How to lead remotely as an experienced founder but 1st time remote leader w/Tony Jamous CEO @ Oyster
Building & scaling a remote company, even with previous leadership experience, requires intentionality and additional effort that may not be required building an in-office company.
COMPANY CULTUREEMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENTCOLLABORATION
Here's the recap...In today's episode, we chatted with Tony Jamous, CEO & Co-founder @ Oyster. This was an all-inclusive conversation covering multiple topics of great remote leadership. We spoke about topics like when to hire people you know, how to support your own mental health, communication protocols within a remote company, opportunities to meet IRL and more. Lots of goodness in this episode....
When to hire who you know 🤝
In many cases hiring someone you know can feel like a safe bet. Depending on the lifecycle of the company that can be true (up to a point) . If hiring your foundational team, bringing someone on you've worked with can be a good idea. You had culture fit previously. You had a good communicative & collaborative relationship previously. All crucial to your first hires. Especially if you're looking to mirror a similar company & collaboration culture as you previously had. It's much easier to hit the ground running.
It may also work dependent on the role. Perhaps in roles in outbound sales or social media marketing, where the tools and ways you engage someone via cold sales email or social media post may be the same. On the other hand, perhaps roles like operations and customer success may not be a good fit. Operations can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different companies. So Ops in one company may be different from another. Customer Success in one company could be upselling existing accounts, while at another its increasing usage within an account. Not selling.
Beyond the foundational team hiring who you know can create a culture of 'being friends with the execs is how you get ahead.' That creates a toxic culture, so please don't do this.
If looking to build a company remotely where previously you were in the office. Or perhaps implementing asynchronous communication where previously all communication was synchronous. That previous colleague could clash with the new culture and company you're trying to build.
How clear documentation & procedures can prevent over-communication 🔕
Many teams that went remote during CoVid felt they would lost insight, involvement, & control of what was going on in the office. This let to many teams creating additional meetings & check-ins to not be left out of the loop. Similarly it blew up Slack notifications between teams & and their managers. This too, creates a toxic culture and lots of wasted time.
The great remote companies avoid this by investing in documentation & related procedures. Documenting each person's job, how to contact, where to look, etc. Making this detailed and easily accessible allows anyone in the team to understand how and when to engage with someone, and what to do when they're unavailable.
Another example is using an asynchronous daily standup tool. When each employee clearly defines what they completed yesterday, what they aim to complete today, and any roadblocks or needed involvement from others it means you don't need an hour meeting every morning to do this. You can watch when convenient, but know if you're required for anything you're clearly called out with the action item needed.
The same goes for OKRs and initiatives. When clearly defined and easily accessible, it prevents the need to get a group of people together and take them away from being productive.
Now combine that with procedures and you have a great 1-2 punch 🥊. For example, setting an out of office Slack/email procedure. When OOO clearly defining a return date, and who to contact for specific needs in your absence. Similarly sending the daily standup or video by 9am. This way, no one is prevented from starting their day as they are waiting for you.
How to give 1:1 feedback 💬
We all agreed the best medium to share feedback is live video call. Providing feedback in text can easily be misinterpreted and cause un-needed frustration. It also prevents you as a leader from reading the recipients response in body language, tone, etc.
We were also in agreement that leaders need a habit of regularly providing positive feedback. Whether in a ration of 5:1 positive:negative or on a weekly basis finding something to complement every person on.
Where we had a bit of a divergence was how often to provide constructive feedback. So the best recommendation is asking each individual how they prefer receiving feedback, and continually asking as time goes on. Tevi prefers to give constructive feedback immediately, while still fresh. While I prefer packaging feedback over 4-6 weeks and 3-5 instances of feedback to give. Trying to ensure seeing your name pop up in Slack doesn't cause dread of 'What did I do now?"
Remote is awesome but your team needs IRL face time 👥
There's no substitute for in real life team engagement. Yep, I said it. The question is how often do you get the team together, and how much of the team.
We were all in agreement with this one, as well. Your team should meet as often as possible. Depending on the size of the company and available budget that will be your biggest guiding light. Your entire company should meet once a year at minimum. If it's financially reasonable to do more than once, go for it. If not, you'll want to look at team or perhaps regional get togethers. Allowing your Support or Finance team meet an additional time a year at minimum, or your EMEA team.
Scott: [00:00:50] Thank you for tuning into another episode of leading from afar. I'm Scott here with Tevi. Tevi, how's it going today?
Tevi: [00:00:57] Hey doing well, Scott, how are you?
Scott: [00:00:58] Doing well, thank you. So today we're excited to be joined by Tony Jamous, the CEO and co-founder of Oyster. Oyster is one of those great tools that is helping teams easily and successfully hire remote workers around the world. So we're happy to be diving into an all-inclusive conversation about leadership today.
So Tony, the usual way that we start off is maybe introducing a little bit more about yourself and how you came to create Oyster.
Tony: [00:01:28] Sure. Hi Scott and hi Tevi. Thank you for having me on the show. Very excited to be here today. So I'm a serial software entrepreneur. I started a company 10 years ago called Nexmo. That was an API business for building communication apps.
Grew that business to a hundred million of revenue in five years and then took it public by merging was Vonage on the NASDAQ today. And then I left and more recently started Oyster. The company that makes hiring somebody on this other side of the world, as easy as hiring your neighbor.
Prior to these two entrepreneurial experiences. So if you can go back to my childhood, I was born in Lebanon, in Beirut. I left there when I was 17 to go to France, study computer science. I worked for a short while in France, and then I moved to the UK. I've been moving between the UK, US, and now back to Europe as we speak.
Tevi: [00:02:19] Very cool. Thank you for that introduction. So I guess we were neighbors Israel and Lebanon. That's very cool.
You mentioned in an article that a founder should recruit professionally. I know Oyster is an HR tool as well and that they should make sure to hire the right person for the role and not always just hire people that they know. The safe pick. So I'm curious to know, a founder has to make a lot of quick decisions and sometimes shortcuts are helpful to get something off the ground and move in the right direction.
I guess you're suggesting that people should question what they know and make sure that they're doing things properly. So when do you know when to take a shortcut? And why is specifically recruiting so important that you shouldn't hire someone that you just know from another role?
Tony: [00:02:59] Yeah. So first let's talk about, what is the challenge of hiring somebody that you would know? Th the message you would be sending to your leadership team is that you need to know the CEO to be successful in this company. I'm not saying you should never do this.
But you should do it only when you first need to balance that with your team. So anything that's more than 30% of people on the team that you would know before, I would say it's problematic. It sends the wrong message to the rest of the team.
You want to actually hire the best people for the job. Whether you know them or not. That's number one. Number two is I do share with you, Tevi, the challenge of urgency in a startup. You want to hire really fast because the market's not going to wait for you. You need to move fast.
So you need to balance that out, obviously. For instance, our Head of Sales is somebody I knew before. Because I knew that this person would deliver a good job. Sales is actually it's not something that you have to reinvent.
There are methodologies out there. So you can safely know if the person has the right skill for you. But on the other extreme, if you're hiring, let's say the Head of Operations. Operation is a very ambiguous term because it varies from company to company. So you have to draw a bit more thoughtfulness into this kind of more complex role.
So yeah, my recommendation is as much as you can try to have a professional process. And hire people that really fit for the job.
Scott: [00:04:18] If I can ask a quick question on that. Besides potentially the role, would you say the life cycle of the company would have a potential impact on that? Thinking perhaps maybe your first 10 hires. You've worked with someone before they've fit with you culturally, communication-wise. So it may be easier to hit the ground running.
There's less of a chance that there may be a culture clash. The person may be doesn't fit in. Maybe farther on down past a certain number of employees, then you want more open.
Tony: [00:04:44] Yeah. So there's definitely an advantage too, to bring in and an existing relationship with an existing trust. What trust means is that you have a shared understanding of how the work should be done and that you have experience in the relationship.
If I bring somebody from a previous company without the proper integration into the new company's culture, then that would be the risk of bringing the old culture into the new company and it might not fit. So you have to reinvent it anyway. So you would suffer a few years down the line to reset your culture and change.
Scott: [00:05:17] Interesting. Shifting gears a little bit. This is going to be a conversation about a lot of different topics. We recently finished a series on mental health and as a founder, there are probably very few people in the company that have more stress than you. What are some things that you do personally, to help manage your own stress and mental health? And what are some things that you can help with your team to help them manage their own stress?
Tony: [00:05:39] That's a very relevant question, especially today with the state of the world we live in. We see the numbers are insane. You have over 50% of knowledge workers working remotely today suffering from some sort of mental health issue.
If you think about it, the office for many people used to be a form of relief, right? People used to go to the office and used to that habit. Now we're telling them not to go to the office. So you have an increasing sense of isolation. You have an increasing sense of loneliness.
The triggers of mental health are also increasing. So whatever you've been suffering with is going to get worse. That's what I've noticed in the last year of leading this company. So it becomes really important that for any team leader to draw extra attention to that.
And what does it mean? It means that sending a survey is not enough. They have to be present for your team. You have to see them. You have to give them the emotional safety and space for them to share with you because you don't want them to be lonely. You don't want them to deal with these things on their own. You want to be there for them.
Me personally, how I'm dealing with this stress. The first is energy management. I felt that if I don't have enough downtime in a week I will very quickly burn out. An example of an action I've taken is Fridays I don't take any meetings. Friday is dedicated to catching up on the week. Clearing my inbox.
So when I go to the weekend, I can really disconnect. Another area that I'm focused on is not to ping my team in hours that they cannot answer, or over the weekend. I don't communicate over the weekend. We don't have this always-on culture. So we really embrace asynchronous communication and make people feel less anxious about being here. I use methods of meditation too. It really frees up your brain from all these challenges and stressors that come with work. Essentially meditation enables me to create a protection layer in my brain. So I don't get reactive and stay active in my role. And always be as open and listening to the other person and not being caught in my own personal reactivity.
Scott: [00:07:45] I would say that 50% that only came in and the other 50% was probably lying. I don't think there's been anybody the last year that hasn't been dealing with some type of mental health challenge in some capacity.
Tony: [00:07:57] How did you guys handle this in your day-to-day work? Do you have any tips that you could share with me?
Tevi: [00:08:00] Maybe I'll jump in. It's been a challenge, especially, with kids home from school. I love what you said about managing your energy. I also started meditating this year a little bit to try to help just get my brain cleared. Just as a way to reset on a regular basis.
I tried to shift my work hours so that I could focus on the kids and then I could focus on work at a later time. Which meant not a lot of sleep. I agree with Scott that it's probably more than 50% who reported it. It's been a challenge to try to manage everything you have to do with a whole lot less time and a whole lot less space to do it.
Scott: [00:08:32] Tevi and I have spoken on a few past episodes about these challenges. Especially the lack of separation between time and space. Family and work time. For me, that also was the biggest challenge. I also tried meditation using Headspace. Trying to shift my work hours to more convenient times when the kids are were asleep.
I think the biggest thing for me was getting out to do a 5k walk or run every day. I remember during the first lockdown, I think I'd left the house once a week for maybe a 10-minute stroll up and down the street. I went stir crazy. Just getting out every day for some fresh air. Some sunshine for 60 minutes or half an hour made a big impact to me.
Tevi: [00:09:13] Nice. One thing I just wanted to touch on is how you've mentioned about you try to focus on improving your energy. And for me, a lot of it was trying to be present when I'm with my kids or doing an activity that really should be fun. It was hard to put work or anxiety out of my head.
Being in the now and enjoying that moment. Getting that energy from it instead of being elsewhere. So working on that mental exercise and meditation was helpful for that as well. That was a good practice for me.
Everyone moved remote with COVID, a lot of people have reacted to over-communicating and trying to schedule more meetings. They didn't know how to shift to remote, especially async. It's very unnatural for some people. So that leads to lots of extra meetings and over-communication, which is good but also zaps people's energy and strength.
What type of tips or advice could you give to try to make sure people are creating effective meetings or necessary meetings when they're doing face-to-face.
Tony: [00:10:09] If you think about what creates effectiveness in a team. On the one hand, you have this trust and relationship building that will require some synchronous communication and connection. On the other hand, you have the discipline to know how to do the work and do the work.
These two need to go hand in hand. In an office environment, you had that first layer. Which is you're there in the office. You could build trust. You can build a relationship. And if you didn't have such a high discipline of how you're going to do the work, you should get away with it.
Now in a distributed environment that becomes a weakness. If you don't have that discipline in how you do the work, then you would actually underperform.
We adopt synchronous communication methods and collaboration. At the center of it is documentation. We make sure that we document everything we do in the organization. We treat documentation like a product for our customers here. The customer is our internal team and we are very prescriptive in how to use the tools.
So we call them the tools and the rules. So how do you use Notion? How do you use Google docs? How do you use Slack? How do you use email? We have a number of definitions around what type of meetings we're having. Are we having a decision-making meeting or we're having a sync connection, trust-building, meeting, and so on.
Every meeting has a different way of handling it. It's not enough to build these rules. It's really about aligning them within the team and reinforcing them through your own behavior as a leader. And keep people reminding them they need to be co-created.
So it's not something that comes from the top. They have to be created throughout the organization. We have a team that is in charge of that led by the Head of Remote. That actually works well.
It's even better if you have a results-driven culture where really the output is what matters. Less the presence. We don't care how many hours you put in to achieve your goals and to deliver the high-quality output that is expected as long as you deliver the high-quality output.
Tevi: [00:12:05] Nice. So you have a template for each kind of meeting that's documented? So if someone's creating a kickoff meeting or one-on-one sync, they'll know what kind of agenda to pull from?
Tony: [00:12:18] Exactly. We remove the anxiety. For instance, we have a weekly exec team sync meeting of an hour and a half. It's structured by we started by the OKRs. Where are we on our goals? We spend 20 minutes commenting on that and unblocking any issue.
Before that, we have a temperature check. Then we have deep-dive topics and these deep-dive topics have to be prepared in advance. So people expect to see pre-readings. Maybe a Loom video that can explain to them what are we going to talk about and what is the issue at hand? We expect people to submit these meeting requests of deep-dive topics on Tuesday before the Thursday meetings. So to give at least 24-48 hours to really get familiar with these. That removes a lot of the anxiety and creates a more positive team dynamic. These touchpoints are synchronous. Touchpoints are so important, so valuable, and so expensive for the company to run. So you have to really be careful about how to run them and make sure that everybody is productive and effective in these meetings.
Scott: [00:13:19] Very interesting. So pivot into a different topic now. Would love to know a little bit more about what you and your team do to build a world-class culture at Oyster? We've had guests in the last number of weeks who've given a range of insights and it's been quite interesting actually. A number of them spoke about the specific intentionality and the specific effort that the management team or people team needs to make to continually engage a remote team.
And on the other side, we've had people that have said somewhat the opposite. That the less company-sponsored engagement was better. So we'd love to know from your perspective, what you and the team are doing to help build that world-class culture?
Tony: [00:14:00] Yeah. So first, why it's more challenging in a remote company to create a culture and then in an office setting. So going back to the identity question. It was easier in the past for leaders to build culture because people's identity was pretty much work. They had this ritual of going to the office.
I remember a few weeks ago when I was in London, I saw a van of a coffee producer for B2B companies. On the van it said, we make culture. Because culture was supposed to be made around having a coffee or the water cooler conversation.
So it was easier for leaders to build culture. Now the task is much harder. Because of that more balanced identity that people have. People don't necessarily want to have their life is defined by work. They want to have a more balanced life. Which is a good thing for the world.
So we define culture as a set of norms and habits of how we work together. How we make decisions. And what makes a strong culture is how well these norms are shared and how well they are reinforced.
First, we are very prescriptive about how we work together. We are very focused on being a mission-driven company and embedding the mission in everything we do. That goes into how we set our OKRs. What products we build. What customer segments we go after.
And really how we deal with our customers and their team members around the world. Lastly, we are becoming more prescriptive into opportunities to connect as a team and build trust. That kind of lubricates the creation of culture. The opportunity to see your team members, not necessarily only in a work setting.
So for instance, in the leadership team, we have what we call the oyster bar. That happens every two weeks where it's an asynchronous session. Rule number one of the oyster bar is that we don't talk about Oyster. Rule number two is that it's flexible. You can come anytime, you can leave any time. It's really an opportunity for the team to connect on a personal level to help create that trust.
Tevi: [00:15:58] I like that oyster bar. I've never actually eaten oysters but it's a nice, clever way to talk about being casual at the company.
You mentioned OKRs earlier. What do you do for goal setting and let's say quarterly or annual planning? Do you use only OKRs? Do you do anything like roadmap-wise? How do you work with that?
Tony: [00:16:16] That's a good question because compared to my previous company we had to increase massively that discipline on these OKRs. Because you want to have a culture that is results-driven. That is output-driven. That is a foundational aspect of making a distributed team, high performance. And so we have a yearly process where at the end of each year we create what we call three strategic imperatives.
It's a document that it's probably a few pages long and details what we need to achieve this year and why. Then the team would take that and then turn it into Q1 objectives and key results.
For the objective key results on a quarterly basis. Ideally, we don't want the objective to change much. So the strategic imperative can remain for the rest of the year. This year, for instance, one strategic imperative on growth, one on differentiation, and one on operational excellence and being best in class.
Every quarter the definition of the key results for this objective might change. We don't like it to change a lot, but sometimes we have to change because the world is changing a lot around us. And the team goes through a planning process that is very well-defined with specific dates and specific deliverables. We do increase the synchronous. It's more about debating and brainstorming and challenging because you want to make sure that every idea is brought forward.
You also want to make sure that the team themselves come up with these key results and their values. So that you can balance a top-down approach with a strategic imperative for the year, and the bottom-up approach on the quarterly key results.
Scott: [00:17:54] This kind of leads me to my next question, which I'm personally very opinionated on. I'll address the question to both of you. And Tevi, please jump in. Tevi if you want to go first, but would love both of your approaches. The best approach to giving one-on-one constructive feedback to employees.
Tevi: [00:18:11] I guess it depends what that feedback is. I don't like waiting for, let's say a weekly review. I think that feedback should be given right away while it's fresh. It should also be given synchronously, if it's negative, for sure. You shouldn't be judgmental. You shouldn't be angry or upset. You should be compassionate and understanding what they're going through. So if it's a negative thing, they should feel that you're still a human. It's not just, a negative note in Slack or something like that. So as frequently as possible and live. What do you think?
Tony: [00:18:39] Giving effective feedback is hard. The probability of this feedback going wrong is like 90%. It's always been a challenge for me to improve on that point. Nobody likes to receive feedback. It's really hard to put the people in a mental state that they are open to feedback.
Something I've learned that could be useful here is that some of the studies of married couples tell you, if you want to give effective feedback to your other half, you want to make sure you give five positive things for one negative thing. That's a ratio that predicts if you want to have a successful marriage or not.
The researcher would actually predict the likelihood of divorce based on that ratio. I think here, you have a similar situation. What I try to do, and I'm not as good as I want to be, is to really give a shout-out to some of my team members on a continuous basis.
Part of the thing that I do on Friday is to think about the week and think about who I want to shout out in an impromptu way, without any agenda. For the work well done I'm hoping that actually puts people in a state of mind, when I want to give them a direct answer and constructive feedback, they can listen to me. Before I give the feedback, I spend some time thinking about that person and how would they take that feedback. What might be happening in their life and help increase my compassion level toward that person. So when I'm giving them that feedback I'm here with one agenda in mine is their personal growth.
Tevi: [00:20:03] What I try to do with it is make it more of a habit to be positive. It should be genuine, not just a compliment. It should be a genuine positive observation. And sometimes I try to incorporate the impact of whatever it was someone did with that compliment.
So they see, it's not just, "Hey, good work." That doesn't count. It's, "good work on this because now we've got Y and that was very valuable to the team." Really make that a thorough positive remark. If you're constantly showcasing the positive that people are doing then the negative doesn't stink so much.
Making sure that you're getting feedback, as well. So if they feel comfortable giving feedback to me, then when I give the feedback it actually might be more well-received, I think.
Tony: [00:20:43] Yeah, that goes a long way to create a culture of feedback. Is your behavior as a leader when you receive feedback. You want to ask for feedback on a regular basis. Also, you want to make it public, right? So for instance, at my all-hands meeting every two weeks there's a CEO section. We started with a CEO briefing and I always ask the team, "what do you think we should change" or to make sure that people get that I'm open for feedback. Because without having an environment that can give you feedback, you cannot improve.
Scott: [00:21:10] I guess I'll jump in with my 2 cents. Definitely in person, especially when you want to do constructive feedback I'm a believer that a leader doesn't ever go more than 10 days without finding positive feedback to give to their team. I think it's crucial. It goes in line with a five to one with giving constructive feedback.
I'm of the opinion where if it was something drastic that you need to address now, then you address it now. But if it's something that's not, I personally like to package them more. Maybe do it over a number of weeks. If three or four things have happened over three, four, five, six weeks addressing it then.
In my career, I've felt when you give feedback kind of one-on-one, it leads to that opportunity when your name pops up in Slack, you're like, "Oh brother, what did I do now?" It's that negative connotation come across. Especially, if you're not doing that positive reinforcement regularly.
So I'm always trying to go with that approach if I can wait three, four, five weeks and say, "okay, here are two or three cases." Another thing I'm very much a believer in is asking questions and trying to get the context. Because I know in most of those cases, there are definitely contexts that I've missed.
So when a case where I think, "Oh, you could have maybe done something a different way or better." I try to ask, "why did you go with this approach? Or why did you answer it like this? Or why did you do that?" Because there have been many times, something behind that. In the previous case, it happened like this or a previous leader told them to do it like that, or in their history, there was this, that, and the other.
So it wasn't a specific deliberate action that they did. It was something that came with previous experience, previous feedback, previous something. For me always get that context, because maybe I'm under the mindset of, they didn't do right here. They may have done something wrong. They could have done something better. But when you hear that context, "the previous leader told me in this case, do like this, or I had the approval to do." You understand, maybe in this case they didn't really do anything wrong, and maybe just the procedure needs to be updated.
Tony: [00:22:59] Yeah. A question may be for both of you to follow up on what you said, Scott. There is some science out there that is showing that maybe asynchronous feedback could have some benefit, right? In terms of removing the emotion. Being thoughtful. You read it on your own. You take your time to read it. You take to your time to address your reaction. You become less reactive. I've never done asynchronous written feedback. I've always privileged in-person synchronous feedback, but are there any thoughts on the type of feedback or the medium of feedback?
Tevi: [00:23:30] I think the way Scott kind of mentioned it is something that I favor. Where when you have a conversation about it, it's not even necessarily feedback necessarily. What’s more, let's understand, what you did and why, or, what history or context might've existed, the result of that.
And then the feedback is just naturally a part of that conversation. I think that's generally an important way of approaching anything where you're trying to understand a situation before you give your 2 cents on it is just to get that context. So I guess unless it's super clear, quick written feedback is probably almost always going to be misinterpreted in a very negative way. So I don't know that I would be a fan of that.
Scott: [00:24:10] Yeah, I’ll double down on that. I'm not a fan of that written feedback. Just as Tevi said there's such a huge opportunity that somebody could read it the wrong way. So I think that conversation is definitely the best medium. Especially when you're trying to present it in maybe neutral or somewhat positive way, and maybe very touchy about the subject. They just see you attacking them.
So another question going off of the cultural piece is the idea of distributed versus in-office. I think being remote leaders, we believe that remote is definitely the way to go. But if you look at the data or looking from experience, can distributed teams really perform better than in-office ones? And are there certain conditions that may actually help remote teams achieve more?
Tony: [00:24:55] Yeah. I believe that they can perform better and than an office team. I'm still collecting the data research on this. I had the fortunate opportunity to work with a professor 10 years ago. She was my professor in business school and she was obsessed with virtual teams performs better than non-virtual teams. So I've reconnected with her recently to see how this could apply to distributed teams. Because essentially they are virtual teams. She's saying that there are two hygiene factors that need to be there so that the virtual team or distributed team can perform as well as an office team.
By the way, her name is Martha Misnevsky. She's a professor now in one of the top universities in Canada. Yeah. The first hygiene factor is opportunities to build trust and relationships. And that's easier in an office environment. Because you have the opportunity to be there in person. You have body language so it's easier.
So you have to really develop experiences in the company that actually can create this trust and relationship building. The second one is around discipline around the task to be done. In an office environment, even if you're not very prescriptive about how the job can be done, you can always walk to your colleague on the other side of the office and have a conversation with them. And find your way to get the stuff done. But in a distributed setting, you cannot do that. So you have to really build an operating system for the company that enables people to be effective regardless of time zone. Regardless of where they are in the world. Without the need to constantly ask other people.
If you do this right, then you get to a performance level equal to the office.
Tevi: [00:26:29] Nice. Why is learning and development important to your team and how should he approach that in a remote environment? And a little additional question to that is, should it always be focused on something that will directly improve the company, or is it more about the employee's wellbeing themselves?
Tony: [00:26:44] So in the case of Oyster, we have a program called remote ready. Where we invest in training our team on how we work together. And it's really focused on how to make them better remote workers. Regardless of whether they work at Oyster or they work somewhere else.
That program includes also tips of well-being and how to take care of themselves. These are transferable skills. So what we're training is really around how can you make you a better remote worker. Rather than how can we make you a better Oyster staff member?
Tevi: [00:27:19] Nice. Why is that important to Oyster, to focus on it like that?
Tony: [00:27:23] Because we don't expect people to have all their career at Oyster. People have multiple careers. They have portfolio careers now these days. Especially the younger generation. We want to align what they learn at Oyster with their lifelong learning.
We want to invest in their growth. That spans beyond just the X number of years they're going to stay at the Oyster. The other reason for Oyster is we don't want only the Oyster staff to be better at remote work, we want everybody to be better at remote work. We are a mission-driven company that focuses on enabling people, especially in emerging economies to participate in the global economy. Anybody can take that program and improve their remote work skills.
We've trained hundreds of people from outside Oyster on remote ready. We have a certification that you can put on your LinkedIn profile. It helps you increase your employability.
Scott: [00:28:10] As a leader, I'm a very big believer of leaders need to always be learning. So continuing on that idea of learning and development, what do you personally, as the CEO, as a leader in the company do to continually up-skill your own leadership abilities and skills?
Tony: [00:28:25] It's always a work in progress, Scott. One way to learn for me is being faced with challenges, a new thing that I don't know how to do. And I really have a default attitude about what can I learn about tackling that challenge?
There are two ways of learning. Obviously one is academic reading books. The second is doing it and not be afraid of making mistakes. Then learning from these mistakes. I think the other aspect of continuous improvement is really around questioning my assumptions as a leader at questioning my biases all the time.
And meditation helps with that. Tevi, so the fact that I can create a space in my mind where I can question my actions and the way I'm doing it and test them. Are they still really relevant to what we're doing? It's a lifelong process but it has to be a continuous process.
Scott: [00:29:15] Interesting. So the last question that I have is a hopeful one. Hopefully, COVID is coming to an end. As a remote company like yours and many others out there, how often do you believe that the team should get together, and do you believe there's the right format? Should be always an entire company-wide get-together? Should maybe be based on regions on teams? Is there a best format once traveling is reopened to the world?
Tony: [00:29:43] Yeah. My recommendation to the team is to try to get together as frequently as you can. With the caveat that you have to make sure that you don't overdo it. So you don't have to do it because there's an impact on the environment when it comes to traveling.
What I'm noticing is that there is this kind of an oxytocin deficit in our team. We want to be together. 95% of the people I've hired, we've never met in person. We did a survey in the company. When would we like to meet? And 95% wanna meet as early as possible. Immediately if we can. Obviously, we cannot, but the moment we can, begin to set up a company offsite. So my recommendation is to meet as much as you can regional or global, or team-based meetings.
Because as you go back to working remotely, you need these trust mechanisms. You need this personal connection mechanism so that your distributed work can happen better and your culture can become stronger.
Scott: [00:30:31] Totally agree. Tevi, any last questions?
Tevi: [00:30:36] No, thank you very much Tony. Do you have any questions for us? Anything you want to flip around?
Tony: [00:30:39] Let's follow up on this question. How often do you think the team should meet? What is the right balance in your opinion and why?
Tevi: [00:30:45] I guess I will go first. I think that it should be no less than once a year and the focus should be relationship building. I think execution is handled at work. If you're going to spend the effort and time and money to get together, it should be focused on building that trust so that your work will be more effective later down the road.
I think there's something to be said for that IRL, that in real life meeting. That's the best way to build trust as you really see someone reacting live. Even here, we're talking one to one, but there's a slight delay and that could lead to some hiccups in communication. I think that you should take advantage of that live format to really work on building that trust. Maybe some sort of facilitated brainstorming. Any actual work I think should be minimized during a meeting like that if it's the whole company getting together.
Scott: [00:31:31] Oh yeah, I'll agree with. The company-wide, I think probably once a year is a good fit. I do believe that teams should also meet outside of the company-wide at least once a year, if not twice. It's the more core team. The people that you're working with on a daily basis. I remember maybe it was about two years ago now for the InVision IRL that we did in Arizona. The relationships that I had with people on my team before the IRL and after were night and day different.
Me, being very extroverted, tried to be very friendly and build a family relationship with everybody. But I definitely saw that clear difference between the relationship and the connectivity that we had before the IRL and afterward. So there's definitely never a replacement for that in real-life opportunity.
It really should be focused on team building. Minimizing the education company talks and things like that, and much more focused around just the team building and the opportunity for people to be able to speak to each other. Hang out with each other in a more social environment.
All right. So Tony, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your insights and knowledge as a remote leader in building a fantastic remote company. And everyone until the next episode, have a great day.
Tony: [00:32:41] Thank you, Scott. Thanks, Tevi Good to chat.