Successfully orbiting the mothership
We are in the midst of a work revolution!
The working world as we know it is changing.
We feel this everyday at TaskRabbit; our flexible solution to an on-demand work world allows our Taskers and Clients to be their most productive selves, everyday.
Our global community of Taskers use their skills to facilitate numerous wonderful pursuits — from coding to college, from acting to archery — we know this because they tell us everyday.
The rules around how, when and where we work are changing dramatically.
The same applies to those of us working “remotely”.
Collaboration is at an all time high, the software at our fingertips promotes global 24/7 connectivity and productivity but with all these tools and expectations, come with more things to learn, look at and to master.
Managing a European office for a Fast Growth Silicon Valley Tech business I’m often asked “What’s it like?” “How do you crack it?”
How do you strike the right balance in local management & central direction?
How do you effectively manage a smaller team thats part of a larger global organisation that’s working in a time zone that’s 8 hours behind?
I can answer that now — You don’t.
You don’t crack it, but you can apply some simple hacks that I’ll outline below to help you increase productivity on the front line.
Over-communicate, with minimal hand-waviness.
Assumption = a bad place.
Assuming folks in an office 6000 miles away know what’s going on in your world is normal and a typical trap you can fall into.
Don’t feel bad about over communicating — this may feel odd at first (not very British, certainly) — this maybe something that “everyone knows” in your local office, but remember — nuance gets lost as soon as you leave the room.
Keep repeating the key messages: “The 3 problems we are trying to tackle are A, B. C.”, “As you know our OKRS are X, Y, Z..”
Try to communicate the main points on 1 slide, max — focus on the “What, Why and How” — it will garner maximum attention and maximum support.
Lean on great contractors
Developing a strong network of local contractors will allow you to be nimble, without racking up additional permanent head count.
As you grow, you’ll still find yourself in startup mode needing an “L-shaped” solution — sometimes only for a couple of weeks, and contractors that can be flexible & adaptable can be so useful.
You generally won’t know the future and will adapt accordingly.
Taskers can really help. Naturally.
We drink our own Kool Aid and like 100’s of businesses in London we often use Taskers to help us with business needs that spring up that we simply wouldn’t have the bodies to get done.
Events, deliveries, market research, admin — knowing that we can get trusted help within minutes means no challenge is too great.
We even bake a little laziness into our planning, knowing that within minutes we can find an available Tasker to help us across a number of day-to -day business tasks.
Host colleagues from the US as often as you can!
Nothing builds true empathy & collaboration like getting folks from the States to come and spend time in the London office.
I’ve spent a lot of time encouraging this, with great company support — some of our employees have been able to spend their annual development stipend on coming out to London & experiencing our local culture, challenges and work stream.
We live in the best city in the world, which is a great box office draw — figure out the logistics and you can welcome a stream of colleagues who will not only assist you, but take back solid empathy and information back to HQ.
The entertaining can be draining, but you MUST show your visitors a good time, — these are the experiences they will remember & importantly tell others of.
Shared internal languages and experiences
Speak a internal language locally, even if it’s not second nature.
Make them the vernacular — communication will be clearer.
They’ll be vocal individuals in your organisations that drive these shared terminologies and learning them (and learning them quickly), will allow you to go faster. Don’t be afraid to ask for an appendix!
With flexible colleagues, materials provided ahead of time and shared agendas, your evening commute can be a meeting hub.
Only certain meetings of course.
I Wouldn’t advise relying on your 4G Slack phone to communicate Key Monthly Results to the COO but as we know, not all meetings on our schedules come with this level of required response.
This doesn’t suit all methods of commute but will suit either walking or biking*.
If you can do meetings on a commute home you can gain the hour back in your day and if focused, be back home for bath time.
*Disclaimer — done at your own risk.
The art of the pre-read
Whenever possible, send/look to receive materials & agendas ahead of meeting times.
You’ll fall in love with colleagues who start early and will take meetings with you from 730AM their time; reciprocate that love by making sure you send agendas the night before — imagine having a meeting the minute you wake up with no prep?
Your “day” often starts at 4PM — so be mindful of that.
As your colleagues in the US wake up you can expect communications, emails, questions, slacks from around 3/4PM.
As you’ll tend to be naturally winding down, your colleague’s days are just starting.
You can expect meetings to take place most days between 4PM and 8PM and whilst it’s admirable to be starting at 9AM GMT on the dot every day you’ll be doing 10 hour days (12 with commute..) before you know it.
Take morning time when you need it, go to the Gym before you come in — you won’t do it when you get in at 9PM, it will become so much harder.
Always view the head start you get on the day as that — you have an 8 hour time advantage to get ahead of problems, complete analysis & start working on solutions. Try to have the work done for when your team members in the US arrive, they’ll appreciate it & gladly take the baton from you.
You MUST Shut down.
The evenings are where the timezone is not in your favour.
TaskRabbit is a wonderful company who sincerely appreciate the time differences. But, if you start responding in the evenings, you’ll get engagement, that’s guaranteed and often appended with a friendly “Get to Bed!” sign off.
When you are home, stay home, unless you MUST get a response that evening. Remember to shut down, it‘s all to easy to not.
To conclude — some quick hits on tools
Shared Google Docs / sheets / slides
Seeing a documented updated by two people at once still blows my mind. Halls of businesses across the globe are no longer haunted by the words “What version?” — so many hours lost, so many versions made. So many changes that never saw the light of day.
No news here. It’s the workhorse that changed the world.
Maybe some news to some. It’s the rocket fuel for your engine. Hold in such high regard I’ll even forgive the heartbreaking “Explore from Here” button addition.
Self sufficiency and impact. No bugging developers — it’s an example of beautiful lean back self control