Foster an open door environment. It’s crucial for your team to know that no matter what they have to say, they can say it. Making sure to actually pencil (or type) in time in your schedule to talk to your team members is extremely important. Your team has to feel comfortable working with you when you’re not physically together and know that you are there to discuss anything that is on their mind. An open door environment applies to both one on one and group meetings. With our team we use Slack as our main mode of communication. My team knows that they can Slack me at any time, and even though I may not respond right away, I’ll respond as soon as possible. If it is a client emergency, they can definitely call or text me. I also try to use the General Slack channel weekly to share good news, shout out team members for successes, or let them know if I’m out of the office.
We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?
In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Corbin.
Lindsey Corbin is the Founder of delegate.legal, which provides paralegal services to attorneys and legal teams as an alternative to W-2 employees. In addition to paralegal services, Lindsey recently expanded her business to include business development and strategic planning, virtual assistants and social media services to her clients.
Lindsey is a trademark industry expert with more than 15 years of experience, encompassing both in-house and in Big Law. Having overseen major international trademark portfolios, implementing brand protection programs, and successfully building legal billing policies, Lindsey is a highly qualified paralegal who has been assisting attorneys across the country.
In addition to her responsibilities with delegate.legal, Lindsey is the President of I GOT THIS Foundation, a 501 ©(3) nonprofit, that believes in people with intellectual disabilities. Lindsey’s sister, Amy Bockerstette, is a collegiate golfer and disabilities advocate with Down syndrome who inspired the I GOT THIS foundation. By providing golf instruction, playing opportunities and organized events, the foundation strives to provide inclusive golf opportunities to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
When the pandemic hit, delegate.legal was born. Like so many other entrepreneurs and business owners, my life was changed in March of 2020. When everything started to shut down for the pandemic, I suddenly found myself working from home. The pandemic forced me to rethink not only my career, but my goals- how can I help others delegate and succeed? After a fulfilling career as part of an in-house legal team, I was observing the need for paralegals and virtual assistants for solo practitioners and small law firms, without the overhead of a full time employee. I wanted to help these solo practitioners and small firms to continue to survive and succeed with a little help from an outsourced paralegal or virtual assistant.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My career has been a wild ride! In 2008, I was working at a small IP boutique law firm in Atlanta, Georgia, but I had applied for a new job at a huge law firm and I was slightly underqualified. After I submitted the application, I went to a luncheon for paralegals in the trademark space. During that luncheon, a woman introduced herself saying she worked at the big law firm and they were hiring. I immediately spoke up, saying “I applied for that job” and the rest is history! She got my foot in the door to interview and I was hired. That job changed my life because it allowed me to gain major credibility in the legal field, refine my knowledge and love of trademarks, and help me gain new experience in trademark litigation which gave me confidence in my abilities. When a job transfer forced me to leave that firm in 2010 and move cross country, the next hiring manager had a connection at the law firm, called for an unsolicited reference check, and I was given a glowing review. That helped me get the next role and has continued to give me confidence to grow as my career has expanded.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is Bobby Knight’s quote saying, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.” It has resonated with me ever since I was a little kid. I believe that we must have the passion and courage to achieve our goals, but only if we are willing to put in the hard work along the way. The late nights and busy days bring us one step closer to our “win”.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am forever indebted to Cynthia Lee, the attorney who first gave me the chance to learn the area of Trademark Law. She trusted me to learn, and support her practice, and I developed a passion for this area of law.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?
A few main benefits of having a team physically together are: a cohesive atmosphere, same time zone, healthy company culture, less outside distractions, and the ease of building more meaningful relationships. Let’s also not forget the convenience of a pop-in meeting, even if it can be a minor distraction. If you have the option to just pop into someone’s office and ask a quick question, that can potentially save a long winded email later.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?
A few of the main challenges relate to time zones and technical difficulties. There is always the inevitable family distraction that comes into play, but it can be tricky to get a mutually agreeable time for a team meeting.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)
These are my 5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space:
- Foster an open door environment.
It’s crucial for your team to know that no matter what they have to say, they can say it. Making sure to actually pencil (or type) in time in your schedule to talk to your team members is extremely important. Your team has to feel comfortable working with you when you’re not physically together and know that you are there to discuss anything that is on their mind. An open door environment applies to both one on one and group meetings. **With our team we use Slack as our main mode of communication. My team knows that they can Slack me at any time, and even though I may not respond right away, I’ll respond as soon as possible. If it is a client emergency, they can definitely call or text me. I also try to use the General Slack channel weekly to share good news, shout out team members for successes, or let them know if I’m out of the office.
2. Set boundaries
In order to have effective communication practices with your team, you have to set boundaries. I’m not talking about only setting boundaries in your professional life, but your personal as well. Setting boundaries at home and in the professional space can make or break your efforts of establishing effective communication. For instance, my team knows my Slack notifications are on a schedule from 8am to 5pm- I will appear “away” and not receive incoming messages until the following workday unless there is an emergency. My family (and children) know that between 8am and 5pm I am working because I have set these boundaries within my professional life and personal life. We also encourage our team to block out their calendars if they know they will be away from the office for a few hours. In my case, I don’t take calls between 8–10 am because I have to get my kids settled for the day and can’t risk a distraction.
3. You have to trust your team.
If there is one thing I have learned about starting an entirely new business during a pandemic, while 100% working remotely, and only having met 2 of my 13 team members in person, it’s that you have to trust your team and your gut. When you trust your team, they will communicate what is necessary with you following your open door environment. Each employee can choose to be as productive, consistent and dedicated as they want to be. My business is based on delegating work, so trusting my employees is something I am always practicing.
4. Give Feedback
Yes, we may not all be together; however, we ALL are still on the same team. Now, more than ever, it’s important to celebrate the small wins we have not only as a company, but also at an individual level. Taking the time to send your colleague or teammate a message congratulating them on their hard work saying, “Hey ______, I heard how happy the client was with your work! Keep it up.”
Have Check-ins: Managing effectively can be a difficult task to navigate to ensure you’re not micromanaging your team. In order to avoid micromanaging, scheduling structured check-in meetings is a must. My team has a weekly check-in that way I can celebrate progress, listen to new ideas, and address any problems or difficulties my team is facing.
5. There will be setbacks
No matter what setback you are facing, you have to keep moving forward as a leader. There are hundreds of different outlets, services and apps you can use to communicate with your team, but you have to find what works best for you specifically.
I had a massive water line break at my house that forced me to pivot and ultimately move my remote office and my family to a hotel for an entire week. Was that ideal? No. Was that a setback? Yes. Did I pivot and communicate with my team what was going on? Absolutely. Everyone has their own problems, obstacles, and challenges that arise- it’s part of life.
Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?
One communication challenge our company, delegate.legal, has experienced working from home during the pandemic is time zone related. We have individuals who work for us full time and others who work for us late in the evening, so we have to make sure to set up the communication to be at convenient times. We also limit the external communication and only have 2–3 people interact with clients on a regular basis so we can streamline the communication.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
In my personal experience there have been a couple of tools that have been the most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space: Slack, Google Meet and Zoom. Yes, delegate.legal and all of our clients continuously use email, but nothing truly is the same as seeing AND hearing each other communicate. Google Meet and Zoom are key to having active and engaged conversations because I can see the person I am meeting with, their body language and their facial expressions. Those two platforms have been crucial in replicating in person meetings. Slack allows us to chat in real time, and get quick answers while continuing to be productive throughout the day.
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
The perfect communication feature or system to help my business would be some sort of hologram that would allow for my team to appear to be in the same space, but still be based wherever they see fit! It would be great to have everyone “beamed in” for daily check ins and short sessions.
My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?
The pandemic has definitely affected the need and appeal for unified communications! Unified communications optimizes business processes, enhances communication and allows for users to seamlessly collaborate without being in the same place. Due to remote work, almost everyone has benefited from unified communications and its integration of all systems.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
Given the current work-from-home environment, the potential benefits of VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are extremely exciting regarding improving collaboration. Like I mentioned above, I am specifically excited about humanizing virtual meetings through holographic experiences.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
Obviously, concerns regarding privacy are particularly pertinent when it comes to the future of VR, AR, and Mixed Reality. However, with every new advancement and innovation there will always be some repercussions. I believe the benefits will outweigh the negatives.
So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?
The pandemic has changed the way everyone interacts and engages with their customers. Since delegate.legal was born during the pandemic, it is fully remote and will continue to be whether or not things return to “normal”. It’s amazing being able to interact and engage with my customers and clients entirely digitally- chatbots, messaging apps, phone, and video calls. You name it, we use it.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with 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 team member?
When giving feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, you have to choose the appropriate channel of communication. Using a messaging platform, like Slack, to give a remote team member constructive criticism may not be the best channel of communication. However, scheduling a Google Meeting or Zoom meeting and discussing the issue at hand might be more beneficial for the both of you. That way the remote team member can physically see your facial expressions and body language as well as give you, the leader, a chance to see their facial expressions and body language.
Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
In order to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when your whole team is not physically together, you absolutely have to actively work on the company culture and communicating about not just work related topics! Slide into that #general channel on Slack and start those informal conversations that so often you have in person in the break room sipping your coffee. Pay extra attention to connecting on a personal level with your team.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. 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. 🙂
Learn to delegate- plain and simple! Whether it be through technology or directly with another human, learn how to use it to your advantage. When you delegate you are giving yourself the gift of time to do whatever you want to do!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
Thank you so much for interviewing me virtually!