Leaders of Remote Teams Must Learn to Protect the Overachievers

Your team has probably been working remotely for a year or more now, and even as the country moves into fast-forward about “opening up”, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and new reality?

THE QUICK SUMMARYRemote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits. Most important, they show why – with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo – more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution’s “under one roof” model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is “move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend. A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. In Remote, authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea–and they’re going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

A common belief among managers contemplating remote work teams is the fear that their employees would slack off when out of the office and away from their watchful eyes.

The reality is that remote employees are more likely to overwork than underwork.

The employee who has passion and dedication to their work often has difficulty balancing their work and demands of their private lives when their work is being done in the spaces normally dedicated to private lives.

Leaders of remote teams must be aware of the signs of overwork, and intentionally work to prevent it.

Be on the lookout for overwork, not underwork.

If you’ve read about remote-work failures in the press, you might thing that the major risk in setting our people free is that they’ll turn into lazy, unproductive slackers. In reality, it’s overwork, not underwork, that’s the real enemy in a successful remote working environment.

Working at home and living there means there’s less delineation between the two parts of your life. You’ll have all your files and all your equipment right at hand, so if you come up with an idea at 9pm, you can keep plowing through, even if you already put in more than adequate hours from 7am to 3pm.

The fact is, it’s easy to turn work into your predominate hobby.

If work is all-consuming, the worker is far more likely to burn out. This is true even if the person loves what he does. Perhaps especially if he loves what he does, since it won’t seem like a problem until it’s too late.

It’s everyone’s job to be on the lookout for coworkers who are overworking themselves, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the managers to set the tone.

In the same way that you don’t want a gang of slackers, you also don’t want a band of supermen. The best workers over the long term are people who put in sustainable hours. Not too much, not too little – just right.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Remote: Office Not Required

A NEXT STEP

As the leader of remote teams, how you practice working remotely will often set the pattern and practice of your team.

Using the following ideas from Work Together Anywhere, evaluate your own remote practices, and then determine how you will share the expectations with your team.

Motivation and Self-Discipline

  • Have a set routine
  • Dress like you’re going to work
  • Work in a space designated for work
  • Set a schedule and stick to it

Productivity

  • Experiment with time- and task-management methodologies and apps
  • Minimize multitasking; instead, focus on one thing at a time
  • Pace yourself to regulate your energy, maximizing your stamina and mental acuity
  • Make sure your workspace aids rather than hinders your productivity

Self-Care

  • Balance stints of productive, focused work with sufficient breaks that include movement.
  • Don’t forget to allow yourself the perks of remote working, like taking a break in your living room, or eating lunch on your patio
  • Combat the risk of loneliness by actively seeking social interaction both in person and online

Communication and Collaboration

  • Adopt a virtual-team mindset by trusting others to deliver the results they committed to while doing the same
  • Practice positive communication by being overtly friendly and assuming positive intent
  • Be reliable, consistent, and transparent: make sure your teammates know what you’re working on and how to reach you, within agreed upon guidelines

Leaders Curate Ideas

You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room.

That’s a warehouse.

What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go. There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The best is a sub-sub-subset of all the possibilities.

It’s the stuff you leave out that matters.

So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Be a curator. Stick to what’s truly essential. Pare things down until you’re left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff back in later if you need to.

The inspirational words above come from the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals. If you don’t own it, you should.

The artwork below is by illustrator Mike Rohde.

Be a curator

Both are important to me, as they represent the role I began at Auxano four years ago today – the Vision Room Curator.

My role has expanded in many ways since 2012 – but at the heart of everything I do is the concept of curation. But I don’t curate things – I curate ideas, represented in the image above by the light bulbs. There’s a lot of ideas floating around in the world today – but only a few need to be turned on.

Being a curator may be my vocational role, but it’s also something every leader needs to practice.

What will you curate today?

 

 

 

Conquering Your To-Do List

Long to-do lists are guilt trips. The longer the list of unfinished items, the worse you feel about it. And at a certain point, you just stop looking at it because it makes you feel bad. Then you stress out and the whole thing turns into a big mess.     – Jason Fried, Rework

Lists and I have a love-hate relationship. I love to make them and I hate to get them done.

Before you write me off as a lazy sloth who never gets anything done, a little explanation. I live by my calendar – the one that resides on my laptop and magically updates itself on my mobile phone. All my work: regular daily duties, special projects (broken down by item), future projects, projects under development, projects that are just a few words – they are all on my calendar. That kind of list gets done.

It’s the other kind I’m talking about.

It’s possible to think of a calendar as a list, but I see lists in a different way. Lists are the different colored Post-It notes affixed to various surfaces of my workspace. They are the legal pads with a line – or a page – of notes about something I’m thinking about or working on. The very important lists are those that have made it to journal stage – a protracted, in-depth series of thoughts, actions, and ideas bound between two pieces of cardboard.

No matter what you call them, I suppose they are all lists of some sort.

With all these lists occupying space, it’s easy to fall into the trap described by Jason Fried above. His solution?

Whenever you can, divide problems into smaller and smaller pieces until you’re able to deal with them completely and quickly. Simply rearranging your tasks this way can have an amazing impact on your productivity and motivation.

Now we’re on to something! Instead of a list with 100 items on it, I can have 10 lists of 10 items each. The intent is that you can quickly move through the list and then toss it when it’s done.

Fried acknowledges that you still have the same amount of stuff left to do. But the smaller picture of a list with 10 items gives you satisfaction, motivation, and progress.

And that gives you a Done list.

Isn’t that your goal?

inspired by and adapted from Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework

Be a Curator

You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. 

That’s a warehouse

What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go. There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The best is a sub-sub-subset of all the possibilities.

It’s the stuff you leave out that matters.

So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Be a curator. Stick to what’s truly essential. Pare things down until you’re left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff back in later if you need to.

What will you curate today?

The inspirational words above come from the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the founders of 37signals.

If you don’t own it, you should.

The artwork is by illustrator Mike Rohde.

 

 

 

 

Long Lists Don’t Get Done

Start making smaller to-do lists. Long lists collect dust.

When’s the last time you finished a long list of things? You might have knocked off the first few, but chances are you eventually abandoned it (or blindly checked off items that weren’t really done properly).

Long lists are guilt trips. The longer the list of unfinished items, the worse you feel about it. And at a certain point, you just stop looking at it because it makes you feel bad. Then you stress out and the whole thing turns into a big mess.

There’s a better way. Break that long list down into a bunch of smaller lists. For example, break a single list of a hundred items into ten lists of ten items. That means when you finish an item on a list, you’ve completed 10 percent of that list, instead of 1 percent.

Yes, you still have the same amount of stuff left to do. But know you can look at the small picture and find satisfactions, motivation, and progress. That’s a lot better than staring at the huge picture and being terrified and demoralized.

Whenever you can, divide problems into smaller and smaller pieces until you’re able to deal with them completely and quickly. Simply rearranging your tasks this way can have an amazing impact on your productivity and motivation.

And a quick suggestion about prioritization: Don’t prioritize with numbers or labels. Avoid saying, “This is high priority, this is low priority.” Likewise, don’t say, “This is a three, this is a two, this is a one, this is a three,” etc. Do that and you’ll almost always end up with a ton of really high-priority things. That’s not really prioritizing.

Instead, prioritize visually. Put the most important thing at the top. When you’re done with that, the next thing on the list becomes the next most important thing. That way you’ll only have a single next most important thing to do at one time.

And that’s enough.

 

The inspirational words above come from the book “Rework,” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals.

                           If you don’t own it, you should. 

The artwork is by illustrator Mike Rohde.

Inspiration is perishable

We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever.

What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: it has an expiration date.

If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now. You can’t put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can’t just say you’ll do it later. Later, you won’t be pumped up about it anymore.

If you’re inspired on a Friday, swear off the weekend and dive into the project. When you’re high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours. Inspiration is a time machine in that way.

 

Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won’t wait for you. inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

The inspirational words above come from the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the founders of 37signals.

If you don’t own it, you should.

The artwork is by illustrator Mike Rohde.