Book: Work together Anywhere

—successfully— FOR INDIVIDUALS, TEAMS & MANAGERS” by Lisette Sutherland and K. Janene-Nelson

“A telecommuter is someone who works remotely (usually from home), either full time or part time, on a fixed team for one company.”
“Upwork and Freelancers Union define freelancers as ‘individuals who have engaged in supplemental, temporary, or project- or contract-based work within the past twelve months.'”
“In some teams several members work together in the same location (‘colocated’), while others work remotely; this is what’s meant by the term ‘partly distributed.’ In some teams everyone works remotely, regardless of location; this is also known as being ‘fully distributed.'”
“Near-located generally means that team members are within driving distance of each other. Far-located teams include one or more people who are far enough away that getting together in person requires planning.”
“It’s highly recommended that remote team members meet in person regularly. At least once per quarter (or more often) is ideal, though some teams can meet only once per year. Many claim that all time spent in person deepens team bonding exponentially.”
“A 2015 study conducted in Australia found impressive health benefits from the following routine: sit for twenty minutes, stand for eight minutes, and move around for at least two minutes.”
“At Happy Melly we also open our meetings with ‘icebreakers’ to facilitate greater connection. These could be naming a favorite food, or bringing something for show-and-tell: say, the mug you got in Tierra del Fuego. I realize that could sound pretty cheesy, but this kind of thing actually gets people engaged and talking to each other about personal things.”
“For starters, since it’s easy to read negativity into written communication, even when none was intended, it’s wise to ALWAYS BE FRIENDLY, even overtly friendly.”
“The flip side of that is to always ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT.”
“There’s not much efficacy in saying that something is poor/slipshod/mediocre/lousy/stupid. Instead, express why something isn’t working for you, or why you think said item won’t serve its purpose.”
“At the beginning stages of an initiative, request feedback on direction and scope—basically, ideas, opinions, or tips on the general concept. Specify that you welcome the following types of input:

  • impressions of the higher-level concept;
  • thoughts about different audiences to target;
  • suggestions for scope and ways to expand;
  • ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decisions on project elements; and
  • alignment on higher-level organizational goals.”
    “With this second phase, you’ll have fleshed out the concept much more, but are still open to significant feedback. Lauren notes: ‘It’s critical during this round to get all stakeholders involved, because it is their suggestions that will catapult the piece—whatever it is—from a first draft to a nearly finished product. Plus, if you don’t get their feedback now, you’re running the risk falling prey to the dreaded seagulling territory down the road.’ Specify that you welcome the likes of:
  • suggestions of different ways to expand;
  • nitty-gritty comments on grammar, copyediting, sentence structure, or formatting;
  • details of color, graphics, design, etc.; and
  • comments on if the feedback from the previous round was implemented effectively.”
    “With the final stage the project is nearly done. ‘Think of this as the ‘Is there anything else I missed?’ round of feedback.’ Specify that you welcome:
  • nitty-gritty comments on grammar/copyediting/sentence structure/formatting and
  • comments on if the feedback from the previous round was implemented effectively.”
    “It’s widely advised: as soon as an interaction starts to get heated, ditch the written word and pick up the phone or turn on the webcam. It’s easy to build up a grievance against a shadowy entity; it’s much harder to assume—and impose—negative intent when we’re interacting with a human face or voice.”
    “Similarly, when you need to voice a concern, don’t use a team-wide forum, like group chat, as your first option. Communicate one-on-one. If you reach an impasse, rope in your manager. Personal differences can be tricky enough as it is; don’t add public embarrassment (or worse) to the mix.”
    “I want people who don’t need to be led. That means self-starters who are accountable. I’d rather have the right kind of person than the right kind of résumé. I’ll take people who aren’t a fit skill-wise as long as I know that they’ll fit the culture—and that they’ll attack whatever problem I’m hiring them for. —JEREMY STANTON, SVP of engineering, Amino Payments”
    “Find people who don’t need a lot of day-to-day handholding, who are self-motivated, and who will know when to reach out and ask for help versus when they need to figure things out on their own. —CARRIE MCKEEGAN, CEO, Greenback Expat Tax Services”
    “To address this, some remote teams are now experimenting with instead organizing themselves from North to South: meaning they’re in the same time zone, regardless of the actual distance between them. And so they’re able to maintain a reliable project schedule as well as, consequently, reliable quality.”
    “Since the ‘water cooler’ talk isn’t possible, we provide a wide variety of channels and tools for staff to communicate: email, HipChat [now Slack], and Google Hangouts [now Google Meet]; we also have a staff forum and a social media style site for informal discussions. We have an internal blog for large announcements and official company business and announcements. —TOM SEPPER, COO, World Wide Web Hosting”
    “People respect you more when they know how you contribute, and they question your value when they don’t know how you contribute.”
    “The goal of an OKR is to precisely define how to achieve objectives through concrete, specific, and measurable actions.”
    “Every month, each team member is given one hundred points. Over the course of the month, we distribute points amongst the team—including the managers—along with reasons why. The amounts people give and their reasons for giving are transparent to everyone.”
    “Lisette gave twenty-five points to Sergey ‘for all the feedback and support.’ Sergey gave ten credits to Chad for his ‘terrific illustrations.’ And Chad gave twenty credits to Hannu for his ‘friendliness and clarity of communication.’”
    “At the end of each month Tahira, our finance queen, puts together our profit and loss statement; if there is profit, she sets aside a percentage for the monthly bonus—to be distributed amongst the team based on the number of points each individual received during the month.”
    “Merit Money is a great way to make sure each of us knows how accountable we are, and what others perceive of our contribution. It assures that we all work on our communication skills, and it ensures that everyone knows what everyone else is doing.”
    “What I personally like about Merit Money is that each team member receives regular feedback from everyone else on the team.”
    “Proactively engage with your team as much as you possibly can. Make sure that people are connecting. Make sure there are social things happening. It can’t just be about work all the time. In a physical office, people naturally socialize. In a virtual office, they need encouragement to socialize. —MANDY ROSS, director of community, Sococo”
    “It’s important that companies create spaces like coffee breaks where people can virtually stop working and just chat with their coworkers. It helps keep everyone motivated and breaks the loneliness. It also gives us a chance to learn about each other’s projects, to learn more about the people we’re working with. —ANNA DANES, CEO, Ricaris”
    “Similarly, Sococo’s Carrie McKeegan offers: ‘We do something called High-Five Fridays and Get-to-Know-You Wednesdays. They’re silly things that just somehow work.'”
    “But first, there are also ways to prevent disturbances from occur- ring in the first place. We can:
  • avoid task redundancy by using a communal task board/software to indicate who is working on what;
  • avoid miscommunication and task redundancy by working out loud;
  • communicate often, via video whenever possible;
  • practice positive communication approaches;
  • put feedback loops in place; and
  • collectively document a team agreement that details how the team wants to work together.”
    “Try to ensure there’s nothing in your phrasing that your recipients could interpret as annoyance or frustration on your part. The flip side of that is to always assume positive intent. In other words, even if your correspondents aren’t overtly friendly, try to assume no ill will is intended, and that no annoyance or frustration should be read into their words. And third, resist the urge to express charged emotion. Expanding on this point: some of us are prone to express exactly what we feel as soon as we feel it. But of course, as much as that might feel good in the moment, such words can cause permanent damage to our relationships. It’s always wiser to keep what we really want to say to ourselves—and instead respond as constructively as possible.”
    “We can maintain positive communication by:
  • being friendly, even overtly friendly;
  • always assuming positive intent;
    resisting the urge to express charged emotion; and
  • striving to keep interactions as constructive as possible.

We can help to keep more-heated interactions constructive by:

  • avoiding critical language;
  • keeping phrasing objective and fact-based;
  • acknowledging one’s own contribution to the situation; and
  • addressing only one issue at a time.”
    “n her book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott identifies the seven items to address at the start of a charged interpersonal discussion:
  • Name the issue.
  • Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change.
  • Describe your emotions about this issue.
  • Clarify what’s at stake.
  • Identify your contribution to this problem.
  • Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.
  • Invite [others] to respond.”
    “* establishing when we will use which tools and why;
  • ensuring everyone has those tools, both hardware and software;
  • establishing our preferred etiquette for all interactions; and
  • agreeing to communicate from a mind set of positive intent.”
    “Nothing slows down time-zone lag time more than assignments that lack key information. Instead, make a point of providing all the context the recipient will need in order to complete the task, such as links, docs, the deadline, or a preferred response time—anything that can move the conversation forward asynchronously.”
    “The first is to listen. If you’re not able to listen, you’re not going to get far in understanding others. The second thing I learned through a lot of pain: don’t make assumptions; instead, ask questions. Most of us are usually happy to answer questions about ourselves. And the third thing: don’t take things personally.”
    “‘Overcommunication doesn’t mean that you’re constantly talking to your team or sending a thousand emails per day. It just means that you’re making an extra effort to explain what you need to share.’ Essentially, the best way to ensure that all members have the information they need is to convey it more than once and in more than one mode—perhaps even in more than one language. Just as it’s prudent to follow up a phone call with an email confirming what was discussed, take every opportunity to clarify your meaning, especially for those reluctant to express that they’re confused.”
    “‘Thank-you notes, short sweet messages, and birthday acknowledgments are much more relevant and important when you are all remote.’ —SOULAIMA GOURANI, CEO, Trade Conductor”
    “‘Try things in little chunks so that there’s limited risk and an opportunity to change quickly if things don’t work.’ —JEREMY STANTON, SVP of engineering, Amino Payments”

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