Being a Successful Leader of Hybrid Teams

Finance teams are learning the benefits of remote work. As a leader there are new challenges to overcome in a remote work environment. In this episode of The Human Behind the Screen, Shauna talks Brandee Sanders, the owner of Planet Brandee about how leaders can overcome these challenges.

Resourcefulness is Your Best Resource

This is something that Brandee knows very well, since her main career is classical musical theatre and performance, and it depends a lot in the creativity you have to find a way to generate a good income, with a flexible schedule, that allows you to have time to practice, go to auditions, go to rehearsals and have shows every evening or night.

This led Brandee to create her small online store that was tagged on Etsy. She sold headpieces and costumes that she learns how to make, “out of necessity and fandom you end up having to make a lot of stuff because there’s not a big budget when you’re independent or you’re on your own”. That online store became in a successful business and like that Brandee had to learn how to work remotely.

Brandee shares that she had to educate herself when it comes to technology and this literacy had good results “I got so good at it that it led me on an entirely different path which I’m forever grateful for… that put me in this place where now I can work anywhere in the world at any time ” Brandee continues “sometimes we get kind of spoiled with when things get too comfortable and I was very lucky that I wasn’t comfortable at all and because of that I had to find a way to work better, faster, smarter, harder and remote work has enabled that”.

Standardization to Create Visibility

When a company has two work teams, one in the Head Quarter and another remote, it is common that the remote one gets less visibility than their peers in the office; its harder to appreciate how hard they are working to be as efficient as their colleagues, maybe staying up till late hours, working on something that its needed, because they have to adapt to the time zone where the company is based.

There is where tools that allow you to standardize a lot of processes or information to all the teams, like Trello or Base Camp; are an amazing weapon. You must have in consideration, the tools depending upon the region and their level of literacy with technology “you want to make sure that the naming conventions, the way that you are treating data, what you’re calling it like a campaign is defined as x, y, z. A template for a list of to do’s related to that campaign is steps one through 37 and I think making the needs or requirements for the scope of whatever projects it is that you’re working on explicit really simplifies things right from the get-go and that for me, honestly, feels like culture-wise and personality-wise…And there are tons of resources online now that even two years ago there wasn’t to standardize those processes. And they are the foundation for how you work successfully with distributed and international remote teams.”

Making Important Decisions Through Async Communication

According to Brandee, this point is linked to the previous one; if you want to have a team that’s well-coupled you need to standardize many processes and information as you can, it can be using tools such as Base Camp or Trello.

You must be explicit, with the information you require, with what you expect from each of the members of the work team and you’re your expectations. “You just have to be explicit in the ask, and that doesn’t mean, I sent an email and asked you for it, it means I’m in the project management or template, the actual instance in which we are organizing all of the departmental work, and we’re punch listing that. So it’s like, every time it’s going to be the same unless we sit down and say, we’re changing it”.

Brandee continues “I think…what matters is the ability to not just see three feet from your face, but 30.000 feet because you’re going to want to be able to predictably build into your work-flows, your structures, and your processes, things that will make you effective and able to deliver on time. And I think delivering on time with accuracy and efficacy is what lets people be able to evangelize successfully. You can bring more people remote… If you don’t have data to support that, then most people are just going to see it as especially older, traditional leadership.”

Remote teams: Beneficial for Everyone

When it comes to remote work, the advantages that come to mind are usually those of the remote worker; a more flexible schedule, work from wherever we want, more time with the family or to do those activities that we like or reduce daily expenses and the reality is that not only the remote worker gets benefits. “I think…you can effectively pool a lot of resources out of office and experience no loss and in fact, see a greater amount of definite pretension….76% of workers would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours” Brandee said.

For a company, having a well-equipped office, having a work team with everything necessary to work, means making a great investment of money, not only in furniture but also in electronic equipment, snacks, the office rental, and its insurance.

By having teams of remote workers, the investment is significantly less than if we have a complete team in an office. But we cannot expect to have a completely remote work team, according to Brandee. Certain roles require having a physical presence in the company ” some roles clearly, in different verticals outside of technology require you to be face to face and that’s great. There are also things like Skype and Zoom that make that happen as well, particularly with international teams. But it’s not like there’s not some flexibility there for nearly everything, although there are explicitly some things traditionally on the sales side that will require that face to face.”

Leaders that Support and Empower

Most of the great leaders of remote teams have had bad experiences when they worked as remote employees; which has allowed them to modify and improve their leadership methods “I can’t even tell you some of the stuff that I’ve encountered as not a manager but just like a team member in the past. And I think that has implicitly affected how I manage because it is very much an open door” Brandee said.

In a world, like that of remote work, where personal and work life is interconnected too much, having leaders who maintain their humanity, despite the distance or the time difference, is essential. Having daily and honest communication, work together to build trust are keys a good working environment “my doors always open, “I’ve heard it a lot and let me tell you a 95% of the time, their door is not open because they’re in their Connecticut house or on the yacht. No, when it comes to me and how I managed teams open door means open door. That means you can text me at 11 pm my time, and 7 pm yours or whatever hour or time of day it is if there’s something that’s like, Oh my gosh, my mom just got sick, I can’t be at work tomorrow. I’m not coming down with… the end goal. Just because you are remote take the computer with you into the ER…but I think being able to prioritize, wait and standardize and measure expensive illicitly and make sure we’re communicating like how they’re being measured, can’t be overstated enough”.

This article is from an interview Shauna conducted on her podcast, The Human Behind the Screen.


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