eNews September 10


In the News

September 10, 2020


Stepping into Leadership: Constant Communication


—Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t display some form of communication. Whether talking to a friend, waving to a neighbor or emailing a coworker, communication is a part of people’s lives and, according to Psychology Today, “hard-wired into the micro-circuitry of the human brain.” The workplace is one of the many environments where communication is essential, especially for those pursuing leadership roles.

In the article, “Why Communication is So Important for Leaders,” the Center for Creative Leadership stated good leaders must be able to communicate on a variety of levels, ranging from one-on-one discussions to mass speeches. However, it isn’t a skill that comes easily. Instead, good communication requires leaders to have a sense of clarity to effectively express their ideas. The article noted leaders must be honest, present and open for communication to work, all of which extend to the Six Pillars of Character—trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship—established by the CHARACTER COUNTS! program.

“Forget about eloquence—worry about being real,” Susan Tardanico, founder and CEO of the Authentic Leadership Alliance, said in the article. “People want real. People respect real. People follow real. Don’t disguise who you are. People will never willingly follow a phony.”

Prior to taking on a leadership role in credit, Corporate Director of Credit and Collections Mary Anne Davenport, CICP, said she has worked with effective and ineffective leaders throughout her career. The former properly communicated and listened to the employees, creating less confusion and wasted time and more energy and alliance. Meanwhile, she said, leaders on the opposite end of the spectrum were ill-mannered and even screamed at employees.

Today, Davenport said she uses her extensive years of experience and knowledge in construction credit to lead others in her department. Employees must be given opportunities to communicate, which she does during the department’s weekly meetings. The department uses an action plan board to review projects, progress and the percentage of collections. During these meetings, Davenport—who refers to her employees as a “team”—will share her thoughts and concerns in addition to listening to others.

“A leader can listen, but a leader needs to hear their voices,” she said. “The team will feel like their work matters. Communication, whether good or bad, makes the team feel more comfortable to voice their opinions in a judgement-free zone. They have a stake in the game and are better prepared to adapt.”

Davenport said a leader should examine their team’s dichotomies and understand how they process data in and data out, what drives them and how to drive them toward their goals as well as the goals of the company. Effective communication goes a long way for a functioning team.


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Credit Professionals Take on Project Management


—Michael Miller, managing editor

Credit professionals are no longer only in charge of guarding their company’s accounts receivable or making credit decisions based on risks and other factors. Credit departments have been assigned new responsibilities as businesses grow and as businesses look to cut costs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project management is one of the new tasks that has entered the realm of the credit department; however, there can often be hiccups to a new role, and it may not be as simple as originally planned.

“The biggest need for me was having a tool to accomplish project management,” said Nate Hutton, CICP, global credit manager with Donaldson Company, Inc. “I now have access to a tool—DPLOY—through my company.” This tool helps with tracking instead of using Excel to track timelines and create bowling charts to document key metrics. Hutton is now able to record tasks and their completion percentages through the application.

The biggest struggle is that credit professionals don’t get rid of their day jobs when running projects, so time management is a key factor when taking on a new responsibility. “One thing that helped a lot is having a tool and not having to develop something on my own,” said Hutton.

“[Project management] is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result,” according to the Project Management Institute. The key words being temporary and unique—there is an end time, and it’s “not a routine operation.”

In the case of Hutton, one major project was a systems implementation from an older version of a credit-to-cash application to a new cloud-based version, adding a global platform as well. The last two weeks of the system update were stressful, said Hutton, while the middle weeks had a slow down because project and time management were not fully understood. Now, following the system update that took eight weeks to complete, his projects include systems improvements and different business systems enhancements. “It’s a lot easier to keep tasks straight and know what we’re late on, what’s coming due, what’s at risk of not being completed on time.”

When Hutton was trying to manage projects via Outlook with calendars and tasks, something would always get in the way, and he’d miss upcoming deadlines. When not using a project management tool or software, or not having a background in project management, it was trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t that was difficult. “You need to have a timeline, measurable reports and metrics.” While Hutton’s company supplies the credit department and others with a project management tool, there are still judgment calls to be made.

Hutton’s advice to those just starting off on a project and/or without all the tools needed is to follow these four steps.

  1. Don’t be afraid of the project—you have to own it.
  2. Time management—gain an understanding of what’s involved and expected. You never want to over promise and under deliver.
  3. Make expectations reasonable for yourself, the timeline and senior management.
  4. If there are no specialized project management tools, you have to create something in Excel to track who’s doing what to hold everyone accountable. Make sure things are written down; it’s easy to forget when it gets busy.

To learn more about project management, register for FCIB's webinar on Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. Eastern.


Author Chats


Five Mistakes NOT to Make When Holding Online Meetings


—Howard Tiersky

Working from home (or WFH) is quickly becoming "the new normal." The COVID-19 pandemic kicked the WFH movement into high gear, and many experts believe it will continue long after the crisis has passed. (This article makes a solid case.) But before we can optimize this new way of working, Howard Tiersky says we're all going to have to get proficient at one of the biggest work-from-home fundamentals: the virtual meeting.

"Remote meetings are inherently different from in-person meetings," says Tiersky, coauthor along with Heidi Wisbach of Impactful Online Meetings: How to Run Polished Virtual Working Sessions That Are Engaging and Effective—Zoom|Webex|GoToMeeting|Skype|Google Hangouts. "If you're not used to running them, you're going to make tons of mistakes. And those mistakes can have major ramifications in terms of how well people perform once they log off and get back to work."

The good news is that well-run online meetings can be extremely powerful, says Tiersky. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, online meetings can be even more effective than in-person meetings when done right. But first you need to be aware of what not to do.

In his book, Tiersky offers a wealth of tips for making online meetings as impactful as possible. He also refers readers to his website, impactfulonlinemeetings.com, so they can be notified of book updates and also access other helpful supplemental resources.

Here, he identifies five mistakes virtual meeting newbies commonly make:

MISTAKE #1: Neglecting one (or more) of the "big five" success keys of online meetings. If you are seeking to bring people together to share information, come up with solutions,
make decisions, coordinate activities, and/or socialize, you will be successful if you:

  1. Have a clear purpose
  2. Get participants in the right mindset
  3. Get them fully engaged behaviorally
  4. Incorporate high-quality content aligned with the purpose
  5. Make it easy to participate

"If you do all of these correctly, you will have high-impact online meetings," says Tiersky. "If you don't, there's going to be a lot of awkwardness and inefficiency. Worse, bad meetings can lead to bad workplace performance, which is the last thing any of us need right now."

MISTAKE #2: Holding voice calls instead of videoconferences. When everyone has their cameras on, you can expect a 200 percent-plus improvement in the effectiveness of online meetings. This keeps people engaged because they know that what they're doing is visible to everyone else. They're far less likely to multi-task, which is one of the greatest obstacles to audience engagement.

MISTAKE #3: Failing to be strategic about sequencing. The first item on your meeting agenda should be a restatement of the purpose of the meeting. After that, strategize on the sequence of your activities. For example:

  • If there are any "elephant in the room" topics, deal with those early or they will be a distraction.
  • If you have some sort of fun or exciting announcement, you may want to hold it for the end, letting the participants know that it is coming but keeping the outcome a surprise to create suspense.
  • If an agenda item may be intense or create some heated discussion, put it in the middle—get people warmed up and feeling productive first, then hit them with the challenging topic.

MISTAKE #4: Not giving people an active role. It's possible for one person to present content, facilitate questions, ensure the meeting stays on time, and take notes, but why? Seek to distribute the roles of facilitator (responsible for running the agenda), presenter (responsible for sharing specific units of content), timekeeper (watches the clock and alerts facilitators and presenters how to adjust their speed and content), and the notetaker (documents the meeting) among the participants.

"When you give participants something to do, you prevent them from being passive listeners or webinar watchers," notes Tiersky. "When people have an active role, they are far, far more attentive and engaged."

MISTAKE #5: Failing to take advantage of breakouts. In most meetings of more than eight people, usually most of the talking is done by just five to seven participants. This is one reason why during live workshops Tiersky often breaks larger groups into breakout teams, so they can come up with ideas, work on prioritization, action planning—whatever the work is—in smaller groups and then come back to the larger group and report on the work they did. (Several of the major online meeting platforms including Zoom and Google Hangouts now offer breakouts.)

"We give each team clear instructions for the work they are to do, in writing, and then usually give them a small amount of time to do it, like 20 to 40 minutes," he says. "A compressed time frame forces the group to organize quickly; get to work; and focus on progress, not process or perfection. I've been amazed over the years that sometimes when clear instructions, a small team, and a tight time frame are combined like that, you get work done in a half hour that might have taken days, weeks, or months if done 'the usual way.'"

These are just a few of the mistakes people regularly make. There are plenty more. The good news is most of these are easy enough to correct once you realize you're making them.

"When done correctly, online meetings are an incredibly powerful method of enabling collaborative work," assures Tiersky. "It's worth investing a bit of time and effort in learning how to maximize them. Frankly, they have the potential to move the needle for your business, and right now, this is more important than it's ever been."

Howard Tiersky is the author along with Heidi Wisbach of Impactful Online Meetings: How to Run Polished Virtual Working Sessions That Are Engaging and Effective using Zoom|Webex|GoToMeeting|Skype|Google Hangouts.

He is a successful entrepreneur who has been named by IDG as one of the "10 Digital Transformation Influencers to Follow Today" and by Enterprise Management 360 as "One of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers That Will Change Your World."

Howard is the founder of two companies that enable large brands to win in the digital world, FROM: The Digital Transformation Agency and Innovation Loft. He has worked with numerous clients to create highly engaging online workshops, seminars, conferences, and other types of collaborative experiences. His dozens of Fortune 1000 clients have included Verizon, NBC, Nutrisystem, Viacom, Avis, Universal Studios, JPMC, NFL, Facebook, Spotify, and Amazon. Prior to starting his own business twelve years ago, Howard spent over fifteen years with Capgemini, one of the world's leading consulting firms, where he was one of the founders of their global digital practice. Howard speaks regularly at major industry conferences and has served on the faculty of the NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program. He is a frequent contributor to CIO magazine.For more information, please visit impactfulonlinemeetings.com.


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Current State of Play


—Pace LLP

Current State of Play
While most legislators expected party leadership to reach a deal on the next COVID-19 relief package before leaving for the August recess, ultimately those negotiations broke down, reaching a complete standstill. Earlier this week, the Senate returned to Washington, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a slimmed down “targeted relief package” representing the Senate’s negotiating position—the legislation is scheduled for a vote this week and is expected to fail to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass.

The Democratic-controlled House returns to Washington next week, but it is unclear whether they will pass an “updated” version of the HEROES Act (the $3.3 trillion COVID-19 package Democrats passed in May) or if they will instead continue negotiating to reach a final deal.

In addition to discussions relating to the next COVID-19 response package, Congress must also pass legislation to fund the government before Sept. 30 or face a government shutdown. Originally, expectations were that both of these bills would advance together, but since then, Speaker Pelosi and the Trump Administration have tentatively agreed to negotiate these bills separately. While this is subject to change, it does harm the overall likelihood of Congress passing another round of COVID-19 relief before the November election.

Collections and Other Business Provisions to Watch Out For
Collections issues have not been a major negotiating topic between Republicans and Democrats, but the House did include a small section in the HEROES Act which would prevent entities from attempting to collect on consumer debt, including personal guaranties, for the duration of the pandemic. We continue to engage with Congress to ensure these provisions, if included, remain strictly limited to consumer debt and not business-to-business debt. The recently release Senate Republican package did not include any collections-related provisions.

Both Democrats and Republicans generally support funding for the small business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), though Democrats are pushing for more restrictions on what businesses are eligible as well as limitations on which businesses are eligible for a potential second-draw. If a deal is reached, we expect additional funding for PPP as well as funding for businesses that have already received a PPP loan to get a second draw if they meet certain revenue/size requirements.