Daniel Gilbert

Strategies for Leading Your Remote Team

For most businesses, the year 2022 marks almost two full years of operating remotely in at least some capacity. Some leaders couldn’t wait to open their offices again, while others embraced the new trend and still run their businesses entirely remotely today. Whether your team members work remotely all the time or just occasionally, it is important to recognize that leading a remote workforce requires intentional effort to keep your team highly engaged and productive.

For the past two years, our entire team at KiteTech has been working almost entirely remotely while also helping most of our clients across the country make the transition to remote work as well. As a result, we have learned a lot about what it takes to lead a remote workforce effectively. Below are four strategies that you can leverage to help you lead your remote team to its maximum potential. 

Invest in technology.

It sounds like a pointed statement for me, a leader at an IT Services company, to start with the importance of technology. But it is not an exaggeration to say that our team and our customers’ teams would have collapsed without the proper technology in place. Now more than ever before, it is vital to your organization’s success to have the technology infrastructure in place that supports your business objectives and empowers your users to do great work no matter where they are working.

A few categories of technology to consider that will make or break your remote team’s effectiveness are: 

  • Personal Workstations: This most basic need includes all the hardware equipment your staff will use to do their work, such as a sufficient computer, multiple monitors, phone, headset, and webcam. We share additional home office recommendations in this recent post.
  • Collaboration Software: Your team needs a place to meet and collaborate. There are many, but we love Microsoft Teams because it integrates well with other pieces of Microsoft’s complete productivity suite like SharePoint. 
  • Cloud-based Work Management Platform: Your company may already use a line-of-business application to store your customer records and track your work activities. Hopefully the application you use is accessible remotely because this will be an essential tool in driving accountability to keep your team productive from afar. 

Emphasize your company's values and mission.

Have you ever walked through the front door of a corporate office and seen a plaque on the wall stating the company’s values? Often, these plaques are mounted to every office and cubicle wall throughout the building as well. Organizations do this to constantly remind their employees and customers alike what the company stands for. Additionally, leadership consistently talks about their company values to help drive the point home even more. 

The challenge with a remote team is that you are not in charge of everyone’s home interior design, and you don’t have the luxury of having everyone in earshot of you all day. With a remote team, you have to be creative about other ways to drive your company’s values and mission to your people. At KiteTech, we created small calendar-like flip boards that our employees can put on their desks to remind them of our core values. You can also brand your digital space by adding your values and mission statement in places like desktop backgrounds, screensavers, intranet home pages, and email signatures. Think of as many places as possible to sprinkle these reminders, and it will be hard for your people to forget. 

It is also helpful to be intentional about mentioning your values in as many conversations as possible, especially team- or company-wide meetings. In a remote workplace, you may only have your team’s attention for a few minutes, so take advantage of all the opportunities you can get. If your people have not gotten sick of hearing you talk about your values, then you have probably not talked about them enough. 

Create time for employee touchpoints.

Every team should have regular team-wide meetings no less than once a week. We found that we needed a much more frequent rhythm in a few cases now that we are all working remotely, so some of our teams meet for a brief huddle once or even twice a day. If you are leading a team, consider implementing daily huddles to keep your people connected and rowing in the same direction. 

But this is just the start. As a leader or manager, you need to stay connected to your people in more ways than just the regular mandatory meetings. Be intentional about getting time with each of your people individually or in small groups throughout the week, outside the context of a typical meeting. If your work doesn’t naturally facilitate these informal touchpoints, you need to be extra-intentional about creating them yourself. Keep a mental note of when you last talked to each person on your team, and when it feels like too long ago, give them a spontaneous call just to check-in. People feel more supported and more engaged when they get these frequent touchpoints, and without them, they can feel isolated.

Build quality reporting.

With an in-person team, some managers feel satisfied just from seeing their team busy. Is everyone on the phone? Is anyone congregating by the water cooler? Is anyone missing from their desk or the office? When everyone is working from home, it creates obvious challenges in managing a team simply by looking or listening. 

The fortunate truth is that you really don’t need to see or hear your people to know they are doing a good job. In fact, even if your team is in-person, you should not settle for “look and listen” leadership; don’t mistake activity for results. Instead, you need to create reporting systems that tell you the entire story. 

Start with your team’s goals and then consider ways you can measure and report on results. For example, when our help desk technicians work with our customers over the phone, it is not enough for us to simply know that our technicians are on the phone; we also need to know if they deliver extraordinary service. To get this, we implemented a customer feedback system that allows our customers to grade their experiences, and the results are then reported to our team. This measure is immensely more valuable than just looking at a given moment and making sure our people are busy. Other examples of measurements we get from our reporting are phone hold times, ticket response and resolution times, and the number of issues solved. 

We use some reporting tools that are proprietary to our industry. Look into whether there are any industry-approved solutions for your line of business. Power BI by Microsoft is a data visualization tool that can be customized to create solutions for any industry. 

Although leading a remote workforce may feel more challenging, it doesn’t have to be. While it does require you to be more creative and intentional in your leadership and management approach, with the right strategies and tools in place, you’ll discover that remote teams can be just as, if not more effective than in-office teams. 

Here at KiteTech, we take pride in providing IT services and technology solutions that help the organizations we work with operate more effectively, whether they are in the office or working remotely. Over the last few years, we have helped thousands of users across the United States seamlessly transition to remote work. To learn more, please reach out and schedule a conversation. We are here to help!

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

Chief Operating Officer
Kite Technology Group

Resolutions for Leading Your Team Better in 2022

Leadership is no easy task and requires considerable ongoing effort to get it right. With 2022 on the horizon, now is the time to identify how you will be intentional in your leadership growth next year. Here are some simple yet powerful suggestions to help you become a more effective leader. 

Lean into difficult conversations. 

When we are faced with a difficult conversation that we expect will be uncomfortable, it is natural to want to avoid it for as long as possible, hoping that it will go away or somehow resolve itself. When we do this, we run the risk of never actually solving the problem (in fact, it will probably get worse), and we also dread the conversation in the meantime. 

This year, embrace the discomfort and have these conversations right away. You will find that issues will be resolved more quickly, and you will avoid the stressful anticipation of a conversation that probably won’t be as bad as you think. 

Focus on the little things (make it personal). 

The big things in business like strategy, staffing, training, sales, and performance are crucial. These are what enable our businesses to thrive. However, while the big things are vital, people remember the little things. For example, something as simple as inviting a different team member to lunch every week or saying some words of recognition at a team meeting for a job well done. 

I would challenge you to go even further by adding a personal touch whenever possible. People find it especially thoughtful when you do something for them that is clearly tailor-made just for them. Rather than giving someone a generic gift card, pay attention to their interests or hobbies and give gifts that solve a problem or enrich their life.

Adding a personal touch isn’t limited to just gifts; the key is to show you care. It doesn’t cost anything to tell someone that you hope they enjoy their upcoming trip and make recommendations or ask a team member how their child’s team did in the big game over the weekend. These are no-cost ways to connect with and energize your team in a big way. 

Give trust a chance. 

I don’t just mean trusting that someone will do something that they say they will do. On our team, trust means an open flow of communication without fear of unreasonable repercussions, belittling, or exclusion. Without trust, people may feel they need to bend or hide the truth to protect themselves or their peers. Some team members may hold back great ideas for fear of judgment. 

It may seem soft but give it a chance. I will not pretend that managers don’t sometimes need to be tough, but these qualities don’t need to be mutually exclusive; in fact, being direct is much more effective when there is already a foundation of trust in the relationship. The key to building trust is first demonstrating that you care for each of your team members. Then, make sure that they understand that you are committed to helping them reach their goals and that you believe they are an important part of that team effort. This way, if problems arise later, your team will trust that you truly do have their best interest at heart. 

Ask for criticism. 

If you consider yourself a great leader, but your team does not, are you really a great leader? Even if your team does consider you a great leader, don’t you owe it to them to become even better? The best way to do this is what is also the most uncomfortable way for many leaders – ask your team for criticism and humbly accept their response. Notice I did not say ask your team for feedback. What if the only feedback they give you is positive because that’s all they think you want to hear? If you want honest critical feedback from your team, you need to be crystal clear that you’ll take positive feedback, but what you’re really after is constructive feedback, the stuff you can act on. 

It isn’t enough to ask just once – you will need to ask repeatedly for the rest of your career as a leader. After your team gets used to being asked and finds that they can answer without fear of danger (this requires trust), then you will start to get really great feedback that opens your eyes to improvements you can make that you may never have known about otherwise. 

Have more fun. 

You are entitled to have fun at what you do. After all, you spend most of your waking time doing it! If you are not having fun with your job, and specifically with the team you are leading, this is the year to ask yourself what you need to do to make it so. Leaders have more energy and a better attitude when they are enjoying themselves, and teams with energetic leaders tend to perform better. 

If you are already having plenty of fun, you are not off the hook yet! Is your team having fun too? If your answer is no, you should make it your mission to help them find ways to better enjoy their work. Chances are that if you do this, you will get better results as a team. 

Every team is different, but I am confident that these practices can help you become a better leader and vastly improve your company culture. If you already practice some or all of them, that’s great! If not, I hope that you’ll accept the challenge to begin working these practices into your leadership style in the new year. 

Here at KiteTech, we are passionate about developing leaders and a team culture that thrives no matter the circumstances we face. One way we do this is by keeping our core values at the forefront of everything we do. We call them Our Flight Plan, and they guide our day-to-day interactions internally and with our clients. As a team, we are also committed to taking advantage of the many resources available to help us grow and improve our leadership skills. Below are some great books that have inspired me to lead my team differently in the ways mentioned above.

Lean into difficult conversations: Crucial Conversations – Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition: Patterson, Kerry, Grenny, Joseph, McMillan, Ron, Switzler, Al: 8580001040288: Amazon.com: Books

Focus on the little things: Tiny Noticeable Things – Amazon.com: Tiny Noticeable Things: The Secret Weapon to Making a Difference in Business (Audible Audio Edition): Adrian Webster, Liam Gerrard, Gildan Media: Books

Give trust a chance: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable: Lencioni, Patrick: 0352713295663: Amazon.com: Books

Have fun: The Humor Advantage – Amazon.com: The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank eBook : Kerr, Michael: Kindle Store

Ask for criticism: Thanks for the Feedback – Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well: Stone, Douglas, Heen, Sheila: 9780143127130: Amazon.com: Books

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

Chief Operating Officer
Kite Technology Group

Best Microsoft Edge Productivity Features

Close your eyes and think back to the early 2000’s. What was your web browser of choice?

According to major sources, if you browsed the web in the early 2000’s, there was a 75% chance you were using Microsoft Internet Explorer. The next decade would dethrone Microsoft as other browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari reduced Internet Explorer’s market share to less than 10%.

Microsoft needed to act – and fast!

In 2015 Microsoft introduced a new browser called Edge, which they hoped would help them earn back their spot at the top. This move was a clear indication that Internet Explorer did not have much of a future; Edge is the new future.

Luckily, Microsoft learned from their mistakes, and virtually everyone agrees that Edge is a huge improvement over Internet Explorer. This proves true in many aspects, such as better performance, enhanced security, and wider website compatibility.

But perhaps the most noteworthy improvement is the added productivity features now available in Microsoft Edge. By using just two of these new features which I will describe, I am confident that you can improve your workflows so you can get more done in less time with fewer headaches.

Vertical Tabs

The first feature is called Vertical Tabs. The term “tab” in web browsers, which has been around for a long time now, simply refers to an open web page; we can use multiple tabs to open several different web pages and keep them inside a single window.

Vertical Tabs is a new mode in Microsoft Edge that you can toggle on or off, and it offers a highly organized view of all the tabs you have open in Edge at any given time. You can even group tabs together into a “Tab Group”, which helps you keep related tabs under a common header. 

In my example, I have created three Tab Groups because my pages fit well into three distinct categories: Microsoft, KiteTech, and Microsoft Edge Article. You can collapse a Tab Group to hide its pages if you aren’t actively using them, like I did with KiteTech in my example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To enable vertical tabs, click on the icon in the top-left corner of the window and then click “Turn on vertical tabs”.

Collections

The second feature, called “Collections”, adds a unique way of organizing not only web pages, but also other media like images and notes. A Collection is almost like a scrapbook for your ideas. You can combine all the different kinds of pieces that make up your idea and store them in Microsoft Edge where you can continue working on it.

Take this article for example. To write it, I needed a few things: a guide to help me remember my purpose for writing and target audience; a few general requirements to keep in mind; several web pages for research; and of course, the article document itself. Rather than try to keep all this information on a place like my desktop (or worse, inside my head), I added all the relevant content into a Collection which I titled “Microsoft Edge Article”. I did not write this entire article in one sitting, so my Collection helped me pick up right where I left off when I came back to my computer and opened Microsoft Edge. When I am done, I may delete that collection, but it surely is serving me well now while I am still working on it.

 

 

To access Collections, click the 3 dots menu  in the top-right and click on Collections. You can also choose to right-click on the Collections option and choose “Show in toolbar” to keep it visible in your Edge window at all times (see screenshot to the right).

 

Finally, while each of these features offers massive value on its own, I am particularly fond of how they combine to help you work better.

If you are browsing the web and opening several related web pages, you can click the Vertical Tabs menu and choose “Add all tabs to Collections”. This will create a new Collection containing all open web pages, and from there you can continue to fill that Collection with other related materials.

 

 

After you fill a Collection with web pages, you can right-click that Collection and choose “Open all”, and all the web pages in that Collection open under a Tab Group. Again, this may be useful if a project will take multiple sittings; by combining related web pages, you can easily continue right where you left off.

 

To tell the truth, the research that went into writing this article has even opened my eyes to some functionality I didn’t know existed in Microsoft Edge. I am hopeful that you will be able to include some of these techniques in your workflows and improve your productivity.

To learn more about KiteTech’s Managed IT and Consulting Services, please don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a conversation. We’d love the opportunity to get to know you and your business and discover how we can help you meet your technology needs. 

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

Chief Operating Officer
Kite Technology Group

8 Benefits of Outsourcing your IT Support

Have you considered using outsourced IT support for your business?

There is no question that having high-quality IT support gives your business tremendous advantages. Technology touches almost every facet of your organization. As such, you should take every measure possible to ensure that your systems work smoothly, securely, and continually. The key to running superior IT systems is to employ a highly skilled team that is well-aligned with your company’s unique business objectives.  

But should you do this on your own, or should you rely on the help of an outside source? 

In any case, there are several advantages to partnering with an outside firm that specializes in IT strategy and support (commonly known as Managed Service Providers). If you don’t employ IT staff of your own, you can outsource it entirely. Still, if you do have your own IT, you can find a Managed Service Provider to partner with your in-house IT to give your team the best support possible. Whichever path you choose, you can reap the benefits of using outsourced IT 

In this article, we’ll cover 8 of the main benefits your business can gain by outsourcing your IT support to a Managed IT Service Provider.  

8 Benefits of Outsourced IT Support

1. Increased Expertise and Resources

Probably the most immediate and valuable benefit of using outsourced IT is the sheer concentration of talent your business can access. IT firms continually recruit highly talented engineers to build teamwho work well together to deliver excellence to their customersWhen working with an IT provider, your organization will benefit from the expertise of an entire team of technology professionals. Not having the responsibility of hiring additional IT staff also frees up resources that you can now use for filling other positions in your company. 

2. Round-the-Clock Monitoring

A good Managed IT Service Provider deploys systems to their customers to constantly monitor for problems and automatically remediate any issues found. This automation can prevent many issues that would otherwise disrupt your employees and hinder productivity. You can think of these monitoring systems as an employee who works 24/7 at no extra cost! 

3. Faster Response Time

Some problems just can’t be avoided. When something goes wrong, or if one of your employees has a question and simply wants to talk to a person, it is crucial to have an excellent Help Desk at the ready. With only one or two technicians in-house, you may find that the demand for help quickly overgrows the size of your team. With a larger help desk support team in an outsourced firm, you can have more immediate access to the help you need. 

4. A More Focused In-House Technology Team

Maybe you want your in-house IT team to focus more on another area of your business, such as customer service systems or strategic planning. By supplementing your internal team with a Managed Service Provider, you can free up your team to spend time in other areas where they are more productive or providing more value to your company.  

5. Scalable IT Services with Predictable Costs

As you grow your company, your need for IT support grows with it. With an in-house IT team, how do you know when it is time to hire? When you do hire, are you prepared to perhaps double your IT expenditure overnight? With an outsourced firm, your provider does the hiring, so you should never have to worry about your company outgrowing your IT team. Furthermore, you won’t bear the entire cost of an additional employee all at once, allowing you to spend on resources elsewhere. While your IT costs may increase over time as your business grows, the increase is gradual and more predictable.

6. More Easily Leverage New Technology

Managed Service Providers typically stay tuned to the latest knowledge of modern technologies. This can enable you to adopt new technology quickly and confidently. If you want your team to be cutting-edge, using the most effective productivity and customer service tools and techniques out there, you can benefit from the help of an outsourced IT firm. They can help deploy the systems and train your employees to get the most value from them. 

7. Increased Security and Compliance

In a world where cybercrime is rising and compliance regulations are getting stricter, it is vital to enlist expert help in securing your company’s dataWith the right IT partner, you can ensure that your team is well-equipped to keep your systems in compliance and as secure as possibleAdditionally, you can respond quickly to new dangers by working with an accredited IT provider who knows the current threat landscape. One of the most respected accreditationof security is the CompTIA Security Trustmark+.

8. Focus on Core Business

Finally, offloading some or all of your IT support to an outside firm allows you and your team to focus more on your core business. Spending less time worrying about technology issues means that you have more time to focus on doing what you love – providing your customers with excellent service and growing your business. 

Choosing the Right Technology Partner for Outsourcing your IT Support

If the idea of outsourcing all or part of your IT support intrigues you, your next step is to find the provider who is right for you. Look for an expert with proven success in your industry and whose values align with yours. At KiteTech, we strive to be the Premier Trusted Technology Partner for independent insurance agencies, nonprofits, legal and medical practices, and other professional organizations. If you’d like to learn more about our services, please reach out to us to schedule a conversation. We are here to help!

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

Chief Operating Officer
Kite Technology Group

The Latest Microsoft Teams Features to Try

When the pandemic hit, a few things became instantly clear: our commutes will be almost non-existent; stocking up on toilet paper is a priority; and, of course, we were all going to have to learn to use one or more of the tools for remote meetings. For many of you (as well as KiteTech), that tool was Microsoft Teams.

As the world’s workforce rapidly embraced Teams, Microsoft started investing heavily in bringing improvements and new features to the Teams experience to help its users work smarter and more efficiently. Now that your work depends on Microsoft Teams, it is essential that you stay current with all the new additions to Teams as Microsoft releases them.

Arguably the best resource for staying knowledgeable about the new features in Teams is the “What’s New in Microsoft Teams” monthly newsletter on the Microsoft Teams Blog website. Each month, an article is released in a standard format outlining all the new features and updates from that month and includes detailed descriptions of each change.

Below are some notable improvements made to Microsoft Teams over the past several months.

Dynamic View (May)

This feature makes elements in a meeting move and resize automatically to optimize the viewing experience. For example, when certain participants in the meeting are having a conversation while someone is presenting, their faces may appear larger alongside the content being presented.

Attendance Dashboard (June)

A new tab in meetings that will report all attendees as well as the time they join, the time they leave, and the total time they spent in the meeting.

Spotlighting (June)

When you spotlight a meeting participant, their face shows as the most prominent element of the meeting until they are removed from the spotlight. Now, you can spotlight multiple participants at the same time.

Chat Bubbles (June)

You can now allow meeting chats to show in the form of chat bubbles above the content of the meeting. This allows for quick viewing of chat messages without the need to open the chat pane.

Lock Meeting (July)

Meeting organizers can now lock a meeting in progress, which prevents any further participants from joining the meeting.

Automatic Recording (July)

We have had the ability to record entire meetings and automatically store them in the cloud for quite some time. With this update, we can configure meetings to record, so we don’t need to remember to automatically press the record button at the start of the meeting.

Transfer Calls Between Desktop and Mobile (July)

For those who use Teams on their computers and mobile devices, sometimes the need arises to switch from one to the other. Now, we can transfer calls in progress between a desktop and mobile device without the call disconnecting.

New Presenter Modes (August)

When presenting content in Teams, you can choose different presenter modes that control where the content you present appears and where your video feed is shown. There are now two additional modes to choose from: Reporter Mode and Side-by-Side Mode.

Live Transcription and Captions (August)

This accessibility feature lets you display live captions to your meeting, translating the participant’s spoken word to text displayed at the bottom of the screen. (Learn more about Live Captions and Live Transcription).

Present Directly from PowerPoint (September)

There is now a button conveniently located in the PowerPoint ribbon which allows you to share your presentation directly through Teams.

CarPlay Support for Meetings (September)

If you drive a vehicle that uses Apple CarPlay, you can now join meetings and use some basic controls, similar to how you already use hands-free calling while driving.

The availability of these new features can depend on software updates and configuration policies. If you are interested in any of these features but cannot find them in Teams, ask your IT Provider to help you take advantage of them.

The updates presented above and many more are discussed in detail in the articles below. You can access the Microsoft Teams Blog regularly at the end of each month to make sure that you don’t ever miss a feature! 

If your organization is looking for help with adopting Microsoft Teams or other Microsoft solutions, please reach out and schedule a conversation with our Technical Consulting division. We would love the opportunity to learn more about your organization and help you accomplish your business objectives.

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

Chief Operating Officer

adam atwell

Adam Atwell

Cloud solutions architect

Adam is passionate about consulting with organizations across the country to help them develop and execute a cloud adoption strategy that meets their business needs and future objectives. Adam oversees and manages our company strategy for Microsoft 365 adoption and is responsible for future growth and development inside Microsoft 365 and other cloud technologies.