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Anne Lackey: “Done is better than perfect”

“Done is better than perfect.” When I realized that my perfectionism was actually keeping me from progress, I was able to accept myself and others. I was able to do more by allowing others to come alongside me and work together to achieve my vision. As a part of our series about the five things you […]

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“Done is better than perfect.” When I realized that my perfectionism was actually keeping me from progress, I was able to accept myself and others. I was able to do more by allowing others to come alongside me and work together to achieve my vision.


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

Anne Lackey is the Co-Founder of HireSmart Virtual Employees. She helps business owners improve their bottom line by reducing overwhelm and staff turnover. She does this by assisting businesses to raise their customers’ satisfaction through strategic staffing with virtual employees. Three-time best-selling author, national speaker, and featured expert on hiring, team building, managing remote employees, and business growth.


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”?

My husband and I started our first business in 2000. When we got married, we knew we wanted to build a legacy, but at the time, we were not sure what that would look like. In 2009 when I finally quit my corporate gig, we owned four businesses, each of which we started from scratch. One of those was a property management business in Atlanta. Fast forward to 2013, and a key employee who had been with us over four years, quit via text while on our first vacation in seven years. My husband and I were burned out from traditional hiring and sought out a hiring alternative. We hired our first virtual employee from the Philippines in January 2015, and the difference it made in our business and personal lives was tremendous. So much so, that two CEO friends asked me to help them find amazing talent and HireSmart was born. Interestingly enough, those first placements made over five years ago are still working for the client.

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

Probably the most interesting thing that has happened to me is that businesses seem to “find me.” I never really intended to start more than one business, but people just asked me to help them, and I found I was able to help them and make money. Our property management business started when an agent friend who was selling investment properties talked to us and wanted us to manage for her clients. We had been managing our properties for a while, and we were always full even when it was hard to find quality residents. She needed someone who cared, so in 2015, we started managing rentals for others. Similarly in 2015, when we began hiring virtual employees, other CEOs wanted help finding virtual employees.

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?

I don’t think I have a funny mistake that I can share. I do have plenty of lessons, however. One of the best lessons I can share is, “done is better than perfect.” I am a little controlling and I like things done in a particular fashion. This mindset hindered me from doing everything that I can do. Once I realized that “done was better than perfect,” and that I didn’t have to have everything done my way, I was free to expand and create more. I was able to affect more change and serve more people. It didn’t matter if the spreadsheet was perfect if it provided the results.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

My best advice is to set clear goals and expectations. I like to manage using key performance indicators (KPIs). It is tough for someone to know how they are doing without setting clear expectations. I believe that everyone wants to succeed. If they know the goals, then they will do what they can to achieve those outcomes. Often, however, when I am working with CEOs, most don’t have any KPIs for themselves, their management team, and therefore, their employees don’t understand what a good job looks like.

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 have been managing remote teams for over 15 years. Of that, the past 5 years have been a global workforce and a local workforce.

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?

Lack of Communication

Managing remote workers requires conscious effort to include remote team members in the conversations. Unlike teammates, you see down the hall, and there is no hall virtually. You have to make time to reach out and check in on them.

Lack of Clear Objectives

Having KPIs for all team members allows for better outcomes regardless of in-house or remote staff. However, not having clear outcomes for remote workers puts them at a disadvantage as they don’t have the benefit of “hearing through the grapevine” how the company is doing overall. There are a lot of missed conversations as they are sometimes, out of sight, out of mind.

Ignoring Remote Workers

This relates to the previous one. As a manager of a remote team, I have to make them a priority. I schedule 1-on-1 meetings with each direct report each week. This allows me to focus on them, their needs & questions, provide feedback, and give direction.

Lack of Community

Remote workers can start to feel disconnected from the company, the mission, and the team. Having regular meetings helps with this. Also, having them as part of every company meeting helps as well. I also recommend having a “water cooler” chat for teams to use and check in to stay connected. We also have contests, themed zoom meetings, and other fun interactions to help everyone be invested.

Lack of Career Path

Often remote workers are overlooked for promotions and career development because they are not available to build relationships as easily as those in office. When you manage through KPIs, and you can outline a career path for a remote worker, this enhances their experience and allows them to do more. It also allows them a pathway for personal growth.

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

Lack of Communication

Involve remote teams in all corporate communications.

Lack of Clear Objectives

Develop KPIs for their role.

Ignoring Remote Workers

Schedule weekly meetings.

Lack of Community

Provide opportunities to connect like weekly lunches via Zoom to chat with the team. Invite in office and remote teams to participate.

Lack of Career Path

Have clear career development goals for all staff members.

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 recommend you don’t try and have difficult conversations via email or text. It is so easy to have a virtual meeting via Zoom or Skype. This way, you can see the person and judge the reaction first hand.

I also recommend that whenever you are having any kind of difficult discussion, you have specific talking points and provide a solution to fix it or have them provide a possible solution to fix it before the end of the meeting. You want to have clear objectives moving forward. I also recommend recapping the strategy in an email after you have an agreement on how to move forward.

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

I think you can, but I don’t think you really should. Too often, people hide behind email and text to avoid having these difficult conversations. I believe, however, a great leader is one who isn’t afraid to have open, honest, and at times, difficult conversations. We do others a disservice when we dehumanize them and not treat them like we would want to be treated. I know how I felt when my key employee quit via text; it was impersonal and left me with a feeling of unimportant. I don’t want any of my team members to endure that.

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?

Increase the communication frequency. Do daily check-ins and weekly meetings. Have lunches together via zoom. Make it a point to connect.

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?

The connection is vital. Do everything you can to maintain the same level of communication and connections that you did when in office. Keep everyone informed about the company’s goals & missions. Recognize those who are excelling.

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. 🙂

A mentor of mine shared three phrases that I remind myself of daily:

Choose:

Responsbility over Blame

Curiosity over Judgment

Clarity over Conformity

I would encourage others to make these choices, as well.

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

“Done is better than perfect.” When I realized that my perfectionism was actually keeping me from progress, I was able to accept myself and others. I was able to do more by allowing others to come alongside me and work together to achieve my vision.

Thank you for these great insights!

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