The aspect of how you’re doing the communication, what tool you’re using. And then the there’s an aspect of is the communication intentional? And is it purposeful for you no moving work along.
Welcome to Unexpected Journey, Season Two. I’m your host, Anne Bibb. Today we have Alli Greene. She’s the co- author of Remote Works: Managing for fFeedom, Flexibility and Focus. With 10 plus years of remote work experience at distributed organizations like DuckDuckGo and oyster. Her mission is to empower people and companies, helping them thrive by making work and life better. For the past three years, Ali was named a Top 50 Remote Accelerator, as well as a Must Follow Remote Work Expert. She believes flexible, distributed work, when done right has the potential to change the world, something she advocates for in her writing workshops, and consulting. Before we begin, don’t forget to subscribe and leave your comments below. Now let’s get started. Well, welcome, Ali, it’s so great to have you on Unexpected Journey.
Hello, so happy to be here.
I am thrilled to have you this is your book Remote Works came out last year.
Years are flying right now so it was out February 2023. So we celebrated the year anniversary of the book a couple of months ago.
I was gonna say it has been just I was gonna guess a year because I remember when I got it. And you and your partner that wrote it your co writer, were just lovely enough to send one to me. And what a great adventure you both had in writing it. So just excited to have you on to talk about it and so many other things in the remote work and employee experience and culture world.
Yeah, I’m so excited to dive in.
So, Ali, how this is not where you started? This is not you didn’t 15 years ago, say I’m gonna write a book about remote working. How did that happen?
Not even six months before I decided to write the book did I ever say Oh, I’m gonna write a book, I did not see that in the future of ally. Um, my story of writing the book came about because I stepped down from my position, the former head of people opposite Duck Duck Go at very weird timing. And at this point is so many years ago that I feel like everyone has a COVID story. But mine was I left this role and was meant to like go on this personal sabbatical. I wanted to learn how to ski in the Alps. And I had all these, you know, I’ve been a digital nomad. And I’ve worked while traveling before, but it had been a very long time, where I traveled in a way where I was reconnecting to nature. So I had all these like personal grand plans for myself. But it was the end of February 2020. So like taking everyone back to those moments of the first few weeks of March, where all of a sudden their life just totally changed. And for me, the total change moment was I was at the ski resort where I was supposed to learn how to ski. And we were told we had 24 hours notice to leave because the country that I was in was going into lockdown. And I kept getting all these text messages about like, remote work and being sent home and this and that. And it was the first time I felt really inspired to like, share my opinion in the written word. So I sat down and I wrote a medium article, and was just shocked and amazed by how many people actually cared about this medium article I wrote, which I haven’t revisited in, in probably a year. So I’m wondering if I still agree with a lot of that same advice. But that was me realizing like oh, actually like writing can be fun. And it’s just a nice way to pass down the lessons that I learned while working remotely for so long, especially if so many people are doing it for the first time. And Tamra who had been my friend for many years and had a similar parallel path when she left the remote working world to go to an office job only to be flung back into remote working, saw the same things I was seeing in her you know professional networks and personal networks. And to over a zoom friend hang out that everyone was you know, really love it in 2020. Her and I just had this vent session about if companies don’t understand true remote work, remote work will become a scapegoat and people won’t get to live the lives that we are privileged enough to live because of remote work and so have this fear, frustration, anger desire to teach others that led us on our book writing journey. I think we joked it out at them. He had a dream about it. And then he finally made it happen.
You know, and one of the things and first of all the Alps, is that where you were?
I was I never got to ski there. And I still haven’t skied since I was like 17 years old. So hopefully now four years later, I can go back and do that thing. I was yes
Bucket list item for me, I’m not skiing. No, I’m not that kind of sporty.
but odds are also incredible that you go ski
I’ll go to the spa, we can go together, meet up after done. So one of the things that stood out to me and your book was that you talk about kind of liberating people from a nine to five, and really helping individuals experience remote work and getting out of that. Trap is not the right word, you don’t use that word. But that’s kind of how I felt when I was stuck in that nine to five, and moving into remote work, expanded the flexibility and your brain and creativity. So what were you thinking? And how do you? How do you help people envision that and open their minds to that?
Yeah, I love this. And the way I think about it is that, first there’s a huge unlearning process. And so I think people go from a traditional school to maybe University, or maybe they take a gap year, but they’re still following this, this very traditional life path of, you know, education, and then career building, and within career building for a certain set of knowledge workers. And this was the experience I had, it’s about getting into the office being in the office. And that’s when you’re supposed to be productive, and you’re supposed to fit all of your life stuff around everything else. And it’s at a time in your life, where you’re pretty new for lots of people to even just being a grown up. And so you would never get the opportunity to explore in a traditional education and work system ever. How do I work best? Where do I get my energy from? What do I like in terms of how I style my productivity? What are my genuine interests and hobbies that I want to cultivate outside of work? Who is my community? And who are my neighbors? Where do I want to live? These are all questions that technology has helped us be able to answer and be able to change. But a set of more traditional circumstances has held people back from that. And so when I talk about, you know, remote work, being able to liberate people, it’s, it’s a way to say, Okay, you choose first how you want to live your life, what your values are, and then see how work slides into that. Because if you don’t have to be physically located somewhere for the bulk of your day, how do you want to spend your time? How do you want to approach work? What kind of priorities is that taking your life? And what does that look like for you? And for me, it meant that I moved abroad, I was a digital nomad, I cultivated a social network of people outside of people in the office environments that I worked at before. And I learned a lot about how I like to spend my time and what I do. And so for me, it was this whole awakening of who Ali was as a person, not just oh, I, you know, worked for a startup or I’m, you know, an author or I was head of people ops, all of these titles we use to define yourself remote work, lets you add in other definitions of who you are. And I think that’s incredibly liberating.
From that standpoint, I guess my, my question would be, first of all, I love the answer. But, you know, moving into these roles in remote work, and the leadership of them, how can people be successful as they’re moving into them? I mean, that’s, that’s really leadership and remote work is very different than leadership in person. And I’ve seen so many. And we saw this across the board during the pandemic. We I’ve seen it for many years, but we really saw it then. And we continue to see it and a lot of individuals kind of screamed it to the rooftops that it wasn’t frontline workers that needed the help. It was leadership that needed the help. And so this you kind of focus a little bit on that here. And that was, can you provide some examples of successful leadership strategies and how leaders can be set up for success in this area?
Definitely. And the reason like for us that this layer of management leadership is so important, is exactly what you were saying we didn’t think that this group of people was getting a lot of support and education on these topics. And they like supporting them gives everyone the most bang for your buck in the way that Tim and I talked about. Managers are the heartbeat of the organization. And so if they are uncomfortable, if they don’t know how to act in a remote world, if they don’t have the right skill set, or tools or mindset, everything else is going to fail. And so really, when I think through then what makes good leadership? That’s when I start and I believe that was your question is like, you know, what are those traits and characteristics? For me, it’s what we talked about earlier already is like the desire to unlearn and question assumptions. And I think for a lot of leaders, that’s incredibly scary. And it’s a big ask, and a bigger ask than a lot of people realize, because we’re still having these conversations four years later. But you’re telling a group of people that were successful, that have met some of their career goals, maybe or at the peak of their career, that everything they had to do to get there, they need to change. And that’s really, I think, an emotional thing to go through of everything I think I know that I can rely on to feel that I’m good at my job and that I am successful. People are now telling me won’t help me in the next three to four years or Beyonds. And so this open mindedness and desire to learn hands down I think, is the number one trait of a successful leader in remote. And then from there, it’s about learning the skill set of using the tools to help you be more efficient at the work. So the work becomes a non issue. And your time as a leader is spent cultivating relationships online, which is a totally new thing for lots of people in the world. And it’s where the synchronous time should be spent. And so when I talk through, you know, using the tools to help you do your work, a specific example that I mean, and kind of a funny story of, of my growing up in my career, is, I remember working in an office, um, my manager told me, the best way to ensure that things get done is to go over to someone’s desk and remind them that they haven’t done it for you. And my manager was like, you know, this allows you to build that relationship real quick, you get that FaceTime in and you get to follow up in a kind way. Like that strategy one I disagree with. Two, it falls apart in a remote work
Feels a little micromanaging.
Yeah, especially if you’re like managing up or if you’re dealing with different departments, there’s lots of reasons for nagging,
either one of those words don’t sit well.
For me, and this is what I love about remote work if you build the behaviors in and if you focus on accountability, if you ask someone to do something that’s critical to a project success, and they agree on the deadline for that being done, that follow through can all happen within a project management tool, it can all happen without needing to physically get up and go somewhere or even have a meeting at all. Which means the work is rolling, things are getting done, people are honoring their commitments at work. And you’re using the extra time you have not chasing people but collaborating with people, not nagging them, but truly nurturing, you know, hey, what are those pictures in your background? Or what are you in your family, you know, up to in a couple of weeks time, which builds a lot of empathy. And I think that’s something that is hard to really cultivate, because it’s easy to hide behind the screen. And you want to help people that you like, that’s, you know, part of being human and part of our, our kind of, you know, state of being and so wouldn’t you rather spend the time live that you have with someone getting to know how they like to work, how you can collaborate well together, and not chasing them to respond to a few questions in an email. It seems simple yet, it hasn’t fully transformed yet.
One of the things that you just said in that question, or in that response, really stood out. And that’s something that in person managers don’t have to do as much as remote managers. And that is asynchronous communication. Now, this is something that I’ve found very interesting, especially from individuals that have transitioned. And I, I love asynchronous communication. I have well, let me rephrase that. I have a love hate relationship with a Cronus communication, right because there’s that documentation aspect of it. There’s that take your time and respond learning aspect of it. But there’s also the you have to be deliberate and purposeful, in your words with that as with asynchronous. So with asynchronous communication, you the it’s on the end user, the reader to read it without tone, and without feeling. And there are so many times that they read it, and they’re like, Why are you yelling at me? Why are you being angry with no, no, this is asynchronous communication, you need to read it professionally. And without that aggravation, and also the person writing it needs to write it. So I’ve had individuals that are like, Why are you? Why are you writing? So corporate? Why are you being so professional? This is this is asynchronous communication. You know, this is not us just chatting back and forth gabbing, there’s a difference between me documenting and having an asynchronous work, asynchronous communication versus me just, you know, chit chatting and having fun. So, kind of making those different, and explaining how to do that are very different. So it’s interesting, bringing individuals who are new to remote work, and educating them how to communicate differently in this environment. So I’m curious, long story short, very verbose way to get to how have you experienced helping new leaders with this and educating them on the aspect of asynchronous communication, or even not as educating them just people talking and helping them understand what this is? And the difference between, hey, I’m just texting back and forth with emojis. That’s not asynchronous communication. That’s different.
Yeah, it’s actually really great that you brought up that specific example, because Tammy and I teach a course about asynchronous communication. And pretty early on when we teach this workshop, we have a quiz for everybody that says, you know, which one of these examples is synchronous, and which one of these are asynchronous. And the one of the examples we use is chatting back and forth on Slack. And a lot of people will answer that that is asynchronous communication, because slack is a remote work tool. But if you’re chatting back and forth, it’s synchronous communication, it’s just that you’re texting somebody. And so this is something that a lot of people still don’t fully understand is there’s the aspect of how you’re doing the communication, what tool you’re using. And then the there’s an aspect of is the communication intentional? And is it purposeful for, you know, moving work along, and again, I say this because, you know, to, to your points earlier to have tone, and you can’t fully understand things. And I think everybody at this point has suffered on both sides of like, they’re, you know, hearing their doorbell ring, and they’re trying to quickly get a message out, and they just like, shoot it off into the to the ether, or somebody else who’s then reading that message. And you know, getting maybe that bit of anxiety of like, is this person being so short with me, like, Did I do something wrong? And I think we don’t know what goes on like outside of this box. So there’s lots of things I said earlier, oh, my laundry is in the screen, that’s not great. There’s lots of things that you can’t see about people, unless you get to know them more, which is why I think asynchronous communication is so important, because it opens up the space, for the synchronous to be understanding someone’s normal tone, starting to be able to picture reading what they’re writing, in their words, because you know more about them, and what word choices they use, or how bouncy their voices are, maybe they’re just a monotone person, and they write and talk the same. These are helpful clues and decoding asynchronous, along with a few other things we touch on the book in terms of like, you know how to interpret these things. But going back to like the lessons learned, again, it’s about elevating one level up from a leadership approach. It’s not really about what you’re writing or typing, or if you’re using emojis, or if you’re using tone. The lesson to be learned here is how and why do you structure communication in a certain way. And so asynchronous communication, if you do it properly, it will save you hours of time in the back and forth, because you’re explaining clearly, this is the context. This is the question I have or what I need from you, or the ask, this is specifically who the ask is for. This is when I am expecting a response by so that you can plan your day and go live your life like I don’t want a response necessarily in five seconds, but I would like it, you know, Wednesday, May 1 2024, at 12pm Eastern Time, like be very specific about that. And also we have in the book something called the wall like you know, a little string on a guitar of like, if you don’t get this information to me, this is how it impacts everybody we’re working with The stakeholders the project, this is where I feel like I can just move forward or where you’re truly becoming a blocker. And I think by using this format of asynchronous communication, you start to learn project management skills, you start to learn, you know, oh, do I really need this? Is this an ask I have? Or am I asking something that I can find in like the, the wiki of the company? Because it’s a frequently asked question. I don’t, I don’t need to asynchronously or synchronously communicate this. So again, it’s like a lot of structure to allow you more freedom, which sounds very maybe like paradoxical. But that is why I think asynchronous communication is so important. And the skill set comes in the nuance and details and being able to think strategically about what you’re communicating. And then once you do that, I think there’s room for error, of course, in a safe environment of, oh, yeah, I could have worded that a little nicer or neater, but just getting it out. And iterating on things sometimes reduces that like stress in the remote work setting.
So I love that you just kind of keep setting me up for the next question. So the first thing, the you know, there are a few things with asynchronous that continuously come up, the first one being people reading tone, and or miss reading or taking their personal feeling. So the second one, and you just call it out is the incessant need to feel like they have to respond immediately. And that generally comes from, in my experience, maybe not everyone, but the people that I’ve dealt with coming from an in person environment, and that I need to respond right away. Come on, fast, fast, fast, when in the remote work environment, in general, if it is needed right away, either an expectation has been set, I need this in the next three hours. Or, or we just call like, I need it now. And we’re going to pick up the phone and call you because it’s an it’s an urgent need versus a when you get to it meet. So those are kind of the expectations with regard to speed. Where if we don’t tell you, we need it right now, we don’t tell you that we need it within the next 24 hours. Or we’re not calling you and saying if this is an emergency, I need it in the next five minutes. Get it back to us based on your prioritization of your workload. Calm down, don’t stress
Maybe a set of constraints, like your workload maybe shouldn’t be get this to me in six months, but it allows everyone a little bit more just generally good pace in work, not everything has to be urgent, actually, like one of the first ever, in my career trainings that I did was about productivity. And like the famous line that I was taught that I then taught others, which I still believe in is if everything’s urgent, then nothing is urgent. And so we treat communication always like it’s urgent, we are creating the bad habit for ourselves, like Calm down everyone.
That’s a point you know, if it. And I think that this is a really good best practice, if somebody doesn’t tell you when they need it. They don’t indicate it. And you need to prioritize it within your workload. Ask, respond back saying, I don’t see it indicated in here. Can you let me know when you need this? Is it? Do you need it in the next? And don’t even leave it so open ended? Do you need this by the end of month? The end of quarter? When do you need this? Can you help me prioritize when you want your deadline?
Yeah,Yeah. And depending on your communication style and your role, again, also be empowered to give a deadline and have it be pushed back? Hey, I noticed there was no deadline here. My top priority for the month is x, this falls into the camp of why? So I’m planning on starting this, you know, on May 14, and it should be done by May 16. Does that sound good? Or like let me know if there’s any concerns. I think also like people, what I want is people to feel more empowered to project manage the work regardless of rank and accompany. And if they’re project managing their own time and their own deliverables, and they’re not getting the clarity they need for other people ask as you say, or challenge the assumption and put yourself back in to control. And I think that depends a lot on like company culture, and like, personal culture and lots of things. But I also feel like the remote work movement is empowering people to have more self agency and that’s one of the reasons I geek out about it a lot.
We’d like to get to know ally a little bit. Okay, let’s do it. And let me know little game of this or that. So you’ve watched the show, some of our guests are new because they came just to see you. So just to let everybody know the way we play this, or that is I, I’ve got a randomizer over here and it’s gonna give us two words or phrases. And Ali and I have to pick one. And we don’t get the choice of saying No, neither or both. We have to pick one and say what? So,
Ali, are you ready?
Ali:Let’s do it.
Anne:Okay, here we go. The first one is, oh, indoor trampoline. Or ziplining
Ali: ziplining.
Anne:Why is it waiting over indoor trampoline,
Ali:um, because I have fear of going more up but not necessarily going back down. You’re going back down somewhere. In this beautiful scenery in nature, where it’s like trampolining, if you jump too high, you hit your head on the ceiling. And that’s like, not good for anyone. I’m not that tall. You can’t tell over zoom. I probably would never hit my head on the ceiling. But that’s, you know, the reasoning here.
Anne: You know, it’s funny, like somebody’s been messing with my chair. Like I am. And I’m feeling very short today.
To make me feel welcome on the screen. I did.
You know, it’s an inclusive thing. I picked ziplining, too. So, which is weird, because I actually had a dream last night about being on a trampoline. That’s odd. So maybe I felt like this question was, have you ever been?
Ali:I have? Yes. What about you?
Anne: Were at, um, a few times in Latin America, one time on a duck duck go retreat, actually, with some of my teammates, which is a really fun off site activity to see also who like goes for it and who’s a little timid. Um, it’s been a while though. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been. I’d love to do it again soon. All
right. Are we ready for the next one? Archery or extra?
Ali: Ooh,
you should answer first this time.
Anne:Okay. So I’ve done axe throwing. And as fun as it is, I, it’s just it’s really hard for me. So I think I’m gonna have to go with archery just mainly because I think that it would be easier. I haven’t done it. But mainly because I think, you know, it’s the whole heavy AR over the shoulder and having to do it accurately. It was a lot of fun though. It was a team building event. And, and maybe if I didn’t actually have to do the extra time that I was there and cheering people on, I would pick that one. But if I’m assuming that we actually have to participate, I think I’m gonna go with archery nice.
Ali: Um, I think I’m gonna go archery, too. However, I once was in an axe throwing League, like when they were first getting popular in the US before my Nomad days, I really like wanted to find again, like new hobbies and interests outside of work. And so I tested it out. And so it’s really cool. Sometimes it’s like that fun fact to be like, Oh, I was an axon leak. But I think I was one of the worst players there. And, on a separate note, I did win an archery competition once in my life, so I’m gonna go with archery. Oh, but again, this is it. You know, like, I don’t think I could repeat that success perhaps I don’t know. Like, I don’t want anyone coming out and challenging me, though. I’d be down for a little archery.
Anne: We talk to Ali for an archery competition the person that wins wins a book.
Ali: But But seriously, like meet up archery competition. I’m I’m happy to play. throw my hat in the ring.
Anne: I don’t understand why we’re getting all these outdoorsy things this never happens. Never happens. All right, maybe it knew it when I was talking to you. Sometimes. It’s like read a book here. Like eat here. Listen, people get all food.
Questions. This is like so my personality
Anne: All right, let’s see what comes up next. Oh, this beach bonfire. Or mountain cabin retreat.
Ali: Okay, what do you-we’re gonna go with mountain cabin retreat.
Anne: Oh, we’re actually going to differ here. Why are you going with mountain cabin?
Ali:I think the
audience needed us to have a difference. I love a good bonfire and I love the beach, but I don’t know if the two necessarily need to mix. Um, whereas a beat like a mountain cabin retreat, it can be snowy and cold. And your retreat can be very like arts and crafts and doors and hot chocolate and very like lovely. Or it can be like a mountain in the summer and there can be a mountain lake and you can also have a little barbecue and bonfire on in your cabin. And you know, have some s’mores, but I think the cabin is more versatile.
Anne: So I am going to go with bonfire. But I think that it is a little different of a visual than what you are thinking. Because a friend of mine just went up to Alaska. There are this an nomadic person. So they spend summers and winters going to different places. And they’re spending the summer up in Alaska. And they just sent me this gorgeous picture of a fire on the beach in Alaska, and Alaska doesn’t have sandy beaches. So it’s it just it resonated with me, and it looks so peaceful and calm. And so I probably would have picked the mountain retreat until I saw that. Because before that I was thinking big sand beaches and big fires. And I’ve lived in in California, and they used to have those big fire pits. And I was like, ah, sand everywhere. No, thank you. But seeing that it was just a chair on the beach. No sand, just cool air. It was very relaxing to look at. So I’m gonna go with that one. Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you for playing that. And every now now you know, Ali just a little bit more. Y’all all know me, y’all y’all? Are you tired of getting to know more about me?
Ali: How’s This or that for you based on like previous answers?
What’s interesting, I think I’ve only gotten the same question on different shows, maybe three or four times, so most of the time, and I’ve actually answered it differently once. So. All right. So going back to productivity and culture. So like we were talking about the world is a very interesting place right now. So in case you’re watching this down the road, you know, this is 2024, and four years after the beginning of the pandemic, and you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, companies were really kind of turning their thought process and embracing remote work. And a lot of organizations were going, Okay, we’re going to go 100% remote, we’re never going to ask people to come back to the office. And now. And then they switched and said, Okay, we’re gonna give people a choice. And now, a lot of companies are saying, No, you have to come back. So it’s really interesting to watch how things are changing. And then employees are pushing back. And then companies are up. Nope, just kidding. We’re not doing that. And so watching some of this conversation play out. And I will be the first to say, it is not a one size fits all solution. It absolutely is not an every organization, every individual needs to make their choice for themselves. One organization cannot have the same roadmap or work plan as another, they have to evaluate what works best for them. And their people. And every individual needs to do the same thing. But it is interesting to watch it play out. What I find even more fascinating is the points that they’re making as to why they’re making these decisions, lack of productivity, lack of culture, lack of collaboration. So as you’re seeing this, I’m curious what your thought process is, when it comes to employee productivity in the remote workplace, yeah.
My sort of rebel in me when I hear those statements wants to come back and very bluntly, say, companies that are using those reasons as the reason why for return to office just didn’t put the work in and they don’t get how remote work works. Maybe that’s a bit jaded and cynical, because I also do think as you mentioned, there are certain companies that in there unique DNA, you know, having some sort of office or co located space makes sense for them. I hope in the future, just every company is very clear on their identity and shares that openly from, you know, the moment that someone else is interacting with them, whether it’s a future candidate to work their clients, etc. I think that’ll be a huge cultural movement and how we describe workplaces moving forward. But this productivity things interesting, because there’s two really strong separate camps on this, like one camp that says, hey, like, remote workers are not productive at all. Like, we don’t have a lot of visibility into what people are getting done. They don’t know how to set boundaries, they’re burning out because they’re working a lot. But things aren’t moving, and there’s no traction. And then there’s another school of thought that says, you know, there’s all these studies, hey, it’s great, people are really leaning into working in a way that works for them. And they’re really productive. I think the truth like many times, when you have conflicting viewpoints probably falls in the middle. And I think certain people are really great remote workers naturally, I think it’s a skill that can be taught, and people can learn how to be more productive remotely. But I think certain people, and we talked about this also in the book, they have Chrono types, which is like your body’s natural rhythm where they want to work in the evenings. This is my co author tam to a tee like I loved when we were writing the book, and we were six hours apart timezone wise. And I would wake up and like, three hours before only in my morning, would there be like all these beautiful thoughts about how we could take certain chapters. And I think there’s certain people that just don’t work within the rhythm of society in the same way, nine to five are not their most productive hours. Living in a certain place where it might make work more accessible to them isn’t in the roadmap for their life. It doesn’t fulfill other needs that they have. They, you know, might be having other, you know, constraints and scenarios in their life where working remotely empowers them to get the work done. And therefore they’re getting the work done. And they’re productive, and they’re finding the flow. I think there’s other people where they don’t know how to have that level of self motivation. They don’t know how to structure their day, and nobody’s ever taught them how to structure their day, because they showed up in an office, and then they left an office. And so the question for me isn’t, is remote work, you know, helping productivity or not? It’s the people who are working remotely? Have they been taught? Hacks? Have they been taught strategies? Have they been taught different ways of thinking, to help them be more productive? And the second question I like to ask when people are saying, Oh, you’re not productive, you’re not productive, as the company as the leadership team, as the project managers, do you know, what you’re asking people to be productive against? Do you have a clear roadmap of when certain tasks should be accomplished? Do you have a clear definition of Done, where you can say, Yes, this is done. And now we can evaluate it against certain metrics, whether they’re qualitative or quantitative, that help us decide if the project was successful or not. If as a company, you don’t have that, there’s no way whether people are in your office every day, or people are in Alaska working that you would be able to see if they’re productive or not, because you don’t know what you’re asking people to do. And so you’re paying people for their time, and you’re holding them against their time, instead of encouraging people to work smarter, so that they can be more fulfilled in other areas of their life, and be motivated about the work so that they’re doing a good job. And so I think the two breakdowns there, is not knowing what you’re asking for, what is productivity actually mean to you? And how do you structure your day to be the most productive? Do you know things about yourself? Like the hours of the day you work best? Do you work best in in an environment where you’re social? Or where you’re isolated? And in your zone? Do you work best? You know, in an environment where you can have multiple laptops in different screens? Or do you just want to be like out in the world that’s, that’s how I am I’m like a very much an out in the world kind of worker. And when I’m stuck at home all day, doesn’t matter. Like how much I you know, talk about topics and best practices, my human kind of psyche that doesn’t want me to be like bored sitting in the same location, looking at the same pictures of the wall will kick in and be like, procrastinate, do something else. And so I’ve had to learn that about myself, and structure my life where I know oh, there’s five bakeries walking distance where I can go work from those places. If I absolutely need, there’s a library, you know, 15 minutes away that I can go to if I need, there’s a co working space. If you didn’t put in the work, you’re not going to know those things about yourself and then you’re not going to be productive.
I love the thought and the idea of even if you’re not a project manager, if that’s not your role, If you are managing your role your job, like a project manager, you’re thinking about your position, you’re everything that you have to do in the day. And you’re managing like a project manager. One of the things that you said, and anytime I hear this word and scope or this term scope creep, and I hear it because I have contracts with clients and things along those lines, so I have a statement of work and things along those lines. But in the term of a project manager within your own job, you’re absolutely correct. Like this is, this is what I’m supposed to do. This is my duty. And when it’s complete, it’s complete. And then I move on to the next duty or responsibility. Now, what my question to you is, as an employee, I’m not a project manager, I’m an employee, I report to my boss, they have assigned me assignment a, I’m not even called a project because I’m not a project manager assignment a. I am almost done with assignment a, and my boss comes to me and says, Okay, and now I want you to, you know, add on this, this is this. That is scope creep, that was not in the assignment. I was just almost done and about to move into assignment B. How, how would you recommend that be handled? Or maybe it’s not your boss? Maybe it is somebody else on the team saying that right? How would you recommend? Because it’s different when it’s your boss less? Yes. Like your boss, now expanding the scope, like they’re doing an amendment to the scope. But if it’s your peer, that saying it, what what is your recommendation on how to handle that? Because that is scope creep. And it was not in what the assigned Yeah. And you
are not unproductive because you didn’t accomplish a new tasks that were thrown on your plate. Productivity does not mean there’s in a bucket with a hole that continuously gets filled up with water, and you’re expected to like, you know, keep it full, that water is draining out. That’s probably a terrible, like, metaphor, analogy. But you know, when you’re, when you’re thinking on the spot, this is what I’m gonna stand confident in that example, and think of a better one later. But I’m like, honestly, it’s, to me, at this point, a perfect area for people to practice that self agency. Again, it’s restating we’d agreed the definition of done was project was assignment a, these new things are not on that list. Cool, happy to do it. That is assignment, a point two, assignment a was completed, I was productive. The new timeline, four points, you know, 567, that were just added, will be as follows. Like, I plan on starting again, if there’s no death, like this goes back to the previous conversation of like, When are these things do? What is the impact of it, so like, cool, happy to do assignment 8.2, I was planning on doing assignment B, which one has a greater impact on our departments goals, which one has a bigger revenue impact to the company, which ones should be prioritized? Um, and that I think using that train of thought is helping you showcase one that you did accomplish a set of things you were productive, and to also help balance workload. prioritize things so then that next week, you can be okay. My top priority this week is assignment a point to question five. But next week, I’m going to get started on assignment B, because I’m working on them in parallel now. Think that’s sort of the future way of managing these roadmaps of projects. And the simple lesson of just labeling it a new label, so that it’s clear to everyone it’s a new bucket of work is very powerful.
So along those lines, what tools or technologies do you find and let’s just kind of put it out there that this is one of those things that whatever we say today is going is like might might is not the term to be used here. It absolutely will change in the next three months, six months. Technology is a living, breathing thing, and it’s constantly evolving. So I’m curious what as of this moment in time, are the tools and technologies that you find valuable for teams for collaboration and productivity in the remote work? Yeah,
thank you for that like kind of, you know, Star asterik comment. All right. Bold. Tell. Because I always say like, you know, tools get so much attention because they’re fun and they’re exciting. To me the tools don’t matter, like, you can meet people where they’re at our early versions of writing remote works happened in Google Docs and WhatsApp. And then Tim and I graduated to tools that we would promote as a best practice for remote work. But when it was just an idea when we were just, you know, brainstorming on it, it happened where we already communicated. And so I think behaviors are more important than tools. But I’ll get real nerdy about Asana real quick, because like, I should get our
Anne: I love behaviors are more important. That’s, that’s like, can we like flash that on the screen? You know, like, that’s a great quote. Ali:
But yeah, like, I just you can, you can do the same thing, anywhere. Um, it’s just about why you’re leveraging certain things and, and for me, when I think of productivity and scope, creep and all of these things, my like, old favorite, and like, it is always and still is Asana. I use it a lot. The reason why I like it so some of the comments on a lover, I love it. There’s been
such a geek about Asana, I make it do things it’s not supposed to, there’s so
many new things since Asana was a big deal. But to me, it’s like my tired and true, like, I just know how to, to let it work for me that I’m I’m into it. But the things we’re talking about very specifically, okay, assignment a, you put it in a project in Asana, you know that it has a certain amount of tasks that are there, you check off the tasks as you complete them. Sometimes you get like a dance a unicorn, and that’s super fun. But everybody can see in a very transparent way that you’re accomplishing the tasks that you committed to when you started the project. And then if new people add tasks, or you add tasks, it’s very easy to point it out. Because you can see the dates, those tasks were added that this is actually new stuff. It’s not the old stuff that you didn’t accomplish. And you can set those due dates for yourself. And you can see if you’re past due, and therefore it again goes back to that line of detective Why are you past due? Are you past you? Because you’re not productive? Are you past due, because something else changed scope, and you just didn’t have good like Asana cleaning up and change the deadlines. And so I think these visual clues is what people are missing. Because in the office, again, going back to that first example, you can walk over to someone’s desk and be like, Hey, how’s that work? Come in, you get and get it to me by to blah, blah, blah. In Asana, you can have those same visual clues by seeing are people checking things off? Are they behind their due date, you know, are new things getting added in? And therefore this project never been archived? Like, what’s going on? And then my favorite question is, why is it happening?
Ane: One of the things that is also often mentioned, with organizations that are trying to pull back from remote work is the culture and the employee experience, which again, I find incredibly interesting. Is it harder to build a culture? Yes, I will agree. But you have to be intentional. So I’m really curious if you could share some examples of, you know, maybe some companies that really have successfully created some strong, really strong remote work culture.
Yeah. So
this is one of the things I am most passionate about, and also usually respond with one of the most boring answers. So like, for me, culture, so much is about your standard operating behaviors. Does everybody know what behaviors to do in order to be successful in the environment of your company to push forward work to be productive, and to feel good about it in the ways that you want employees to feel? I think a lot of people are like, well, that’s that’s kind of boring. You’re talking about you know, even properly project managing time. Instead of having this like flashy, you know, fun virtual gathering and so I think that when I think through good culture for me, it’s like the bones are the behaviors and the fun stuff is is the extra it’s the cherry on top of the ice cream. You can’t have it without the structure there. But But recently I’ve learned about some some new companies, which is fun because you know, there’s there’s the classic companies that I think come up in conversations like this a lot, and a lot of them are featured in the book. A lot of the contents that I’ve learned about how I view best practices are shaped from companies like duck duck, go automatic buffers, they’d be or do this. But I had the opportunity recently to get introduced to the new frontier of remote companies doing it right. And I will say I was incredibly impressed with company called they do. They recently won an award from remote remote was doing the remote excellence awards. And I had the honor of being a judge. And what really impressed me about they do is all of the things that you just said, it’s like, they come together, and they have these off sites, and are very intentional about why they’re having them and what the goals are. And they’re doing the fun activities. But they’re not just doing the fun activities to say that they’re doing them. There’s always a reason behind it. And so I think, as someone whether you’re like a candidate looking for a new job, or if you’re in your current, like employee or setup and you’re trying to make remote work, like happen longer and cultures, the argument against it, I would start not from the activities you’re doing but start from Why are you doing those activities? Like what is the goal? What are you trying to get people to to feel, and then see what the activities are. I’m in another slack group community that I really like. And I’ve been lurking a little bit and hearing a lot of complaints that like, oh, people are coming to the like donut happy hours or the coffee chats as much as they used to. Does that mean like our employee engagement is down or we’re not going to have good retention or company culture is bad? And it’s like, Well, does everyone in your organization know why that activity is so important to you? That would be like my first question. If if you don’t know why you’re doing it, you’re just doing it because you think people should connect synchronously on Zoom to talk to each other. But what are they talking about? Like, why is it important? How are you honoring and showing that it’s important and helping them create time in their workday for it if you’re not doing those things, and people aren’t coming to them? I would say it’s less about them. And it’s more about you,
Ali, thank you so much for being on the show today. If let me two more questions. One, why would somebody reach out to you? And two, how would they reach out?
Yes, love those questions. So people should reach out to me if they are excited about remote work within their organization, but they’re struggling to finesse it. And they need that extra support whether it’s on a specific remote work fluency core skills, such as productivity, such as asynchronous communication, such as you know, living by your values internally. Those are areas where me and tam can support companies that already want to be better at remote work to help them get there. I’m also to talk more in depth about what company culture looks like in a remote setting, as well as the importance of retreats and off sites are all reasons to reach out. And of course, if you want to buy the book, or you want to buy the book for your whole company, we have really great bulk discounts. And so that’s an excellent reason to reach out as well. And the best place to get in contact with me is simply LinkedIn. Or by checking out our website, remote work book, remote work.
So we have all of those links below or LinkedIn or website, all that. So we also have a link to our Amazon store for the book if you want to just buy it for yourself. But if you want to buy it for your full team, you need to buy a lot of them. Please contact Allie. Like she said she has bulk discounts if you want to buy a bunch of them. So really recommend you reach out to her for a bulk discount. That is the best way to reach it. Or to get that discount for bulk.
Ali: Awesome. And if it’s just for you and your coworker, you and your boss, yeah, head over to that Amazon store. That’s awesome that you have that for people. Absolutely.
Anne: And Ali, always a pleasure. Absolutely love talking to you every time we get together. And guys, definitely. Thanks. So thank you everyone. Thank you for joining us, we will see you next time on Unexpected Journey. As we wrap up the episode we would like to take this time to thank you for joining us this week on unexpected journey. Our guest information will be linked in the episode description along with a link to our host’s website, and our sponsors’ websites, and Please don’t forget to like subscribe and share on your favorite podcast app and on our YouTube channel so that you never miss an episode and we can continue to bring them to you. Let us know your thoughts on what we discussed in the comment. intersection and once again thanks for joining us we hope to see you again next time on Unexpected Journey.

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