Transverse digital transformation efforts, there is a growing recognition that communication and collaboration are becoming increasingly important – even as some processes become automated. Developers are increasingly looking for ways technology can improve team effectiveness in the hybrid era.
With that in mind, I spoke with Alihan Jetta (AJ), the company’s president and CEO Marketcircleto find out his views on leadership qualities that will be needed for future work.
A little Daylite about the future workplace
Daylite by Marketcircle is a CRM solution for Apple products. It is designed for collaboration both externally and internally within teams. The software itself combines customer relationship management, planning, contacts, sales and project management into one native application for Mac, iPhone or iPad.
Over the years, the company has refined Daylite to maximize customer value, including the ability to store useful data about historical interactions. More recently, the company the synchronization system has been updated Daylight uses so that more users and more data can be synced.
At its simplest, Daylite is seen by some as an Apple-only Salesforce alternative. Precisely because the company is already building tools for hybrid teams, Jetha’s insights into the future of work will be valuable to other enterprise professionals. These questions and answers offer some of the insights he had to share.
What are the three most important leadership qualities when managing remote teams? “Having the right people in the right place is very important, but how do you get there?
- Know and understand your core values. This is important when hiring people because it makes the other steps (below) easier.
- Take the time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people you have. You can gather this information during one-on-one meetings or by spending some time with them.
- Know and understand where the company is going (or at least where the team is going) so you can try to place the right people in the right jobs.
- Recognize that people are sometimes not suited for certain positions/situations. Try to find the best option for them. Listen so you can (hopefully) recognize these situations. If the problem persists across multiple projects, the person may not be the right fit for the company.
- Ensuring ongoing alignment around goals. In a remote environment, this constant alignment is even more important. [At Marketcircle] we do this in the following ways:
- We have quarterly all-hands meetings where we remind people what our long-term goals are.
- We hold a monthly meeting for everyone to remind people of our quarterly goals and what we’re finding with those goals. We have to deal with the inevitable problems and delays.
- Each team has a weekly “meeting” where monthly or quarterly goals are reiterated.
“[You need to] eliminate or minimize information silos. One pattern we often see is what we would call silos of information or duplicates of information. In a remote environment, it can be even more difficult to get your teams on the same page. One way to make your business more efficient is to bring all that information — including the notes and conversations you’re having, or the deals and projects you’re working on — together. This way, everyone can communicate with customers in a unified way. It saves time. (This is also what Daylite allows.)
“Provide a safe environment for questions/problems/solutions to be discussed in public (Slack/Teams) channels. (Though obviously people or personal issues shouldn’t be discussed in public channels.) Some people call this “asynchronous communication.” ‘
“Manage interruptions and ongoing work. There are two other common patterns we see, one is constant questions/answers in Slack/Teams, so much so that it crosses work hours (specifically due to time zone differences). Otherwise, you need to set some boundaries and it will lead to burnout for some people and an inability to do real work for others.”
Emotional connection is essential for teams – how can technology help management build strong bonds with employees they may never have met? “Before we were remote, we were a small group. We had lunch together, played games and enjoyed various activities. By doing this, without even realizing it, we shared our values and learned to trust each other.
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“When we moved to telecommuting, we suddenly didn’t have the ability to connect with that activity, so now we had to be more careful about those connections and iterate a lot more.
“What has worked for us is finding ways to incorporate the technologies we use for work, like Slack, Zoom and Confluence, into our team building strategies. For example, in Slack, we have channels specifically designed to share common interests. which are not necessarily related to work, such as cooking, photography, music, etc. We also encourage our teams to use Zoom for social meetings. Even Daylite plays a big part in building our team. Whenever we need to schedule a team lunch, one-on-one or at any meeting, we can easily look at our team’s schedule and find a suitable time.”
Many business leaders complain that remote work lacks the opportunity for casual communication. Is it a management problem or a technology problem? “I think the last two years have increased the ability to communicate differently and optimize solutions for remote work. A couple of years ago, you couldn’t think of doing so many meetings with clients remotely. But the pandemic forced us to do it, and then we learned that we can be more productive if we do some parts of our work remotely.
“There are still some communications that you can’t replace, like face-to-face meetings — because you can’t replace that part of building a relationship remotely. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult. Going out to dinner with a client or spending some of that social time is not something that can be replaced by a video meeting. But the frequency of business trips and personal meetings with clients will decrease. To me, this means that businesses will have more flexibility to allow their employees to work from home more often.
“One of the most difficult things we saw during the pandemic was the fact that they were so used to sharing information verbally, whereas now they have to have systems in place to share that same information effectively and safely.
How can technology recreate informal spaces where people can share and thrive? “It is difficult to answer that. We haven’t quite cracked that nut yet. We believe some of the things we do can help, such as:
- Providing safe spaces for people to feel comfortable asking questions and giving answers. This can organically benefit others learning by observing, even if it is not part of their current work area.
- Creating hobby spaces where people interested in similar things can freely exchange ideas and knowledge. Some of these may translate into personal growth for others, such as discussing work-life balance techniques).
- The “alignment drumbeat” can also help in terms of setting expectations for goal setting and meeting them.
“We need to keep working on it.” [Author’s note: cf. Apple hybrid work challenges.]
When it comes to management, will tomorrow’s management skills look the same as today’s? “The pandemic has taken us from spending 100% of our working hours in the office to 100% remote work. Now I see a trend towards 60-70% at home and 30-40% in person or at the office. I think that the trend will continue. I think it will be important for the whole team to work in one of the modes – ie. the entire team is in the office, the entire team is hybrid on the same days, or the entire team is completely remote. Mixes and matches within a team will not work.)
“Of course, with hybrid models like this, you need to be disciplined about where your data/information resides. This pooling of information in one place allows you to have conversations with your clients without having to chase them all down right before the meeting to find out when they spoke with that client and get an update on what was discussed.
“The management skills of tomorrow will depend much more on having all your tasks in one system so you know what each person is doing and when they’re doing it, without having to constantly request updates. This saves time and is one of the things that Daylite enables.”
How can remote employees best succeed? “Giving them autonomy, which is easier to do when core values align with the technology they need to succeed. We give them the space in which they can perform at their best, making sure they know what we’re trying to achieve and providing them with the tools they need to succeed. Fortunately for us, one of those tools is our own Daylite product, which is designed to help small and medium-sized teams collaborate and stay productive. Everyone on our team has access to our database and we ensure that all the information they need is always available to them. This is how we create an environment where people can thrive.
“Knowing what support each person needs to support productivity and growth is also critical to managing remote teams.”
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