The following is a transcription of Voice of Bold Business Radio Program 37 – Challenges of Remote Teams

Program Notes Can be Found Here.

Transcript of Program 37: Challenges of Remote Teams

Jessica: You are listening to The Voice of Bold Business, and I am your host Jessica Dewell. Thanks for joining us today. This is Program 37, The Challenges of Remote Teams. When I had this conversation with Kelly, I have to tell you, I had a particular expectation of it, and like usual, my expectation was a great starting point, and the path we took, and the journey that we went on was much better than I ever could have imagined. We are going to have this amazing dialogue that you’re going to listen to in just a few minutes. It comes from talking about rapport. The importance of communication. How we connect with our team members. How we set an expectation. How do we follow up on those expectations? Which starts from a definition of; What does success look like? For me. For my team. For each team member.

I challenge you to listen and take away the biggest point, which you will hear at the end of the show, because I will recap it at the end.

Announcer (amid background music): Welcome to The Voice of Bold Business, the show that provides everything smart leaders need to evaluate situations, build relationships, and create solutions. Jessica Dewell candidly talks about the skills necessary to build tenacity, and do more with less. And now, here’s Jessica:

Jessica: Before we go to today’s conversation, I want to introduce you to today’s co-host Kelly Hungerford. She is a customer-centric operations specialist and social business strateger for Fortune 500 companies and high growth start-ups in both B2B and B2C markets. Kelly works hands on with senior management and teams to implement no-nonsense digital content and social media strategies that achieve business goals and build sustainable online brand communities. Like I said, this was an amazing conversation with Kelly, and I think you’ll enjoy it too. This is Program 37, The Challenges of Remote Teams.

Kelly: Collaboration is all about building a relationship, and to build a relationship, you need to see one another. The video aspect is really important, and a lot of people think ‘I’m a freelancer. I’m a contractor.’ It all goes back to, what is a remote worker? But working is collaboration, so we’re extended team members that are not bound by the physical proximity or a work contract locked in to those 40 hours and all the benefits and the legal structure of the country you work in. Instead we have a collaboration relationship and to make that work, we need to see each other. We need to be able to establish that protocol. What does our collaboration look like? There are some different areas that I think have to be talked about as indeed it’s like, what does the ideal day look like for you? What makes you happy? What doesn’t make you happy? Sometimes this isn’t even a one-time stop. It’s a work in progress. I think you almost start building this persona for your remote work self. Recently I worked with an agency that went from a very physical brick and mortar to a distributed team, and it was a really difficult transition because there were none of the processes in place. Processes meaning; how does this look? What does remote work mean? It doesn’t mean just a contract of, I’m contracting you for 12 hours a week at this amount of money, to, the scope of your work is this. It’s how do we collaborate together? What does your day look like?

Jessica: Well let’s start there, with what does your ideal day look like. As a business owner, I’ve had both. Local teams, where we were all in an office. That turned in to a combination of my local team, a larger remote team, and I was remote from headquarters, to what I do now, which is, everybody is remote. I love that concept of process, and really having… I’m going to say the word clarity. Because if we are not clear as the business owner of what we want from our people, we’re not going to figure it out remotely, and we’re misusing the energy and the resources that are available to us.

Now, I would say, while that’s a challenge, it’s also true if we were in person.

Kelly: I think there is a psychological factor behind having that remote structure or that very physical structure in your managing remote teams to opposed, my entire team is remote and I sit at my home. I have absolutely no formal structure behind me, and I need to build everything from scratch. Absolutely two different scenarios that are very often lumped in to the same basket.

Jessica: Even though there are two very different scenarios, there are some similarities. Usually it’s going to be handed down from somebody higher in the organization, you now have a remote team. Good luck.

Kelly: Right. You are the winner of a seven-man team across four different countries.

Jessica: If you’re walking in to a role with an established remote working system, that’s going to be different from what we are talking about right now. We’re talking about a company who has decided, yes, we want remote workers! What are the things that matter? What is the product that we’re delivering, and why did we decide to do it in the first place?

Kelly: I think the purpose is very important. The why, along with the why are we doing this stems the culture. The culture is extremely important, if not the most important thing to being a remote functioning, successful team. I think that’s something that again I see more cases of people not investing in the culture, and not putting culture first, and putting the emphasis on… if we use a Asana and we organize everything, everyone will know what they need to do and there shouldn’t be any problems. Then they turn around and they are like, what’s the problem? Everyone has their tasks. Yeah, but this isn’t like a mechanical turk, a scenario where we are doling out tasks for a certain amount of money where we’re trying to build something together. I think the culture really drives the motivation. It’s the glue within remote teams. I think that’s a commonality regardless if you’re in that corporate ‘Hey, you’ve just been handed down this team, make it work’. You’ve got to build that culture right away. And the norms, you have to come together on the norms. The same way that you do if you are absolutely remote, like you and I as entrepreneurs working from home. It’s just such a huge huge challenge and opportunity that I see a lot of business owners just putting it off the radar because they’re thinking more tasks. They are thinking, oh I have a job to do and I need to split up this project in to bite size pieces and deliverables…who can execute on that deliverable? That is such the wrong way to look at building a remote team and collaboration. It’s more abut how can we collaborate and build this together.

Jessica: There are a lot of traps about culture and you hit on a lot of them. I probably have found the majority of any mistake you could make with working with a remote team. When I first had my first remote team, we didn’t have video conferencing then, so we were on the phone, we were sending email. A lot of my people were technical and they are in their own heads, so they didn’t want to be on the phone.

In an organization, whoever is hiring and firing are making the decisions of ‘does this person fit with our team or not?’ Which may or may not be different than, who actually we could get along with in the role that we have, and how can we develop them as the team leader, as the department head, as the business owner. That’s one of those things where, even if we think we get along with them, even if we were involved…there’s always that ‘getting to know each other’. We have to keep that in mind. We don’t know their background, we don’t know what their pressures in life are, why they were looking for this. We know that there’s a fit, we know that there’s a skill match, we know that there’s on the surface, a connection, but we actually don’t know how motivated they are to want to be involved and collaborate.

As far as culture goes… that’s another mistake that I’ve made. I falsely made the optimistic assumption that everybody was as excited as I was to do what we were doing.

(Both laugh)

Jessica: Being the eternal optimist, it actually made more work for me. I was doing everybody else’s job because they weren’t stepping up to do it. And I didn’t understand that it was because we had different motivations. Because we had different expectations. Because what was taught to us was different, and because we as a team never had those candid conversations. So we were missing the candidness of, here’s the expectation, now that you are a part of this team, tell me the expectation that you had so that we can create a path to move from one to the other without making it difficult for you or me.

Kelly: You have to have that first meeting where you kind of lay the ground rules. It’s like project work, where you have that kickoff meeting, and you have the roles and the assumptions and you get everything out and everyone comes together and kind of starts to form. Particularly within an organization, everyone’s thrown together on a team, and you’re going to work with Magda in Spain and you’re going to work with Eva who’s over in another area, and people work here and there, and they might never have wanted to work on a remote team. They might just be very happy being physical. Some people work and they function better in teams, and I think that’s probably where they need more mentoring and more time, and sometimes it’s difficult. Some people are very uncomfortable with the freedom and the lack of structure when it comes to remote work. They have deadlines to work to, and for some that’s easier… they think ‘oh this is fantastic, I don’t have to deal with anybody else, I can work remotely, and I can just kind of hide away’. Where some people think, ‘I’m just going to die there, that’s never going to work’.

Within the organization, managers have to really be careful about who they choose, or there has to be a really great culture within the organization that encourages all of this collaboration and communication, because remote working… I really like to call it collaborative working… it’s really about the communication.

It’s also great to use Skype. Great collaboration tool. I use it all the time. I think we have so many wonderful tools and apps out there that can help us. If you are working on project management you could use Asana or you could use Slack. There are so many different tools out there, but Skype is just so simple for messaging. I think it’s a great way to keep in touch, and it’s so important, even when you’re working on your tasks, you can either set up team channels, or just take time out of the day to send a funky gif or just say ‘hey what are you doing?’ and start sharing… make that a watercooler, so you can have fun. Because I think that is one thing that burns out people quicker than anything is that feeling of isolation. There you are again it’s just about task dumping and I’m a task master. Everyone likes to have a little fun. I’ve worked in companies like this before where they dismantled teams to offshore to make things more cost-effective. With the idea that, if you’re working remote, everyone needs to be quiet so that the people in the office, that small core team, everyone’s quiet and then everyone should be hacking away and just messaging. Then what do you do for giggling? Do you Skype? What do you do? It’s so important. In the office you would have coffee breaks together, you hang out together, you talk about a movie, you talk about what happened last night on the news, what’s going on in politics. It’s all very normal stuff, and you have to build that in to your collaboration, your remote working routine. If we go back to what do you do daily, I have a conversation on Skype to say good morning, talk about different projects and different teams and ask how it’s going. Even contractors and different freelancers that I work with, we might not even be on a current project together, but we’ve established a friendship, so I PM them. It might not be every day, but it’s definitely a few times a week. Take time. I think one of the successes of entrepreneurs is take time to chit chat.

Jessica: A lot of people think they’re delegating when they say ‘just take this over’.

Kelly: Just push it back, just push it back. Hot potato.

Jessica:  That’s right, push back! Because it’s really important for an agreement. Here is what the agreement is. Now some people like remote teams because they feel like they can do that. When we know everybody’s strengths and weaknesses, we can evaluate the tasks that need to be done, and figure out who on our team, regardless of their location, is going to be the best person to be the ignition to get it started, the best person to make sure it completes, because usually they’re different people, and the best people who can keep track of things along the way. Very rarely do you have those three strengths in the same people, so knowing how to move things around means that as a leader of our organization we have a different kind of responsibility here. It’s not just responsible for profit and loss. It’s not just responsible for making sure our clients are happy. It’s responsible for knowing these people. Because when we know them, and we can give them tasks with purpose, then they are going to feel fulfilled. That’s what’s going to make them feel valuable and useful and connected to the organization, whether they’re part of a team that’s remote from headquarters, or an individual working at home.

Kelly: I agree, and I think that also moves in to… when you understand the kind of work that they enjoy and they’re comfortable with, and who is best suited, then you can really start empowering them with larger pieces of projects, and also saying, ‘hey I have this idea, why don’t you flesh that out and let’s see where this goes’. Once you start building that network of collaborators, you can move forward and ask who they think in the network would be best suited. I think one of the advantages to remote working, and some people might say it’s a disadvantage, like we talked about with the challenges and opportunities.

Where I grew up there was a neighbor who was blind. Because there was no sight, they had an incredibly keen sense of smell and hearing and touch. I think in some ways it’s the same when you work remote. You can’t see the people, you can’t physically touch them in the office, but you pick up on other traits of the way they work, in very keen ways. When I evaluate projects, it’s not so much a personality based preference or call that it would be in the office, because that person’s just fun to work with, I’ll just give it to them even though maybe the skillsets not quite there. All the office politics go away, and I think you get a really keen sense for who can best collaborate on a project. There’s a whole layer that’s removed, and actually where in the beginning it might seem like it’s a disadvantage, it really comes as an advantage because that clarity comes in. You can quickly decipher, that person is wonderful for any kind of media, that person is great at business strategy, that person is perfect for the communications piece. It just seems so crystal clear.

Jessica: The challenges that we face with remote teams… are the challenges that crop up really the weaknesses of us as a leader? If we look at ourselves and think, well what are our weaknesses? We’re not good at chit chat, we’re so driven that we forget that there are actually people working with us.

Kelly: I think so, because I think you have to really be able to take a step back. It’s a great point and I think it’s a bold statement, I think we can agree on that. I think that’s exactly right, and I think that’s one of the great advantages in personal development is to say, Wow, if I’m going to succeed, and I know that that’s a weakness, I’m going to have to work on that pretty quickly because I don’t have anyone to physically, or within my vicinity to shore me up. I’m going to have to overcome that because it’s even more difficult remote collaborating. I’m going to have to figure out how to overcome that obstacle moving forward to find success. I think that’s a great point. In fact, I hadn’t really thought of it that way.

Jessica: We could be demanding, and we could stomp our feet, and we could say this just isn’t working, we could say we need somebody else, but in the end, it’s time to hold up the mirror, and say, okay let’s take a look at that. If I shine this back at me, how can I have changed this. What can I do?

In terms of overcoming the challenges of remote teams, the first is; defining what does our remote team look like? What’s their role?  The second is; what is the collaboration? Then the third is; Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people on the team.

Kelly: And the ground rules. I think that comes in to number 2, right?

Jessica: Yes.

Kelly: You have to really set those assumptions and lay that framework. Set ground rules. Having that candid conversation about what works, what does success look like for you, what does a successful day look like?

Jessica: Did you know Kelly that in the United States, there are conferences dedicated to large industries like health care and automotive and insurance, where they are dedicated to developing remote teams. Completely and utterly dedicated. I thought that was interesting.

Kelly: Did you know that in Switzerland, 1 out of every 4 workers is a remote worker?

Jessica: Wow!

Kelly: 25% of the workforce here is contractual freelance. I found that very very interesting. And there are a lot of co-working spaces. Over the last 5 years there has been an enormous increase in co-working spaces here. I find, myself, as a consultant freelancer here, I have no problem getting work. People are happy to hire freelance. I think it’s the future. As technology and processes and everything business becomes more complex because of all of the touchpoints, all of the demands, customer demands, content demands, digital demands, technology demands, it’s like… demands everywhere, a company will never be able to have the specialist on hand to be able to solve those problems. I think work is going to come to core teams managed within the organizations, and then your specialists are going to be outsourced, and it’s going to be very much like a project, like an ebb and a flow. Here’s our project, vroom, and you might even have preferred partners that you work with, but these partners are now freelancers. They come together for a project, you’ve worked with them before, super, they disband, gone, they move on to something else. It’s really plug and play. I see that starting to happen. It’s fascinating.  That’s exactly where companies need to start experimenting, especially when they don’t need it. How can we collaborate with people who are not employees, because the mentality is so different. The opportunities and the advantages are so high.

Jessica: I liked what you said about the specialists are outsourced. It goes back to, how do we get the best people for the job that we need. Which means our role as managers might change. At one point in time, the role of a manager in an organization, or a director, or a vice-president, or an executive, it doesn’t matter… the higher you go up, of course the more ambiguity you have, because it’s more about solving problems and removing obstacles so everybody else can get their jobs done and to develop those people and let them have the space to make mistakes.

I’ll speak for the United States on this one… watching this thing of, we now have these manager titles, but they also have an actual job that takes 40 hours, but their supposed to sit in all these meetings, and then they have to develop all these people, and then there’s not communication because everybody’s busy, so maybe even taking a step back and going ‘what is the work that I am actually doing? What is the work that I might need to evaluate, shifting or changing, or does it even need to be done at all?’ There’s always that. Sometimes we are doing work that we don’t need to be doing, because we’ve always done it.  Then being able to realize that as a manager, I need this time, I need this space, and without knowing that this is what we need to keep our team together, even if we are a remote team, our local remote team still needs that time and energy.

I walk in to a lot of companies, when I’m talking to them, and it seems weird, I get told “We’re all working managers.” That’s weird to me, so I ask them “What does that mean to you?” They tell me, “We have our own tasks that take 40 hours a week, and then when there’s time, we develop our people.”

Kelly: That doesn’t work.

Jessica: Then I say, “I can say right now, that’s the problem!”

Kelly: Yeah, how is that supposed to work? I work with a client like that. I don’t think they would title themselves working managers, but the workload… and I think the fallacy there is that technologies are making everything so much easier, and the flow of information is so much faster now, and we have so many different touchpoints that managers are completely overwhelmed. Everybody can work faster, but the resources aren’t being allocated properly. I think again, that’s where if you have the mindset of… Wait a minute, I can outsource some of this. I can have a virtual assistant to take care of this. If I plan, and this is where the manager steps back in saying wait a minute, if I take 25% of my time and spend it, because I don’t know that managers spend 80% on planning, if they can get 25% of that week dedicated to planning, they can be hyper efficient and effective. They can be very effective managers because they will have been able to organize the structure of that team and what they can outsource. That’s where I think virtual assistants, and I don’t think they are thought of as often as they should be, are a really valuable part of this remote working team, and they can take a lot of pressure off that manager to be able then to spend time removing obstacles and working with the team and developing the skills needed to improve what needs to be done.

Jessica: Do you want to know what that reminds me of? I might be speaking out of turn, because this particular profession was starting to wane as I was coming in to the work world, called a secretary. Honestly and truly, secretaries were gate keepers, they helped protect that planning time, they helped take on some of those roles and make sure things kept moving, and we don’t have those anymore. We have these roles called personal assistants or virtual assistants. Most people use them to dump on, not to actually strategically manage their time.

Kelly: I think that there are a lot of services out there that are providing really great support, and it’s really it’s that back office support for a manager or back office team. I think more and more those very hands-on operational, the only one whoever really gets assigned is the executive assistant to the C-Suite. Managers need these executive assistants, I call them virtual assistants or virtual team members. It’s really your go to… your operational center of excellence so you can function. That role is really important in today’s organization and it can be very effective outsourced. These are people who their specialty is task management and hyper-organization for individuals. That’s what they do, and they do it well. The numbers are pretty staggering when people work with Zirtual I think is one of them, and there are a couple of others, but for back office and management tasks.

Jessica: The other thing that has happened, with this concept of a working manager in middle management of an organization, because everybody decided, oh, we can cut out middle management and we will have no problem. Well, it caused ripples, and it caused other problems. There was this whole period of… well now that we’re more efficient without middle management, all of our people are unhappy. Nobody talked to them. Nobody helped them solve their problems. Nobody took care of removing the obstacles. Especially, being on a remote team, and/or having a completely remote team, there’s another pitfall that I learned… well, every once in a while I still do this, so I still make this mistake… is, I give too much information to everybody. One of the traits of a good leader is to give the information that is needed, at the time that it is needed, and remove the obstacles that that person is facing so that they don’t have to. They have their own problems to solve, but they’re not doing any heavy lifting that’s outside of the scope of what they can do. They’re not going to butt their heads up against another department. That’s what our role is as the leader, the director of a department is I’ve got to create this working relationship with this other department. How do I do that so that my team can get done what needs to be done and so that we can know what’s going on in this other team, to be able to have this open communication and actually be delivering on the same mission in the same way.

Kelly: Right. That’s where I think again that bringing together virtual teams, even if it’s within the same physical organization, saying that we need to bring together the right team members and make that a circular communication. Maybe we meet once a week or maybe it’s twice a month or, depending on the organization and what it is, we may need to meet daily.

Jessica: Right, and the project.

Kelly: A lot of projects, it’s very often that you have those 5 minute standups in the morning or in the evening depending on the project, and that can be physical or it can be remote. When I worked at the last technology startup, every morning at 9:30 we had what was called our standup meeting, but it was virtual. Everyone dialed in and we talked about what are we working on today, what are we going to achieve, green flag, yellow flag, red flag. Sometimes people say I’m good I have nothing to report…boom, perfect! Some people would say big red flag, I have a problem, I need to resolve it and get this out. Then we need to break that down, we’re going to take it to another channel, and talk about it there. But you have to have that time where you come together. If leaders can do that and make that time and recognize that remote working doesn’t mean just passing off tasks and pretending that the people aren’t there and you just check in on them once a day. Setting that communication schedule really helps a lot.

It can be as simple as Skype, everyone dials in. You don’t even have to do video, you could just do voice. It’s so effective. You can just use whatever. If you’re a smaller organization, you don’t even have to have a centralized formal channel; WhatsApp video. Use whatever the team is comfortable with.

Jessica: When we come together for meetings, my job as the leader is to listen only, and say ‘I hear you. Good no problems. Great progress. Oh, that’s a problem. Let’s keep talking about that in a different channel.’

Kelly: We all sit in meetings when we’re physically together and think ‘is there an agenda? What is the purpose of this meeting?’ It’s even more amplified when you work remotely. If you’re called in to a call, and it’s not on point for you, the first thing you do is you mute, and then you start typing, and you’ve already zoned out. I think it’s really important to keep those, even more so, what’s the purpose of this meeting, do we have an agenda? Even if it’s just bullet points, let’s try to keep it to 30 minutes. A lot of times it’s ‘Oh, let’s have a pre-chat. Let’s start 10 minutes early and chat and let’s share kids pictures of where we went skiing last weekend’ Do that and get it warmed up, and then dive in and that’s fun too. I think with the remote work, everyone wants to have fun, right? The fun has to be in there. If it’s not fun, it’s just going to be even more miserable than sitting in an office and not having fun. There’s nothing worse than working remote and not having fun.

Jessica: Being in an office with other people, you can’t hide. That’s actually part of my manifesto. ‘Have fun’. Build cool things with cool people.

Kelly: Yeah, it’s really important. I think one of the great things about being a business owner is I wanted to try it a different way. I didn’t want to work for management or for companies where I wasn’t having fun, and where I thought I could do it differently and more effective and be more successful and happy to take on the failures, because they’re built in everywhere we go. I want to be able to choose the people I work with. I don’t want to be tied in to the politics of a company of well, you know, they’ve been here for X amount of years and they’re on your team and they have no skill sets. I just think this is nuts. I’m in control, and I can choose, and I vet my own partners and I take on when it doesn’t work out. It’s my deal and I work harder to have to cut them and find someone new or take it on. But I get to choose the people I work with and that’s really fun and that’s really rewarding.

Jessica: I work with companies that are two to five years old, they know what they don’t know. Now they’re starting to recognize more, and they’ve made enough mistakes they are like, okay, I get this. When I work with companies that are 10 years old or older, some of that stuff crops up. Well this person’s here, and they’re doing stuff and the stuff isn’t actually helping. Now, is it necessary? Maybe. It just needs to be refocused a little, and because of who they are, they’re not actually going to be receptive to their bosses, their leader’s direction. It either goes over their head or someplace else, and that kind of gets weird. That’s where I think concepts of being bold and having candid conversations and saying, here’s what I see… this relationship is really important to you You’re on my team. How do we utilize that relationship and still have what your work is doing benefit the team you are actually on, right now? Because I think that’s a good starting point. Then behind the scenes it’s, here’s a leader over here… this person’s on my team but they’re kind of working for somebody else, and the other person who is there and they are like ‘Do you want this person? What are we trying to do?’ How can the two of us work together to maximize this person’s contribution? Because they are here for a reason. Whatever the reason. Let’s make it a positive impact, instead of, ‘it’s my right to be here’ for them, or ‘I expect to be here’ to ‘I’m actually impactful. I’m actually fulfilling.’ I used “I” in every one of those roles, because I’ve been in every one of those roles.

Kelly: I think it’s a shame that it’s coming… I’m working with a client right now, it’s a regional project for Middle East Africa. It’s a healthcare organization, and the team is very traditional. They’ve just started their digital journey, so we’re working on this, it’s a year and a half project. We begin with really mapping out the processes, what kind of changes there’s going to be, what kind of resources will they need, and also skillsets. You know, when you have an established organization of subject matter experts, you’re not going to can an entire department, because it doesn’t work. You really have to work on development and education and figuring out what kind of online tools can we use to educate, how can we build educational courses within to educate, and also, where can we enhance with external collaborators?

I think moving toward the future, companies are really going to scale down and say, you know what, we’re going to keep the subject matter expertise, the core expertise of the business in this team of people who can manage. They know what they need, we have the right people together that have the right subject matter. Experts around the medical field, and then you have your marketing strategists, you have the brand owners, and then really the specialists for the execution of… how are we going to communicate over the channels and the technical experts to execute. It’s all going to be outsourced again, because I see it now, there’s just no way that you could headcount wise. You’d have to hire almost the exact same amount of people internally, and then you’re going to bloat this department. There’s going to be overlap, it’s all funky, so really interesting.

Jessica: I love all of the stuff you just said, and it gives us something to leave with as far as the question goes. The question of: If we’re considering remote working, how can this information help us shape that in this particular project? What information can I learn from this episode of Voice of Bold Business that I can take back to the team that is developing this? If I’m finding myself here, and I’m looking at the challenges, what can I do here to look at myself, to find out where those challenges are and recognize the skills I need to learn? At the same time seeing the opportunity and what’s already here that by a little shift… we’re not talking drastic, we’re not talking going on a diet and stop eating sugar and wheat and stuff. We’re talking about one thing that would make us more connected for communication, back to the teams that we’re a part of and how we can actually be more present, we can, as teammates, even though we’re not sitting in the same office. I think those are really pretty big deals. Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share Kelly?

Kelly: I agree with what you said, and I think the questions that you posed are the answers within themselves. We have to look at ourselves. I think to work well with remote teams, first we have to analyze not what are our strengths, but what are our weaknesses. Because those weaknesses are going to be the obstacles moving forward. They can be small exercises. You can do your own swat: what am I good at? What am I not? That’s just amplified with remote work, so look at that, and look at communication. What kind of communicator am I? Am I an active communicator? Am I an active listener? Am I a passive listener? How do I react and start adjusting? Because remote work and remote success is all about the communication. You have to be dedicated to communicate. If you’re not a communicator, you need to hand that role… you need to again understand what your weakness is and hand that baton to someone else who can communicate. If it’s your business, well then, good luck. You’re going to have to work on that one right away. It’s alllll about communication.

Then I would say, and this goes to the process, you’ve got to have the right tools. You’ve got to set yourself up with tools. If it’s going in to really those basics of how will I communicate, start simple. Skype. It’s there. Or it could be Slack. Go with Slack. How will you organize your project? Will it be in Basecamp or will it be an Asana type tool? Get your visuals in there. Use Skype video or something like Bluejeans, or Squiggle. I think your tools as in what do you visually work with? Is it Trello? How do you collaborate? Is it Google Docs? Then that goes to your point of, you need to define in the beginning what success looks like and how you work. A lot of people think the tools don’t matter, but they are so important. If you’re not set up in the beginning with this is what you will use, you can’t make any progress going forward. I think one thing that I’ve started using because it’s easy to share, and it was kind of a thing of the past and it kind of comes and goes, but that visual representation when you have to collaborate, like a mind map is.

Jessica: Yes, mind maps are underutilized. People think there is this process that they have to do with formula, but it’s like, no, stick the stuff in there and see what comes out. We have an idea, but it may not be where we end, and where we end is actually where we want to be anyway.

Kelly: Exactly. I think that’s a great note to leave it off on. It’s a perfect thought.

Jessica: We talked about so many things on this, I have notes and notes and notes. In fact, I got to the point where I started adding sticky notes to this conversation. At the beginning I said… What’s the biggest take away of this? Our biggest challenges with remote teams is the weaknesses that each of us has as being a leader. We need to take stock of what our strengths are, and what our weaknesses are and recognize when we encounter frustration; when we aren’t getting the results that we want; when we are having miscommunication; when we have problems, whether it be absenteeism or if they’re remote they totally tuned out and they disappeared. I don’t know if you have ever experienced that, but that can happen sometimes. What are our backup channels for communication? It all comes down to, what is our own weakness and holding up that mirror and saying, I think the challenges of our remote teams come down to our own weaknesses within the skills that we have and that we bring to the leadership role that we are in.

Now, that being said, every single thing that we talked about in this show is an opportunity. An opportunity to see more results by having more communication. An opportunity to have higher engagement because everybody understands exactly what their role is and how they fit in, and they know that their role matters. It’s not just a matter of shifting and dumping tasks to other people.

So thank you for listening. You can visit Program 37 on to see the program notes on what’s notable and quotable and you can share what you learned. What is your take away? What is your own personal experience as a leader? Use #VBBRadio. Make sure to subscribe to us on Stitcher and YouTube.

Thank you, and until next time, make sure that you recognize that the benefits of a remote team are similar to the challenges of a remote team as they all start with us.

Announcer – Subscribe at and get more information, program notes, and past episodes. Bold leaders approach each situation and focus on action to achieve a higher level of leadership. Jessica Dewell, your business advocate is the host of The Voice of Bold Business Radio. Thank you for joining us.