Dave Zvenyach, director of the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Technology Transformation Services (TTS) organization, shared insights today on how to become a better digital leader while working remotely, along with tools and methods he uses to do so.

Zvenyach said GSA has been a “real leader” in teleworking from anywhere – or a distributed work environment – for some time now, and he believes “distributed by default is a better pattern than sort of the hybrid approach.”

“I think people should be distributed, or they should be in person, and we should try to think about how you use the best of each, rather than trying to blend them together,” he said today during an ACT-IAC event.

“Because what I really love about the distributed environments is that it really levels the playing field for work,” he said. “It requires you to focus not just on having people physically in place, but really focusing on what are the outcomes that they’re delivering. You’re really focusing on what are the ways that you can measure success, rather than just clocking how many hours they’re in a seat. And that’s a different management mindset that really comes into it.”

Within TTS, Zvenyach said his agency has made a lot of investments in collaboration tools and in how his agency is structuring meetings with employees to get the most value out of the distributed work environment.

“To become more of a digital leader, as a manager, is to spend time in the tools,” Zvenyach said. “You know, if our teams are in Slack, I’m going to be in Slack. If our teams are using Zoom, I’m going to be really good at using Zoom or using Google Meet and really just trying to embrace the tools that our teams use and take advantage of the fact that we have these tools available.”

Additionally, Zvenyach said the distributed environment allows for a “more equitable and accessible workplace” as opposed to working in person, with respect to employees who have disabilities and may run into accessibility challenges.

Zvenyach also acknowledged that working remotely comes with its own set of challenges, such as “it’s harder to get clear feedback” and a read on the “tone” of the office, that one might be able to get when in person.

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One way he combats this challenge is by having an anonymous feedback form on TTS’s handbook that employees can send feedback in. Another way is through what he calls his monthly “big block of cheese,” where he does 15-minute virtual one-on-one meetings with employees from across the team.

“It really does provide for informal sort of touchpoints with individuals that are not in person,” Zvenyach said. “So, it’s not the sort of thing where you might sort of walk down the hall or you might sort of have a cup of coffee, but really trying to build in some of those feedback loops and social interactions as a way to promote a sense, both from a leadership perspective of where things are going and sort of get a pulse of the organization, but also making it clear that we have to be more accessible as a team so that anyone’s voice can be heard if there’s something that needs to be addressed.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.