How to Motivate Remote Teams
How you keep a team motivated and happy, and make sure that they are actually motivated and happy. About a year ago, you know, we're working things remotely and we think people are doing pretty well. Things were going well and people are posting on social media and our team how it's the best job they ever had and all the referrals we were getting for people working for us or through people that are currently working for us and that was great. But we weren't sure and all that great stuff is good but we needed to get some more negative feedback and figure out what we can build out of that. So we tried a couple tools. One was called Officevibe and other one is called HappyOffice and they are very very similar. But essentially what they are is employee engagement surveys. So HappyOffice and Officevibe both work through Slack which is really cool so it will send a direct message to everybody on the team once a week, once a month, whatever you want. It will say things like you know, how happ...
y are you at work. How likely would you be to recommend to friends and family that they work here because it's great. Do you feel like your work has meaning? Do you feel like you trust your co-workers? Whatever all these different sort of questions that play into it and the first time we did it, we got really good feedback. We found out that we're doing pretty well, but there were a couple things that were lacking and we would have never have known this if we hadn't done it The first one was people felt like they didn't have enough connection to their co-workers. Which kinda makes sense, it's a remote team. You know, they don't actually get to see each other. So what do we do about that? The other one was that the place where we were the lowest, our score was the lowest was on alignment with core values and that was because we had never written any. We had grown the company so fast, we just never thought about, oh well we should have a manifest with our core values. So, we wrote 'em and we created this great manifesto about why we do the work we do and how we're changing the face of work and productivity and people started to align with that and we also built that in to how we do the bonus application as I mentioned before and we even had a core value of the week and a motivational video that was to get people on board with that so it become a real part of our mission and our way of working and especially when you're remote, you need that as sort of your guiding light. But another little cool thing was because they said that they weren't connecting with their co-workers so we found this tool called Donut. This is brilliantly simple. All that this does is every Monday, on Slack, it randomly connects two people and says you two should meet. Now it could say you two should meet for coffee or a donut or just a zoom chat and what we started to find was that people were really connecting this way and the cool thing about this was it really leveled the playing field because, as I said, we don't have an org chart really, and we don't have titles but as the co-founder of the company I could be connected with someone who joined the company yesterday, on a Monday, just like I could be connected with somebody who's been with us for a year and that's very democratizing. It makes people realize that everyone is really approachable and helpful and supportive and we're fostering that kind of feeling of being able to ask for help and get it. We're a very supportive team. So, that was Donut and we had a team retreat. So, that was a really important part of this and we had a different take on it. So, a lot of team retreats tend to be about sort of blowing off steam and having a party and that's because people are tending to work together and they have, they're always together everyday and they kinda need to like get out together and sort of relax I guess. In this case, this was an opportunity for people to meet and connect. We see each other on video every week. We use a tool called Zoom. I forgot to mention that. So, Zoom is our video conferencing platform of choice and we have over a hundred people on a Zoom call once a month and it's kinda like an amazing thing to see from all parts of the world. But so we had this retreat, it was two day retreat. We took all of us in a nd we did all these different exercises and we came up with these great ideas and one of the exercises that we did was something Ritual Dissent which is really worth mentioning. We tend to believe that we can get a lot more information out of negative feedback then we can out of the positive feedback. Now when you celebrate positive feedback without settling, but the negative feedback is a little hard to elicit sometimes so with Ritual Dissent, essentially the way it works it that somebody gives an idea, in a group of five and then the other four people can only give negative feedback about that idea for about a minute or two. Then that person moves to the next group and they do the exact same thing and they do that four or five times and by the time they've gone through all the different rotations, they've refined their idea through all this sort of negative feedback and what doesn't work and finally at the end, they can basically pitch a really solid idea and we got eight incredible ideas for the company that we started implementing right away because of that kind of feedback. It's incredibly powerful and very quickly effective. So, and I don't want to put down any other companies, but, as I said, a lot of these retreats, there's a lot about fun and games and we definitely had a lot of fun at this and it was an incredibly emotional experience. There was a lot of crying, a lot of joy, and a lot of tears and well, crying and tears, and hugs and all sorts of good things but we learned a lot and we really packed it in, in order to do this. So this idea of a Ritual Dissent was fantastic because, again, you're only allowed to give that negative feedback and at the very end of it, we did something that was kinda crazy actually, which was that I and my co-founder sat down and basically said to everyone, take five minutes and just tell us bad things about us and again, democratizing. There was no judgment, there was no backlash and we learned some really great things from that and I don't think that people ask for that kind of negative feedback enough and again, when you're working with a remote team, you can't assume anything. It's hard enough to create interpretations and if you have that idea that two and a half hours a day of office drama that I mentioned, you might think that you could avoid that when you're remote but truth is, is that the problem with remote in that regard is that somebody could say something that bothers somebody else and then they go off and do their thing and the other person goes to do their thing and it can actually fester for a lot longer than two and a half hours 'cause you might not run into them again or you might not video chat with them again for the rest of the day so you need to be extremely direct and this was one form of us doing that. So, I hope that you guys can sort of see the ideas here and how this can apply to really any kind of business no matter what phase that business might be in or whether it is remote or not as I said before, I've seen law firms that have been operating in a physical location for thirty, forty years and now they want to figure out how they can real remote and there's a lot of other ways where we can pull in tools here, whether it's a virtual phone system or a virtual mail, postal mail system, where you're forwarding mail. There's all sorts of logistics that into here but if you start with this idea of how that team will interact the tools sort of come out of that after and you can figure out those logistics later. So, any last questions?
Has there been any other particular, I guess, negative experiences in the management of the remote team, what experiences would those be, what main lessons would you pull out of that, and how can you encourage business owners to keep moving forward after that?
Yeah, so again, I think it goes back that idea of being direct, like we really can't assume things. So, it's not good enough to like have a call with a bunch of people remotely and go over an idea and then just assume like everyone got it and everyone's happy. You really do need to reach out and ask people and you do need to have more, absolutely this is one thing about going remote is you do have to have more checks and balances in place then you might otherwise. Now, I don't see that as an inefficiency because when you are in a physical office and you have that kind of infrastructure I think that inherently has a ton of inefficiencies in it so it's not like trading one for the other but it's not, like oh now we're gonna have these extra checks and balances so it just makes it efficient, no I think that that removes a lot of the blockades that you might have otherwise but again, it's too easy to just be in your own sort of silo and be like okay well I'm happy and they must have gotten it and we're done. So, those feedback loops, those check ins, that ability for people to feel like they can have a conversation with you without having there be any sort of backlash and you can obviously do that culturally but there's ways that you can do that with tools as well. So in Slack, there's a number of different tools that will allow you to communicate anonymously with somebody those surverys like Happyoffice let you do anonymous comments but you can literally send an anonymous message to somebody and just say like, you didn't do that meeting very well. Whatever you want, but that's another thing to is that you can start to rate more things. So, we think of like the Uber model of rating everything, every trip that we take, you can actually implement that in a lot of the interactions that you have. So if you have a meeting with a bunch of people, you can ask everybody at the end to submit a rating for that meeting. How was that meeting? Was it a four out of five meeting? If it was a two out of five, why? And then try to actually go from that. So, you have to start to look, when you're remote, you have to start to look at everything you do, like almost everything, as an experiment and recognizing that an experiment means that it may go badly, it may not go badly, it may go great, but it's an experiment nonetheless and until that experiment is validated, you really don't know if it's a good thing or not. You should keep experimenting so the idea of building in some sort of check and balance into that, the interactions that we have mainly is the most important thing and the last thing about that too is recognizing that because people do communicate differently and different modalities, somebody might, like on Slack for example, or even in email if you were going to use that still which I hope you wouldn't after this course, 93% I think, of human communication is through body language and facial expression and 7% is the actual words said so when you're communicating asynchronously, not through video or audio but through text, like Slack, you're basically forcing people to interpret the other 93% and lot of that interpretation is from the relationship you have with them, the kind of person they are, and the kind of person you are and we really can't control that so the only thing that we can do there is just be really clear with what our intentions are and what we're trying to convey and as possible try to add in the color of something like an audio or video message and sort of wrapping that up is just recognizing that different people communicate better in different modalities so trying to meet them where they are as best you can, I think will really help.
And with the remote team with this course, kinda starting to build it but at the scalable level, for example, where Leverage is right now, when it's gotten to a certain point and it is proven successful, what would be the next step in the business or even building a bigger remote team? What would be the next step in that scalability for managing the team?
Well, so that's where we really come down to the processes and really dialing in those processes because if we develop processes that are really good that should scale sort of inherently, generally speaking, they should be able to shift horizontally or laterally I guess, to the different things, so at point it really is just sort of growing out the branch there's absolutely a point where you do need more structure. You do need to have some sort of org chart and the org chart in that context is not even so much for seniority but it's really for people to know who to talk to in a certain situation. I think that's the most important thing is that if you have a clear sort of chain of command, or chain of communication I guess, that's on of the biggest too I think, scaling on a really giant level, because if you think about it that way, eventually you can just break out a company into separate divisions, into separate companies that interact with each other in different ways and have those be like, sort of the pods and have mini structures that sort of mirror each other but ideally if you have this kind of communication in place which is completely transparent and provides accountability, you have a project management tool in place that provides transparency, accountability and you know what's what then it should scale indefinitely.
So the transparency is the absolute key in management.
I think so and that's one of the reasons why I don't love that idea of the org chart but more of like a chain of communication because again, it just does provide that transparency. It doesn't mean that like, you can't talk to the boss but if you need help really quickly with this particular issue, this person's going to be the best person to talk to and you can always take that up the chain but with something like Slack, if they're talking about that issue in a HR channel, for example, and it's not obviously like railing on somebody then anybody can go see that and knowing that is really important even if nobody ever were to look at it, you know that anybody can. They can search for it. It's out there. And I think that it provides a lot of security to people sort of individually. So yeah, transparency to me is absolute key. I think that everybody should pretty much know everything that's going on or have access to know everything you don't want to overload people with information.
Earlier you mentioned that you favor implementing an Uber business model of rating everything. How have you noticed an impact, whether positive or negative on your retention for your contractors?
I have to say that our retention is pretty amazing. Part of that is probably because we don't actively recruit. We never have. Every, I would say pretty much everybody that comes to work for us at this point is doing so because they heard about us from somebody else. So, what I more look at than retention 'cause it's actually not a very usual number for us because we have such good retention is our sort of net promoter score for the people that work for us. So, when we ask that question with HappyOffice or Officevibe about how likely would you be to recommend working here, to friends and family that working here is a great place to work, it's like 97% would strongly do that. So to me, that a huge question, it's like it's a different way of framing things. It's like, I heard this thing the other day, saying what will our clients thank us for today? It's a very different way to sort of ask that question. So in this case, it's like, it's not are you happy working here or we retaining people well but would they actually recommend somebody else that they care about to work here as well? So that's a really huge indicator as far as I'm concerned.
In the, I mean the remote team, what would be some of the biggest takeaways that you find in your own life being able to manage a remote team and not have to go into an office from nine to five?
Yeah, so that's really huge for me. I have four small children, five and under, so very small children and I'm able to work while they're at school, basically, and do drop off and pick up. I'm also the president of our PTA this year which has been an interesting experience in itself but I'm also a night owl and I'm also kinda a morning person but I'm basically, I like, I love the work I do. I love the work I do and I love interacting with people this kind of, what we're doing here is what I love doing and anytime of the day I can have a really meaningful impactful conversation with somebody on a team who needs help with something or has a question about something or wants to learn about something more, whether that's two in the morning or eight in the morning or noon, it doesn't matter, and so it's the kind of thing, the way that I look at it is it's almost like a, this sort of magical suitcase that I can open anytime I want and play with something but if I close it I know it's going to run properly because we have systems in place. We have people who are empowered to do so and I never ever have to worry about it. That's really the beauty of it for me and I can travel, I can be with my family, I can take a sick day, I can be very flexible and the work I do is very nimble which is, it makes for a really ultimate sort of work life integration while at the same time, and this may sound counter intuitive to what I said, but at the same time, it actually does a lot for really good compartmentalization because I don't have an office that I go to and I'm not there all day so I actually can switch between doing family stuff and not have to think about anything else and then if I want to sort of pop in and do a half an hour work, it's there. It's that asynchronous nature that means that you can do it when you want. Now obviously there's certain things where you have deadlines or we have to have a meeting, but we schedule those the best we can but other than that, just the work itself, is available to you when you want it. So I give myself ultimate show crafting as well.
With this whole course, it gives us a really great overview of all the things that need to be in order from brick and mortar to remote but if there was one thing that a brick and mortar business could do today to start to move in this direction, what would you suggest out of the communication structures, what would be that first move?
So, it's gonna sound self-serving, but they should start working with a virtual team and supplementing the work that they do because it doesn't matter what kind of brick and mortar business it is. They probably can use help with marketing or they probably could use help with bookkeeping or social media which would be marketing or even looking at their books from like a data analytics point of view and saying like oh we did this much revenue. This time we should, you know, start forecasting, that kind of thing. A lot of brick and mortar stores don't necessarily do that kind of work. There's even a tool, and I'm forgetting the name of it, but it will analyze your security footage of your retail location and do Google analytics and basically tell you, like, that corner doesn't get any traffic, foot traffic, and you should put more things there, basically, or everybody who comes in the store goes to the left first, like it can actually tell you than kind of information and that's the kind of thing that can be analyzed in the cloud and somebody whose not physically in your business but you can start taking advantage of those talents, can help you with. So I think that's the best place to start because if you start to work that way, you'll start to naturally put systems in place, you can work with those people, and then eventually it's like oh well we have this person on site that's doing marketing, well they can work from home four days a week now because we have these systems in place.
Do you think that there's any industry or type of business that would not do well on a remote side of things?
Probably a dentist. Well no, even so there's medical, we work with a lot of medical offices and law firms, I mean obviously there's going to be things where you physically be in place with people, however, all the infrastructure around that, need to be there so a dentist would work, 'cause you'll still be coming to the dentist but you don't even need to have actual receptionist there. You don't need to have your medical billing transcriptionist on site so you could have a much smaller office and maybe be in a location that you wouldn't be accessible to otherwise because it was too expensive to have a large office so, I was gonna say school but schools can work great with remote learning too so no, I think nowadays there's really, as long as you have access to people that can physically be on location for the things that really require it like delivering something or examining a patient or whatever then I think everything else around that, yeah, can be, can be done remotely. So, well thank you for those questions and so everybody who's watching or listening that was how to build and manage a remote team. As I was saying, you can apply this, you have to learn to apply this if you're going to stay competitive in the world that we're in, whether in retail or commercial space or non-profit or a school. It doesn't really matter. All of these are relevant to being more efficient in the way that we work, being able to scale, being more error proof.