleep, and turning your computer and emails off to recharge, this will give the precedent to the rest of the team and ripple throughout the organization. You are the leader, and that means that when they see you following through on what you are saying, you build trust and certainty in your organization.

Your leadership abilities will skyrocket when you start to live and breathe the example you want others to follow. It will help if you switch off to switch on. When you are not rested and recharged, your ability to make decisions is significantly impacted. Studies, science, and countless data show us that if someone is going all the time and is not fully able to recover, they are more prone to make mistakes. Mistakes ultimately cause a significant impact on the resources of the organization. The leader needs to be clear and focused. If the leader is running on adrenaline and full of stress to push and push without taking time to recharge and renew, this will set a precedent throughout the organization. And a stressed-out, sedentary, under slept organization is bound to have breakdowns. It’s only a matter of time before the team starts to fall apart.

Being the example for your team members and being the pillar of stability and health will ripple throughout your organization. While the world is in chaos, the leader will be cool, calm, and collected. When the leader is rested and recharged, they can be tranquil and patient. This poised composure is one of the most significant signs of a leader’s stability and strength during these turbulent times.

5. The fifth thing leaders need who will succeed during these turbulent times are the ones who recognize that “what got you here will not get you there.” Marshall Goldsmith created this famous quote in his book with the same title. As an executive coach, he observed that while many people in management were intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious, very few people ever made it to the highest levels of leadership. This is because they cannot let go of their mindsets, beliefs, habits, and the patterns that propelled them to have success at the levels where they are now ready to progress. These times require evolution, patience, and a greater understanding than anything we’ve ever seen before to make the famous quote even more relevant.

This new leadership style involves going back to the beginning and letting go of specific traits that could have been helpful to make you successful. The specific skills and mindset that got you here could be your most significant barrier to success in this new frontier. Those who can look at leadership with fresh eyes and take on leadership as though you’ve never been in this position before are the ones who will prevail.

This kind of new thinking is not only an evolution of leadership, but it is essential to succeed and evolve during this time. Letting go of some of the bedrocks you’ve thought about leadership before is not only tricky, but some might even think of it as impossible. Letting go of certain habits and patterns is the most challenging thing for leaders to deal with because they have built their entire career on a command-and-control style leadership where what you say goes, and no one will question your authority. But now employees want quality of life and respect. Also, they want to know that their leaders care about them beyond just clocking in hours or growing the company’s share price. Suppose you are willing to evolve and see this as an opportunity for a new leadership emergence to shine forward? In that case, you will be one of the leaders who keep your employees. You will also see that your organization attracts all this incredible new talent who are leaving their current organizations to find this innovative style of leadership. This revolution in leadership sees each employee and values them for their unique skills, perspective, and insight.

Suppose you are stuck in the old way of doing things. In that case, it’s only a matter of time before the turbulence of the outside world creeps into your organization. Like a toxic weed, it will spread until you may lose your entire team or your position. We repeatedly see this with organizations that are unwilling to evolve their leadership style. The great news is that this is a massive opportunity for leaders who are open-minded, visionaries, and flexible enough to embrace this new style of work performance. You will find that your team is more committed, more productive, healthier, and happier because you are focused on the long-term game beyond just the short-sightedness of getting through this difficult time. You have the most significant opportunity in your career to emerge as a leader of the future.

The critical mistakes come under one umbrella, which is that leaders sink to the lowest level of short-term-ism. People who become reactive go into firefighting mode from a strategic standpoint.

Each day, innovation goes out the window, everything becomes a priority. Every shining toy gets focused on. And there’s a beautiful saying by Patrick Lencioni, which is, “If everything is important, then nothing is.” The mistake is forgetting what’s important — and just trying to work on everything. And it then becomes that caveman with those square wheels trying to push as hard as possible. The other thing that happens from a people standpoint, if you sink the lowest level of short term-ism, is that everything becomes very task-oriented. Everything focuses on a tactical level of leaders or managers barking orders of this is what needs to be done, and it becomes only about the work.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. And that’s not inspiring for anyone to work in that situation.

It’s about coming back to being that person’s first leader of delegating the issues, not the tasks, and being clear on what that North star is and what those priorities are so that everyone can be on the same page.

Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a challenging economy?

I learned this through my journey of starting my business when I started two years ago. My background is in operations and transformation, business transformation. I was starting my business in February of 2020. And I had just signed up with a major Australian company to lead their growth transformation program. The CEO had signed off on it. That same day, speaking with one of the executives, she said to me, “This coronavirus thing could get pretty big. We might need to think about how it’s going to impact our business.”

And within 48 hours, a lot of these company’s offices were being told that they were going to have to close down to the public and that everyone would have to work from home. This meant that the transformation program that we were implementing, the transformation agenda we were about to kick off, would no longer make sense. My pipeline of consulting work for the next six months got the rug got pulled out from under me within that 48 hours. At that time, I didn’t have a plan B.

I had to work out, “Well, what am I going to do from a business standpoint since my primary client now no longer needs this work?” Learning when to adapt is essential. And that’s when I was having these 40 coffees in 40 days to find out, “Well, is there something different that I should be doing?” That’s when I realized my own experience incorporated. Of everything I’ve learned from my burnout with pneumonia and how to effectively lead, incorporate and look after yourself, that’s what I needed to help other organizations with.

With that same large company, they were my first client, as I did my hand-scribbled PowerPoint training to them on how you effectively work from home and lead when your team is not all in the office together. For me, knowing what your purpose is and when it’s time to adapt is essential. Anticipating what was needed, asking other people and people who had views utterly different to my own, really made the difference in me coming up with what I do now in terms of having a very successful business with over six continents and helping thousands of corporate leaders around the world. You can own do this too if you create the time and space to think and dream up what’s possible.

Please share a story or example of each of the five mistakes.

“Outcomes Over Hours” The example here is when a team member of mine, Dean, came to me one day and said, “Oh, I’m sorry to let you know that tomorrow I’m going to be into the office at about 10:30 because I have to go to the dentist.” We’d been working together for a few months at this stage.

I had a puzzled look on my face, and I said to him, “Dean, I don’t care.” I said, “I care deeply about you, but I don’t care if you’re going to be in the office at 10:30 tomorrow. As you know, manage your outcomes, not your hours in the office. Business hours aren’t what I look at as to whether someone is doing a great job. If you need to go and be at a dentist or something else outside of business hours, that’s okay. So go and be where you need to be and make sure you’re clear on the outcomes and being able to accomplish them.”

Example 2:

Here’s an example from my book. Michael had a big job. He led close to one thousand employees that involved customer-facing operational roles. He’d leave the office most days between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to ensure he was home in time to have dinner with his wife and young kids. This was in the days before we had smartphones with email and other apps. When he was gone for the day, he was done. But he was known throughout the organization as a brilliant leader. Watching Michael work, I got to see a different way of leading a team. He was ruthless with his time and where he focused his energy. He refused to be sucked into the vortex of drama, noise, or things that didn’t matter. However, he always made time for his team. He understood that providing clarity to the team on the department’s strategy and key deliverables, combined with building a team of high-performing individuals who trusted each other and worked together as a team, allowed him to walk out the office door each night at a reasonable hour. When we formed as a leadership team, Michael ensured we carved out time to build out our department’s vision and strategy. It was simple to understand and remember. No fancy words or twelve bullets to try and remember. Our slogan was “raising the bar” and showed a picture of lots of chocolate bars, with one that was a bit higher than all the others. Fifteen years down the track, I still remember it. That’s the power of simplicity.

Example 3:

In my first year as a leader, I had an unfortunate situation of putting the “person-first” concept into practice. I was working overseas and was leading a team spread out across the United States and Mexico. One of my team members, Carlos, was from Mexico City and on this assignment was also based there. Carlos had a report due to me one Monday, and the report was going to move on from me to the organization’s global CFO. Come Monday, I hadn’t heard from Carlos. I emailed him in the morning asking for the report. Early afternoon, I got a call from him and learned that his best friend had been kidnapped there in Mexico City. The kidnappers were asking for ransom money from the family. Carlos didn’t know whether his best friend was still alive. As a leader, I had a dilemma. We had this huge report due to the global CFO and the team member who was due to deliver it was, understandably, broken up over his missing friend. I realized right then that my approach needed to be person first. Twenty years later, I can’t tell you what that report due to the global CFO was about. But I get emotional thinking about Carlos.

Mistake number four is not role modeling what you do. One of my non-negotiables is running three times a week. And sometimes that happens before the kids go to school, but at other times that’s just not practical. I’ll often go for a run at 11:00 AM or during business hours on those days. I’ve been known on many occasions to come straight from my run onto a Zoom call with a client still in my running gear. And when they say, “Oh, have you’ve just been for a run?” I’m very deliberate in saying, “Absolutely, I did some other work at other times. This was when it worked for me to look after myself.” And it’s okay to look after yourself from Monday to Friday, nine to five. The old way of working has to be that the hours we are working are no longer valid. It’s up to you to manage those outcomes over hours in the office.

And then the final mistake about what got you here won’t get you there.

Remote teams are here to stay. Leaders need to know that this is going to become our new normal. One executive, Rob, shared a story with me to demonstrate how far we’ve come in the corporate world. Rob was the chair of a global committee that needed to have a two-hour meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to make a big decision, but one which was considered quite mechanical, and the committee all knew each other relatively well. It was not a complex decision. Rob suggested that they meet virtually, all dialing in from their respective countries around the world. This suggestion was met with strong objection. “The technology won’t work!” “The time zones will make it hard!” However, Rob pressed for this option, knowing it would save them all time and money commuting to one location. In the end, he had to compromise. The solution? The committee members flew into London, New York, or Hong Kong so they could stay in their respective time zones. They then dialed in from three screens — one in London, one in New York, and one in Hong Kong. We’ve come a long way since this type of thinking about how business should be done was prevalent.

Okay can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote from me is, “Busy is a decision” by Debbie Millman. And this is relevant because I think so many people get caught up in the delusion of progress. They think that if they’re busy, it means that they’re doing great work, and it has a significant impact. I’ve realized that’s not always the case. Hard work needs to be there, but I instead like to think about what Greg McKeon says of “How can I make this easy? How can I make this effortless?” If I can get to the same impact, the same outcomes in less time or less effort, I think that’s a great thing. It’s not about not having progress and momentum, but it’s about always believing that being busy is the best way to incorporate work.

How can our readers further follow your work?

There is a free gift called “Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make When Leading Remote Teams” on my website at EffectiveRemoteTeams.com

Once you understand these horrible mistakes, you will have more time, energy, and focus to build your teams to create the greatest productivity and effectiveness for all.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!



Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market