LEADERSHIP AND GRATITUDE - INTERVIEW WITH KERRY WEKELO
Gratitude—real gratitude, not the saccharine “too blessed to be stressed” meme mantra—has the power to revolutionize your leadership and your influence. In this interview with Chief Operating Officer Kerry Wekelo, you’ll get practical ways you can cultivate gratitude in your own life, inspire your team, and even your customers. In the last segments, we get down to the grit of gratitude and how it can change your life and the lives you touch every day.
Listen to the podcast here
Connect with Kerry on LinkedIn
Get Kerry’s book: Gratitude Infusion
Theresa Santoro - Director of Operations & Human Resources, Actualize Consulting
At Actualize, our consultants are trusted advisors, always using a sharp eye to identify clear areas for improvement for our clients. Since continuous improvement is always top of mind for everyone on the Actualize team, it occurred to me that they would be the best people to gather in small group meetings with our partners and operations team. Their perspectives help our people grow, thrive, and accelerate the betterment of ourselves and our clients. Engaging trained, critical lens to help you assess your current operations, identify process improving transformations, and inspire your team can help you accommodate and plan for an easier tomorrow.
We start conversations from a place of gratitude by identifying what works and what our people are passionate about. It was fascinating to hear from our leaders. What trusted advisors do you seek advice from?
Director Geran Combs, Mortgage and Fixed Income Practice
Whenever we are able to help clients automate and improve existing processes, it’s incredibly rewarding. Companies of all sizes benefit from an outside perspective. For example, anytime there is a need to integrate systems, a data mapping exercise is essential to understand how the systems communicate. Companies are accustomed to dedicating considerable resources to map the data from the two systems and then repeat the same function again once a new system is introduced. This is a repetitive and unnecessary translation; instead, we advise our clients to map to the MISMO model. This standardized MISMO view can then be easily consumed by the other company in minutes, assuming both companies communicate in MISMO. This switch saves money, time, and reduces operational dependencies while increasing data quality across the systems.
Director Priscila Nagalli, CFA, CTP, Capital Markets and Treasury Practice
It is so rewarding to help our clients achieve the most effective and efficient Treasury operations. My background is in Investment and Corporate Treasury, so I know the time constraints that exist simply to keep operations running smoothly. As an advisor, I have the opportunity to review the current Treasury functions and devise a plan on how each function can be performed more efficiently through process redesign and better utilization of technology. After reviewing each department that interacts with Treasury, such as Accounting, FP&A, Accounts Payable, and Information Technology, we recommend a future state design and road map for execution. This process ensures that our clients are always actualizing their highest capacity.
Partner Matt Seu, Mortgage and Fixed Income Practice
Actualize Consulting's Mortgage and Fixed Income Practice has industry-leading expertise in identifying solutions and implementing technologies for our customers. When we combine that with our knowledge of MISMO, the language of digital mortgage integration, we are unparalleled. A large regional lender selected us to do an assessment of their document management needs and to implement a new solution. New technology providers quickly find us and want us to better understand their products so we can recommend them to our customers. It is incredibly meaningful for everyone on our team to see the positive changes our clients implement as a result of our consulting.
COO Kerry Wekelo, Culture Infusion Practice
At Actualize, we believe our success as an organization is due to our people-centric focus. For a firm to be successful, it should not only care about profit but also support its team’s wellness and happiness. Happy people produce great work – the equation is that simple! We use our first-hand experience of taking our attrition rates from 33% to less than 4% as a guide and case study to inspire your teams, strengthen team connection, and incorporate a wellness-focused balance. The Culture Infusion and Gratitude Infusion programs have been incredibly rewarding for me as an author and speaker. I love sharing the simple tools from our program with others and hearing how they make a real difference in how teams show up each day.
Manager, Brian Stitt, CTP, FP&A, Capital Markets and Treasury Practice
Actualize’s culture of putting people first is evident internally and drives our approach to how we work with clients. The most rewarding aspect of treasury advisory, in addition to helping teams transform Capital Markets functions, is having meaningful impacts on the lives of our clients. Ultimately, we are here to help others address and resolve challenges. When we can remove obstacles to free up a client’s time to focus on the activities they are passionate about, we add value to the individual and the organization. When we see our clients identify and begin to build on their strengths, the Treasury and Capital Markets teams can truly elevate their positions in the enterprise.
We have seen the value a third-party can bring to analyzing and enhancing existing operations, especially those commonplace procedures that tend to be overlooked. Our niche practices offer expertise and guidance to make the most of your business while automating and providing for an easier tomorrow.
Our advisors assess the current state of your financial functions and provide future state transformation. Our strength is our global experience, execution, modernization, and dedication to your success story. To learn more about us, please visit our website at https://www.actualizeconsulting.com/.
Steve chats with Kerry Wekelo, COO, Actualize Consulting the 9 steps to improve culture. They talk about how Kerry took on this project to help her own company and how then it turned into a program that Actualize Consulting uses to help other companies.
Watch podcast here
Connect with Kerry: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kerryelam/
Connect with Steve: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-watson-cpa/
The mass exodus of professionals from their offices during the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for managers who haven’t worked with remote teams before.
“If this is the first time that managers are in charge of managing remote employees, it can be scary to navigate and ensure employees are productive, engaged and thriving,” says Paul Pellman, CEO of Kazoo, a computer software company in Austin, Texas. “The transition to remote communication removes the personal context that helps us interact with each other.”
Indeed, more than 70 percent of surveyed employers were finding it difficult to adapt to telework as a way of doing business, according to Society for Human Resource Management research conducted earlier this year.
Here are 10 tips that can help managers keep their remote employees productive, happy and working together as a team.
1. Set clear expectations.
Establish clear and realistic goals and deadlines for your team. “Be accessible and provide clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals and more,” says Scott Bales, vice president of delivery and solution engineering at Replicon, a time management system provider based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “Outline each team member’s availability and ensure you can reach them when needed.”
Just like at the office, managers should keep workers updated on the organization’s policy and staff changes, Pellman says. Managers also should model expected behavior, such as whether or when to respond to after-hours texts and e-mail.
“This helps employees maintain a healthy work/life balance and prevents them from burning out—which, without the physical separation between home and the office, can be more common when working from home,” Pellman says.
2. Be flexible.
Recognize that employees working at home may have different demands on their time, such as caring for children or elderly parents. Giving workers the flexibility to work early-morning or late-evening hours so they can properly care for their families can reduce their stress and increase their concentration on work projects.
“Although a concrete plan is a must, you should be open to adjusting strategies as needed,” says Angela Civitella, a Montreal-based certified business leadership coach. “Whether your employees choose to put in their hours in the morning or evening shouldn’t matter, as long as the work gets completed and is of high quality.”
3. Shorten virtual meetings.
Be aware that people have shorter attention spans in virtual meetings. They can stare at screens for only so long.
“Instead of lengthy meetings, have short virtual huddles,” says Jane Sparrow, founder and director of The Culture Builders, a United Kingdom-based consultancy. “Apply this thinking to team resourcing, scheduling and action planning.”
4. Track your workers’ progress.
Ask employees to give you their work schedules, along with tasks they’re expected to accomplish within a given time, Civitella suggests.
“This will calm your fears and give your team [members] the structure they need to fulfill their roles,” she says. “Remember, just because you can’t see them working at their cubicle doesn’t mean work isn’t getting done. Trust the process.”
While it’s important that managers track performance, “too much oversight can show employees signs of mistrust,” Pellman says. “If your employees are communicating clearly and meeting goals and deadlines, what’s not to trust?”
5. Emphasize communication.
Make sure to stay in frequent contact with remote staff to keep workers apprised of deadlines, available resources, work-related challenges and managers’ expectations, Pellman says.
Determine which communication tool best fits the team’s culture—e-mail, texts, phone calls, video chats, an intranet channel—and find that delicate balance between radio silence and constantly pinging employees with texts and e-mail. The frequency of communication may vary for each employee.
6. Remember to listen.
Communication is a two-way street.
“The most successful managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating,” says Justin Hale, a training designer and researcher at VitalSmarts, a leadership training company in Provo, Utah.
Employee surveys can help. A monthly or quarterly employee net promoter score, for example, can be useful, along with pulse surveys for a deeper dive into employee sentiments, Pellman says. The net promoter score is an indicator of how likely an employee would be to promote his or her organization to other job seekers.
However, if you ask employees for their feedback, be willing to take action on their suggestions or complaints, Pellman says.
7. Build connections.
It’s not enough to provide workers with the proper equipment to work from home; they need human interaction, too.
“If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly,” Sparrow says. “If we are to help our teams stay healthy, happy and ultimately productive, we have to recognize and manage the high-stress environment that remote working can create for many people.”
That’s why it’s important to build connections with employees, Bales says. “Share positive feedback, open a fun chat channel, or try and ‘grab coffee’ together—whatever helps maintain a sense of normality [and] solidarity and reminds everyone they’re not on an island working alone,” he suggests.
Hale explains that good managers make themselves available to team members. “They go above and beyond to maintain an open-door policy for remote employees, making themselves available across multiple time zones and through multiple means of technology,” he says. “Remote employees can always count on their manager to respond to pressing concerns.”
8. Provide a way to collaborate.
Creating a shared document that tracks work activities is one way managers can stay apprised of what their teams are doing.
“It’s a good exercise, even when teams are in the office,” Pellman says, “and it will help managers refine their expectations and responsibilities of employees in this uncertain period.”
Also, agree as a team on acceptable virtual collaboration behavior, Sparrow says.
For example, how quickly should team members respond to messages from colleagues? Is it OK, for example, to send a quick message to say “I’ll call you back” if you’re focused deeply on something else when a co-worker reaches out?
9. Resist the urge to micromanage.
Trust that if your team members are communicating clearly and meeting goals and deadlines, they’re being productive and doing their jobs effectively.
“You shouldn’t have to be looking over your team’s shoulders while they’re in the office, so you shouldn’t have to do it when they’re remote, either,” Pellman says. “Regular one-on-one check-ins help managers avoid micromanaging while still enabling them to keep a pulse on employees and provide them with an opportunity to ensure feedback goes both ways.”
10. Celebrate success.
Look for opportunities to celebrate work milestones, just as you would in the office.
“Employees just might have to switch out their high-five for a virtual elbow bump for the time being,” Pellman says.
At Actualize Consulting in Reston, Va., workers’ contributions are celebrated with videos, says Kerry Wekelo, the organization’s chief operating officer. The videos have replaced the recognition that would have taken place at the company’s annual retreat, which was canceled because of the pandemic.
“It feels a lot more personal than an e-mail,” Wekelo says, “and it shows that if you get creative, connection does not have to be lost.”
9 Ways To Encourage Employees To Take Vacation Days & Use PTO
Taking time off is something many people will avoid when job security is at the forefront of someone’s mind. As a leader or HR professional, navigating how to go about asking employees to use their paid-time-off during these times can be a challenging task. How can you encourage employees to take vacation days? We asked nine thought leaders to share their best advice on how to encourage employees to take some well-deserved time off.
Change the Way PTO is Discussed in Your Office
The way that vacation and PTO are talked about at your company is going to make a huge difference in people taking time off. If there is a negative narrative presented from either HR or management, employees will be fearful of requesting any time off. Company culture has to promote self-care and wellness for the employees. Leaders can show employees they value this by taking time off themselves. Employees need to feel that their organization understands work-life balance and that they are encouraged to take time away from the office. We showcase this by offering our employees unlimited PTO.
Zack McCarty, Qwick
Mandatory Company Day Off
The best approach is a mandatory vacation set at a company-wide level. Select a Friday on the calendar and announce that the company will be giving everyone a paid day off. This power move does two things: One, it communicates that taking a vacation is okay and two, it reinforces that your company prioritizes employee wellness. With people understandably fearful about their employment, employers need to set up and give people the mental break they need.
Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
Encourage it as Time Spent with Family
The pandemic has affected many people. It has taken jobs, businesses and human lives. People will be scared and caring about their health and source of income. That is why I would encourage employees to take days off by recommending they spend time with their families. It doesn't have to be outside their home, where they can get infected, but within the boundaries of their home where they can bond with one another. What is important is that they spend time with them, because they never know how long they have with their loved ones regardless if there is a pandemic.
Asher Goldberg, iProperty Management
Address Fears and Concerns
Address and ease their fears of taking time off. Employees may be weary because they don’t want to appear unwilling to work for fear of losing their jobs or being furloughed. Others may channel their anxiety about the world into their work so they are reluctant to take time off. Talk through these fears and encourage them to use vacation time to spend more time with their families or to lay by the pool as a way to relax and unwind.
Rex Murphey, American Pipeline Solutions
Focus on Outputs Instead of Inputs
We set very clear performance metrics with our employees and allow them flexibility in accomplishing those goals. That also means that they're responsible for getting that work done and coordinating with other team members to make that happen. When you set these types of expectations, your team plans ahead and you don't have to get in the middle and manage everyone's schedules. It also shows your employees that you don't need to spend needless extra time in the office to look busy if you're delivering on your goals. This is especially helpful in getting high performers or those gunning for a promotion to take vacation time.
Adam Sanders, Successful Release
Lead By Example
There are many positive benefits of taking vacation time. If we take time away from work to recharge and reconnect with loved ones, we can return to work ready to approach our work with energy and purpose. The way leaders take a vacation is a signal for employees on vacation expectations. That's why it is so important to lead by example. When I take time off, I make sure I don't send emails or attempt advance work forward. By intentionally taking time off and fully disconnected from work, I signal to others that it's okay to do the same.
Sterling R. Morris, Intermountain Healthcare
Give Them Ideas for How to Use PTO
I have been continuously suggesting people use their vacation time so they do not forfeit it at the end of the year and to ensure they are getting downtime. For example, one of my direct reports said she was not going to use her vacation as she did not have any plans. I suggested that she take a few long weekends and do local explorations. We live in Virginia and many drives that are beautiful.
Kerry Wekelo, Actualize Consulting
Explain the Purpose of PTO
We strongly recommend taking vacation time during this pandemic. Even if our employees work from home, we ask when they are taking a 'vacation' even if it's a staycation. There are a lot of stressors now and our biggest concern is our employees becoming burned out. It’s very important that our employees stay balanced in their life.
Paul Katzoff, WhiteCanyon Software
Adjust Job Requirements to Allow for Stress-Free PTO
Sales teams are notorious for not taking PTO; this is in part because of the ongoing nature of the work and in part because taking time off can be expensive if you miss on commission. Sales may also be the job that needs time off the most. For our reps, we've developed a simple algorithm for encouraging them to take vacation days and PTO. Essentially, we reduce the individual reps sales goal for the month by a ratio equivalent to the number of days off. This program has been very successful in encouraging actual vacation time, which helps our people come back well-rested and ready to continue on our mission.
Michael Alexis, TeamBuilding
TMS HEALTH CHECKS: HELPING YOU ACTUALIZE A BEST-IN-CLASS TREASURY TEAM
Priscila Nagalli, CFA, CTP, Director of Capital Markets and Treasury
How much time and resources has your firm planned to invest (or already invested) in your Treasury Operations and Technology? Will you be able to make the full extent of your initial vision a reality, achieving the streamlined processes, automation and enhanced analytics desired without any outside help? Unfortunately, more often than not we find that the answer is an unequivocal no. So, what are the key factors preventing companies from obtaining more value from their people and tools?
In the video below, we explore how TMS Health Checks can help you actualize your vision for a best-in-class Treasury team. Think of a TMS Health Check just as you would a visit to the doctor when you are sick; we will help you identify the key issues facing your current processes and prescribe a treatment plan to get your operations up, running, and adaptable for the future.
TMS Health Checks on YouTube
Key Tips from the Video:
As the video explains, here are some signs your organization should consider getting a health check:
For optimal Treasury Operations, processes need to be simple, scalable, consistent and have minimal manual intervention. We will:
1. Document the current state and highlight the inefficiencies, helping to discuss and select alternatives.
2. Prioritize based on risk mitigation, time for execution, and resources required.
3. Create a matrix with the plan to communicate with management and get the necessary approval.
4. Help your organization understand the options available and create a plan to move forward. Some tasks can likely be done within a couple of weeks with the existing system users, and some may take a month or more and involve external teams.
What are some areas in which you think you could be using technology more efficiently?
Our Treasury team of expert advisors will assess your current Treasury functions and deliver transformational solutions. Our strengths are our global experience, execution, modernization, and dedication to your success story. If you have any questions, please reach out to me.
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