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  • Tuesday, November 07, 2017 5:33 PM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

    ATD-MAC’s November focus is Leading Virtual Teams. Virtual Teams aren’t going anywhere. In fact, in 2015, approximately 40% of the world’s workforce was remote. By 2020, 62% of employees are expected to work in virtual teams. One of the greatest dangers of leading Virtual Teams is assuming that the same approaches that work for onsite teams will work for your virtual team as well. We had a chance to chat with Lee Johnsen about trends in virtual teams. Lee is the Founder and Principal of Partners in Development. Sign up today to attend ATD-MAC’s “Leading Virtual Teams” presented by Lee Johnsen on November 16th.

     Q: Lee, in your consulting work, what you have you noticed are the most common misunderstandings about leading virtual teams?

    Lee: Too often people assume that leading a virtual team is the same as leading a co-located or onsite team. The research supports that there are key differences. Virtual teams require a greater emphasis on team communication, better listening skills, greater emphasis on building trust (from a distance) and more explicit goal-setting, to name a few of the differences. While all teams require sound team leadership skills, high performing virtual teams require additional leader and member skills.

    Q: What have you noticed are the major trends in virtual teams over the years?


    Lee: Here are just a few of the changes! Based on a global survey conducted by the American Management Association in 2013, leading cross-cultural teams is in the Top 10 of global leadership development competencies.

    Additionally, nearly 4 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half of the time in 2015. That represents about 3% of the U.S. workforce—a 115% increase since 2005, nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce. During that same time, the non-telecommuter population grew by less than 12%. (2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce. Global Workplace Analytics.).

    Finally, half of telecommuters are 45 years of age or older, compared to just 41% of the overall workforce. The average annual income for most telecommuters if $4,000 higher than that of non-telecommuters.

    Q: In your experience, what are the most important skills for leaders to have when leading virtual teams?

    Lee: The top skills leaders of virtual teams need are:

    • Team Purpose and Vision
    • Build Rapid Trust
    • Leverage Technology
    • Team Member Development
    • Balance Team Structure & Member Empowerment
    • Cross-cultural Management
    • Performance Management & Coaching

    While the skills no doubt are familiar, the tactics to apply these skills are different. (e.g. how does a virtual team leader build rapid trust with individuals they rarely seek face-to-face?) In research conducted by the Business Research Consortium in 2013, nearly three fifths of the 1500 respondents said that first-level managers are mediocre or worse as virtual leaders. Leaders of global virtual teams face the greatest challenges as they deal with large differences in geography, multiple time zones, and international team membership.


    Q: Do you find that there is a certain type of worker or skill set that leaders should look for when hiring a remote/virtual team member?

    Lee: Important skills for team members need in order to be successful are:

    • Virtual Team Communication
    • Self-Awareness and Self-Management
    • Relationship Management
    • Project Management
    • Communications Technology
    • Culture

    Self-awareness, self-management and relationship management are related to successful team members’ Emotional Intelligence. I would also add Social Awareness, especially in the absence of visual communication. Depending on one’s role and team, some of the other competencies may be more important than others.

    Q: Even if someone doesn't have work-from-home-staff, it seems like the understanding these principles is important just due to the changing nature of work and connectedness. What ways have you seen these skills translate into "traditional" offices?

    Lee:  Even if you’re not a virtual team member and work in an office onsite, chances are you are a member of a hybrid team. That is, one composed of both virtual and onsite team members. These teams also face some unique challenges. It is not uncommon for onsite team members to envy their remote counterparts because they imagine them working in their sweatpants and doing household chores during the work day. By the same token, remote team members can often feel isolated and out of the communication loop by missing the same socialization opportunities as their onsite colleagues.

    Virtual team meetings are another common challenge. Today, team members more often participate in more virtual meetings than face-to-face meetings. Yet, engagement is low. In research conducted by the Business Research Consortium in 2013, nearly half of the 1500 respondents said they always or often multitask during meetings. This is especially true of audio-only meetings.


    Q: Your session in November is focused on
    Leading Virtual Teams. What can attendees expect?

     Lee:  You’ll find answers to some of the most frequent challenges of virtual teams and how you can support your teams. I would like your input as to what interests you most about this topic and what your experience is as a member or leader of a virtual team. If you’d like, please take a few moments to complete this survey. The results will be shared during my session. Thank you, and I look forward to meeting you in person.


    Lee Johnsen, CPT, CPLP, SPHR, is Founder and Principal of Partners in Development (PID). Lee has a 20-year record of successfully guiding organizations toward improved productivity and work relationships resulting in significant growth. He has previously held management positions in fortune 500 corporations and has extensive experience working with international audiences. Lee has presented at regional and international conferences (ATD and ISPI) on topics of training evaluation, e-learning, and leadership of globally dispersed teams. He is a published author and an adjunct faculty member of the American Management Association (AMA). In 2014, Lee spent five months working in Saudi Arabia and leading his own virtual team.    

  • Thursday, October 26, 2017 3:29 PM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)


  • Wednesday, October 18, 2017 9:41 AM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

    by Erin Lavery, VP-Marketing

    Escape Rooms are creating quite a buzz in the corporate teambuilding space. If you’ve missed this craze, Escape Rooms are a chance for teams to get together, try to problem-solve their way out of a locked room by separating real clues from delightfully tricky red herrings, and also learn about their communication and influencing styles under pressure. The goal is to escape the room in less than 60 minutes. Or . . . is it?

    At the ATD-MAC Summer Social, MAC members took on Escape This in Madison. At the social afterwards, I asked a handful of participants, “Did you succeed?” I heard “No, we didn’t get out of the room.” and “Yes, with 5 minutes to spare.” And, yet, not one person asked me the most important question “How are you defining success?”

    As learning and development specialists, the question at the forefront of all our work should always be “What does success look like?” This is not a question to ask as an afterthought; it’s THE question.

    I hear you; you’re saying “Come on, Erin, the goal of an Escape Room is to escape.” Is it? Maybe success is escaping in 60 minutes . . . maybe 20 minutes. Or, maybe success is learning the names of everyone in the group. Maybe success is asserting my opinion in a group setting at least once. If I am claustrophobic, maybe success is just showing up!

    One of the greatest errors we make in our profession is assuming that our learners, clients, teams, and colleagues are all defining success the same way. If you want great learning, great outcomes, and great design, start with the question “What does success look like?” and use the answer as a light to illuminate the right action. That way, you aren’t wasting your time on those delightfully tricky red herrings.



    by Erin Lavery, VP-Marketing

    Erin is a Learning & Development Specialist focused on Leadership Development at UW Health. She holds a Master of Science in Adult and Continuing Education Leadership through the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in German Literature and Pedagogy from Calvin College. In addition, Erin is a certified trainer for Development Dimensions International and Crucial Conversations as well as a certified Life Coach for students with disabilities. Erin currently serves as the VP of Marketing for the ATD-MAC. 

  • Thursday, October 12, 2017 11:08 AM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

    by Jacob Burris, ATD-MAC Past President

    ATD-MAC’s October is all about understanding what leadership of training teams is all about. Whether you’re already a leader or you’re aspiring toward leadership, we’ve got something for you. We are learning to manage Training Misconceptions as well as Manage the Learning Function in Susan O’Hara’s program on October 18th it’s not too late to register! In gearing up for a month on Leadership, I’ve been taking time to reflect on my own leadership journey and all the lessons and turns along the way.

    When I first started leading a training team, I had what my colleague and fellow ATD-MAC member, Sarah Gibson, describes as Imposter Syndrome. Sure, I’d been in L&D for a decade, but my team was seasoned too – some even had more experience than I did. I kept asking myself, “What could I possible coach or teach that they don’t already know?” I questioned whether I really deserved the training manager title, and whether the title automatically made me a leader. But, I also knew I’d grown complacent as an individual contributor, and I excited for the new challenge of helping to shape a team.

    What I immediately found is that the team did need me – not just to approve PTO and filter communications from senior leadership – they needed permission and support to try new things. The team wanted to explore new ideas in ILT, but were held back by a company culture entrenched in “sage on the stage,” “spray and pray,” and “death by PowerPoint.” These were things I’d learned not to do years ago. 


    With the support of our director, we began converting lengthy slide presentations into activities and discussions that would engage participants. Because of my past experience, I was able to use this redesign process to coach my staff on the difference between what it meant to be a facilitator rather than a trainer. Guided discovery became the philosophy, and I helped lead the team toward comfort in letting participants struggle, increasing their patience, and learning to spend less time talking and more time listening and answering questions. My leadership came from helping facilitate desired changes and helping remove obstacles that were preventing the change.

    In my next position, a director position, I also helped facilitate change, but this time the focus was supporting organizational initiatives instead of team-level initiatives. The company was going agile and it was my job to move the department in that direction. While I had the experience necessary, I didn’t anticipate the open resistance to change. While I saw the change as a positive, the team did not, and I saw the approach I used to use as manager stop working. My relationship with the team was strained and sometimes openly adversarial. Again, the Imposter Syndrome set in. I started to question, “Am I ready to lead at this level?” I struggled with why the team seemed to hate me when I’m trying to help them. I wasn’t sure how to balance listening to the team and moving us forward in the direction we needed to go. This balance is what I have struggled with in particular. While time has helped gain trust, it’s sometimes still a challenge to lead when I don’t know the next steps of where the company is headed.

    Retired Marine Corp General Anthony Zinni talked about leading the charge in Vietnam, sometime up hills with no idea what lay on the other side. He always led the front of the charge and put himself at risk first as they crested the hill. I use that analogy with my own team because sometimes we must operate in ambiguity and move forward into uncertain territory. If there is one lesson leadership has taught me, it’s that while I can’t promise we won’t make mistakes, I can promise I’ll be right there with them when we do. Leading this way has helped me find that balance of supporting the team and organizational initiatives. It’s helping me built trust even when the direction is uncertain.


    Jacob Burris, ATD-MAC Past President

    Jacob Burris is a Learning & Development Partner with QBE North America where he works across business units to design and deliver training solutions. He has been facilitating to diverse business groups both nationally and internationally for over a decade. His training career began with facilitating presentations skills to sales teams and grew from there, but his main areas of expertise include: onboarding, customer service, sales, leadership, virtual training, and e-Learning design. Jacob has a graduate degree in Education and an Instructional Design Certificate from UW – Stout. In addition, Jacob is an active member of ATD and has served on the ATD-MAC board since 2015. He currently holds the role of ATD-MAC Past President.

  • Friday, October 06, 2017 12:19 PM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

    Welcome to the ATD-MAC blog!  As a chapter, we are always striving to find ways to be more efficient and effective in our communications and support to you, our members.  With your feedback from the annual member survey, we identified some improvements we can make in getting you more timely and regular communication and updates about the chapter and industry.   Here you can find articles on the talent & organizational development industry, information about the chapter, upcoming events, etc. 


    We exist for you, the talent and organizational development community.  As president, I am proud of the programs and activities our board and volunteers bring to you.  We will continue to work hard to support you in your own professional development through various opportunties.  We will continue to look at monthly programming events as well as other opportunities to bring this network of colleagues together.  The remainder of our 2017 program offerings will provide you with additional support in, Managing Learning Departments (October 18th), Leading Virtual teams (November 16th), and looking at Authenticity in Teams (December 14th).


    We want to hear from you! Please continue to share feedback with us regarding ideas for upcoming programs or activities, interest you may have in presenting at a monthly event, topics you’d like to see on the blog, etc.  You can reach out to any board member to share your thoughts or ask questions.  We look forward to our remaining 2017 events and providing you with great offerings and opportunities in 2018.

    Jenn Stangl

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