two people working on laptop together

How to Lead High-Performance Virtual Teams

Join us as we sit down with the remarkable Catherine Mattiske, an innovator and author whose work centers on harnessing the Genius Quotient (GQ) to enhance productivity and morale in virtual workplaces. Catherine shares her invaluable insights and strategies for thriving in digital spaces, emphasizing the need for effective communication and trust within remote teams. Her GQ model serves as a guide to optimizing team performance, even as we navigate the complexities of connection and collaboration from afar.

Listen in as Catherine imparts her wisdom on leadership in the virtual realm, focusing on the importance of presence and clarity. Discover the benefits of leveraging technology for project management and how to lead across generational divides. Catherine's experience in cultivating an inclusive environment shines through as she discusses the role of digital tools in maintaining team alignment and fostering innovation. Her expertise offers a fresh perspective on maximizing the unique strengths of each team member to drive performance and creativity.

In our conversation, we tackle the myth that remote work hampers productivity, highlighting instead the advantages it brings to team success. Catherine's insights on setting a positive tone for virtual meetings and tracking key performance indicators are essential for anyone looking to create a thriving virtual team. With Catherine's guidance, leaders can learn to adapt to this evolving landscape, finding the balance between work and home life and utilizing their global talent pool to its fullest potential. Tune in for a comprehensive look at leading virtual teams to success with the guidance of a true industry expert.

Show Notes

  • 0:04:18 - Leading Virtual Teams (60 Seconds)
  • 0:07:26 - Adapting Leadership Skills for Virtual Teams (147 Seconds)
  • 0:12:33 - Accountability in Virtual Team Collaboration (75 Seconds)
  • 0:17:53 - Leadership Communication Tips (100 Seconds)
  • 0:26:19 - Fostering Inclusive Environments for Team Participation (198 Seconds)
  • 0:39:54 - Managing Cultural Diversity in Virtual Teams (190 Seconds)
  • 0:43:04 - Virtual Leadership and Creative Problem Solving (136 Seconds)
  • 0:51:50 - Tracking Team Goals in a Virtual Environment (97 Seconds)
  • 0:55:55 - Developing Emotional Intelligence in Virtual Leadership (80 Seconds)
  • 1:01:41 - Embracing a Global Leadership Mindset (98 Seconds)

0:00:01 - Announcer

You are listening to the National University Podcast.

0:00:10 - Kimberly King

Hello, I'm Kimberly King. Welcome to the National University Podcast, where we offer a holistic approach to student support, well-being and success- the whole human education. We put passion into practice by offering accessible, achievable higher education to lifelong learners. On today's episode, we're discussing CAVO's new book with Catherine Mattiske. Catherine is the inventor of Genius Quotient and the author of Unlock Inner Genius. Originally from Australia, she works with large and small organizations to help their team members better understand each other, while effectively collaborating and boosting individual and team morale and productivity in the workplace. And we welcome Catherine to the podcast. How are you?

0:00:56 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Good! Thank you, thanks for having me.

0:01:06 - Kimberly King

Yes, it's great. I can't wait to hear all about this. Why don't you fill our audience in, though a little bit, on your mission and your work before we get to today's show topic?

0:01:08 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

So thanks. So my mission has really been a career-long mission and I'm talking 30 years and it's really to empower individuals, teams and organizations and I work with the world's largest organizations to unlock their full potential and achieve really extraordinary success. And now, in this world of the virtual workplace, I find myself saying, well, how do we do that in a virtual environment? And so, by providing them with really practical strategies I'm Australian, so I'm very practical, and tools I can help them to really navigate the challenges of remote work, especially around connections, and get to the point where we're really thriving in this virtual environment. So that's really been my work, but that's really a subset. I never set out to do this. I'm a learning professional. I work with learning and development teams across the world and now I've developed an AI powered virtual learning program to support university students to reduce the dropout rates globally. So the whole world of virtual is really at 90 degrees of what I really do.

0:02:23 - Kimberly King

Wow, interesting. And now you've gone into that AI space as well. So, literally, because of our cell phones, our smartphones and just technology, it really goes quickly, doesn't it? It's a hundred miles an hour until the next- It just continues to advance, so good for you for keeping up with this. Today, we're actually pleased to announce the new book that the Center for Advancement of Virtual Organizations has published, and it's called Winning in the Virtual Workplace, an innovative book authored by 10 leading experts in the field, including yourself. It's packed with invaluable insights, practical strategies, and cutting-edge techniques, and this book is your ultimate guide to thriving in that digital workspace. So tell me a little bit, Catherine, about your experience with this whole project.

0:03:10 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

So I met Dr. Rawlings through National University when it was NCU, and I was the first guest of CAVO as their guest expert, their visiting expert. So I did that for the first six months and it was really interesting because she reached out to me and I published a book at the beginning of the pandemic called Leading Virtual Teams, and Dr. Rawlings bought my book from Amazon, reached out to me and said, would you like to be part of CAVO? And I said sure, and so that was really the beginning of this. And I wrote the book Leading Virtual Teams because my clients were saying to me we are mobilizing 100,000 of our employees, or whatever the number was, to home. You've been doing this for a long time. How do you do this? Like this was in the first weeks of the pandemic, so I'm talking like March 2020. And I was just on calls with them saying this is what I do and they're going, what technology do you use?

Because I've had a virtual team since 2006. And so I was known for the virtual workspace, and then all of my training projects stopped and I thought what am I going to do? And I thought, how can I help and serve people who are going through this massive change to sending their people virtual, and I thought, I can write books. I've written 29 of them at that stage, so this was number 30. And I thought, I'll write a book on leading virtual teams because I know how to do it, and it just became a hit. That's how this whole association came, simply because Dr. Rawlings bought my book from Amazon.

0:05:07 - Kimberly King

Wow, and now 30 books, you say. That's incredible, but also what a pioneer you are in this workspace here. So good for you. I see you advance and stay up with it and now teach us all how to do this. And I'm so interested in finding out what this genius quotient is- GQ model because I see a whole different thing when I see the GQ model. What is it? It focuses on four key components: connect, communicate, influence and learn. So how do these elements work together to optimize virtual work and team performance?

0:05:40 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

So effectively, GQ is the first measure of how adults learn. And that's my specialty: learning science. It's also very relevant to communication and it's also very relevant then to communicating very well and functioning very well in a virtual space. So the four components of connect, communicate, influence and learn work synergistically together to enhance that virtual team and their performance. Now, one of the most critical parts of working virtually, as we all know, is around strong connections with people. If you don't have that, you're sunk. Clear communication: if you don't have that, you're sunk. Having this positive influence as a leader and continuous learning- if you can get those things working together, teams can create a really thriving virtual environment that really enables them to achieve their goals more effectively. So the model of GQ, while it's come from a learning science piece, has much greater impact when you talk about communication, connection, influence, which are all pillars of that virtual environment.

0:07:01 - Kimberly King

Wow, that's so interesting. Okay, so let's stretch this out a little bit. So, in your experience, what are the most significant challenges that leaders and organizations face when transitioning to a predominantly virtual workplace and how can they overcome these hurdles?

0:07:18 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

From the leaders that I’ve talked to and the problems that I have, every day of the week, because I have a global team, I hire on time zones, the most significant challenges for me, and every other virtual leader seem to be around team cohesion, ensuring that effective communication and fostering a sense of accountability and a sense of community. Now leaders can overcome these hurdles by, number one, not doing what they do in a co-located local workplace, i.e. an office, a physical office. If they think they can lead in the same way virtually, they're nuts.

This is a whole different thing, and so when leaders tap into that difference, they go, oh, this is like a whole new world and it's like, yes, welcome to the party. Because it's about having these really clear communication protocols that you just don't need when you're face-to-face with people in an office.

It's about leveraging technology tools, and really keeping up to date with that, and creating opportunities for team members to have regular virtual team building and collaboration, none of which you need in an office. So if you're a leader and you think, wow, I've got people working from home, I'll just do what I do in the office, but I'll just do that on a Zoom call, that's not going to work. That's crazyville. It's a whole new skill set that people need to come across, and when you boil down all the problems and challenges, it comes down to one key thing, and that is leaders are leading the same, virtually, as they are in the office. That's the big challenge. That's got to stop. And you go, okay, guess what? You need to learn some new skills, and when you learn these new skills, your life is going to be so much easier.

0:09:28 - Kimberly King

That's so great anyway, to always be a lifelong learner and to you know, but really this is live or die kind of thing. Right, in order to be that leader. It's keeping up with those new skills and technology is very daunting the older you get, I think it can be very daunting, but that is all part of it. So I'm glad that you've written these books and have these guidelines around this. You mentioned the importance of developing a growth mindset for continuous improvement in virtual setting. What practical steps can leaders take to cultivate this mindset within their teams?

0:10:05 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

That cultivating of a growth mindset really talks to things like encouraging experimentation and celebrating failures as learning opportunities. And I've had some dreadful failures with my virtual teams over many, many years and we get together and we talk about it. You know, we're on Zoom calls, we're all over the world, but we talk about it and go, okay, let's talk about this week's failure. What did we all do? And everyone goes okay, well, I kind of contributed to that and I contributed that and I contributed that and I - and I as leader, contributed to it as well. And we talk about it in a really lighthearted way, even if the failure is actually quite impactful, either for a client, for our team or the finances, the business or whatever it is. We keep it light, okay, because virtual is a hidden world of emotion and you don't often know what's going on for people. So those celebrating failures as learning opportunities is really important and providing resources for skill development.

People forget- leaders forget- that they might have the best growth mindset in the world, but how do I provide resources for my team in skill development when they're not going, perhaps, to training and development courses run internally anymore? So they need to, leaders need to model that growth mindset by openly sharing their own learning experiences, by turning those failures into learning experiences and emphasising the value of continuous improvement. Like, look what I found this week: a feature that you can do in Slack, or a feature that you can do in Trello, or a feature that you can do in Zoom that we've not been using and have that as just like- It doesn't have to be massive things, it can be tiny things.

0:12:08 - Kimberly King

I love that too. I love that you can talk about the failures that you know. I mean that is how we learn right and not, you know, point your finger at somebody but really come around them and support them in that and the littlest things you know sometimes we had a guest on just recently about just a microphone or a camera you know and just sharing that knowledge really making it so much easier in the virtual space. So how can virtual leaders foster a sense of ownership and accountability among remote team members to ensure that everyone remains engaged and productive?

0:12:45 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

One thing that not many people know about me is I really dislike doing performance reviews, like it's actually the one reason why I took my company virtual is I don't like doing performance reviews. As a person, I just don't like it. As a leader, I don't like it. And so then you come back to say, well, how do you then put that sense of ownership onto your team and that sense of accountability, and especially me as a leader? I don't want to do performance reviews where I've got to tell people that they're not up to scratch. So I just don't like doing that.

So I really have harnessed this idea of productivity based on project completion and so I set really clear expectations and my team now sets clear expectations of me and of each other, and everybody that comes into the team like a new hire who comes in, can't believe the amount of rigor around project expectations. So, for example, we work on a 24-hour work clock, so the project moves around the world with sunlight and somebody picks it up and then somebody gives it to the next time zone and then that person picks it up and then gives it to the next time zone, and then that person picks it up and then gives it to the next time zone. So basically, we work three times as fast as anybody else. Wow, so that's one of our competitive advantages. So when a client says a project will take 10 weeks, I go oh, okay, that's only like three weeks for me, because I just immediately divide it by three.

So with that we say right, you have to have accountability, because someone's waking up at seven in the morning and they might start at 8:30 am. They're looking for that project in their inbox. If you don't send it before you go to sleep, that person has now dropped the ball. You've dropped the ball for the next person picking it up, and so this whole virtual environment, you can actually use it to your great advantage.

And I have, because it's around having those very clear expectations and not up to me just to give the feedback and recognition of team members, but team members to each other to say, oh great, you passed me that work and it's fabulous, and that just saved me two hours, or, can you do this a little bit differently? It's all about that open communication and celebrating every individual on the team and the team’s success. And we celebrate by project and that maintains our engagement, that maintains our productivity. But you know what the team has to be a team, that's the thing.

0:15:38 - Kimberly King

It's like a relay game, sort of right, where you're passing that baton on.

0:15:41 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Yeah, and it happens all day, every day. Like I've just started my day right now and I know that I've got that piece of work that's come in from Europe to me. I need to do that before America wakes up, because I've got to do my piece to it as well, and then before Europe wakes up. So everybody's thinking about who's waking up when, you know that's pretty much our mantra, yeah.

0:16:08 - Kimberly King

That's very smart. I love that and I also, you know, really love that team- Just that sense of accomplishment, you know, like check the box that's done, now this project is complete, so that's a great feeling. What strategies do you recommend for building strong connections and relationships among virtual team members who may have never even met in person?

0:16:29 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

There's some of my team that I've never met in person and I'm their boss, okay? So I've never met them and some people I've had, um one person working for me for 15 years the last time I saw her was about six years ago, okay so yeah, yeah.

So we're used to that and we the key thing is video check-ins. Now I've met leaders that say to me oh yeah, we use Zoom. And I say does everybody put their video on? Oh, no one puts their video on. Big mistake- videos on. You don't walk into a meeting room with a brown paper bag over your head and say I'm sorry, I don't have my hair done today, okay?

0:17:10 - Kimberly King

That's my favorite quote of the day, by the way, I love that.

0:17:12 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

You just don't right, and so videos need to be on and I don't. I don't look like, you know, a supermodel, right? Look at the photo in the book. I don't look like a supermodel, right, I get that, but my video is on. And creating- and we also create virtual water cooler moments and we use Slack, and you know, use Slack or whatever you want to use, but have that channel for chat. That's your water cooler for these casual conversations. Organize virtual team building activities- that's really important. And show up! A simple thing that you can do as a leader is be first on every call. Be there. It doesn't matter if you are 10 seconds before the first person, five minutes before the first person, or whatever. If you've got a team meeting coming up, be the first one, because that's where I chat to my team before the beginning of the call.

Yeah, that's my connection. And I say, how are you? Or you were off last week sick. How are you feeling? Whatever, whatever. And so that's my chat. I'm first on and I'm last off, because if people have got a problem, they know that I'm last off- the whole team will go off the call and they'll stay and I'll go. Oh, you know, how can I help? And that's my question: how can I help? And then they ask me a question. If I had hung up with everybody else off that call, I don't have that opportunity. First on, last off every time. Sort out your calendar, make a buffer in Calendly or whatever you use as your calendar system. Make a buffer for 15 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever it is, so you can't get back to backs. Be first on last off, it's gold.

0:19:08 - Kimberly King

And it's like having an open door policy in person. I like that. Effective communication is crucial in a virtual environment. Obviously, we've been talking about that, but what tips can you offer for crafting clear messages and improving overall team communication when working remotely?

0:19:26 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Two words: be concise, be clear in your messaging. And using- we use video calls for complex discussions and team meetings. I banned, actually, team meetings, I think it was maybe 15 years ago, I said I will never show up to a team meeting that's just to share what everybody's doing. I'm not interested. I will only ever show up to a team meeting when we're working. That's my policy. If you want to share with me what you're doing, we have other mechanisms for that.

I know where projects are up to. I don't need to come to a meeting to everyone go there. I'm not running an adult kindergarten here, an adult daycare, I call it. I'm not interested in that, but I go to meetings where we're working. So we have video meetings for complex discussions. We establish communication norms and protocols. So it's around, if you're in a meeting, you are not doing anything else. You are actively listening, you're providing input, you're encouraging people that are not talking. We actually have very vibrant meetings. So none of this, I'm just showing up and being quiet. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. There's no passengers in meetings and so- and it's not up to me to be doing all the talking. So it's really being concise, really being clear. Emails we've almost eliminated out of our team. Only we tend to only use those with clients. Everything's on a Slack channel and we have many of those.

And so, short, to the point. The younger your workforce is, the shorter and clearer and concise that you need to be. If you're working, you know like, because they're not going to sit there and read anything, right? So that's a big generalization of a massive population, but it's pretty true in my, in my experience it's true. So keep it short, keep it concise.

0:21:29 - Kimberly King

so personal question do you have kind of generations across the board, or what does your team look like?

0:21:39 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Absolutely from from 65 to 18. Yeah, so, because I've got all sorts of people in all sorts of roles and so. And that's a stretch to be, you know, to be frank, that's a stretch as a leader. That's a stretch- Because the younger ones in the team, you know, they're just, they're so good at what they think is multitasking, which is simply distraction. There's no such at what they think is multitasking, which is simply distraction. There's no such thing in your brain as multitasking, but you know there's no such actual, you know physical things going on in your brain, but they're very good at switching, switching very quickly, and they're very good at you know, johnny on the spot, let's do it. And so you know it's just working with different generations, it's the thing. And working virtually with different generations, that's the thing, yeah.

0:22:29 - Kimberly King

Yeah, right, well, and I like just what you were saying. It doesn't sound like you're a micromanager that you've made this- You know you're a manager that loves to lead, but let people have their point in the spotlight and you give that to them, and I think that's a really key, important part of your leadership. So how can leaders leverage technology tools to facilitate collaboration, track project milestones, and ensure their virtual teams remain connected and aligned? And I know you've talked a little bit about this, but is there another key issue on that?

0:23:00 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Yeah, so have some sort of project management software. If it's a very complex project, you need more complex tools. If it's a simple project, you know, just use something like Trello or something like that. Have some sort of virtual whiteboard. So we live on Miro and I just wish I'd invented that product. Miro, if you're not using it, use, and I don't get paid anything to say that, but we absolutely love it. I couldn't run my business without that product. I should actually tell Miro that. It's amazing. And so all of our meetings that we have. If we are on a Zoom call, everyone is sharing on the same Miro board and we're all active on the same Miro board. And then some sort of cloud-based collaboration platform to facilitate teamwork chat. So we use Slack and tracking progress we use Trello. And so video meetings- it doesn't matter really what you use instant messaging, sort of some sort of virtual team building activities from time to time, but we tend to use Miro for those as well. The key thing is, keep the teams connected, keep the teams aligned.

If you're a leader who is technology challenged and I get it- like I started off in the computer industry. So for me, I'm a real computer nerd and I love technology, so that's been easy for me, but I understand that's a challenge for some leaders. Someone in your team will be great with technology. Get them to find solutions. So just say to them okay, your mission this week is to find some way for us to collaborate in a visual way online during meetings. Go. And say give me two options, give me the pricing on it. I'd love it if it was free- off you go and do it.

Get that person as your technology scout in your virtual team and you might be surprised at when you-one of the things that I did with as a virtual team build one day was I said okay, we've all got apps on our phone. I just want to go around tell us which is the app that you use most. And it was fascinating. And I went wow, and we all shared these apps with each other and went we could use that in our team. Like that took 10 minutes at the beginning of a meeting because we were all stressed and we just needed a bit of an icebreaker. I'm a trainer right by trade, so I can pull these things out of my hat, but just that one. What's the best app that you're using on your phone? All of a sudden, we got some technology things sorted as well. It was great.

0:25:42 - Kimberly King

what was- was there a key takeaway from the most used apps, or was there-?

0:25:47 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Not really because everyone was everyone was using different things. That's interesting. Yeah, someone was using a great voice recorder, which then I started to use in meetings for recording my meetings, because it recorded my meetings and then did a transcript for me and I went oh my gosh, I didn't know about that, right? Yeah right.

0:26:10 - Kimberly King

Yeah, that's great and that's so nice. Again, you're engaging your team and everybody feels like they have an important part of it, so that's great. In your chapter on virtual influence, you discuss the importance of amplifying underrepresented voices. So how can leaders create an inclusive environment that encourages diverse perspectives and equal participation?

0:26:32 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Whether you are working in the same city, in the same state, in the same country or across the world. I think the key thing is seeking input from all team members and that means encouraging those introspective team members, the quiet ones that you know are not confident, to be speaking up on a Zoom call or whatever you're using. And by using very inclusive language, by addressing head-on instances of bias and discrimination, like as a leader, if you notice it bubbling to the surface, I always think that is the best it's ever going to be. It can only get worse from there.

So hit it head-on that day, and that might mean just asking someone, maybe just send them a quiet little chat message saying can you hang back at the end of this call and just saying to them did you realize that when you said this- and try and paraphrase it- that you did you notice what that person's response was? And let's talk about that. This person could be having the other person could be having difficulties that the other one doesn't know about- in a virtual environment, because you're separated geographically and you might be in a hybrid environment, which means that some people are in the office and some people are virtual. That distance means that you're not necessarily in touch with people on an everyday life basis, whereas in the office you tend to know, oh, that person's really quiet, or they're not well, or their parents are not well, or whatever's going on for them, but in a virtual environment sometimes that's a bit distance, and so sometimes there's instances of bias and discrimination crop up.

And so that you've got these opportunities for these underrepresented voices to sometimes lead a project or share their expertise. And I've got those people in my team, and sometimes I need to stop and say, okay, before we go on, I want to hear from every one of you, take a moment, write down what you think your idea is, and then let's all talk about that idea. So I say, right, let's just have a minute of quiet time on a Zoom call and then let's come back together. That means I get all of these underrepresented voices to share their expertise and share their ideas. And guess what happens? It's those people who come up with my best ideas. It's not the loud ones, it's not the dominant ones, it's those people that are sitting in the shadows, that they- because I have a nobody's on my bus as a passenger attitude, as a leader they expect to come forward. They expect to, that they have to share ideas and so on and so forth, and that can be tricky for people.

0:29:31 - Kimberly King

But I do like that you take that moment to breathe and read the room and allow people to just take that moment to jump in. And I guess another question I have, I had this happen to me where both of my parents were ill, have since passed, but I was working at a job where I was trying to care give, take them to doctor's appointments and it just got messy. That was in person, so people were aware of what was happening. So how are you keen to finding out? Do you do check-ins, but without crossing a boundary? I guess that might be tricky, or is that…?

0:30:05 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think some people are very good at disguising that and I respect that. So, even if I have an inkling that something's going on, I might start to open the door. And my kind of attitude is I'm a very visual learner and I think to myself okay, I'll just open- I kind of picture myself in a room with them, because that's what I do when I'm on a call with somebody. I don't treat them as if they're geographically distanced. I picture that I'm with them.

Okay, and so with when I'm with somebody, I think, oh, something's going on for you. I'll just open a little window in that room and I might just ask them a question so how was your weekend? Or what did you get up to on the weekend? Or how are you feeling about this project? Just opening the window a crack, right? Well, then I might think, okay, this is going on for a long time, I need to open the door on this. And then I might say we might be having a one-on-one meeting about something and I might say you know, I've noticed that you're not at your full, you know, whatever?

Right, and I sort of make it project-based because I like to go in on that angle, and then they might reveal. Well, you know what? Yeah, I have dropped the ball on this part of it because of blah, blah, blah and then out it comes. But you know, I've got to respect those boundaries and that's no different to really managing and leading in an office environment, but I kind of have that. Oh, just open that window a little bit, see what happens. Nothing happened. Okay, it's bubbling away for a while. I need to go through the door here.

0:31:37 - Kimberly King

Yeah. Well, and that's again a key sign of a great leader, you know, just being able to kind of put your arm around somebody, say okay and just do those check-ins. But what role does trust play in that virtual workplace? You're talking a little bit about it right now. How can leaders build and maintain trust with their remote teams?

0:31:57 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think the problem that people say they have with remote teams is trust. And I was having a conversation with Dr. Rawlings about it and said you know, we're not still talking about trusting people showing up for work, are we? And she said I think we are. And you know, it is about saying how do you get that trust? And inherently, I've been in business for 30 years so I've had my trust broken many, many, many, many times because that's the rough and tumble of business. And so I'm becoming, I think, less trusting as I have longer in my own business, which is a dreadful thing as a human and probably even worse, to admit on a podcast, right, but that's what it is. And so my trust has now turned into rigor around accountability, because I don't really care. To be honest, I don't really care if people show up at 8 30 and leave 5. None of the jobs in my firm require that, except for when you have to show up for client meetings and team meetings and working with other team members. If you work the best at 11pm at night or 3am, as one of my people do, then do it. I'm not running adult daycare here. I'm not checking you in and checking you out. Now I know that some companies need to and I respect that. Maybe it's a customer service thing where you have to be on the phone at a particular time and off at a particular time. I get that right, but for me it's not like that.

So for me, I've turned that trust into project accountability. As long as you are delivering your projects on time and I'm talking about the micro steps of a project, where you're handing it off to somebody else or actually creating a milestone for yourself, delivering a milestone for yourself then I'm cool with it. You know, just do it, Just do your job and I'm cool. And you know. That's really what it means and I'm very transparent about that. People know that they have to follow through on their commitments.

I try to demonstrate genuine care for my team members because I do care about them, I do care about their well-being and I do care about their professional growth and I do trust them and when they break that trust, it's not a happy place because they know that these are the, these are the lines on the road and just go in between those white lines and you'll be, you'll be fine. Step out of those white lines, which means you're dropping the ball on projects. You're upsetting other people, blah, blah, blah. Now we're in adult daycare and I go. Really do I have to do this, you know?

0:34:50 - Kimberly King

Oh, for goodness sake so, yeah, it's not good. Yeah, well, again your boundaries seem to be very clear and again, it's all really about communicating that and making sure. Yeah, we know, you know where those lines are drawn. So you've been leading virtual teams globally, did you say, since 2001? 2006. Even so, way ahead of the game here, what are the most significant changes you've observed in virtual work over these past two decades?

0:35:21 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Well, when I started, people thought I was mad. That was the first thing- Can't be done, and really I shouldn't have done it because the technology wasn't available. We were talking about the beginnings of WebEx. That's how old I am, right.

And so, yeah, I know it's like I'm ancient, and so the rapid advancement of technology has been amazing, is been amazing. The increasing acceptance of remote work really only happened because of the pandemic, but I also think so there has been an acceptance now that remote teams can work and function, whereas even my clients before the pandemic still expected me to show up in America and Europe and wherever else they were because they wanted to see me face to face. That's actually really changed now because of the pandemic. So people are used to now this virtual workplace, which is great, but the thing is about work-life balance.

Back in 2006, there was no such thing, right, there was just work and then you just fit the rest of your life around it. Now that's a different situation, especially with the younger team members. They have a much better idea of work-life balance than I ever did. So virtual teams have also become more diverse. They've become more globally distributed, and it requires then leaders to change their leadership style, to change their communication strategy, and so that's been a massive change, not only because of technology and the whole remote work piece and virtual working in generally, but also how do you lead that, and that's that new skill I was talking about at the beginning.

0:37:02 - Kimberly King

Right, is that in that leadership? So, yeah, you have seen some changes and, yeah, hopefully for the better, but you have again, I think you started this whole virtual. You were there in the very, very beginning. So amazing. This is great information. We need to take a quick break, so we'll have more in just a moment. Don't go away. We'll be right back. And now back to our interview with Genius Quotient founder, Catherine Mattiske, and we're talking about unlocking your inner genius. And so, Catherine, really fascinating information. In your book, Unlock Inner Genius, you discuss the concept of the genius zone and how can individuals and teams tap into their unique strengths and maximize performance in a virtual setting.

0:37:47 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think we all know what we're a genius in and when we are being a genius. And I ask people, when was the last time you were working on something and you lost track of time and you looked at the clock and two or three hours had gone past and you went wow, where did that time go? Okay, what were you doing in that time, when you were in that time, in that state of flow? That's your genius zone. So what I encourage people to do is to find out, firstly, because of my GQ profile, because of the Inner Genius profile. Now there's a way, a mechanism for people to do that online profile and work out what their genius zone is. What? What is their genius zone? Where do they best operate? Where can they tap into the unique strengths? So as individuals or as teams, and so for a leader.

We know that if we can get every person in the team into their genius zone more often, what we will do is maximize that performance in our virtual setting. And so we can do that by creating that environment that supports their growth, that supports their development and maximizes their performance. Because when people are maximizing their performance, they're loving their job, they never leave you, they're achieving better results, they're getting everything done that they need to, they're loving life right, so why not? And so we can map a team and say here's your team members, here's where their genius zone is, and leaders can say, wow, I might do some shifts around of how I distribute projects or how we distribute work, because let's give people the piece of the pie that works with their genius zone and, all of a sudden, people flourish.

0:39:45 - Kimberly King

That's a good point and again it's being able to really look and to see what those genius zones are and really everybody wins. That's a win-win combination. Cultural differences can also sometimes pose challenges in virtual teams. We talked a little bit about this, but what advice do you have for leaders managing diverse global virtual teams?

0:40:04 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Well, I'm one of them, Okay, so I have people all over the world, and so cultural differences is evident to me every day. I think the key thing is coming back to communication, and everyone says communication, right, it's boring. But if you just practice active listening and really trying to tap into the empathetic side of your leadership, you know the way that you're displaying yourself as a leader. Create that very inclusive environment and value- truly value- diversity. If you don't, as a leader, value diversity, don't hire cultural differences, okay, because if, from the very core of you, you're looking in the mirror and you're brushing your teeth and you are quite prejudiced or biased yourself and this is your own very private moment, then that does not go away in any leadership position, but it's especially amplified when you're working virtually.

So for me, I love travel, I absolutely love travel. I think at the very heart of it that everybody is an interesting person if you bother to ask them about their life. That's my experience of life generally. And so, being very mindful of those cultural differences and asking people about different holidays that they're going on like I have people going on holidays in Switzerland, for example, the festival of whatever. Whatever I go, what is that about they go? I don't really know, but we get a public holiday. Okay, at our next team meeting, you need to tell us what this festival about, that you're having a day off next week, right, and so we celebrate all these festivals from all over the world and it's cool, right, and so it's about being mindful of all of that, but it's also being mindful of time zone differences.

So that's a very under-talked about. Is that a word? Under-talked about, kind of secret thing that people don't talk about, because, as one person's waking up and they're fresh for the day, the next person's really tired. Or it might be midnight for them, or whatever, whatever. Or it might be midnight or 2am for me, and so I'm actually not doing my best work at two in the morning, but I'm still showing up- hair makeup from, you know, from my collar upwards, I look fabulous at 2am- from there down, who cares? Right, I'm not on Zoom, right? So? But that time zone differences with those diverse global virtual teams, if that's what you're running, then be very aware of time zone, that everybody's working at a different pace in their day, so just be aware of that.

0:43:04 - Kimberly King

Okay, that's great advice. How can virtual leaders encourage creative problem solving and innovation among remote team members?

0:43:11 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think technology has a part to play in this, because if you're using technology to support that problem solving and innovation, what can happen is you're getting a lot more of your team involved in brainstorming of options and those problem-solving techniques like brainstorming. So we use technology to help us there. So we use Miro, as I said before, so that everybody is active on a Miro board, and so everyone's putting Post-it notes on the virtual board, everyone's drawing lines, everyone's doing their own part of the brainstorm. We're all sorting out things together. We might run a creativity session where we're just brainstorming options.

It might be then whatever it is in a project, but the key thing underlying, like getting underneath that is fostering a psychologically safe environment, promoting that it's okay to just brainstorm and to give any crazy ideas, that's okay, and providing those resources for experimentation and celebrating the crazy innovative ideas and also, like as I said before, celebrating those failures as learning opportunities. So it is that psychologically safe environment. So, and it's also about bringing out those people who are really the quieter ones, and technology can help you to do that. Whereas that wasn't around, you know, if we're talking about even- I'm not sure when those types of products came out- but even like five or six years ago, they weren't around and they are now around and most of them are free. So you know it's, it's a no brainer really.

0:44:57 - Kimberly King

Right, and it is. It's a I love that you know you- You are genuinely a curious person and love to know about people's. You know just anything. Everybody has a story to tell, I guess that's really what this comes down to, but you do have that genuine interest, whether they're working for you or you're sitting next to them on an airplane, and all of that helps with learning how to communicate virtually or in person. In one of your chapters on virtual team connection, you mentioned the importance of maintaining a culture of continuous improvement. So what does that look like in practice and how can leaders sustain this culture over time?

0:45:35 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think it's the same as in an office where you've got measurable goals, you know you're continually assessing progress, providing that feedback and support. But I think in a virtual environment there needs to be a place for that growth mindset. So if you just look across your team and say, okay, if I think about each person individually for a moment, where have they displayed growth or that continuous improvement in their role? And all of a sudden the cracks kind of appear. And if it's a crack in the pavement where you go oh wow, that person doesn't seem to have shifted the needle very much on their learning lately. We can do something about that. If it's like that it's not a crack in the pavement but it's more looking like the Grand Canyon then we need to really say to them you need to take ownership for your own development. And sometimes I love it. Sometimes I love it when people resign. Now why do I say that? Because they're usually going to an opportunity that I can't provide them with, which is a growth opportunity for them in their career.

And sometimes a recruiter might call me and say for a reference for that person and a classic recruitment comment is would you have the person back? And I always say no and the recruiter goes well, why not? I say no because they've outgrown any position they can do here. I want them to grow, I want them to get their wings and fly. So to bring them back would be to take them back down a notch and I don't want that for them and the recruiters are always shocked. So I want that growth mindset because I am a learning professional, that's my trade. I want to see that learning in the tiny things like hey, I found a new shortcut in whatever program, or the big things of this is a whole new way we could do this and I want to see that in every team member, and I also want to see that for myself, because I get stale as well.

0:47:43 - Kimberly King

Right, but I love that- that you are looking out for their best interest, and sometimes that can be shocking if they're a recruiter and you do say that, but you want to see them fly. What are some common misconceptions about virtual work and how can leaders address these to ensure that their teams remain productive and engaged?

0:48:01 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Well, we see that on the news all the time, right, and I am sitting in my lounge room, sometimes screaming at the television, even when I'm home alone. [Laughter.] Right, it just does my head in because they say things like big kind of statements, like ‘nobody's productive and they're out shopping and they're not engaged, and you can't get the same engagement in a virtual team that you can in an office’ and all this rubbish, right? It's because they can't do it. It doesn't mean to say it can't be done. I do it every day. Right, yes, it's got its challenges, but so is leading in an office, right. So everything's got its challenges. But the common misconception around you can't build an effective team, that's rubbish. Okay, that's a very Australian word to say, that's rubbish. The common misconception is virtual work is less productive. That's really rubbish, because you can use time zones. If you're hiring globally, wow, you can really use time zones to your advantage and you can also get people more productive because they're not catching the train or the bus or wherever they're driving to work.

They're not sitting in that traffic on that commute, so there's extra productivity there if they want to do that, so they might say oh, you know what I'm really productive. At seven in the morning, instead of getting in the car, I'll start work. Cool, you know what I'm really productive at seven in the morning, instead of getting in the car, I'll start work. Cool, you know you do, you, and so you can work with them to find out when they are the most productive and work individually rather than just running, you know, adult daycare where they have to show up at a particular time.

And so you can get that engagement, you can get that productivity and you can use technology to help you to do all of that. So I am screaming at the television when these you know studies come out and I know that everybody at CAVO is doing the same thing, because we know how to make it work. But it's a different skill set, and so the person generally being interviewed doesn't have the skill set. So you know, that's generally what happens. That's my opinion. There you go, Tim. That's my opinion.

0:50:18 - Kimberly King

Oh, I love it, but you know the news is opinion based. Now, anyway, right, so I get, while you're yelling at it, you know it's time to be heard. So I know I teach media training a lot just because I've been on the other side and it's so important to have your narrative, but also to know when it's their narrative and they're trying to interrupt you, that how to you know really stay on track. So, anyway, I, I love, I love that. How can organizations measure the success and effectiveness of their virtual teams and what key performance indicators should they focus on?

0:50:52 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think the number one thing is tracking metrics, like I do. Whatever your metrics are, that's fine, but tracking them, keeping on top of them, not once a week or once a month, keeping on top of them daily. And so for me it's project completion rates, but you might be measuring things like customer satisfaction, and it's keeping on top of that. You might be looking at employee engagement, and how do you know people are engaging virtually? You can see it on the Slack channels. You can see it on how many things they've uploaded to Dropbox. You can see it on Miro boards. You can see it everywhere. I know exactly where my employees' engagement is at any given time because of their activity on our shared workspaces, so that's really easy for me. And also, you might be tracking things like retention as well. Are they continually leaving? Well, why are they leaving? Because they're unhappy, right, or there's a problem. That's why they're leaving, so find out what that is.

So, whatever the key performance indicators are that you're tracking should align with the team goals, and that could include things like productivity, collaboration. It could include things like innovation. It could include things like wellbeing. You know you might have that as part of your team charter, to say well-being is something we're going to track. Whatever it is for you and your team, track it, and track it often. And that's where I find that that is different in a virtual environment, because little bubbles in an office environment can stay bubbling away for some time. In a virtual environment, little bubbles become big explosions if not dealt with very quickly. So be on it. And that takes effort, right? That really does take effort.

0:52:44 - Kimberly King

You know, and that also reminds me, I had an old news director who a former news director who would start the day with everybody in the newsroom, whether you were on air, behind the scenes, editing, producing and he would just start to say what are we talking about? Not in the news, but let's talk about what's happening here in the newsroom.

Let's get that all out of the way and I look back and I thought he was brilliant because, I mean, people really learn to be on the same level and um, and so you're right, and it's really probably no different than probably in a bigger way, though, if people are hiding behind their screens and saying things to undercut, but really to just talk about it, get it over with exactly and and things like I would.

0:53:26 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I joined a virtual call with one of my client groups not so long ago and there was about 60 people on the call and the leader, the CEO, came on the call and I was there about five minutes early and he was on the call and he said nothing, not a word, and there was absolute silence. And I'm I'm thinking, wow, I'm a guest at this meeting, I'm not going to start the breaking of the silence, so I thought I'll just sit here, see what happens. Nothing happened. People were joining the call and then someone popped up and said is there a problem with the microphones? Because it's just silent? And everyone said, oh no, we're just all waiting. Oh, wow, and it was awful. And it's like, when people join my calls, I've got my Spotify playing, which I have playing all day, every day, right. So I crank that up and I and I'm on right, because I think if I'm, you know, dead boring and if I'm just, you know, silent or distracted, then what does that say to everybody else?

‘Oh this is boring,’ right? They can't you know. So my Zoom calls are we're on and let's go! And then I greet people like as I would do in a meeting room. You don't sit in a physical meeting room with a brown paper bag over your head and then everyone comes in and you're quiet. You actually say hello, right. So what is wrong with people? It does my head in. It does my head in. [Laughter.]

0:54:59 - Kimberly King

But it's common courtesy, though, and I mean you're engaging, you have, and you look at life like, yeah, I would think I feel sorry for that CEO that does that. You know, that's just really put such a boundary, or your, you know, arms this length? I don't know.

0:55:13 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Yeah, kind of really shut it down. He was, and he was the guy. Let's hope he's not listening and can identify himself. But he was the guy that turned around to me and said there's no way virtual teams will work and I felt like saying you reckon what's his name?

0:55:30 - Kimberly King

I'm going to send him this podcast.

0:55:33 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I'm just kidding, but I just felt like saying, yeah, right, of course your virtual team won't work, because I've just been to one of your meetings. Right, it'll never work for you. So don't just put that onto the world that virtual teams don't work it's just not working for you.

0:55:47 - Kimberly King

Yeah, right, right, there's that little part of the work. It's just not working for you, right? Right, there's that little part of the sentence left out. It's not working for you, right? So what role does emotional intelligence play in virtual leadership, and how can leaders develop these skills to support their remote teams better? Let's send this question to that leader.

0:56:07 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

I think one of the big pillars here is trust. Okay, and if you're a naturally trusting person, you know that's great. If you have to focus on that, then focus on it. Fostering that, collaboration, managing conflicts, I think is really important and being okay to step in on that. That's where your emotional intelligence plays a part in that and practicing your own self-awareness. How are you coming across to the other side of the planet or the other side of the city or wherever your virtual team member is? Active listening, don't be distracted. You know all of those things- seeking feedback, getting teams talking, all of that. That all sounds very easy. It is easy, but all of those little drops of action make that big, successful virtual space.

0:57:05 - Kimberly King

So, in your experience, what are the most essential skills for virtual leaders to possess and how can they continuously improve these skills?

0:57:15 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

For me, I think certainly what we were just talking about, about the emotional intelligence part, I think as a leader to say how adaptable am I? Can I really adapt to this environment? Like, if you're new into virtual, say you know again, it's sort of like the little quiet moment with a cup of coffee. Can I really adapt to this? And what do I need to do to skill up to get that virtual accountability going, that feedback going, the growth mindset, all of those new strategies and tools to say can I really adapt to that? If the answer is I have no choice, then just embrace it and go with it. If the answer is yes, then embrace it and go with it. If the answer is no, then don't subject other people to that pain of you not being able to do it. Really, because these people are humans, they have lives, they don't need to work for a bad virtual leader. Really.

0:58:19 - Kimberly King


0:58:19 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

That's it at the end of the day. Yeah, some people are not cut out for it, like that guy, that CEO. I truly believe he was not cut out for it. He wasn't particularly adaptable and he didn't want to learn the new strategies and tools, so it wasn't for him. And it's just like saying ‘okay, Catherine Mattiske, go and become a plumber or an electrician or a builder.’ Sorry, that's just not my gig. Right? This is the same thing. If it's not your gig, don't subject that to other people. So that that's, yeah.

0:58:53 - Kimberly King

So, we talk about reading the room, about people that are working with you, but you have to also have to know your own strengths and weaknesses, as well. As virtual work becomes increasingly prevalent, how do you see the future of work evolving, and what should leaders and organizations do to stay ahead of the curve? You are the right person to ask for this, because you can-

0:59:14 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Well, you know I would have, if you'd asked me this at the end of the pandemic, I would have said the future of work will evolve to be all virtual. I have been, frankly shocked at how many organizations insist on their people coming back to the office when they were very productive, working from home or working remotely and when their own businesses didn't suffer or flourished. So I get it that if a business suffered because of remote work, I get that, you know it's maybe the company and their product or service is not. It needs to have people's hands on the ground, like, for example, manufacturing or production of a product or whatever. You know, there's things that you just can't do right, virtually. You have to have physical people doing physical things. I get that. But for those people that were flourishing, I am shocked that they're insisting on people coming back into the office. So that was a shock. So now I actually don't know.

I'd love to have the crystal ball to say what will it look like in 10 years or 20 years? What I would like is that every business, without having the constraints of a physical product or physical aspect to their business, becomes remote, becomes virtual, because the emerging trend of going virtual means like for me, I can hire the best talent, not just in Australia, not just in Melbourne, where I live. I can hire the best talent out of 8 billion people because I can hire from the world. What a competitive advantage that is for me. Forget that. We've worked out our projects working 24 hours a day. But just on the hiring side, I've opened my pool of candidates to the best people in the world. That floats my boat as a business owner, and so I happen to love technology, like I'm all in on AI and I can I can, you know, use that to my advantage, and some people are.

But I think to how leaders can stay ahead of the curve is to, number one, change their mindset from a village mindset of being in an office, in a city, on a street corner, to saying what would happen if I could hire the best team in the world? What would happen to my team, what would happen to my business, what would happen to my impact, what would happen to my customers? Wow, now I could get customers from all over the world. That's a concept. So taking it from that village to global for me is the most exciting thing. That people say, wow, that is, that's the big opportunity here, and really for the pain of the change of the, of the skill set that leaders need and no, no human likes change. Let's face it right, that's, that's a fact. If we embrace the change and say, okay, this might hurt for a while, but look at the upside, that, to me, is the inspiring part here .

1:02:50 - Kimberly King

It's the glass half full versus half empty. But you're right, like when we embrace it and we say, yep, that's just going to be temporary, but look at the gains that we'll all have exactly, exactly. So my last question to you and this has just been so interesting and I love your personality and you're just, you're positive and you really do come around and supporter just, you're positive and you really do come around and support everybody. It seems you know they're working with you and right next to you. For listeners who are new to leading virtual teams or struggling to adapt to remote work, what is the most critical, crucial piece of advice you can offer to help them succeed?

1:03:31 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

So let me talk to team members first. If you're a team member listening to this and you're struggling to adapt to that remote work, the first thing to do I think my first piece of advice would you to do is, if you are doing laundry at 10 am and you're washing machine and dryer, you're stacking things into your washing machine and dryer at 10 am and you should be working at that time- stop. So stop trying to blend your life between your home life and your work life. Do your work or do your life. And so make a compartment for work and even if you're in shared accommodation or if you're in a very tiny apartment or wherever you are, make a compartment for work.

Get dressed for work, like put shoes on and go to work. And you don't have to wear a suit, but just get dressed for work. Get into the mindset of work. Do work, have breaks, have a coffee, go out to the kitchen, make yourself a coffee, come back to work. When you're on your coffee break, don't put your washing on because you don't do that in the office. Right, try and mimic your office environment if you're new and struggling, because making that boundary is really important, so that's so. And when you're on a Zoom call, look like you're going to work. Right. That's my advice to team members. It's really basic, it's not. I'm so Australian. It's so basic. But it's-

1:05:11 - Kimberly King

Sometimes you have to say that out loud, yeah right, I know, but it is.

1:05:15 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

It's like just show up and really show up. Get into your genius zone as often as possible and really show up. For leaders, same thing again really show up, but for leaders, ask yourself the question. If you're struggling, ask yourself the question what could this be like if I could do this? What could this be like for my team? What could this be like for me, what could this be like for my company? For the impact that I have on my clients, my customers. I have on my clients, my customers, for my impact to the world. What could this be like?

And just take it slowly and every day, experiment with something new. Experiment with being actively listening on a call, being more communicative, being on that Slack channel more often, being more communicative, being on that Slack channel more often, being here, being there. Experiment every day. Not once a week, that's too long. Every day, what am I going to do today to put that drop of something into my skill set, to make it better? And just keep thinking of that end goal. Write the end goal on a Post-it note, put on the wall in front of you, if you can, if you're facing a wall, put it on the wall and on those terrible days and we all have them let's face it.

Look at that post-it note and think that's where I'm going for me and this team, and the fact that it might be your company or someone else's doesn't matter, but that Post-it note is your goal. Keep focusing on that. And if the wheels fall off completely, look me up on LinkedIn and send me a message on LinkedIn and say my wheels have fallen off. I'm a new virtual leader. My Post-it note is now on the ground. Can you please have a Zoom call with me? And I will jump on the call with you because I will show up to any meeting on a Zoom call. If someone reaches out to me on LinkedIn, I'll show up and I'll have half an hour coffee with you and get you back on track, get you on the bus.

1:07:25 - Kimberly King

Wow, you are so generous. I love that, but I also love the visual of the roadmap or the Post-it note falling off the wall. That's great and we all need that, wow. Well, I may just do that anyway and reach out to you, and we'll have coffee over LinkedIn at another time, but you've been delightful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for all the information. If you do want to get more information, National University's website is, and thank you so very much, Catherine, for your time today.

1:07:58 - Dr. Catherine Mattiske

Thanks so much, Kim.

1:07:59 - Kimberly King

You've been listening to the National University Podcast. For updates on future or past guests, visit us at You can also follow us on social media. Thanks for listening.

Show Quotables

“One of the most critical parts of working virtually, as we all know, is around strong connections with people. If you don't have that, you're sunk.” - Catherine Mattiske, Click to Tweet
“The key performance indicators that you're tracking should align with the team goals, and that could include things like productivity, collaboration... Whatever it is for you and your team, track it, and track it often.” - Catherine Mattiske, Click to Tweet