Working in the same office makes staying connected with your team simple. It’s as easy as walking across the room, swiveling your chair around, or grabbing lunch.
When you’re remote, you don’t have that same luxury. It takes extra effort to stay aligned, get information to those who need it, and get a pulse on morale. As the entire Front team has transitioned to remote work in recent weeks, we’re taking inspiration from those around us on how we can work remotely while upholding our values.
We found some great reads from experienced remote teams who have successfully crafted a culture of trust from afar: Buffer, Zapier, and Doist.
The Buffer team has 85 people in 15 countries around the world. They’ve been fully remote since they were a small team in 2012, and they’re a pioneer for remote culture in the tech world. One great point they highlight is that remote teams need to be vulnerable with one another to fend off artificial harmony.
Artificial harmony happens when, in a group of people, there’s no conflict, good or bad. There’s no passionate disagreement...because there’s no passionate discussion at all. It’s lackluster, and a real problem for teams when you’re not in the same room to bond.
Buffer notes that one of the root causes of artificial harmony is the absence of trust. It makes sense — when you don’t fully trust someone, you’re less likely to bring up a conflict. It spirals from there. There’s lack of commitment, because no one shows their objections to the idea. With lack of commitment, there’s less accountability and poor results.
They say the best way to encourage vulnerability across the whole team is to have leaders own up to mistakes. "Being vulnerable is as simple (and terrifying) as admitting to needing help or owning up to a mistake. This isn’t easy, and we’ve been fortunate at Buffer to have our leadership team demonstrate vulnerability consistently, making it more likely that the rest of our team will follow suit."
Zapier has mastered remote work: they’re a 100% distributed company with more than 300 remote employees in 28 countries. They’ve got all sorts of knowledge to share on the topic of remote work, but this one stuck out to us for managers in particular: They note that it’s important to "suspend your ego" on calls in order to form better bonds with teammates, especially when new remote teammates are joining.
To suspend your ego, be tactful and hold back on talking about yourself, even if you have a relevant story to share. This leaves space for the person on the other line to share completely.
"We love to talk about ourselves, especially to good listeners, but this means we’re often ready to respond with our own related stories when our conversation partner finishes talking. According to Dreeke, ego suspension means putting aside our own desires to contribute to the conversation and instead asking short, open questions like how, when, and why."
Trust is the default for Doist, a team of more than 60 employees across 28 countries. They’ve crafted a high-trust culture of 5 core values: independence, mastery, communication, balance, and impact. One critical piece advice they give is around micromanagement while remote. Micromanagement does not lead to success — and it destroys trust.
Instead of micromanaging your team’s time, instead focus on two things: performance and communication."Giving employees free range to work autonomously might not come naturally to managers who work remotely."
They give some great tips for reflecting on your management style to see if you’re micromanaging:
What excuses am I making to justify micromanaging this person?
What is preventing me from seeing the bigger picture?
What is the current status of the employee’s work in question?
What’s my impetus for wanting this person to be online?
Leading with trust, even while remote
As we transition to remote work here at Front, at least for a few weeks or months, we’re looking to model after these examples of leading with trust — and we’re lucky that we use Front to help our team work together and stay connected. If you’re using Front while your team is working from home, we collected some tips for using Front to stay efficient while remote.
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 17 April 2020