Good Audio is Non-negotiable for Remote Workers

It bears repeating – good audio is a must if you are going to be effective in any remote role. That means you should always prioritize being heard over being seen.  But after a few years of most people working from home, folks are still having a difficult time with their audio. This is a quick primer on what you need to do to have good audio in every virtual meeting.

Good audio requires the right setup

To have the best quality audio you need:

  • A quiet space
  • Good quality internet
  • A directional microphone.
    • A directional microphone is one designed to pick up sound from a specific area and to minimize other sounds.
    • If you can’t have a quiet space, a directional microphone – one that is pointed at or near your mouth – can pick up your voice more clearly.
    • However, that means if you talk under your breath, we can really hear you. 😊
  • Wired headset with a microphone
  • Always have a back-up audio device handy (your phone, for example)

Keys to good audio every time

Assume you are going to have an audio issue in every virtual interaction. Be prepared by:

  • Always testing your audio before the virtual interaction begins
    • Particularly if your machine has recently rebooted, you’ve unplugged or changed a device or you’re switching tools (ex from Zoom to Teams or Slack)
    • If the tool doesn’t have a test feature (like Teams), do a quick microphone check with someone who’s joined the call. (Say “mic check 1, 2, 1, 2” or whatever your signature mic check is). People of a “certain age” will appreciate this microphone check from a 90s hip hop song.
    • ALWAYS test your microphone if you are presenting!
  • Know how to troubleshoot audio quickly
    • Murphy’s Law says if it can go wrong, it will. Always be ready to deploy your ninja audio troubleshooting skills at a moment’s notice.
    • Make sure you know how to troubleshoot audio issues with:
      • The virtual meeting tool you’re using
      • Your computer
      • The device you’re using
    • In fact, troubleshooting should go in that order.

Avoid audio devices that have built-in problems

An even better way to prevent audio issues is to eliminate certains risks altogether. I recommend eliminating devices that can failure points, like these:

  • Wireless headsets require batteries to run and a good Bluetooth connection. Batteries always seem to run out at the worst possible time. Bluetooth can be problematic. If you’re preferred device is wireless, you MUST have a back-up device.
  • Earbuds or dangly headphones that are used for listening experience. Often these don’t have great microphones and certainly not directional ones. You may find yourself compensating for the poor-quality audio by having to hold the mic closer or talk louder.

Now try this:

  • Hold a meeting dry run with a colleague. Test out the quality of your device in your normal work area. Get feedback on the background noise in that area, quality of the sound and the quality.
  • Assess the quality of the audio of members of your team. Is everyone using the same or similar device? Different ones? Does anyone routinely have audio issues? Discuss as a team how to improve the quality of your audio.
  • Discuss with your leader if your organization can provide headsets to the team. Or a stipend to purchase a good headset.
  • Know how to mute and unmute your audio using the buttons on your headset, the keys on your keyboard, the keys on your phone and the controls in the virtual meeting tool. Yes, know how to mute/unmute in all these places. In fact, you can change your tool settings to mute you when you enter a meeting. 

From my book A Guide to Developing Virtual Presence: Virtual Presence for Authentic Digital Communication available online by subscription or for purchase at BookBoon.

How Can Managers Identify Burnout?

In the earlier posts in this series, we identified burnout as an organizational issue. Organizations, however, often categorize it as an individual issue. Managers are on the front lines of recognizing employees who are susceptible to or are in the midst of burnout. How can managers help their employees and their organization address the issues that result in burnout?

Are You Managing or Leading?

I recently talked with a new manager who was struggling with low productivity on his team. He was at a loss for what to do to increase output. My questions about the people on his team confused him. “You are asking me about their feelings. I don’t care. How do I make them get their work done?” As I dug a little deeper into that statement, we uncovered together that, as an employee, he had never had a supervisor who talked with him about how he felt. He acknowledged that sometimes as an employee he had struggled but he “tried not to bring that to work.”

Two years into the pandemic his fully remote team was isolated from each other and trying to meet their goals while struggling with the demands of living at work. This new manager had never considered how these factors might be impacting his team.

Managers that lead through fear and intimidation and/or see their teams as “task completers” only add to the problem of burnout. Think about your style of management. How did you learn to lead? Many learned leadership skills by watching their previous managers. What were your experiences as an employee with a manager that regarded you as a resource? Did you thrive? Did you feel respected? Did you feel you were doing your best work? If you are honest with yourself, was it a good experience?

If you are still unconvinced that modern management is about respecting and serving your team, look at the numbers. Employee wellness is a management metric. Stats like employee sick days used, unused PTO days, and turnover rates on a particular team are key indicators of dysfunction at the team level. They say people don’t quit companies. They quit bad managers. What do your stats indicate about wellness on your team?

Take Care of Yourself

This is your figurative air travel reminder to put your own mask on before you assist others with theirs. Simply put, we can’t serve others if we don’t give ourselves what we need. This means that you need to understand how you are doing and take steps to serve yourself first. Your team is depending on you to actively listen and remove roadblocks. If you are unable to do that, you cannot be there for them when they need you most. In fact, if you are struggling, you are more likely to impact the morale of your team.

Know Who is Most At Risk

Burnout can happen anywhere but 3 places where it is more common are healthcare, technology and education but, again, any organization can have stressors that lead to burnout. These professions are high pressure, high personal touch and focused on specific, positive outcomes. Most often, management in these professions is focused on delivering those outcomes at all costs.

Certain types of people are also more at risk for burnout. According to The Burnout Epidemic by Jennifer Moss, people who are more prone to burnout tend to be:

  • prone to anxiety or overthinking,
  • perfectionists,
  • introverted or shy

From my own experience, I’ll add another category:

  • those who are sensitive to change

Key indicators of organizational dysfunction, such as lack of control, lack of autonomy and lack of perceived fairness in treatment, can erode these groups’ sense of security much earlier than others. Knowing what to look for amongst those most at risk can be a leading indicator of burnout within an organization.

Stay Connected To Your Team

It goes without saying that managers have a responsibility to their team. This means not just leading your team but knowing your team members. One-on-one check-ins with each team member are essential ways to get to know your employees. These need to go beyond task and status conversations. Get to know each person. Ask them how they are doing and then listen actively. Are they engaged? Are they struggling? Ask questions to understand how they are feeling about what’s happening at work or at home. Work trouble can often be exacerbated by what’s happening at home and visa versa. Provide a safe, judgment-free space to talk about their whole selves.

Learn more about having a good one-on-one with this checklist.

Listening to your team is a key part of what managers can do to help their teams identify and address burnout. Managers have an equally important role in surfacing this information to the organization so it can take steps to address it.

The Causes of Burnout

In the post Understanding the Symptoms of Burnout we established that burnout is a workplace issue. What are the conditions in the workplace that can create burnout amongst employees? Burnout researchers have identified six primary causes of burnout.

The Six Causes of Burnout

Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter in The Truth About Burnout describe 6 common factors that cause burnout:

  • Work overload
  • Lack of control
  • Insufficient reward
  • Breakdown in community
  • Absence of fairness
  • Conflicting values

Work Overload

You hear it all the time. “I have too much to do at work.” But there’s a difference between a busy day at work and an unrelenting amount of work that cannot be accomplished. Workloads have been increasing over the past decade as more companies are putting economic values over the value of their employees. Companies want to see productivity. Starting in 2020, with the start of the pandemic, work overload went into overdrive (literally) overnight.

First, work became more intense. The new norm became “business-as-usual” but online, which has led to endless hours of virtual meetings with little time for “deep work.” (Cal Newport)

Next, that work intensity means longer days. For remote workers, those long days of meetings were followed by long evenings or weekends of catching up without proper rest.

Work has become more complex. We’ve had to learn new virtual tools and think about new ways to do things we used to do in the office. But as simpler tasks have been offloaded to automation (or just outsourced), the work left to many remote workers is knowledge-based or creative and requires quiet time to perform.

Finally, work has become exhausting. When we do find time to perform tasks that require our full attention, we are pulled in many different directions as remote workers. Mobile devices, the constant ding of our email inbox or the family asking for our time. These distractions zap our energy and leave us feeling exhausted and possibly ill, as well.

Lack of Control

Whether having little control over tasks or decision making or just being micro-managed, lacking control takes a toll on employees’ motivation. Employees want to be able to apply their knowledge and expertise to their work. When their approaches are questioned or not even permitted, employees feel helpless and devalued.

Insufficient Rewards

This cause is in part about insufficient pay and promotions but in more recent years intangible rewards, such as feeling a sense of purpose and job security, have taken a hit. When organizations reduce rewards, employees feel less positive about the work.

Breakdown of Community

Jennifer Moss in The Burnout Epidemic refers to this as “poor relationships.” Breakdown of work communities occurs when employees see leadership that does not value employees Eventually employees begin to avoid creating relationships with colleagues. This is often seen in work environments where there is a steady stream of contract or short-term employees to perform work alongside full-time employees. The contract staff is seen as disposable as work ebbs and flows, creating a feeling of sense of distrust and insecurity among the employees.

Absence of Fairness

Lack of fairness can include bias, favoritism, mistreatment, disrespectful behaviors and unfair policies. When employees believe they are not being treated fairly or that they witness a group not being treated fairly, they believe that they do not work in a safe environment and will mistrust those in charge.

Conflicting Values

Perhaps what drew you to your company was its values. (Check out my post on Why a Future Employer’s Values Should Matter to Your Job Search) Those values motivate you to contribute your best. Now, imagine that there’s a leadership or economic change and now suddenly, the organization is making decisions that don’t match your values. This could be a minor annoyance for some but for others, especially employees who are committed to the outcomes of their organization, this can be too much.

Each of these causes of burnout represents a gap between the employee and the organization which creates a recurring friction which wears away an employee’s energy and motivation. In the next post, we’ll look at what organizational leaders can do to decrease these friction points.

Rules for Digital Networking

Authenticity and first impressions are crucial to effective networking. The Connect button makes it very simple to expand your network. But just clicking a button won’t create the network you want if you don’t make a good first digital impression. In this post, we’ll explore some simple rules to apply to your networking approach.

Create your plan for networking

Many people go into networking thinking about the outcome they hope to achieve: a new job, a mentor or a sale. But when you start with a predefined end state in mind, you miss the opportunities to build real connections. Instead, create a plan for how you will network.

  • Where will you network? Diversify where you will meet connections. A mix of in-person and digital networking can diversify your network. Local networking means you will likely get to meet your connections while the others you may only follow online.
  • Who would you like to meet? This could be a list of real people or a list of types of people you would like to connect with.
  • How will you reach out? Your approach should be different between in-person meet-ups and online requests to connect.
  • How will you respond to people who reach out to you? Networking works two ways. A good sign that your networking is fruitful is that people will start to connect with you. They may or may not have a plan. How will you know if it’s a request you will accept?

Your plan will create the roadmap for building a network.

Make an authentic introduction

When connecting over social media, make sure that you include a note when you connect. This is more likely to get you a connection and possibly a response. Are you connecting because:

  • You share a connection? Mention that mutual connection.
  • You read a post or heard the person speak? Write a short note about that experience and how it interested you.

Avoid notes where you are selling something or asking if they are hiring. These may be what you would like to get out of the connection, but it’s best to learn a little more about the person before being so direct.  You can be perceived as pushy which reduces the chance you’re invitation will be accepted.

Want to connect virtually outside of social media? Have a mutual connection make an introduction for you. That person can send an email or invite you both to an online event. The rules of in-person networking apply here too: be prepared, professional and conversational. Make sure to find out how you can follow up with them (social media is usually the best option).

Not every contact will result in a connection and that’s ok

It can be frustrating to wait for someone to respond to your invitation but wait you must. I once had a former colleague reach out to make a connection with me. She was not someone I had known well and I got the impression that she wanted to connect with me to troll me. I didn’t respond. A few days later she sent a more direct note indicating that I owed her a response because we had been colleagues. When I didn’t reply again, she sent me a note to let me know she didn’t appreciate that I was keeping her waiting. At that point, I blocked her.

Sometimes your request won’t be answered. Just leave it and move on. Better to move on than to become a pest and never have a chance at a connection. Bad reputations, even digital ones, can follow you.

Follow up

If your online connection has accepted your invitation, write a quick follow up to thank them. You can add an additional note “would you be interested in a (virtual) coffee sometime?” if you are looking to meet but see point #3, not everyone may be interested and if that’s the case, no harm. Move on.

Don’t worry about job titles

Never say no to a connection purely based on someone’s title. You never know where a connection can lead, no matter their level in an organization.

Network with others who share different ideas

I connected with a consultant once who was a delightful contrarian. I loved that his opinions, which were diplomatically expressed, were unlike those of others in our industry. I reached out to connect and he accepted. We later met for a quick virtual coffee. I told him I loved that he didn’t pretend to go with the flow and that I thought his views were helpful to me in thinking about our work.

Seek out people that are different from you in your network. They can provide perspectives that challenge your ways of thinking.

Networking can seem like a robotic, outcome-oriented activity and for some, it is. But you can make it rewarding and fun by applying some simple rules.

Understanding the Symptoms of Burnout

In the first post of this series (Whose Problem is Employee Burnout?) I explored burnout as a indication of a sick work environment. What do we mean by “burnout?” Let’s start first by defining the mental and physical symptoms of burnout and how that definition pertains to the workplace.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.

Burnout, Symptoms and Treatment, Elizabeth Scott, MS

Authors of The Truth About Burnout, Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter, describe burnout as an “erosion of the soul.” 1The Truth About Burnout, Maslach and Leiter, pg. 17 It occurs when the employee becomes disconnected from “the values, dignity, spirit and will” of the work they do. That erosion is seen along three dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced professional ability.

Exhaustion

Burned out employees may feel 2 types of exhaustion 2Stress and Burnout Symptoms and Causes, https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-burnout-symptoms-and-causes-3144516:

  • Physical exhaustion – this is an extreme level of fatigue that manifests itself in the body. The sufferer may experience headaches, aching muscles, or gastrointestinal issues.
  • Emotional exhaustion – such as lack of energy, inability to concentrate, and moodiness.

Cynicism

Cynicism is a form of depersonalization. It’s used to psychologically distance a person from a situation that is overwhelming or painful. Employees demonstrating cynicism will become sarcastic, negative, or callous towards others and will not display an interest in their work. Cynicism is an outward manifestation of the erosion of engagement that’s occurring internally. 3Beating Burnout, https://hbr.org/2016/11/beating-burnout

Feelings of reduced professional ability

Feelings of reduced professional ability may begin as a true lack of resources needed to perform a job well during difficult times. But in people experiencing burnout, these feelings are amplified because they are battling fatigue and a disconnection from their work. This can show itself as a lack of motivation or creativity in performing their job or can be as serious as dropping out of their work or social circles altogether.

Presence of some, one, or all dimensions

Burnout is not “one size fits all.” The severity of burnout may look different depending on the person. A sufferer may not have visible symptoms in all 3 dimensions. Or the manifestations may be more or less intense. This is why it can be difficult to self-diagnose and why checking in with employees regularly is so critical to monitoring burnout in employees.

Burnout Stages

While there are no set stages of burnout (online articles offer anywhere from 3-12 stages), there is a progression burnout. Paraphrasing an article from ThisIsCalmer.com 4This is Calmer, https://www.thisiscalmer.com/blog/5-stages-of-burnout, here is what that progression looks like:

This progression doesn’t have to happen because burnout is reversible when interventions are deployed earlier.

Burnout is a workplace syndrome

The World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout as a syndrome to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Burnout syndrome is an “occupational phenomenon.” It is not a mental illness. It is not the sign of a weak person. It is a form of trauma that occurs because of sustained and increasing levels of stress in a work environment.

Because burnout is related specifically to work environments, the “focus should be on fixing the workplace rather than . . . fixing the worker,” writes Sara Berg 5WHO adds burnout to ICD-11. What it means for physicians, https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/who-adds-burnout-icd-11-what-it-means-physicians.

But what are factors that can cause burnout? We’ll explore that in the next post.

Whose Problem is Employee Burnout?

I was catching up with a colleague recently. After a year of the pandemic and being fully remote, the team was experiencing a number of issues which sounded suspiciously like a recipe for burnout:

  • a mass exodus of long time employees
  • increased, complex project work and longer hours
  • new team members rolling on and rolling off the project regularly
  • routine requests to work weekends with no notice
  • a limited on-boarding program which required full-time staff to buddy up with multiple new team members to do just-in-time training

The most concerning part of this were the full-time staff who were leaving and taking the project knowledge with them. My colleague explained that people were leaving because they were just burned out. The pleas for organizational changes to address these issues fell on deaf ears.

Burnout Epidemic

Toxic workplaces, unrealistic demands and leadership that is out of touch with their employees are a morale killer in the best of times. Over the last year, many employees have been working remotely and “living at work” 24/7. Add to that the increased demands that the pandemic has placed on employees’ personal lives and no wonder there’s an epidemic of burnout in this country. Good employees are overwhelmed by too many stressors coming at them from their workplace.

Employee burnout is a symptom of a “sick” work environment; therefore, the workplace must be addressed in order for its employees to get better.

If you’re struggling with burnout or are also curious about this topic, this upcoming series on burnout is for you. I want to explore this topic so there’s more awareness of what it is and how employees, leaders and organizations can address it.

This series will focus on:

  • understanding burnout and its causes
  • techniques to give yourself more control over your work (it’s not all yoga and hot tea!)
  • what you can do as a manager or organizational leader to incorporate employee well-being in your workplace
  • stories of companies that are coming up with burnout prevention strategies and changing their culture to address employee burnout

Do you have a story of burnout to tell? Email me. info@virtualbacoach.com

How Business Analysts Can Ace Every Job Interview

Business Analysts, YOU more than most other roles have job interviewing in the bag. Why? Because you plan and facilitate interviews as part of your work! Regardless, I still speak with business analysts who are nervous about job interviews. In this post, I’ll give you some “gentle reminders” from our own bag of tricks to get you through those interview jitters and help you feel right at home.

1. Do your homework

BAs wouldn’t meet with a customer without understanding background information and neither should a job candidate. Do your due diligence on the company or hiring manager before you arrive (stakeholder analysis!). What you are able to find online (document reviews!)? Can you get some additional information about the organization from the Human Resources contact you’re working with (organizational analysis!). Collect and document your information to prepare for your interview.

2. Prepare your job interview questions in advance

Imagine for a moment that this job is a new project to which you’ve been assigned. You’ve been given a little information about objectives and expectations but you don’t know the whole picture. Yet. Put on your BA hat. Analyze the gaps between what you know so far from the job description and company research and what you envision the job to be (future state). What information do you need to know to close that gap? Document your questions just as you would for a client interview and have them ready to ask your interviewer.

3. Show the interviewer you can analyze in real-time

The sign of a good Business Analyst is being able to think on her feet. That means using active listening skills to comprehend what’s being said and to connect the information with what you have already learned. Where there are gaps in your understanding is an opportunity to ask another question. This not only demonstrates your attentiveness to the conversation but also that you can synthesize information and identify gaps in your understanding quickly.

4. Demonstrate your emotional intelligence skills

Creating rapport builds trust which can enhance your conversation. Give the interviewer a demo of how you use your emotional intelligence skills to build rapport. For example:

  • Share something (appropriate) about yourself. Let your guard down and just talk. Remember, to keep it appropriate for your audience however. BTW this is not the time to share dark secrets.
  • ask questions about the company’s mission, values and culture . . . you know, questions about people stuff. In my post Why a Future Employer’s Values Should Matter to Your Job Search I write about why your future employer’s culture is an important part of your job search. The interview is the place to ask questions about it.
  • And talk about your values too. Companies are hiring humans, not robots. Your skills and experience matter but so do you. Take an opportunity to tell the interviewer what matters to you.

The outcome of this is that you and the interviewer will (hopefully) make a memorable connection. One that should keep you at the front of their mind when making the hiring decision.

5. Show off YOUR interviewing skills

Good interviewing isn’t just about asking questions. It’s about learning and connecting information and then asking more questions. “Zig when they zag,” as I always say. Incorporate some of these techniques to show off how well you can interview:

  • Paraphrase a question or answer to ensure that you understood what you heard
  • Think out loud. Sometimes it helps to talk things out to make sense of them.
  • Listen actively. Show your interviewer you are listening by being silent and patient as she speaks, asking additional questions based on what was said, and summarizing what you’ve heard.
  • Use body language that indicates you are engaged and interested in what the interviewer is saying
  • Connect the interview questions or answers with something you’ve learned from your employer research or during the interview

They say interviews are really just practice runs for the job you want. So show off how you handle interviewing by flexing your skills!

Why a Future Employer’s Values Should Matter to Your Job Search

I’ve started coaching business analysts who are looking to change jobs. They are a mixture of burned out, needing a change or wanting to grow in their careers these days. My most recent engagement involves helping a client review job postings and craft resumes. We’ve been spending time talking about how each job fits (or doesn’t) her skills, experience and values. We’ve also been spending time researching the future employer’s values to ensure that the employer is a good fit.

In one of our sessions we found a posting that was particularly interesting – and not in a good way. We went out to their company website and read more about their core values. I will paraphrase in our words the values that got our attention:

  • Excuses are for losers
  • Employees are expected to be online and available at any time
  • We’re smarter than our competitors
  • We only pick people who are the best so don’t expect us to hire you unless it’s clear you fit in with us

Your future employer’s values matter so read between the lines

We discussed her impressions of these values. We focused not just on the text but how they were stated. What you’re reading above is how we interpreted them. We could tell they were go-getters looking to disrupt their industry. But we could also tell there was an air of arrogance and “good-ol’-boy-ism” in how they went about it.

This posting gave us an opportunity to talk more deeply about her personal and professional values. An employee’s happiness and growth at a company are tied not only to the job’s responsibilities but whether there is a good match in values.

Where to find a company’s values

Once you’ve located an interested posting, find the company’s presence online everywhere you can:

  • go to the company’s website. Start with the About page.
  • find their company page on LinkedIn. Scan their Home, About and Video pages.
  • lookup the company on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms. Review their posts. Notice what hashtags they use.
  • go to Glassdoor. Read the Overview, Reviews and other pages. (Note: I always take the Reviews and other pages with a grain of salt because they are subjective.)

Some early stage start-ups or very small companies may not have much of an online presence. Never fear! If you choose to apply and are interviewed, be prepared to ask lots of questions about their values and culture. Remember, know what’s important to you in a workplace and be prepared to ask questions.

Assess what you find and how you feel about it

All of this information is data you can use to determine if you’d like to apply for their job. Look at this information as a set of facts (some, admittedly subjective) and then assess how you feel when you read it or hear it. Don’t gloss over answers that don’t sit well with you. Ask for more information or clarification. Listen to how you feel as you take in the answers. This will guide you on whether this company might be a good fit.

In my coaching example, my client and I talked about how she felt when she read their values. “Some of what they said turns me off,” she said. “I don’t think I’d fit in.” She decided to pass on the posting.

When job hunting, think not only about what you want in the job but also the kind of company and work environment you’d like to work in. This will help you identify companies that share values that are important to you.

Are you thinking about growing your business analyst career? Contact me for coaching.

2021 and beyond!

My 2020 started in 2019. After a series of life changes and losses, I started to rethink where I was in my life and if that matched where I wanted to go. 2020 gave me the space to work on those goals. By the end of last year, I had made significant advances in that new direction. So that got me thinking about where The Virtual BA Coach is going in 2021 and beyond.

What matters?

What values matter most in the core work I do?

Equality, equity and uplifting humanity. Employees over the last year brought their full selves to work (literally). Their homes, families and daily lives have been on full display. This peek into my colleagues’ lives reiterated the unique contributions, and sometimes their adversities, that make each unique. As a result, people on teams were bonding like crazy but companies continued to treat employees and contract staff as fungible “resources” or “bodies” that simply were “butts in seats.” These thoughtless corporate words have echoed for far too long in our industry and have resulted in toxic work environments that devalue the efforts of their employees.

Everyone deserves to have a place at the table. Each voice makes us stronger and better. This needs to be reflected in every level of technology teams. I need to do better and I want to help teams and companies do better too.

Exploring new ideas and looking at long-held ideas with a new perspective. As a Product Professional I’ve heard the phrase “that’s how it’s always been” more times than I can count. It wasn’t a good answer then and it isn’t an acceptable response now. So it’s time to really challenge the things that don’t make good sense (or good business).

Mindfulness. 2020 was hard on every level. Working from home has overtaken many people’s lives. Social and political strife added to feelings of loneliness and sadness. Mental health is now and will forever be a critical component of the workplace. How to practice mindfulness needs to be taught and encouraged in companies.

Giving back. I’ve done a lot over my career. I didn’t have formal training and I made a lot of mistakes. I really want to help folks who are in similar situations. At this stage of my career, giving back just feels right.

These are the things that matter to me which led to . . .

What’s next?

My little consulting venture has been “traveling light.” After thinking about what really matters, I’ve decided to take The Virtual BA Coach on the road (well, figuratively anyway)!

I’m writing a book! I’ve signed a contract with Bookboon, the world’s most used corporate learning solution, to write a book on virtual body language. This was a topic I spoke a little bit about in my Oct 2020 conference talk (BBC 2020). It’ll be released in an online format in September 2021.

More consulting and coaching services. Seems that teams have specific areas where they need help. I’m adding targeted services in those areas (COTS project requirements ramp-up, low code platform business analysis, better business analysis team coaching).

More online courses for product professionals! I launched a Udemy course on Demand Management in 2020. In 2021, I’m launching a few more courses on “pet topics” where I made a lot of mistakes and have a lot of lessons to share!

More speaking. More writing.

2021 is going to be busy!

Six Soft Skills Every Remote Knowledge Worker Must Have

Hard skills and business domain expertise make us successful employees but there is a core mix of skills I find that make remote and hybrid workers truly successful. In this post, I identify the 6 skills that are the most critical for remote knowledge workers.

Virtual Communication Skills

Communication skills fall into categories such as verbal, non-verbal, and writing. These are essential skills regardless of whether you’re in the office or remote. But given our dependence on technologies that communicate across space and time, there are a whole new set of skills that fall into a category of their own: virtual communication.

The skills in this category include:

  • Virtual presence skills – involves understanding how to present an authentic version of you in all forms of digital communications
  • Audio visual skills -maintaining and troubleshooting audio, video and lighting tools
  • Writing skills for asynchronous communications – ability to clearly document information using techniques that make detailed information easy to read, search and understand
  • Communication delivery skills – think of this as more akin to public speaking. Understanding how to communicate your message through techniques such as eye contact, tone, and pace of your speech.

Organization

Remote workers cannot be successful if they can’t organize the information they are collecting. They just can’t. That’s why this is at the top of my list.

I don’t equate “organization” with having a clean desk (mine is terrible). Organization is an important component of communication. An organized worker can take information and structure it in a way that is easy for their audience to interpret.

Coachability

You must be able to accept feedback if you want to grow, learn and advance. Being coachable is the single-most telling skill that will indicate how far a knowledge worker can advance in her career.

The qualities of being open-minded and willing to learn, essential to accepting and incorporate feedback, are the foundation of being coachable. If you can’t accept feedback, can’t learn from the experience of others, you’ll only get so far in a project and in life.

Curiosity

In the office you might be able to reach out to a colleague to get an answer. Working remotely means you may need to rely on your own skills for how to do something. Being able to search and learn quickly is a core skill that can help you work independently.

Flexibility

Call it agile (lower case “a”) or creative or an optimistic-mindset. When you’re working remotely, anything can happen. Being flexible allows you to find an alternate path or plan a different approach on your own.

Self-Motivated

Are you able to get work done when a manager is not around? Remote workers must have the ability to complete their work without someone asking you to complete it. A self-motivated remote worker is also compelled to take action to grow and clear their own obstacles.