This month marks the 54th anniversary of National Small Business Week. It is also the 16th anniversary of my corporate communications consultancy.

I set up shop in my home office in May 2001 with the best technology the turn of the century had to offer:

  • a Compaq computer
  • a Nokia cell phone
  • an AOL account
  • a fax machine

When files were too large to send via fax or dialup, overnight delivery was my only option. And I relied on timely follow up; remembering the small, important details that others wouldn’t; and sending thank you notes and birthday cards to help me forge an emotional connection with clients and virtual assistants that I didn’t have the benefit of seeing regularly.

Today Skype, FaceTime, Dropbox, Hightail, and other platforms that makes the world seem smaller, have indeed made information sharing easier. In fact, the Telework Research Network estimates that nearly 49 million Americans, a combination of self-employed entrepreneurs and teleworking employees, will work from home at least once a week by 2018.

I am often asked how businesses can possibly maintain the highest level of customer engagement, service delivery and worker accountability in a global, telework environment. In fact this year I began facilitating monthly workshops for supervisors who lead telework teams at a large, federal agency. Some session participants are looking for a simple, 21st-century telework solution. But I find that most telework issues can be nipped in the bud with good ole 20th-century HR practices.

Below are my Eight Pillars for T-E-L-E-W-O-R-K Success:

Truthfully Assess All Team Members (Remote and Onsite)

  • Articulate an organizational vision. Assess each team member’s daily activity, as it relates to achieving that vision.
  • Address professional and personal development issues.
  • Assess stakeholder perceptions of the team and its members.

Encourage Results-Driven Decision Making

  • Instead of pointing the finger when a problem arises, articulate the desired solution. (i.e. “We missed our quarterly sales goal. In order to consistently grow sales going forward, we will need to begin _________________________________.”)
  • Next decide who needs to be involved in a results-driven conversation about the issue(s).
  • Request a meeting with the people who can make change happen. (So that everyone comes to the meeting prepared to effect positive results, briefly describe the issue, your desired solution, and any other details about the meeting.)
  • Orchestrate next steps, at the conclusion of your meeting. Hold everyone accountable for any short- and long-term action items.

Leverage Strengths

  • Assess organizational priorities and customer needs, regularly.
  • Consider each team members’ strength’s, skill set, accessibility, and superiority.
  • Redefine team members’ roles when necessary.

Embrace Service

  • Recognize that you and your team are in the business of serving: your customers, your organization, and each other.
  • Follow up and follow through.
  • Find new ways to WOW.

Welcome Transformational Change

  • Encourage the taskmaster in chief to give way to an agent of transformational change.
  • Allow organizational priorities and customer expectations to overshadow individual or departmental goals.
  • Work to replace employee buy-in with employee ownership of the organization’s vision.
  • Recognize that projects should be managed, people should be led.

Own and Overcome Obstacles

  • Own the issue.
  • Seek immediate resolution.
  • Manage expectations going forward.


  • Establish guidelines around what necessitates a call, email or text; and an acceptable response time.
  • Diversity of thought. Recognize that there are oftentimes more than one route to the finish line.
  • Multigenerational differences. As the workplace becomes more global and multigenerational, take the time to learn what drives and motivates your colleagues.

Know Your Team

The key to getting the most of your employees is to understand their individual:

  • Values
  • Career aspirations
  • Outside interests

I welcome a discussions about telework challenges you face, and solutions you’ve found.