Jody Glidden of Introhive: “Find new ways to connect virtually”

You can only successfully manage a team–remotely, or in-person–if you can build solid relationships with your direct reports and between your teammates. That means the biggest challenges revolve around effective relationship building. As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of […]

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You can only successfully manage a team–remotely, or in-person–if you can build solid relationships with your direct reports and between your teammates. That means the biggest challenges revolve around effective relationship building.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jody Glidden.

Jody Glidden is the CEO of Introhive, a relationship intelligence service and data management platform which he co-founded in 2012. A Canadian-native he attended the University of New Brunswick for undergrad before getting his Masters Degree from Harvard. Introhive is the fifth company he’s been involved in founding and building, with three previous successful exits including Chalk Media, icGlobal, and

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”?

I started my career in teaching in the software department of a technology college. That’s where I figured out I could use my programming skills to build software the improves people’s lives. In my role at the school, I built software that successfully guided students through their curriculum. The project was so well received it was acquired by a tech company, and I realized how I could marry my passions for teaching, technology, and business by diving into the SaaS tech sector. Over the past 9 years, we’ve grown Introhive into the top B2B relationship intelligence service and data management platform–with a global workforce and an entirely remote executive team.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve worked with a lot of cool teams to deliver a lot of stellar products. One of the most interesting, and probably intense was a product we ended up selling to AT&T. This was at IC Global, and at the time we had about 30 employees. AT&T ended up on our website as a qualified lead, so we called them to see what they wanted. We listened to them, asked a bunch of questions to refine the idea, which is when it hit me to propose a module style corporate learning website that looked like it was run by AT&T–prescriptive learning is what they called it. They loved the idea; but then the 30 of us had to build and deliver it. We were in crunch mode, pulling about two weeks worth of all-nighters to deliver the product on time.

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 early investors told me he wanted to make an intro for me. I assumed it was an investor introduction, so when the guy reached out to me I was quick to setup time to connect. When I looked him up, he looked like he was an investor, so I started preparing myself for another investor pitch. We get on the the call and I jump head first into my investor deck, and the guy cuts me off. “So are you going to try to sell me the product or?” He wasn’t an investor at all! He was a potential customer. I didn’t get the deal.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

You know, my mom always used to tell me “make sure you’re doing something you love and it wont feel like work.” That may seem cliché to some, but I’ve found a real passion in what I do, and that makes it hard to burnout. So my biggest suggestion is to find whatever that aspect of your job is, and get jazzed about it. If you are in an industry, vocation, or working on a project that you are passionate about, burnout just doesn’t happen. Throughout my career that’s how it’s been for me at least–from programming to sales–you have to love it, and a lot of that is your attitude as well.

Avoiding burnout for me personally means, instead of taking two week trips once a year, I like to take a lot of long weekends, and do something drastically different than my normal Miami life, like hitting the snow with the family for a few days, and that really helps mix things up. Puts you in a different environment where you aren’t thinking about the same things over and over again.

Exercise is another huge thing that helps with burnout you know. My daughter was going through a lot of stress this past week with school and the biggest thing that helped was getting her outside into nature and having her get her energy out skateboarding. You can’t just sit around and expect your circumstances or mood to change, you need to actively avoid burnout and actively seek the opposite of what’s driving that burnout. Nature and exercise are huge parts of that.

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?

We’ve grown Introhive as a global team since day one. Our teams have always spanned offices, and our executive team has always been remote–so for the past nine years I guess. I actually moved to Miami, from D.C. right after we started the company in 2012. Today, my teams span Fredericton, and Halifax in Canada, London in the U.K, and Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. in the U.S. I’ve always been a remote employee, but the rest of the team joined me at the beginning of the pandemic and we’re still going strong.

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?

You can only successfully manage a team–remotely, or in-person–if you can build solid relationships with your direct reports and between your teammates. That means the biggest challenges revolve around effective relationship building.

I’d say the most important challenge to overcome is communication. Everyone communicates with others, and likes to be communicated with differently. Understanding that and altering your behavior to meet those traits can mean the difference between constructive feedback and blatant criticism for some.

Another challenge with managing remote teams is finding the right balance between providing enough support and providing too much. When we first started off, I probably over-indexed on being too hands-on, but eventually I learned that my team will come to me when they have a problem they need me to solve. At this point I keep a portion of my day blocked off to check-in with my team to see what problems they are dealing with and where I can help.

I know when our entire teams shifted to working from home, some of the managers that weren’t used to managing remote teams struggled with how to ensure their team’s productivity didn’t suffer from the flexibility introduced by working from your couch. At it’s core, that’s another “relationship” issue–trust. You’ve got to build trust between you and your team; you have to know that you can rely on them and they have to know you have their back. I learned a lot about this aspect of team management reading Kim Scott’s Radical Candor, actually. Being transparent and direct, but caring on a personal level creates strong teams that outperform.

Especially given the extreme circumstances we all found ourselves in this past year, assuming good intent became an increasingly hard challenge as the year wore on. I liken it to going to camp, the first few days for everyone were exciting and different. But by month 6, people were socially deprived, bored, and just sick and tired of being in their houses (tents). Deadlines started to slip for some, and tensions started to reach all time highs as it became harder to accept our new reality and empathize with our colleagues.

Another aspect of teams and companies that can be hard to harness remotely–culture. Your company, and team culture are so important, but how do you continue to grow that culture and keep people engaged virtually? Especially when you are running a sales organization, those teams rely on the high-performance philosophies that permeate the sales floor.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

It’s a full-time job! Start by being transparent and clear with your expectations. Kim Scott talks a lot about caring personally for your team, so you have to carve out that time to connect with them on a personal level. You have to focus on building trust in that relationship, and understanding how best to work with them–find the right balance of being involved and showing interest and being hands-off and showing your confidence in their ability to perform. And you have to do all that in the right way for each person on your team. Understanding that every person on your team requires a different level of commitment from you as a manager is key. And always showing up to solve the problems they bring to you–because at the end of the day that’s your job.

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?

Giving feedback, remote or not, is such a mixed bag. People have all sorts of emotional reactions to feedback, and they are often gut, visceral reactions that can’t be controlled. With any team, but especially with a remote team, it’s important to understand how each individual prefers to receive feedback. This goes back to what I was saying before about working with people and communicating with people how they want to be communicated with. Not everyone enjoys direct feedback, like I do–and when I finally understood that, my whole perception of feedback and performance reviews shifted.

I’d say another important thing to keep in mind is to not focus too much, and too long on the negative. Focus more on the opportunity for improvement that this constructive piece of criticism provides. Always remember that feedback and criticisms are a building block in your relationship with your team, they are a chance for each of you to grow.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

These days you have to be hyper-aware of how your tone could potentially read over text–email, slack, text messages–we are all always on the move, quickly typing responses back and forth on small screens. I avoid sounding too harsh by keeping everything informal, high-level, and as objective as possible while also trying to understand the thinking driving their decision making. Instead of saying things like I don’t like this, say Can you explain to me your reasons for xyz? That way you’ll avoid putting yourself in the situation and you can focus on the work at hand.

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?

If this is new to you, remember it’s also probably new to your colleagues. Be flexible, give people the benefit of the doubt, and remember to give each other plenty of time and space to communicate your needs. One of my favorite things to do in our big team strategy meetings is to give everyone 5–10 minutes to put down their phones and go outside to get some fresh air and nature to get their creative juices flowing.

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?

Find new ways to connect virtually. Being remote we are all craving that social interaction even more, so finding ways to make those touchpoints fun and engaging–like our Introhive Book Club, or Fitness Classes is more important than ever now.

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’ve been trying to think for quite a few years about how to get kids interested in business, and especially with computers. It’s the only industry that’s guaranteed and it feels so satisfying when you see kids get passionate about it; almost like a cross between Junior Achievement and Kids for Coding. For kids especially, the satisfaction and confidence you get out of creating your own thing is huge. It’s actually how I got into programming and business in the first place. When I was a kid the Premier in the New Brunswick, Frank McKenna, started a ton of computer training programs for kids with entrepreneurial spins. His whole idea was, if you can teach someone programming and business they can either get a job, or create jobs for others. This early exposure for a lot of kids at that time spurred a lot of business creation later on, and I’d love to re-create that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Whether you know your in competition or not–you are.

I’m big on self-improvement. I think my biggest life lesson has been about always continuing to improve and work to reach your full potential. I think it’s so important because most people don’t. Your probability of success has to with your intensity–especially in the early days.

Recently, a woman who has been working on a startup that I’ve been mentoring her though messaged me and said she finally understood the importance of intensity and time because, whether you know you are in competition or not, you are. Someone, somewhere is working on solving the same problem you are, and you have to differentiate yourself with your passion, intensity, and work ethic.

Thank you for these great insights!

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