Encourage employees at all times
Get regular updates from the employees to make them feel acknowledged
Never forget to virtually meet employees every week (always get feedback from them)
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 interviewingVictor Fredung.
He is a Sweden-based FinTech innovator with years of industry experience. He co-founded Zensed and currently, he is serving as the CEO of Shufti Pro, an AI-driven identity verification service provider.
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?
Thank you so much for inviting me first of all. I’m a Sweden-based FinTech expert with around 10 years of experience in the industry. Since my childhood, developments in technology have fascinated me, so I decided to make a future in it. This led me to be an entrepreneur and I co-founded Zensed, an AI-powered fraud prevention system in 2016. In 2017, I joined as the CEO of Shufti Pro Ltd. that provides digital identity verification services across the globe.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My entire journey has been a rollercoaster ride. Being a part of the FinTech industry means you have to be ready for the ups and downs. Back in the day when I just started as an entrepreneur, it became a tough challenge to adapt to the changing environment and having a team of highly skilled professionals to help me achieve the goals. Over time, I learned to find gems for the company and today, we are experiencing remarkable growth in the industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Shortcuts make long delays.”
This is Sir J.R.R’s quote and I find it the best one when it comes to advising or discussing my life lesson. It is for all young people who are planning on doing something new. I made a mistake in the initial years of my life and took a shortcut to success. Temporarily, everything went pretty good but the setback was tough on me and everyone surrounding me. It’s best to take all the steps to success rather than jumping to the last one.
None of us is 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 have said in many of my interviews that it’s my team who has always helped me in achieving all the goals. Without an efficient team, there is no gateway to success for any CEO or entrepreneur. I had to take over the reins of Shufti Pro a few years back. It was tough but my team helped me in adapting to the new environment.
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 from working with a team that is in front of you. This provides a 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?
Well, it gets a lot easier to communicate of course. Urgent meetings, collaboration and teamwork become less challenging when everybody is in the same space. Many pieces of research have shown that the majority of communications in the workplace are non-verbal. Believe it or not, tools cannot replace in-person interaction.
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?
When the time is not in the same space, here are a few challenges that my team and I have faced so far:
- Communication is not as effective as it is in-person
- Bringing the team on the same page gets tough
- Achieving goals at the same pace is the toughest challenge
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.)
According to me,
- Encourage employees at all times
- Get regular updates from the employees to make them feel acknowledged
- Never forget to virtually meet employees every week (always get feedback from them).
- Understand different leadership styles to interact with every employee effectively
- Know your employees in the new world and always listen to the problems they are encountering to help them better
Let me share one example that can incorporate the aforementioned five things.
Communicating with any of the teams was tough be it in the UK or intercountry communication. So, I decided to have weekly meetings. The meetings were meant to encourage employees and get their feedback about work and how they are dealing with work in a stressful environment. Furthermore, every employee has a different mindset and way of working. Being a leader, it was my responsibility to know all my employees and interact with them accordingly.
The surprising part is we launched a new product and multiple ingenious features during these challenging times too. 😉
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?
Well, the company provides all the required equipment for communication. From laptops to internet connection and phones, we ensure the availability of all the resources. During the pandemic, we added a few more collaboration tools to streamline communication among employees.
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?
We were using Trello at first but it became an incompetent solution during the pandemic. So, we developed an in-house system for aligning tasks. For calls, we have been using Google Meet which has been very helpful during the pandemic.
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?
Being a global service provider, Shufti Pro cannot depend upon its employees being in the same physical space all the time. So, a combination of various virtual tools like G-Suite is what we need.
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?
Our majority of the communications with the customers were digital. However, chatbots were not widely used for interacting with them. During the pandemic, like other companies, Shufti Pro adopted work from home. The company serves in many regions of the world, so catering to the need of a global clientele required extra assistance and chatbots became the first line of customer service.
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?
Well, I would like to share an example here to make my point. A few months back, we were working on a project that has a very tight deadline and I needed everybody’s cooperation on that. Delaying any of the tasks of the project could have impacted the company’s progress. Unfortunately, one of my team members lost hope while we approached the end of the project. A few tasks were delayed and I didn’t know the right way of dealing with this matter. I called him and asked what the problem was rather than being rude and letting him know that we had suffered some losses because of him. After the call ended, I came to realise that the pandemic had a lot of adverse impacts on my team that led to problems in the corporate environment.
I guided my team member, and some constructive feedback and a little bit of guidance was very helpful in getting the employee’s motivation back.
Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
It is a tough call but not impossible I must say. Keeping your team members motivated and loyal to you takes a lot of effort. First, you have to be motivated from the within. Otherwise, things will get a lot worse than what you expect. Regular meetings, training sessions and regular updates from the team build a sense of camaraderie and cohesion. During the pandemic, losing hope was pretty easy but I tried my level best to keep the team intact. We were continuously in touch via messages and calls. On the other hand, I conducted a few chit-chat sessions just to have a light conversation with my team, discuss their daily activities and the challenges they face in remote work to keep them motivated to work as a 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. 🙂
Thanks and if I ever get a chance to start a movement, it would be to spread awareness about the rising rate of identity fraud, especially among youth. Our company’s agenda is to strengthen businesses in preventing criminal activities. My campaign would be to create awareness among the young ones regarding the same. Digitisation has definitely brought convenience but it has opened gates to the negative side of the world. Every fraud that was hard to commit some time back has now become a piece of cake. It’s not that technology is the devil but it’s the negative use of advanced technology. In order to fight the rising number of fraudulent activities, spreading awareness about it is what we need right now and young minds are the ones who need the most guidance.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can always get in touch with me via LinkedIn or they can contact one of my team members on the email given below.
Gmail: [email protected]
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
Thanks a lot and it was a pleasure speaking with you.