Tag: remote leadership

End Every One on One the Same Way

I think about communication a lot!

It’s such a huge, and hard, and important topic for anyone trying to become a better leader. Especially in 2016, as the ideas of “management” and “leadership” become murkier and more difficult to nail down, and the tools we use to communicate with one another are exploding in number (if not quality) – it’s always on my mind.

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If You’re Not Preparing for Your One on Ones You’re Wasting Everyone’s Time

I’m working on a massive opus of my thinking on one on ones, how important they are to remote teams, and a bunch of tall tales about the times I’ve messed them up, and how to avoid my mess ups in your own life.

(Note: This massive opus¬†will not be a list of questions to ask during one on ones. We have enough of those ūüôā )

If I were writing for an actual publication and not my personal blog, it would have an SEO optimized, click-gravity headline: “The Ultimate Guide to Remote One on Ones” – “You Won’t Believe What This Dude Said in a Remote One on One!” – “56 Ways to WOW your Boss!” etc etc.

( You can see my first ever post about one on ones here: Communicating with a Remote Team: One on Ones)

One thing that doesn’t fit super well into that piece, but is still something I want to talk about, is that one on ones are¬†important, and they are¬†hard to get right.

Continue reading “If You’re Not Preparing for Your One on Ones You’re Wasting Everyone’s Time”

Create Leadership Workshops at Your Company!

One ongoing project that I have at Automattic that I am especially proud of are our Developing Leadership Workshops. 

The workshops take place once per month, and last about an hour each. So far it’s been almost entirely Team Leads from within the company, with one guest speaker, Kevin Goldsmith of Spotify.

The workshops are stolen directly from Work Rules and Google’s similar practices – the idea, broadly, is to help individuals unlock the value in their own experience and practices to the rest of the folks¬†at the company.

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Measuring Performance in a Remote Workplace

One piece that has come up repeatedly in discussing the advantages and disadvantages of remote work is this question of performance measurement – if you’re leading a team, but you aren’t in the same room, or office, or even continent, how can you be sure that they are performing well? How can you be sure that they’re good employees? How can you be sure they’re not, you know, playing Playstation in the middle of the day?

There are a few things we need to break down in answering this question, so bear with me. We’ll go through this blog post in the same way my mental responses come – like waves upon a beach. But, less graceful. And some confused faces.

What are you measuring now?

The first place my mind goes, when this comes up with a friend or family member or at a professional event, is a moment of confusion.

If you can’t imagine leading a remote team because performance would be too difficult to measure, that tells me worlds about the way that you think about performance. This is the part where I make a weird face, because I am incapable of hiding my opinions for more than six seconds.

What are you measuring now, that couldn’t be measured in remote locations? Someone’s lunch? Whether or not they wear the same tie two days in a row?

You don’t measure people, you measure results.

Look – you should measure the¬†results of all of your employees. Everyone who works with you should have a clear understanding of what their job is, and you as a lead need to do everything in your power to help them do that job as well and with as much satisfaction as possible. That’s it.

If when you say ‘performance’ you mean anything other than the direct measurable results that are agreed upon by all parties, you’re doing it wrong. It is important in all jobs, but especially in remote jobs: you have to focus on measurable results – if they’re the right results, they’ll roll up into the bigger pieces of the puzzle.

If they’re the wrong results, well, you’ll have to discuss that and revisit them. Sometimes this means jigsaw puzzling sort-of non-quantified results into a quantified result that isn’t¬†exactly what you want, but instead serves as a suitable signifier of the less quantifiable stuff.

Results trump everything.

Really. Seriously. If the results are set up correctly, understood by all parties, and roll up into the bigger vision, then they bear an argument all their own.

In this sense, quantity has a quality all its own. Getting results accomplished makes everyone look good. There’s a lot of other things to say about Zuck, but ‘Move fast and break things’ did make him a billionaire.

If you don’t know what good results are, that’s your fault.

If you’re leading a team, a remote team or a more traditional team or even a sports team – if you can’t tell me right now what OK, Good, and Outstanding results from each person on your team would be,¬†that’s not their fault. That’s¬†your fault.

It’s very easy to blame a person on the team, or a tribal mechanism at your workplace, or “Oh, well, she’s¬†remote you know” – but these are all really crummy excuses. Talk to your team. Figure out what matters to them and find a way to fit the Venn Diagram of their skill set and the company vision.

That’s what the real job of the team lead is, regardless of if the team is remote.

Good results, good communication, good performance.

If your current understanding¬†of performance doesn’t translate to remote workers or remote teams, that isn’t a problem of remote work – it’s a problem with your understanding.

Remote teams are all about communication, in all directions. If your current understanding of performance requires you to observe folks in action, you need to find a better way to think about, establish, and communicate the results that matter.

To answer the question from before, if a member of my team is putting out solid results and communicating them transparently, they can play Playstation all afternoon if they want to.


Leading a Remote Team: Roundup!

I was chatting with a friend from my SUNY Binghamton days about working remotely, and he was asking me a bit about the way that remote leadership works – how to approach it, how to convince folks that you can lead teams remotely effectively and without hassle, etc.

I have a lot to say on this topic (of course), but I figured a good place to start (especially for newer readers) would be to round up my existing work on the topic, so we can all move forward with the same shared understanding.

I think the best thing I’ve written about working remotely in general, which also applies to leading a team remotely, is this longer Post about Working Remotely and an idea I call Aggressive Transparency.

At the end of the day, the lifeblood of a remote organization (or a remote arm of a larger organization) must be communication.

I would argue not just communication, but a particular flavor, that defaults not just to communication, but¬†what many people would call overcommunication – I’d contend that the current state of communication within many companies is deplorable, and that is what leads folks to object to aggressive transparency in many cases.

Another really great starting point for thinking about what it means to lead a remote team is this talk by my friend and colleague Paolo Belcastro¬†– he’s been at Automattic even longer than I have, and shares a great deal of insight in this workshop.

Additionally on the topic of communication, here is a more recent post about using your asynchronous tools most effectively –¬†Communicating in 2016: Leave Good Messages

One thing I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and really trying to figure out over the last year is feedback and expectation setting in a remote environment.

One thousand thank-you notes to the folks on my team who have been so gracious and understanding when it comes to the many, many experiments and iterations that we’ve been through.

Posts about feedback start here: Figuring Out Feedback, where I hastily sketch out the plan for how we first tried rotating monthly feedback exercises – this is something I really should revisit in more detail, we’ve learned a ton since then.

After that Post, we did a couple rounds of what we called Leadback Surveys, which are anonymous surveys providing the team an opportunity to let me know how they think I’m doing. You can imagine how potentially fraught with vulnerability and anxiety that might be – so I wrote a Post about the process,¬†Leadership, Feedback and Ego.

One of the things I try to stick to, and would recommend for anyone else looking to lead a remote team, or to get better at leading a remote team, are weekly one on one conversations with everyone on my team. They’re generally around 30 minutes long, and I strongly prefer voice, though I can waver a little on that. Here’s a Post about one on ones in general.

Since, like everything, learning this lead role is a process of experimentation, failing magnificently, and then getting better, I also recently published¬†a post outlining how I’ve experimented with one on ones over the last year.

That brings us to today – this is a topic I think about a lot, and something I could write volumes and volumes about. Is there anything in particular you’re curious about?