Trusting your team to manage their time — When you’re not sitting within view of someone, it’s hard to know what they’re working on. If you send them a message and they don’t respond right away, it can immediately raise questions of “Is this person working? Are they at their desk? Are they completing their tasks?” In most cases, the answer is YES. They may be focusing at the moment and not responding to messages, they could have gotten up to get water, go for a walk, ran out to grab coffee. None of these are bad things…They allow your employees to come back to their desk refreshed and ready to work. Trust your team to manage their time.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelsea Beyerman.
Chelsea Beyerman is a strategic, Devil-is-in-the-details thinker. She enjoys working on building brands and always remaining two steps ahead of the game. Driven by data, fueled by caffeine and competition, she believes the best work is built when facts meet creativity, and ideas are allowed to run free and grow, before being reigned in and refined to an innovative approach. Chelsea is currently working at consumer technology start up MOON, the makers of the MOON Ultra Light.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
Sure! I’m originally from Portland, OR and Boise, ID, and ended up at Loyola University of Chicago for my undergraduate. I graduated with a Bachelors in Advertising/PR, and from there worked in various advertising agencies in Chicago and Austin, before settling in Phoenix with my (now) husband.
In Phoenix, I took a position as a traditional and experiential media planner/buyer at a small local agency, later transitioning into a data analyst position at an international digital media network. Within a year, I was internally recruited to join the influencer team, where I stayed and helped grow the team over the next 2.5 years.
It was during this time on the Influencer team that I met Edward Madongorere, CEO of MOON. Ed and I clicked instantly, and have been working together ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Of course. Once, while managing a small team of influencers at a brand-based festival in Las Vegas, one of my influencers was approached by a casino worker, who informed him that he had a knife and a gun in his car, and that my influencer should “watch out” at the event taking place later that night. This happened less than a year after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, so tensions were already very high. Long story short…All was well, the employee was escorted off the property, and I added terrorist negotiator to my resume.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of my last internships involved a full day of training. It was summer in Chicago, and I was locked in a dark, windowless room with one other intern, being lectured about tracking hours by a trainer with a projector. This was before I learned about the magic of coffee…My fellow intern ended up having to pinch my arm under the table to wake me up. Lesson…Always drink your coffee.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Hire people you trust. And continue to trust them. Don’t micromanage their time, and be open to listening to their feedback. Not everyone operates in the traditional 8am-5pm window anymore, nor are teams all located in one timezone. Let your team do the job you hired them to do, and give them the tools and resources they need to do it. Also — Always recognize hard work and give praise where due. It’s amazing what a single reachout from the top telling you that you’re doing great work can do to boost morale.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?
I’ve been managing and/or working in remote teams for nearly 3 years, so at this point I am quite used to it. While working in the influencer industry before transitioning to MOON, my entire team was remote, aside from a few members who had an office in Boston.
Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?
Trusting your team to manage their time
When you’re not sitting within view of someone, it’s hard to know what they’re working on. If you send them a message and they don’t respond right away, it can immediately raise questions of “Is this person working? Are they at their desk? Are they completing their tasks?” In most cases, the answer is YES. They may be focusing at the moment and not responding to messages, they could have gotten up to get water, go for a walk, ran out to grab coffee. None of these are bad things…They allow your employees to come back to their desk refreshed and ready to work. Trust your team to manage their time.
Ensuring all team members are on the same page and have the same understanding of processes
When working independently of each other, it’s easy for team members to lose sight of what others are working on, and develop unwarranted feelings of resentment that wouldn’t otherwise exist if the full team was together working. Along the same vein, implementing and enforcing new or different processes and workflows can also be challenging. Because of this, it’s very important for everyone to get together for daily or weekly standup meetings where everyone talks, reviews what they’ve been working on, challenges and successes, and fostering a sense of community within the team that creates an environment where people lean on each other for help, rather than self-isolate.
Communicating updates to the team and their networks they each work within
Another challenge in implementing processes and workflows lies within the networks that each team member works within. Team members will always work with outside contacts, so it’s important to keep the outer reaches of the web just as connected as the inner. Encouraging your team members to relay new policies and enforce them within their structure can both grow the teams sense of responsibility, and also decrease the back-and-forth headaches that can arise when working with large numbers of people.
Fostering a sense of solidarity
This can be done in many different ways, however it’s truly important for leaders to recognize the most effective ways to create a sense of “team” and friendship within the group of personalities they manage. While Zoom happy hours may work for some teams, other teams are across time zones, and may not want to start their morning out with a drink when they have a full day ahead of them, while their counterparts in Europe or Asia are enjoying an after-work cocktail. Be conscious of these details, and be creative and lean on your team for ideas on how to create a larger sense of unity from within.
Managing Working Hours
This is a challenge for teams that work across a variety of timezones and continents, much like MOON currently does. The crux of the matter is that it is hugely beneficial for the company as whole to have a set timeframe where all team members are working. This may not always be possible, but it is possible, especially during quarantine when we’re all working from home, to manage their time differently than what they may be used to in the office. It’s important to set expectations and work with your team to create a working schedule, so that even if some members are not available, others will be able to easily reach them and be aware of when that person will be back online.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?
I don’t believe that there is any one size fits all solution to any of these challenges. They are common issues, and solutions are very dependent on circumstances and personalities. What really matters is that you approach your team holistically, and work to best manage and organize personalities, talents, and responsibilities in order to produce the best work possible. You won’t always get it right on the first go, and it will probably be an ever-evolving process.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?
I’m a HUGE believer in picking up the phone and having a conversation. Through conversation, you can more easily relay mood and tone than through email, and thereby alleviate a lot of the risk of offending anyone. It’s always important to start the conversation off with a positive, “thank you for taking a stab at this, it’s a great first version,” acknowledging the effort that was put into any of the work. From there, it’s always important to remember that if the results are not what you are looking for, the ultimate buck stops with you. Did you relay the information clearly? Was it misinterpreted? Does the person lack sufficient training in this area to be able to execute the project? All of these questions can be answered with a quick conversation. The best advice I can give is this — try to understand WHY you need to provide constructive criticism, and ALWAYS open with a positive.
Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
This is a case where I will always open an email with a positive note, thanking the individual for their effort and their time. Then, I move into messaging that lets them know I’ve reviewed, I see a few areas that will need to be updated, and then I break everything down in simple bullets. Wording things as “Can we look into alternatives for this option?” or “Let’s try a different approach here,” can go a long way, creating a sense of solidarity and team with “we’s” and “let’s” and “us,” vs. “you.”
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
In full transparency, I’ve never experienced that situation. I do encourage daily/weekly meetings run as usual, or perhaps are increased in frequency, in order to maintain team collaboration and rapport.
What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
If and when possible, I do think in-person meetings/retreats/work weeks can be incredibly beneficial. Having that facetime together and being able to vibe, read body language, seeing and hearing tones in-action can truly help foster beneficial working relationships. With those, I do think that down time is also important. As a remote employee, there is no company ping pong table, coffee maker, or watercooler to bond over, so those in-person non-working times are very valuable. A small happy hour, dinner, or activity can really help teams to bond.
If that’s not possible, I do see value in team virtual happy hours or end-of-week roundtables/get togethers. Giving people a chance to see and talk to each other without the pressure of deliverables and tasks can also help create relationships.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would LOVE to see a societal shift away from the topic of “freedom” in relation to wearing (or not wearing, as it were) face masks to a conversation and understanding around “doing your part to show your care, keeping those around you safe” by wearing a mask.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Go forth and set the world on fire” — Saint Ignatious of Loyola
The words of my alma mater have always rung true to me. Always strive to bring light to wherever you are, and brighten the darkness if ever you can. Leave the world a better place than it was when you came into it. Always leave a trail of light wherever you go.