Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

TecHRseries Interview with Dr. Tommy Weir, Founder and CEO at enaible.io

Good leadership combined with dynamic business continuity plans will help businesses across sectors tide over the impacts of Covid-19. In this interview, Dr. Tommy Weir, Founder and CEO at enaible shares a few thoughts on the importance of balanced leadership while also sharing tips on what leaders need to do more of during these Covid-19 times.

______

Tell us a little about yourself Dr. Tommy…

I hail from the Midwest – Charleston, IL, smack dab in the middle of farming communities. But my life has taken a number of twists and turns.  In my late twenties, I discovered the topic of leadership, which led to getting my doctorate in strategic leadership. Leadership is more than an academic exercise – it’s my calling. I wake up each day craving to help leaders grow. And when I say every day, I mean seven days per week, 365 days a year. You could call me a leadership nerd! I’m obsessed with helping leaders become the best they can.

The real depth of my calling started one day while I was sitting in a doctoral seminar. I vividly remember staring out the window and being overwhelmed by the thought that “every employee deserves to be led by a great leader.” Then I set out to do what I could to make this happen over the next two decades: coaching CEOs, writing a handful of acclaimed books including #1 best-seller status on Amazon, speaking on global stages.

Fast forward a number of years to October 2016, I went to Tokyo to learn about applied AI. I’m now embarrassed to admit that when I boarded the flight to Tokyo, I was skeptical about AI. But what I learned from MIT Media Lab, Sony Labs, Google’s driving cars and other progressive projects, converted me. It made me a cheerleader. Which is rather odd considering I come from a leadership science background.

Getting introduced to AI made me wonder, “What’s the relationship between AI and leadership?” Deeply curious about this, I learned the basics of coding for machine learning — not with the intention of changing careers but wanting to understand better. And this hooked me. In 2018, I hired a rock-star team of data scientists and opened the world’s first Leadership AI Lab. Combining 20 years’ experience in leadership research and coaching CEOs with artificial intelligence, we’ve solved the productivity paradox and created enaible: AI-powered leadership. And this resolved a private frustration that I’ve lived with, how can I impact leaders at scale? AI makes this possible and even more. Now, even if a manager is average or poor, enaible gives them a surrogate in the form of our Leadership Recommender™.

Read More: Put Your People First: How Communication Can Guide Organizations Through Crisis

We’d love to start with a few thoughts on how you see the future of work transform given the changes in work methods the last few weeks (because of the Covid-19 pandemic).

I see three powerful trends reshaping the way we work:

  1. Remote work will stay even after companies fully open their doors up. Why? Some employees love it, especially the time saved commuting. Additionally, companies love it as they can reduce their fixed cost by reducing their office footprint. This has been a prevalent topic that CEOs speak to us about. They reach out to us in need of enaible to help their employees be as productive or more than if they were in the office. Then they allude to plans to reduce their office sizes.  But we won’t be speaking of remote work for long as we’ll be thinking of it seamlessly, a hybrid.
  2. The fear of worker monitoring will subside as it will be a reality. Companies will rely on technology to keep an eye on their employees much in the way that supervisors did in the manufacturing era. When its pervasive we’ll accept it as common place. Frankly, we shouldn’t fear it now. Yet we do because we haven’t contextualized monitoring. We think of Big Brother trying to catch us doing something wrong. But without being monitored how can we improve. A great leader should be like a good big brother, one that helps you grow, develop, achieve more. The benefits of monitoring far outweigh the concerns.
  3. This leads to the third change; AI will become employees’ best friends. Rather than replacing our jobs the primary near-term use will be helping us be great at our jobs. does the monitoring, not humans, after all who has time to look at log data? AI will be right there beside us helping us to get better, be more productive, progress in our careers. Think of it like a performance coach and cheerleader wrapped into one. This is the future that is here now.

At a time such as the present, with the ongoing pandemic and its effects on businesses and the need to work from home, what are some top tips you would like to share when it comes to tracking remote teams and a distributed workforce?

My top tip is don’t rely on system reporting for tracking. It’s insufficient and non-value add. Who cares if you know that today you spent X minutes in one system and Y minutes in another? All it says is what system you used. It doesn’t say anything about how productive an employee is, what help they need or how to boost them. There are a number of tracking systems on the market, but they fail to add employee or business value. Rather the tracking needs to convert to a productivity score and recommendations to help the employees succeed. A business is in place to serve a market and make a profit not keep an eye on its employees. Therefore, successful tracking is less about the monitoring and instead focused on the improvement.

What leadership skills would you advise business leads and heads of departments to focus on strengthening in order to uplift spirits and keep motivation levels high during challenging times?

  • Check-in without checking-up, just as you would (should) in an office environment, make it personal!
  • Be compassionate and empathetic. Encourage the sharing of tips, now it the time to become overtly human centric.
  • Micro-monitor without micro-managing, keep an eye on what people are doing and delivering. This was challenging enough in the office, but the complication is magnitudes more difficult now. An AI system can do it better than humans! Allow the machines to learn and the humans to lead.
  • Connect with everyone, keep everyone connected: when the novelty and excitement of not having a daily commute wears off, employees will start to feel isolated and even lonely.
  • Employees should be encouraged to talk to one another. The void of human interaction is already being felt in the absence of informal communication.
  • Create an environment where your team succeeds. Use the break from the office routine to build new habits. As the manager, be the one who helps employees become the best they can be. The companies that build a great employee experience at this time will be the heroes.
  • Keep the focus, make expectations clear, don’t assume people know what to do or how to do it. Guide them to the right path, or else risk your people diverging off course.
  • Have an open door: Encourage your team and peers to get in touch at any time. Find substitutes for human interaction where you can, like turning on the camera when you use Zoom.

It is not business as usual today. A laptop and Zoom at home don’t replicate what employees are accustomed to. We should all be doing everything we can to protect employment, and the best way to do that is to help employees succeed in an environment that is both familiar and alien at the very same time.

Read More: TecHRseries Interview With Daniel Sines, CEO And Founder At Traitify

In the tech marketplace, work from home is a not a new concept, at a time such as the present, it is all about more teams and businesses getting used to the concept. How according to you will the need for HR Technology/Other tools change over the next few months because of Covid-19?

The majority of HR tech is outdated when it comes to what the needs of the workforce are today and what is available. HR should be the kingpin of AI. Every aspect of HR tech would be better if it were built with AI at the core.

HR should lead the way in implementing tracking/monitoring tools. They need to keep up with the interactions of people in case the dreaded outbreak of COVID or another pandemic happens. More important to the business, HR needs to champion a true productivity solution. Companies need to utilize a job-agnostic, standardized productivity score. Productivity needs to be measured across the whole company and used as HRs core metric. Productivity has a direct impact on the bottom line. Frankly, I think that a productivity platform should replace performance management, which has spectacularly failed us. We need a metric that helps the business and one that is continual. We can’t rely on outdated models that don’t lead to desired outcomes. Additionally, HR should put in place a platform that helps employees succeed on premises or remotely. By leveraging AI as we have in the Leadership Recommender™, HR can afford to give every employee a continual coach with prioritized, personalized recommendations.

What industries / roles do you feel need to proactively start inculcating more employee friendly work from home policies today? What tips would you share with businesses belonging to industries that have not been accustomed to the concept of remote work?

All of them – especially those that are not making or delivering something, as those are dependent upon machinery and movement. Otherwise, get ready for the hybrid workplace with both remote and on-site workers. Not meaning to be redundant, if you aren’t accustomed to remote work, augment it with AI and a platform that goes with employees wherever they are.

What other collaboration tools would you advise teams to use, to boost productivity especially during these uncertain times due to the global pandemic and as work from home starts becoming the new normal for several people and industries.

One that doesn’t exist yet. Today we’ve managed to survive with the likes of Zoom and Slack. But these don’t even come close to replicating in-person collaboration. This is a wide-open development space.

In your journey so far, what are some of the biggest leadership/team building lessons you’ve learnt?

  • Create an environment where others succeed
  • Build an ambitious appetite
  • Act decisively and give direction
  • Keep the focus – where you look, they’ll go
  • Micro-monitor without micromanaging
  • Be loyal!

If you could change 5 (mundane) things about employee practices/collaboration practices in B2B/tech companies, what would they be?

  • Remove subjective bias
  • Eliminate favoritism
  • Performance management systems
  • Hiding behind email instead of talking
  • Accepting status quo

Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund and author of #1 best-seller Principles: Life and Work. He’s a pioneer in using AI and monitoring at Bridgewater in the name of radical transparency but with the goal of helping employees and of course his hedge fund.

enaible serves enterprise companies who are searching for a fresh way to drive their employees’ productivity. Their customers depend on their AI to help teams get radically more done by developing tailored recommendations for leaders on how things should get done.

Looking for more tips on sales, marketing or team building during trying times? Catch these episodes of The SalesStar Podcast!