57: Powerful Systems to Support Autonomy with Carissa Reiniger

Flexible work hours, greater autonomy, freedom, virtual teams, work from anywhere… These are growing in popularity but not always easy to implement. To successfully manage a team “at a distance” (whether that be geographic or just being more hand’s off), you need solid systems and colleagues with the right skills to succeed in that environment.

This week’s guest, Carissa Reiniger, is the Founder & CEO of Silver Lining Ltd. She started Silver Lining in 2005 and created the Silver Lining Action Plan – SLAP! – A methodology that has helped over 10,000 small business owners in 9 countries set – and hit their growth goals.

Carissa’s team is 100% virtual, spanning 14 countries and dozens of employees. She has developed systems and processes that enable autonomy and deep engagement without having met many of her employees in person.

Read the related blog article: How to Build Autonomy into Your Teamwork.

Join the Modern Manager community to get Silver Lining’s Team Cheat sheet which they use to set mutual expectations and basic understanding of how they operate AND their Verbal Warning / Coaching Template, which they use as part of the Progressive Discipline process.

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  • It is very hard for humans to learn the skills of being self-disciplined, self-structured, and results oriented. Regardless of culture / country of origin, most of us need to learn these skills.
  • Too often people have been trained to be submissive instead of contributive, yet to be a good team member, it’s important not to just follow along and say “yes.” Think, push back, share your perspective and help make the system better.
  • Encourage sharing by creating a virtual ‘suggestion box’ and follow up with each idea. Be conscious about publicly rewarding the behaviors of speaking up. Silver Lining has a monthly “silver stars” program in which anyone can recognize a colleague.
  • Silver Lining manages using a Roles-Goals process: Once per month, each person in the company spends one hour doing a reflection during which they consider how they’ve spent their time, what they’ve accomplished towards their goals, how they or the system can improve, etc. Then they meet with their manager to review it for one hour and generate any plans for the next month.
  • Think creatively about how to design the hiring process to determine fit. How might both parties assess whether the candidate will likely be successful in the role and the company’s culture, and that those are also what the candidate wants.
  • At Silver Lining, the interview process focuses on non-negotiables and then the onboarding is really when the candidate will get the job or not. Each new hire, regardless of seniority, spends one week going through SLAP University, a 40 hour, self-managed one week program where they orient themselves to the company, products, culture, etc.
  • The onboarding process helps people get oriented quickly but also gives them an opportunity to demonstrate whether they can manage themselves, learn and integrate the information, and have other skills needed to be successful at the company.
  • Every time you need to teach someone something, record it or document it so next time, you share the documentation instead. Over time, you’ll build a library of how-tos and save yourself hundreds of hours. Plus it becomes a resource to current staff who may need an occasional refresher.
  • You can invest in underperformers forever, but it’s not healthy for the business or their colleagues.
  • Silver Lining uses Progressive Discipline: When someone is underperforming, first get them coaching. If after 90 days, the behavior hasn’t changed, write a written warning that includes a clear mandate for change in the next 30 days. Continue to give them whatever support seems appropriate to enable change. If after two weeks there still isn’t visible change, they get a second written warning. At the end of 30 days (2 additional weeks), if there still isn’t adequate change, the person is terminated, totalling a four month process.


Website: www.smallbizsilverlining.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carissareiniger/

Facebook: @SilverLiningActionPlan

Twitter: @silverliningltd


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