Leaders of Remote Teams Must Learn to Protect the Overachievers

Your team has probably been working remotely for a year or more now, and even as the country moves into fast-forward about “opening up”, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and new reality?

THE QUICK SUMMARYRemote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits. Most important, they show why – with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo – more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution’s “under one roof” model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is “move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend. A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. In Remote, authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea–and they’re going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.


A common belief among managers contemplating remote work teams is the fear that their employees would slack off when out of the office and away from their watchful eyes.

The reality is that remote employees are more likely to overwork than underwork.

The employee who has passion and dedication to their work often has difficulty balancing their work and demands of their private lives when their work is being done in the spaces normally dedicated to private lives.

Leaders of remote teams must be aware of the signs of overwork, and intentionally work to prevent it.

Be on the lookout for overwork, not underwork.

If you’ve read about remote-work failures in the press, you might thing that the major risk in setting our people free is that they’ll turn into lazy, unproductive slackers. In reality, it’s overwork, not underwork, that’s the real enemy in a successful remote working environment.

Working at home and living there means there’s less delineation between the two parts of your life. You’ll have all your files and all your equipment right at hand, so if you come up with an idea at 9pm, you can keep plowing through, even if you already put in more than adequate hours from 7am to 3pm.

The fact is, it’s easy to turn work into your predominate hobby.

If work is all-consuming, the worker is far more likely to burn out. This is true even if the person loves what he does. Perhaps especially if he loves what he does, since it won’t seem like a problem until it’s too late.

It’s everyone’s job to be on the lookout for coworkers who are overworking themselves, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the managers to set the tone.

In the same way that you don’t want a gang of slackers, you also don’t want a band of supermen. The best workers over the long term are people who put in sustainable hours. Not too much, not too little – just right.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Remote: Office Not Required


As the leader of remote teams, how you practice working remotely will often set the pattern and practice of your team.

Using the following ideas from Work Together Anywhere, evaluate your own remote practices, and then determine how you will share the expectations with your team.

Motivation and Self-Discipline

  • Have a set routine
  • Dress like you’re going to work
  • Work in a space designated for work
  • Set a schedule and stick to it


  • Experiment with time- and task-management methodologies and apps
  • Minimize multitasking; instead, focus on one thing at a time
  • Pace yourself to regulate your energy, maximizing your stamina and mental acuity
  • Make sure your workspace aids rather than hinders your productivity


  • Balance stints of productive, focused work with sufficient breaks that include movement.
  • Don’t forget to allow yourself the perks of remote working, like taking a break in your living room, or eating lunch on your patio
  • Combat the risk of loneliness by actively seeking social interaction both in person and online

Communication and Collaboration

  • Adopt a virtual-team mindset by trusting others to deliver the results they committed to while doing the same
  • Practice positive communication by being overtly friendly and assuming positive intent
  • Be reliable, consistent, and transparent: make sure your teammates know what you’re working on and how to reach you, within agreed upon guidelines


Welcoming the Class of 2022 to a Campus Near You

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Recently, the Mindset List of the Class of 2022 was released.


The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds characterized by the following:

  • They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them.
  • People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
  • The Prius has always been on the road in the U.S.

According to McBride,

Students come to college with particular assumptions based on the horizons of their lived experience. All teachers need to monitor their references, while students need to appreciate that without a sound education they will never get beyond the cave of their own limited personal experiences.

Here’s a few more characteristics to whet your appetite:

  • Films have always been distributed on the Internet.
  • Donny and Marie who?
  • Oprah has always been a magazine.
  • A visit to a bank has been a rare event.

You can read the whole list here.

The original authors have moved on to new projects in their retirement but will continue their battle against “hardening of the references” at their website, themindsetlist.com.

Even if you’re not a college professor, you need to read the whole list here.

With contributions from parents and academics around the world, the List has tracked cultural change, stimulated intergenerational conversation, and just made older people feel even older.

– Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg


Saying Goodbye to Granny

Betty Jeanne Howerton Adams


The dates above are important – they are the bookends of my mother’s life. They mark a beginning and an end of her physical existence.

But her life was lived out in the dash.

Today will be filled with dozens of these stories. Family and friends are gathering from near and far to celebrate her life. In those stories, Betty will be known by many different names.

Of course I knew her first as Momma. My earliest memories are of soft, soothing words, and a loving touch. That’s natural for a child.

But in the last few months of her life, as my brother and I prepared for the sale of our home place and all the “treasures” inside, I discovered more about her – a life seldom spoken of, but one that was rich in adventures and a person known by many names.

In particular, I discovered pictures from the 1940s and 1950s that I believe have not been seen by anyone in the family for over 65 years. Pictures that tell more of the story of the life of Betty as we knew her.

  • Born a few years before the Great Depression, Betty grew up with a brother and a sister in northeastern Missouri.
  • Her father (and later her brother) were involved in construction and car dealerships and other things mechanical. That becomes important later.
  • A few images of Betty Jeanne and friends in her senior year of high school in Kirksville, MO speak to mischievous teenager.
  • A love of music lead to college at what was known as Northeast Missouri Teacher’s College after high school.
  • During those post-WWII boom years, her time in college included football games and homecoming parades and band concerts and musical productions.
  • Fresh with a music education degree, she headed out in 1950 to begin several years of teaching in Missouri and Iowa.
  • Always the youngest teacher, and often the only female on the faculty, her bright eyes and big smile among a table full of dour, unsmiling men invites speculation as to how her classes went.
  • In the fall of 1953, along with several of her teacher girlfriends, they went to a teacher’s convention in Florida. The images show happy friends in the surf, on the beach… and then a young man from Tennessee began appearing in the picture.
  • That week at the beach led to “courting” by mail, a couple of visits to Missouri, and then a proposal and a ring.
  • At a small ceremony in Bowling Green, Missouri, H.D. Adams and Betty began their married life in January 1954.
  • “Doc” Adams was a WWII veteran who returned home to help his father for a few years, taking care of the livestock on the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson.
  • In 1949, he and his brother built and opened a Gulf gasoline station on the family property in Green Hill, TN – about halfway between Nashville and Lebanon on Highway 70.
  • As Doc and Betty began their family, first Ray and then Bob appeared within the first few years of marriage.
  • As the owner of his own business, Doc was busy six days a week, but his wife and family were close by – their home was only about 100 feet from the gas station. Images of those mid-50s to early 60s show lots of boys running around the gas station, out in the garden with their dad, and always nearby – Momma.
  • When the boys began school at Mt. Juliet, attending the same school as their dad (and in one case, having one of the same teachers), Miss Betty appeared on the scene as a “room mother” for both the boys.
  • School friends of both boys, from first grade through twelfth grade, were the beneficiaries of cupcakes and cookies and picnic lunches and more, as she began to expand her cooking abilities.
  • Always active in church, Miss Betty taught dozens of children over the years in different classes.
  • After the boys’ high school graduations, they both attended Tennessee Tech. For the next few years, it was not unusual for food from cakes for a few to full meals for 50 to make the trip from Mt. Juliet to Cookeville.
  • In 1981, Bob and Anita started their family, and Granny became the family name Betty was known as for the rest of her life.
  • Over the next few years, six grandchildren spent time from a few days to a few weeks with Granny and Grandpa. Adventures included working at the gas station, playing around the yard, cooking, exploring the house, and various trips in and around Mt. Juliet.
  • As retirement neared for Doc, Betty became more and more involved in civic groups, including the American Heart Association and National Cancer Society.
  • She had also begun working with longtime friends the Moss’ in their greenhouse, arranging and delivering flowers.
  • The churches, especially the various music programs, were an important part of her life. Somewhere in this time period a new name appeared – Sarge.
  • Whatever mental picture friends and family have when they hear the name, they are probably right. In her golden years, it seems the Missouri “Show Me” characteristics appeared full force, and she was always ready to give people a piece of her mind – but with a smile.
  • Retirement meant a lot of travel – around the U.S. visiting places, family, and friends. Closer travel meant driving – and she was always the chauffeur.
  • In 2011, Doc suffered a series of strokes, which eventually took his life in early 2012. Betty was resolute to stay in the house she called home since 1954, but after about a year, she moved to an assisted living facility in Mt. Juliet. Sarge was the nameplate on her door, but even then her demeanor had slowly begun to change.
  • After a couple of years, Granny made the big move, to live in an assisted living home near Ray in Lenoir City
  • In her final months, Granny had retreated into her memories, mostly of growing up in Novelty, MO. No longer concerned with everyone else’s going on’s, she was content to sit in her chair and watch the birds.

On July 15, she slipped away peacefully at the hospital in Knoxville.

Many family and friends picture her telling heaven what to do.

Respectfully, I disagree.

I think she was finally in a place where she was speechless… and then she began to sing.

Your Church Volunteer Problem and “The Minus Twelve Men”

A good word from my friend and colleague Bryan Rose, after being onsite at a multi-site church in the Detroit, MI area this past weekend.

Launch Clarity

DashTempAs I pulled into the parking lot, the temperature on my dashboard read negative twelve degrees

And there he was… standing there waving.

I couldn’t see his face, it was obscured by a heavy duty ski mask. But I could tell he was smiling. CrazyVolunteerAnd waving. And pointing me to another volunteer equally protecting every bit of bare skin from the unforgivably cold temperatures and minus thirty-something wind chills.

They were all out there. I found out later that every man on the team, had made it a point to serve this morning. The coldest morning any had seen in a long time.

Later, in the church lobby, they were resupplying hand and shoe warmers, to again face deathly cold. Just to park cars. 

So I asked them how, and why, and what.

How, today of all days, could they stand outside and wave?

Why would they literally risk

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How to Fail at Direct Mail: Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Postcards

Wickedly accurate thoughts from my friend Bryan Rose…

Launch Clarity

directmailfail2Last week, I opened our mailbox to find one of the worst church direct mail postcards that I have ever sent or received. First, you need to know that I have been a part of sending some real doozies, like an “F-Word” (forgiveness) pun on an Easter invite one year… not my idea, but I was definitely a willing participant. On some level, at least there was a point – horrible and offensive as it was.

My recent mailbox find is a direct mail piece following all of the current church-mailer trends, in that it is oversized, has a picture of the pastor and includes a group of smiling multicultural people. However, the messaging is a wreck, confusing and downright crazy-talk. This mailer was either designed by 4 different people who never bothered to coordinate their contribution, or one person with 4 different design personalities that stopped taking their…

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Easter Was Not Enough… Expectation Shapes Experience 51 Other Sundays

Some great thoughts by my friend Bryan Rose.

Launch Clarity

Easter is over and most churches or campuses experienced anywhere from 20-50% more attenders, many of whom were guests.

The atmosphere of welcoming guests, helping them find their way around the campus and making them feel comfortable during services is heightened every year for this particular Sunday. Because we expect guests to show up.

This anticipation of guests every Easter causes us to see our systems and facilities with outside eyes, and respond appropriately. Just like we would at home, we straighten up “for company” and plan to make a great impression. Every Easter, we are more diligent because we know that “they” are coming. And one of two messages is communicated by our guest’s experience…

Welcome! We have been expecting you. 


Welcome? We are surprised that you showed up.

But what about the other 51 Sundays? Will we approach next week with the same expectation, that we did on…

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Is It Time for an “Orange Revolution” in Your Organization?

If you asked who invented incandescent electric light, and you answered Thomas Edison, you’d be right – and you’d be wrong.Edison lightbulb

On October 22, 1879, the remarkable bulb dreamed up by Edison, drawn by lead experimenter Charles Batchelor, mathematically proved by Francs Upton, built by craftsmen John Kruesi and Ludwig Boehm, and tested by experimenters John Lawson, Martin Force, and Francis Jehl, burned for thirteen and a half hours.

Darkness had been illuminated forever.

The revolution that Thomas Edison wrought was the product of a team, in spite of how history books tell the story. We love the idea of a lone genius, the mastermind, the hero. We’re indoctrinated from an early age with the single-achiever ideal in school. For a fifth-grader, it’s easy to say Edison = light bulbs.

The reality is very different; geniuses build great teams.

Edison – one of the most brilliant minds in the world – accepted that he alone did not possess all the answers; but together, his team usually did.

What would you do to have a high-performing team that generates its own momentum – an engaged group of colleagues in the trenches, working passionately together to pursue a shared vision?

How about starting a revolution?

orange revolution 1For centuries the color Orange has been connected with revolutionary events. Most recent are the election events in the Ukraine, but there have also been Orange uprising in Ireland, China, England, and the Netherlands.

These revolutions signaled a transition – a spirited quest driven by people to improve the world around them.

Why shouldn’t your organization possess that same passion when it comes to creating, strengthening, and enlarging the teams that serve?

You can begin an Orange Revolution in the hearts of your team members and leaders focusing on conquering barriers, expectations, and stagnation.

Welcome to the revolution.

I will be leading The Orange Revolution at WFX in Dallas October 2-4. For an overview of WFX, go here. To learn more about the education and training available, go here.

Stay tuned for more on The Orange Revolution coming soon!

Of Balloons and Men…

A week ago I was at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was pretty amazing to be at the launch site and see over 200 balloons lift off in a short time. Added to that, another 100+ balloons launched away from the site and “flew” in. This was my ground view of one balloon.

While at the Balloon Fiesta, I heard about the planned “space jump” attempt that week. Weather didn’t permit it then, but it did happen.

Last Sunday, 201 miles southeast of Albuquerque and 23 miles above Roswell, New Mexico, this was the picture:

Same principle, different applications

What heights will you reach today?

It all depends on your perspective…

The Methods of a Mentor

Your only job is to help your team be better.

That single idea had a huge impact on Tony Dungy, and it lead him to develop the successful leadership style so admired by players and coaches throughout the NFL and beyond.

In his book “The Mentor Leader,” Dungy reveals what propelled him to the top of his profession. He introduces the concept of “the mentor leader,” someone who takes their own gifts and skills and uses them to help others grow. Here are the methods of a mentor leader:

The Seven E’s of Enhancing Potential

Engage – it is critical for mentor leaders to engage with those they lead. It’s impossible to mentor from a distance.Mentorleaders should always be looking for ways to connect with the people they lead. They walk alongside the people they lead – and love every step. Engagement means a true open door policy, reflects attitude and approachability, not just whether the office door is propped open. Without engagement, you cannot mentor effectively.

Educate – education is an essential building block of mentor leadership. Because mentor leadership is all about helping others become the best they can be, it is built on a foundation of teaching, helping, and guiding.Mentorleaders must take a hands-on, one-on-one approach to mentoring individual lives.

Equip – mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – and to accomplish the mission. Equipping goes hand in hand with educating if we want people to perform at their highest potential.

Encourage – mentor leaders are encouragers, and encouragement is the fuel that powers a leader’s efforts to engage, educate, and equip. Encouragement helps lubricate the rough spots, but even when things are going smoothly, it’s important to build others up.Mentorleaders are better off overusing encouragement than under using it.

Empower – true empowerment is preparation followed by appropriate freedom. Once your protégé is ready, stop teaching them and let them “take the test.” Empower them by letting them go.

Energize – great leaders energize and inspire those they lead. Even as they face their own daily struggles and stresses, mentor leaders look for way s to energize and motivate the people around them.

Elevate – the ultimate goal of every mentor leader is to build other leaders. The regenerative idea that leaders produce other leaders, who in turn produce leaders – is a powerful concept for mentor leaders and their organizations. At the heart of this regeneration is the principle of elevation – raising other people up. Raising up leaders is the truly selfless goal of every mentor leader, the culmination of focusing on others.

Dungy’s methods for maximizing the potential of any individual, team, organization, or institution for ultimate success and significance are helpful for anyone considering becoming a mentor.

Whose potential will you maximize starting today?

(a reposting of a previous series on Mentoring while I am away on vacation)


How to Grow a Large Church – Elmer Towns style

Dr. Elmer Towns, Co-founder of Liberty University and now Dean of the School of Religion, stopped by the Auxano booth this afternoon. In a fascinating conversation spanning only a few minutes but covering decades of church growth and health, one comment stands out. When asked about the founding of Liberty along with Jerry Falwell, he said:

Everybody wanted to know how to grow a big church. The answer is simple:

Go where the pulpit was hot!

He went on to explain that it meant preaching about the Gospel and how it changed lives. Chapel speakers weren’t faculty members – they were local pastors who came in and preached on what they did in ministry last week. He would give the same advice today to pastors and church planters – learn by doing from people who are doing it.

-from the SBC floor