The ‘Master Competency’

“Effective Leadership is defined by results not attributes…”

Sprinter off the blocks
Professor David C McClelland (1917-1998), inspired the development of a Competency Dictionary that identified the specific behaviours and attitudes of top performers, across a wide range of industries.

It turns out there are around 21 competencies associated with outstanding
performance. However, only one of those competencies is vital for success in every industry type and every market sector, and that’s the ability to Drive for Results.

Drive for Results involves: setting ambitious targets, focusing on what really makes a difference (not being constrained by past methods), and being
optimistic and tenacious in the face of difficulties. It involves anticipating
obstacles and being ready, willing and able to overcome them.

This desire, energy and ambition to make things happen is at the heart of all truly successful business leaders’ psyche.

So, what does it take to master this ‘master competency’? Well, let’s start
with a word of caution, and then look at the 10-step process that is central
to success in this area…

Avoiding the dark side of ‘making things happen’

Drive for Results, if taken to extremes, can lead to negative consequences e.g.

  • Going for results at the expense of good ethics
  • Having high staff turnover or sickness due to pressurising/bullying employees to get things done
  • Compromising on quality in order to hit the deadline
  • Being stubborn and sticking to efforts beyond reason, even in the face of overwhelming odds

So, it is important to be on guard against becoming too self-absorbed and pursuing a goal to the exclusion of all other considerations.

In other words, effective people have enough good judgement to know when to be courageous and continue on the road they are on, and when to take a detour.

Thus, though, “winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win” – and for sure perseverance is at the heart of driving for results – it is also the case that the only thing you get from hitting your head against a brick wall is brain damage.

This means that having the ability to ‘take a reality check’ on your ambitions, and adjust them according to events, is also central to a healthy, productive results focus. Budgets set during an up-cycle in the economy are highly unlikely to be achieved if a sudden and unexpected recession hits due to (say) a pandemic or political crisis. It also means taking a moment from time to time to make sure that you are not putting pressure on employees to work long hours or bend the rules.

A 10-step strategy for Driving for Results

The basic process for achieving results is simple, though not always easy to apply:

  1. Prioritise your goals. You can’t do everything, so pick your battles.
  2. Make sure the goal is well defined, ambitious and with a clear ‘pay off’. Consider ‘benchmarking’ objectives in relation to what ‘best performance’ looks like in your market sector (and maybe look at what other, non-related, industry sectors are doing for inspiration).
  3. Get support or ‘buy in’ for the goal from key decision makers (if appropriate).
  4. Break the task down into 4/5 main phases, blocks of work or activities.
  5. Identify possible risks associated with each of the phases (i.e. ask, “What could go wrong?”) and develop corrective actions. Anticipating problems or difficulties and giving some thought as to how to deal with them, is a key success factor when Driving for Results.
  6. In a team setting, present (and maybe actively ‘sell’), the goal to your staff.
  7. Take the first small step to move toward the goal. Keep taking the next small step, until the goal is reached.
  8. Accept obstacles and difficulties as inevitable and adopt a problem-solving mindset to overcoming them.
  9. Keep the key decision makers up to date with progress (if appropriate).
  10. Celebrate success. Take the time to really enjoy your achievements. Publicise your success, not in a boastful way, but let your peers and managers know what you’ve been able to achieve, so they know what you’re capable of.

Bringing the team with you

One aspect of Drive for Results is motivating a team effort where a group of people will be needed to get to the desired end state. This is about correctly executing step 6, of the ten-step strategy, outlined above.

It involves getting the team together and explaining clearly and concisely:

  1. what the goal is (the desired end result and the time lines)
  2. what the main phases or activities are
  3. why the goal is important (and what the ‘payoff’ is for the business and for the individual team members)
  4. who, specifically, is responsible for which aspects of the goal (consider the need for any coaching to support staff in tackling their assigned tasks)
  5. when progress will be reviewed.

It is also useful to establish a climate of trust, where: honest disagreements are expected and encouraged, team members help one another, and creativity combined with a problem-solving outlook, is rewarded.

The power of the next small step

The idea of just taking ‘the next small step’ is an important one in Drive for Results (step 7 of the process). With large tasks, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the size of the challenge. However, by simply focusing on the next small action, progress is made quickly, continuously and without strain.

Harvard Business School Professor, Teresa Amabile in her book “The Progress Principle”, notes that it is highly motivational to have a sense of moving forward, so asking, “what did I get done today?” and celebrating that success (no matter how small) is a key factor in productivity and results focus. Also, research (Sparrow 1998) shows that people who ‘keep going’ despite difficulties spend twice as much time thinking about what they’ve already accomplished and using that as ‘proof’ that the task is ‘doable’ – as compared with those who give up easily.

Overcoming obstacles and the STOP model

Encountering difficulties is inevitable when working to achieve goals (step 8 of the process). Sometimes these roadblocks will have been anticipated as part of the planning process and sometimes they will be unexpected, but in any event some level of disruption is sure to occur.

Discouragement, sadness and anger are common emotions that people experience when faced with these inevitable obstacles. Though ‘natural’ they are unhelpful when it comes to reaching an objective, especially a challenging one.

One formal method for dealing with obstacles is the STOP model.

The model comes from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), which was originally developed in the 1980’s to treat people with personality disorders. DBT offers a number of ‘tools’ that can be used in everyday life, including STOP, which stands for…

  • Stop – pause, don’t do or say anything, simply describe what you are feeling or thinking (e.g. frustrated, disappointed) – this is known as Emotional Labelling.
  • Take a step back – don’t make any hasty decisions, give yourself permission to take some time to work out what to do, accept the reality of the current situation (a problem has happened) and move calmly into a problem-solving mode (how can I move round this obstacle).
  • Observe – gather facts, ask other people’s opinions, assess the evidence, really understand what’s going on and develop some options for moving forward, adopt a problem-solving mindset.
  • Proceed – decide how specifically to move forward. Set a goal and take some action. Assess the results. Be sure to remain positive and confident whatever the outcome. Repeat the STOP process as necessary.

Putting it all together

Effective business leaders know how to make things happen. They have a strong ‘results focus’ and pursue their goals with energy; not giving up before finishing, even in the face of resistance or setbacks. They don’t allow themselves to be deflected from their course, though they do exercise good judgement and are flexible and adaptable when faced with significant obstacles.

So what’s next?

Examine your past for how you have gone about getting things done. Assess what has worked in the past that you can apply to the present. Identify your weaknesses and consider how you can compensate for them.

Pick a goal, clarify it and then commit to a timeframe to accomplish it.


Try reading, Collins, James C. Turning Goals into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.


Watch… this seven-minute-long video on The Kaizen Way – a goal setting method based on taking small steps – by Robert Maurer.


Consider signing teams up to our 90-minute-long Espresso Workshop on Managing Goals, Planning & Prioritising, run either as a face to face session, or as a Virtual Training Event.


If you’re a senior executive, maybe a ‘one-to-one’ executive coaching session, on our Remote Coaching Programme, would be a useful option for helping you Drive for Results.


Or give us a call on 0844 394 8877 (UK)
or email us at and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can work with you.

So, to conclude we end with an old adage…

“You can make excuses
or you can make progress!”

“Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the Web.”
Author of The Cluetrain Manifesto
Online business meeting

“Virtual presence is problematic, but that doesn’t mean that the fundamental skills no longer apply.”

Ladies and gentlemen… your attention please…

Impact, Charisma and Presence are essential qualities in a Senior Executive. If a leader wants to influence peers, enthuse employees, or inspire confidence in regulators, it is vital that they express themselves fully and with a sense of conviction. Presence, then, is a key attribute that effective leaders possess; one that enables them to motivate others.

It is hard enough to build rapport and demonstrate gravitas when working with people face to face, but when trying to do that via a laptop screen many additional difficulties arise. Overcoming those challenges takes hard work and commitment to learning new skills.

Start with the fundamentals of Impact and Presence

Virtual Presence is problematic, but that doesn’t mean that the fundamental skills no longer apply. The basic techniques are still as central to engaging effectively with people as they ever were. Those core skills have a long history. The ancient Greeks highly valued public speaking and over 2,000 years ago Aristotle identified “the three persuasive appeals” that combine together to make a powerful argument that inspires people to act, they are:

  1. Ethos: being credible as a speaker: demonstrating expertise; being thought of as trustworthy and knowledgeable
  2. Pathos: building emotional connection to the audience through establishing common ground or linking to key values
  3. Logos: having logical arguments supported by data, facts and analysis

Much of what is taught today in respect of presence goes back to these
writings on rhetoric (or the art of persuasion) by the ancient Greeks.

For example, in their June 2012 HBR article Antonkis, Fenley and Leichti on Learning Charisma, note that while leaders can pressure people to do as they ask because they have the power to reward or punish employees, it is the ability to demonstrate charismatic leadership that really inspires people to give of their best. They go on to highlight twelve ancient rhetorical techniques as being especially powerful for modern leaders. These include…

Rhetorical Questions to engage people e.g. “So, what does good performance look like?”

Expressing Moral Conviction (setting standards for right or just behaviour) e.g. “This quality problem is damaging our relationships with our customers, it’s our issue to resolve and we need to take ownership for fixing it as a group.”

Reflecting the Group’s/Audience’s Sentiments – even when they are negative – as they show empathy and help the group to ‘connect’ with the speaker e.g. “I know how disappointed and upset you are about this decision…it is a bitter pill to swallow after all your hard work…”

Setting Challenging Goals – giving people a clear, compelling objective to focus on e.g. “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon”, John. F. Kennedy (May 1961)

Two issues with Remote Executive Presence

When working remotely there are two main issues that need to be addressed when demonstrating Ethos, Pathos and Logos:

  1. Building Trust. Getting a ‘connection’ with people has a lot to do with eye contact, facial expressions (in particular smiling) and open body language, but these things are hard to do in a virtual environment.
  2. Establishing Credibility. Power gestures, small talk, looking professional, and demonstrating knowledge all contribute to establishing a professional presence, but this can be ‘tricky’ when trying to do it through a laptop screen.

So, if a ‘face to face’ meeting is like a 3D theatre play with actors facing a live audience, ‘in the flesh’, then a virtual meeting is like a 2D TV show, with a presenter, sitting in a studio, and talking into a camera. So, successful Executive Presence in this context, in part, involves adapting the techniques used by presenters on the evening news to build trust and establish credibility remotely.

Look the part – master your production values to establish credibility

As noted above, a key element of Executive Presence in a Virtual World, is to appreciate the importance of looking and sounding professional on the screen.
This involves:

  1. Looking good on screen. Adjust your lighting levels to create a clear, sharp image. Make sure your light source is coming from behind your camera i.e. from in front of you. Use the Touch Up My Appearance and Adjust for Low Light, features to fine tune your image and consider buying a professional photographer’s lamp. Frame yourself as a head and shoulders shot; don’t have too much ‘empty space’ above your head.
  2. Curating your background. Look at your video preview and clear any clutter in camera view; set up a professional looking background, or have an appropriate virtual background e.g. maybe use your company’s logo.
  3. Sounding good. Test your laptop speaker and microphone and use the “Suppress Background Noise” feature. Think about buying (and using) an external microphone that blocks out background noise.

Make friends with the camera – to build trust

Positive body language is a key aspect of demonstrating charisma; especially adopting an upright, relaxed posture, coupled with steady eye contact and a warm smile.

What this means for Virtual Presence is that eye contact has to be simulated by talking into the camera (and not to the person’s image on the screen). So, when talking focus on the camera light and imagine that you are looking at a person and chatting with them as you do so. This feels very ‘odd’ at first but in time you do get used to it, so persevere. It helps to lift up the camera (by using a stand or stack of books) so that the lens is at eye level.

Also, sit up straight on your chair (don’t slouch), and when not talking give active listening signals such as head nods, smiles and (maybe) the occasional thumbs up sign. Act as if you are on show at all times, which you are! Actively manage your reactions and expressions so as to demonstrate courtesy to all people at all times i.e. no eye rolling, or head shaking.

You can’t use gestures as much on-line as you do in a face-to-face setting (it makes you look frenetic), but they are still an important part of the communication mix, and when used to highlight key points they are very effective e.g. doing a ‘two handed chop’ gesture to emphasise a message or statement.

Have a script; make sure you have a message that’s worth listening to!

In their book Leadership Presence Halpern and Lubar make a link between what is required of a top performing senior executive and the actor’s craft. They note that actors don’t expect to be ‘born’ with charisma, but train, using specific ‘drills’, to be able to capture an audience’s attention and to have people focus completely on them.

In addition, they also note that a good performance based on a poor script doesn’t impress anyone: presence captures people’s attention and gets them to take the speaker seriously, but the content of the message must also be compelling.

So effective leaders don’t only make their point with energy and conviction (pathos), they also have something to say that is worth listening to (logos). They plan what they want to say, making sure it’s logical and mentions facts and figures that convinces people of the correctness of the case they are making. This applies not only to a formal ‘key note’ speech, but also to more everyday comments, such as making a point in a meeting. Plus, again like a good actor, they rehearse what they are going to say, so it comes across fluently, without undue hesitation or the appearance of doubt.

Putting it all together

Virtual Executive Presence starts with understanding the classic fundamentals of capturing attention and being convincing, namely; Ethos, Pathos and Logos.

It’s then a question of coming to terms with the media and accepting we are working in a TV style format and acting accordingly i.e. by getting a grip on the production values and becoming comfortable presenting into the camera.

Finally, it’s about taking the time to script and rehearse what you want to say so that you are making points that are clear, logical and supported by facts and figures.

So what’s next?

Reflect on how effective you are at working via your laptop screen. What messages are you sending through your production values and body language? Consider what changes you might make.


Read this Short article giving examples of Ethos, Pathos and Logos in speeches


Watch… this YouTube clip (5 minutes) on 6 body language tips for conducting a video call


Take a look at our Executive Presence in a Virtual World programme (an intensive remote training course, for a maximum of six delegates per programme).


Or maybe review our ‘one to one’ executive coaching services to get some tailored guidance on developing your personal impact in the virtual space.


Or give us a call on 0844 394 8877 (UK)
or email us at and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can work with you.

And we end with a quote from the Economist, Author and Expert in Talent Management, SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT…

“There are six elements of gravitas critical to leadership: grace under fire, decisiveness, emotional intelligence and the ability to read a room, integrity and authenticity (people don’t like fakes), a vision that inspires others, and a stellar reputation.”

“Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglect.”
Girl in a hammock with laptop

Paying Attention to Your Needs

At all times, but especially in times of adversity and stress, it’s vitally important to take the time to look after your own wants, needs and desires. Burn out, fatigue and depression (or if not depression, then certainly ‘low mood’) can very easily creep up on you if you’re not actively looking after your own sense of well-being.

What is self-care?

Raphailia Michael writing in PsychCentral says self-care is, “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”.

Self-care involves taking time to pay attention to your own sense of well-being and putting your needs first, at least occasionally. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a manner that makes sure you are focusing on your own physical and mental health.

Self-care activities help to reduce anxiety, improve mood and build good relationships. It is a vital component of avoiding fatigue, sickness and burn out.

Self-care actions include:

  • knowing what your limits are
  • finding a way to decompress throughout your day
  • giving some thought to addressing persistent problems
  • committing to changing any difficult work situations that may arise
  • spending time with loved ones
  • getting regular medical check-ups

Attending to the basics

Self-care starts with the obvious 4 core physiological factors:

  1. Breathing properly
  2. Sleeping well
  3. Healthy diet
  4. Regular exercise

If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep (and who hasn’t) then you know what tiredness can do to your mood, attitude and decision-making capabilities.

Similarly, Junk Food, Alcohol, Tobacco and all the other things you might (or might not) try from time to time will, in excess, hamper your ability to feel good and get things done.

Ditto exercise; your body was made to move and there is a minimum of effort needed to keep the system in good working order. The category of exercise includes the requirement to maintain a good posture. Poor body alignments, caused by hours spent hunched over a steering wheel, phone or laptop can (over time) cause pain, immobility and low mood, so any tendency to slouch, adopt a ‘text neck’ etc. needs to be actively countered.

Of the 4 core factors the least focused on by most people is the one that’s top of the list – a strong breathing process. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. This fully oxygenates the whole body and promotes a sense of well-being, boosts energy levels and aids healing. Shallow breathing, on the other hand, causes fatigue and creates a sense of anxiety. As you will be breathing all day, every day, for the rest of your life, the positive impact of a strong breathing process (and the negative impact of a poor one) should not be underestimated.

There are formal breathing systems that you can study e.g. the Ujjayi breath of yoga practitioners, Buddhist Whole Body breathing techniques and the popular Wim Hoff Breathing method, that’s based on Tibetan Tummo Meditation. However, it’s enough for most people just to go on-line and read up on the basic principles for diaphragmatic breathing.

Ten-minute decompression

A key self-care strategy is to take 3 or 4 short breaks each day (of about ten minutes each) to ‘decompress’ and shrug off any stress that’s building up in the body. These micro breaks are (of course) in addition to taking a proper lunch break, one that takes you away from the computer, phone and social media.

These breaks can involve anything that helps you to re-energise yourself; and what works well for one person can be quite different from what works for someone else. The two main things to bear in mind are that (a) you are aiming to ‘de-compress’ and not cram extra activities into the day, (b) find something that works for you and your life style. So Sudoku or stretching, a coffee with your partner or contemplating nature, listening to the radio or reading a poem – the choice is yours!

You might like to know, however, that the research clearly shows that one of the most effective self-care strategies is to meditate daily, as it boosts mental health, sharpens attention and improves relationships. So, consider engaging in daily meditation, of whatever flavour you like, whether that be Mindfulness, Transcendental, Taoist, Vipassana, Zen etc.

Engaging in hobbies and pastimes

Having an interest that is both outside of work and also the immediate home environment, is a very powerful element of a self-care routine. There are thousands of possible options, it’s just a question of each person finding the ‘right’ one for them, be that gardening, horse riding, scuba diving, motor bike riding, yoga, dancing, running, photography, book club, choir, watching or playing team sports etc.

It also makes sense for couples to do a shared activity as a way of strengthening and enhancing their relationship. It’s also important to try new things from time to time, in order to maintain a sense of adventure and avoid boredom. Of course, pastimes don’t have to be expensive or time consuming, simple daily activities work just fine as a self-care activity e.g. hiking, seeing a friend, walking the dog, reading a book, going to the cinema, or out for a meal.

News Hygiene and ‘Digital Sunsets’

Most people are bombarded by emails, digital messages, and social media updates, and that’s very disruptive to a calm, centred mind, consequently it’s vital to take control of your ‘digital footprint’ by…

  1. Adopting good News Hygiene; stop all push notifications and alerts (especially news updates and email notifications). Pick one (or maybe two) trusted news sources and look at them just once a day.
  2. Enforcing a Digital Sunset; pick a time (say) 6.30pm and switch off all emails, and all work communications. Disconnect from social media (Facebook, Instagram etc.) and focus on your home and social life until the following morning.

Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude Journaling (i.e. writing down a list of things that you are grateful for) sounds like one of those things that wouldn’t work to boost self-care, but actually does.

It seems that by taking the time to reflect on what’s going well and/or what you’ve enjoyed and/or appreciated, focuses the mind on the good things in life and boosts optimism. The ‘good’ things can be big e.g. finishing a project, or small e.g. watching a sunset as you drive home from work, a coffee with a friend, a compliment from a work colleague, but they all contribute to building optimism and positivity.

The initial study into this topic by Emmons and McCullough (2003, Counting Blessings Vs. Burdens) asked participants to write down 5 things they were grateful for, once a week for 10 consecutive weeks. The result? An extraordinary 25% boost in happiness reported by the participants as against their pre-journaling rating.

Putting it all together

JournalingYou can be of little help to family and friends, and of little value to an employer, if you are jaded, weary, run down, or washed out. Taking the time to prioritise self-care activities means that you can experience a level of joyfulness and satisfaction in your personal life that’s pleasing and uplifting, while also giving you enough energy to be supportive of others. So, take the time to decompress, enjoy your hobbies, meditate and take a moment each day just to notice something you are grateful for.

So what’s next?

Reflect on how good you are at taking care of yourself – do you need to make any changes?


Read this (long but interesting) article on Self Care 101 by Dr Maria Barratta in Psychology Today


You may be interested in how we can help people achieve more balance with our half-day Emotional Intelligence programme.


If you have someone that you would like to get Executive Coaching, then we’d be happy to help with that as well.


Or gives us a call on 0844 394 8877 (UK) or email us at and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can work with you.

And finally, remember…

“Self-care is giving the world
the best of you, instead of
what’s left of you!”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Working From Home a Positive Experience

“In teamwork silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly”
Man working from home

People working remotely for the first time need a proper induction programme

Working remotely (and especially working from home) requires the acquisition of a specific set of skills if it’s going to be a success for the company and the employee. There are many hazards that await those new to home working (some obvious and some hidden) that can lead to people feeling stressed, uncertain about their duties, and lacking motivation.

This article covers the key messages that Line Mangers should review with their staff when they are new to the experience of home working in order to avoid these potential pitfalls. As the title suggests, it covers guidance on the do’s and don’ts of making working from home a positive experience. At its heart is the concept that new Remote Workers should have a Structured Remote Working Induction/Coaching Programme that helps them to thrive when working virtually.

Naturally, any suggestions need to be tailored to the needs of each specific employee and take account of the corporate culture/procedures, but there are a number of ‘standard’ messages that are worth covering.

The eight key elements involved in developing a Structured Remote Working Induction Programme for a new Remote Worker are:

  1. Making the most of the experience
  2. Dealing with isolation
  3. Getting the set up right
  4. Being red hot on Cyber Security
  5. Transition Rituals
  6. Agreeing House Rules
  7. Time Blocking
  8. Working from home with young children

Let’s look briefly at each of these factors in turn…

Making the most of the experience

Working from home means that workers have to improvise (depending on what’s going on at home) and juggle their work hours accordingly, which can be tricky. However, it also allows people to flex what they are doing to take the maximum advantage of being in the home environment. So, no reason not to take a few minutes off to play with the kids, or put some laundry in the washing machine, or mow the lawn, or have a coffee with your mum, or schedule home deliveries for during the day etc.

So, good managers should encourage staff to consciously think about how to gain from the flexibility that remote working brings e.g. What to do with time gained from not commuting into work? Take an early morning yoga class? Maybe go for a run at the end of the day?

Dealing with isolation

One potential downside of home working is the loss of social contact it brings. This can lead to feelings of isolation and sometimes anxiety.

To counteract this, managers should schedule at least a weekly catch up call with their remote employees (and for the first couple of weeks of remote working those ‘catch up’ calls should probably be daily).

New Home Workers should also be encouraged to schedule daily catch up/check in calls with colleagues to replicate (albeit imperfectly) corridor conversations/ water cooler chats.

In addition, managers should encourage new Home Workers to:

  • Get out of the house at least once a day e.g. walk to the shops, stop and chat to a neighbour.
  • Work outside the home for part of the day e.g. spend some time working from a local coffee shop, networking space, or sitting on a park bench.
  • Think about attending local networking events as a way of building a support network. Or maybe join a local club or association to boost levels of social contact e.g. a book club, a netball team etc. or take a night school class.

Getting the ‘set up’ right

It is easier to work from home if the employee can create a physical space that is conducive to concentration and focus. Managers need to have a conversation with their people about how they are going to handle this aspect of their work.

The ideal thing (obviously) is to have a dedicated ‘office’, a converted spare bedroom or an ‘office shed’ in the garden. People can work on the kitchen table if they have to, but they should be able to put everything away at the end of each working day e.g. have a work cupboard, or a chest/crate that they can put their laptop and papers in. That way staff can make a clear distinction between work time (and work spaces) and home time (and home spaces) as the two things are kept physically separate.

There should also be a discussion about how to follow the appropriate Health and Safety protocols e.g. making sure each staff member has good lighting and a work position that won’t result in RSI or a strained neck etc.

Furthermore, it is also important to make sure that they have the right tools for the job, e.g. an excellent WIFI connection, headset and microphone, an ergonomic chair and (maybe) a separate monitor, plus a table at the right height (and don’t let people work on the sofa or in bed!)

Make a particular point of encouraging each employee to have good posture; it’s very easy to slump or slouch over a laptop or phone, leading to neck, back and shoulder pain. Some managers like to suggest that people go on You Tube and find a set of simple stretches and posture exercises that they can do 3-4 times a day to avoid those physical issues occurring over time.

Being red hot on Cyber Security

Cyber Security is of crucial importance at all times and in all contexts. It is of particular concern, however, when working from home for the first time when best practice procedures may not already be in place. Good security is a matter of following all the standard security protocols, namely:

  • Make sure each employee has a strong password on their Router and any WIFI connections, ensure anti-virus is in place and fully updated, and encryption tools are installed.
  • Check all security software is up to date (privacy tools, add-ons for browsers and other patches need to be checked regularly).
  • Discuss the need to have a back-up strategy and make sure that employees remember to do it

Transition Rituals

A Ritual is a series of actions performed in a set sequence. Rituals can be religious, community, legal or personal in nature.

A Transition Ritual is a highly specific behaviour that is done at the same time every day (or on specific days of the week) in order to psychologically move from one mood, or mode, or type of thinking into another one.

They are particularly important when home working because, surrounded by all the artefacts of a personal life, there is a need to deliberately make the move from ‘home’ mode to ‘work’ mode and back again.

When people don’t use Transition Rituals they often find it hard to get going in the morning and/or let work activities bleed unhelpfully into their personal time in the evening e.g. checking emails over the dinner table. The ‘rituals’ someone chooses (and many people have at least some that they are using already) are a matter of individual preference e.g. some people get dressed in specific ‘work’ clothes, or start the day with a coffee in the garden as a primer for work, or meditate for ten minutes, or pack/ unpack the crate that they keep their laptop and work papers in etc. The main thing is for the manager to explicitly coach employees on developing the ‘Transition Rituals’ that are right for them.

It is worth noting that Rituals can be positive, negative or neutral in their impact. Some ‘negative rituals’ to think about making sure employees avoid when home working include; ‘snacking’, or generally using food-based rewards to punctuate the day; not getting dressed, until late in the day; not going outside for breaks but staying tied to the laptop!

Agreeing House Rules

If an employee lives with house mates or a partner and/or has children, it may be worth suggesting to them that they sit down as a group and agree some ‘House Rules’ for how to share the space together.

The idea is to avoid the irritation that comes from things like people playing loud music, or bursting into the room when you are in the middle of a call with the CEO, or arguments about who is supposed to be looking after the kids. So, one House Rule might be to suggest to older children that they won’t shout at the top of their lungs when they want something, but will quietly walk to the work area and see if you are on a call before talking.

Of course, House Rules, are a two-way process and employees should appreciate that flat mates and family may well have their own thoughts about what some of those rules should be e.g. no work calls after hours, giving your partner/family your undivided attention when you’re not working etc. Naturally, they should be coached to accept any reasonable suggestions from the people they are sharing space with.

Time Blocking

Having a formal work schedule is a key success factor when home working because there are few naturally occurring events to structure the day e.g. there are no colleagues around or commuting etc. to give shape to the day.

Time Blocking is a time management technique that simply involves listing the tasks someone wants to do and then allocating a specific time to do them. Using this system, every minute of the working day is assigned a task e.g.

09.00am – 10.00am Task X
10.00am – 10.30am Task Y
10.30am – 10.45am Coffee Break
10.45am – 11.15am Contingency: deal with unexpected tasks
11.15am – 12.00 am Team Meeting (Zoom conference)

Of course, the schedule can be modified in the face of ‘events’, and some of the estimates of how long it takes to do a task will be wrong; so there may well be a gap between the plan and the actual work done each day, but that is perfectly fine. The aim isn’t to do everything on the list but to provide a ‘shape’ to the day that will maximise productivity.

Consequently, managers should encourage people new to home working to adopt this process.

Working from home with children

Working from home when children are in the house (especially those of pre-school age) can be especially challenging. They will, naturally, demand attention and their needs will have to be attended to. There are, however, some strategies that are commonly used to cope with this situation and the manager should run through these options with employees with young families…

First and foremost (and easily forgotten) is to just enjoy having them around. Take short ‘micro breaks’ from work to play with them and (if they are really young) make the most of any nap times (theirs not yours).

Have a written schedule that balances your family and work commitments (e.g. use the Time Blocking technique).

Agree who will do what and when in terms of child care (i.e. as part of establishing the House Rules).

If you can afford it, hire a babysitter, child minder, or use play groups to let you focus during a set block of time each day e.g. 9am to 1pm. Some lucky people can also get Grandparents involved in the childcare process.

Think about having planned activities to occupy the kids; these will be age dependent of course, but include things like having colouring books, toys, videos and games etc. available for them to play with.

Putting it all together

Helping people who are new to Remote Working (and especially home working) is about making sure that the manager goes through a structured induction/coaching process on the do’s and don’ts of home working. The factors to cover include; making the most of the experience, proactively avoiding the feeling of isolation, Transition Rituals and the Time Blocking technique.

So what’s next?

Reflect on how you are coaching employees who are new to remote working. Are you doing enough to support them? Have you got a structured induction process in place? What changes might you make?


Read this short article on how to avoid employees feeling isolated when they are working from home


Watch… this 10 minute-long video on Time Blocking


Consider signing managers up to our half-day Managing Remote Teams workshop, run either as a face to face session, or as a Virtual Training Event


If you’re a senior executive, maybe a ‘one-to-one’ executive coaching session, or our Remote Coaching Programme, would be a useful option for helping you improve your skills?


Or give us a call on 0844 394 8877 (UK)
or email us at and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can work with you.

And finally, a quote by the Management Consultant and author
Larry English…

“Most anyone can learn to be a great virtual employee. The top skills to learn are setting healthy boundaries between your work life and personal life and building relationships virtually.”