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Carolyn Moore of Auth0: How To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space

Interview With David Liu

Have empathy for team members and colleagues.

With a remote team there is a need for empathetic leadership, management, and communication. It is important to have a deeper understanding who people are and what they need. Having empathy in communication allows for teams to feel heard, appreciated, and overall, be more productive.

We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Moore, Senior Vice President of People, responsible for all people and human resources (HR) teams including global recruiting, HR operations, HR business partnership, employee experience, culture, and internal communications.

Carolyn has spent the last three decades in global human resources roles helping fast growing startups, medium-sized companies, and Fortune 500 organizations — including Mercedes-Benz, Apple, Samsung, mSpot, and R2 Technology — form effective people strategies and build great cultures.

Carolyn lives in Redwood City, CA and enjoys international travel and cooking, and is currently studying wine with the goal of passing the sommelier exam.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’ve been in the HR space for over 30 years, starting my career path with more consumer facing companies including GAP, Macys, and Nestle, before moving into the technology space. I like to say I got the tech bug along with many others when the digital revolution was just on the horizon.

My first taste of the exciting world of tech was with Sun Microsystems, focusing on the overall company strategy and HR-focused viewpoints. The takeaways from this role were enormous and I have utilized these learnings throughout my career and in my current role.

Before joining Auth0, I held senior people and HR-related leadership roles at Fortune 500 organizations, including Mercedes-Benz, Apple, and Samsung.

As the SVP of People of Auth0, I lead the implementation of a holistic strategy for global recruiting, HR business partnership, employee experience, company culture, and internal communications.

Many aspects of Auth0 drew me in, including the company’s deep-rooted, award-winning company culture, recognition as a global remote work pioneer, passion for its people, and dedicated leadership team — including passionate and empathetic co-founders.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Working in the People side of the business, one runs into many interesting situations. One that comes to mind is when I led a major integration project in a company that doubled their size overnight after an acquisition. This happened on my first day! In my first week, I discovered that there was no real plan or playbook for this very large transaction, and I had little historical knowledge of either company. To make it more interesting, the company we purchased was in a completely different part of the organization with a completely different culture. What to do next was up to me — and there was little agreement by our leadership on where to go with this. After months of plane rides, conversations (and arguments), driving in sleet and snow, regional food choices, and eventually being greeted by name at the local hotel, I learned a lot and cultivated trusted relationships. I learned so much about what works and what doesn’t when faced with a major challenge such as a merger. Understanding what each side has to offer and finding a way to integrate the best practices is often overlooked but shouldn’t be. Because of the care I took, I retain many of those relationships many years later.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s not so much a quote as a concept, but I consistently go back to the idea of Tikkun Olam, a term that means “repair the world” in Hebrew. This is especially relevant right now given our collective experience with the pandemic and societal issues. I try to focus on leaving things better than I found them, whether they be in the workplace or generally in life.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My grandmother has always been an inspiration for me. She immigrated from Poland to the Midwest when she was a child. My grandmother was always a little different, she was far more adventurous than the other members of the large family. When she got married at the age of 30 and a few years later she moved to San Francisco to start a new life, which was not at all common in those days.

Although my grandmother only attended school up until the 8th grade, she was an incredibly intelligent person. With her entrepreneurial spirit, she started her own business, a very popular dry-cleaning shop. I learned basic business concepts and the power of truly listening from her. Oftentimes I sit back and think, “What would my grandmother do in this situation?”

The lessons I learned from my grandmother such as listening for and understanding customer needs, tenacity and empathy are invaluable to my job today. She provided me with the initial springboard to success, which I’ll forever be grateful for.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

There are benefits to working both in a physical office and/or remotely. I think a key benefit of having a team physically together is there is the human connection and the relationships that are able to be more easily formed in person. There is a certain level of engagement that an office can provide that is more organic than digital communication tools like Zoom and Slack.

Additionally, when teams are physically together communication can be more streamlined and there are minimal issues regarding nuances that can occur with written communications. At Auth0, we train employees and leaders in asynchronous communication, ensuring that teams are equipped to work together, regardless of location and time zone.

Auth0 has incorporated a remote work policy since its inception in 2013 but has also offered the option to work in any of the company’s six offices across the globe. Whether employees choose to work fully remote, fully in office, or a mix of both, we’ve been able to balance the pros and cons of each to create truly unique, flexible, and rewarding working experiences.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

When you work remotely, the talks you have with colleagues tend to be “transactional” and there is no bumping into colleagues in the hallway or kitchen. The challenge with transactional-only conversations is that communication can seem forced and take more time as items require video meetings or written communications.

Another challenge with teams working remotely is that some team members may be handling remote work better than others. Employees might feel a disconnect from their colleagues and be experiencing loneliness or distractions in the home. This takes patience and understanding from managers and fellow team members. At Auth0 and in my personal life, empathy is a core value.

To help keep our remote team engaged and connected to each other while maintaining company culture and morale, we have increased our efforts around virtual connectivity and socialization with video and communication tools like Zoom and Slack. Simple ‘fun’ virtual activities — from trivia to coffee/happy hours, even a magic show for employees and their families — have been great for social de-stressing, facilitating cross-departmental relationships, and minimizing loneliness. We also use a Slack app called Donut that randomly pairs employees with fellow colleagues across the company, at all levels, for get-to-know-you discussions on a recurring basis. It’s a great way to get face time with those that employees normally wouldn’t interact with, and everyone walks away with something valuable, and a new friend.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Have empathy for team members and colleagues.

With a remote team there is a need for empathetic leadership, management, and communication. It is important to have a deeper understanding who people are and what they need. Having empathy in communication allows for teams to feel heard, appreciated, and overall, be more productive.

2. Be open to new communication styles.

There are myriad ways in which teams communicate with each other on a daily basis. Some better than others. For remote teams, it’s best to try a few communication tools to see what works best. From personal experience, asynchronous communication is ideal for remote teams as much of the content is written or recorded allowing for team members to review and take in on their time.

3. Set boundaries.

Something that is easier said than done is setting boundaries in the workplace. With a remote team, boundaries are an important piece to how the group functions. Communication is essential in setting boundaries and can be used in many ways. For example, telling your manager when there is too much on your plate or setting definitive times for when team members can and can’t ping you.

4. Be flexible.

With a remote team it’s easy to slip into a form of communication that can translate as micromanaging. A key thing to remember is to be flexible when communicating with a remote team. People are working in their own spaces and have their own unique lives, which comes with unique distractions and priorities. As long as the work is getting completed to the expected standard, it’s not necessary to have all team members respond immediately.

5. Focus on results, not chair time.

There are many factors with remote work that can cause team members to not be immediately responsive or be online for the standard 9-to-5. At Auth0, we’re flexible with schedules for a reason — as long as the work is getting done then there’s no reason to be strict with hours. Communicating the status of a project is imperative to have this work well. Overall, placing more focus on results rather than time spent in a desk chair is great for having success with a remote team.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

When the pandemic hit, Auth0 was in a fortunate position of being a remote-friendly company, where 60% of our nearly 700+ employees (now 850+) were already working from home. As a result, the required uptick to 100% was far less taxing for us.

With remote working, communication has to become mostly written and asynchronous. Therefore, it is important to learn to write in an articulated and calculated manner. The amount of communication required for remote work is significant. We overdid Zoom in the beginning of this, and like many companies our employees experienced “Zoom fatigue.” While our inherently remote-centric DNA has helped, we have all had to adapt and grow, and most importantly, we are learning together.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

Since the pandemic, we have made a conscious effort to keep our employees engaged by using tools to keep interactions flowing between employees. Our CEO and co-founder, Eugenio Pace, shares weekly blog posts in our Auth0 wiki (like Wikipedia but internal), keeping our employees up to date on the latest with our offices, company wins, announcements, personal anecdotes, and words of encouragement.

We also run company-wide virtual learning summits that allow employees to meet new team members, learn something new, and show off their skills challenges, all while earning swag for joining and participating. This allows for a high level of engagement between employees, even those who don’t work together directly. A service called Loom, a video messaging tool, has provided us the opportunity for us to explore new ways of getting information out to everyone. By using Loom, we’re open to incorporate asynchronous communication as employees don’t need to listen to or read messages immediately.

To increase company morale and maintain culture remotely we use a tool called Donut within our Slack channels that randomly pairs three employees with each other and schedules them for a meeting. The intention with this is to bring employees together that otherwise may never interact and have them connect on topics beyond work. Employees are encouraged to discuss topics about their non-work-lives. Donut has been a fantastic aid in keeping our distributed workforce feeling connected.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

I’d love to see a way to deliver relevant information and content directly to each employee. Right now, opting into Slack channels or using general channels for everyone is how most of us operate. It would be so powerful to have more information “pop” up for you that requires your attention or action.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

It’s so much more important now! With everyone working remotely and the likelihood that this will continue, it’s so critical for us to bring together all methods of communication to ensure we don’t miss a beat. Further, additional applications for video are necessary if we want to stay close and connected. Zoom is great, but I’d really like to see some on demand, real-time live video applications that are easy to use, pop in without creating a meeting or link, and are integrated into all the tools we use.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

I’m really excited by the possibilities that VR and AR can provide for team building and concept testing. What’s intriguing about these tools is the ability to experiment with situations and scenarios without committing to fully building them out before you’re ready. Of course, when a team can’t physically be together, VR and AR can give you some ability to interact and collaborate in a simulated environment, which will be even more necessary as most companies move to a more remote or hybrid environment. I look forward to more applications of those technologies.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

There’s always the concern that a dependence upon these technologies will further drive us away from human interaction. Using them to augment and assist, rather than become a substitute for person to person live communication, seems best. However, with everything becoming remote, that’s a tough balance to strike. CHROs and other leaders need to create that balance for their companies so we can meet business and human needs.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

Because of the pandemic, our sales and customer success teams have transitioned to 100% virtual communications via tools like Slack, Zoom, email, and other useful digital tools, which has thankfully been a seamless shift for our team given our remote-centric culture.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

There is definitely an art form to giving feedback in a remote setting. Something I stand by is communicating with empathy. By providing feedback with empathy in mind, it can be more digestible for the recipient and come across as less harsh. However, sometimes tough feedback needs to be delivered. For instances like this, I’d suggest using a video conferencing tool like Zoom, so the conversation can be as genuine and honest as possible. It’s easy for recipients to misconstrue tone over the phone and especially via email, by utilizing video, both parties are able to provide more human expression behind their words and feedback. Some quick tips for managers to master remote feedback would be to set expectations for the meeting, be upfront with feedback (no circling around the issue) and find out what the employee needs from you.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

Having an intentional and prominent company culture that aligns with the company’s values is important in creating camaraderie among employees. At Auth0 we have three core values:

  • N + 1> N: This refers to the ability to “iterate” and learn. The importance of moving forward and delivering something no matter how small the increase in value. The goal is to keep the organization agile and have a constant learning culture
  • Give a Shit: This refers to care. The people who work at Auth0 are passionate about what they do.
  • One Team, One Score: We win together, we lose together. Team success always outweighs individual accomplishments, and we celebrate both.

The risk of having “silos” is great and promoting collaboration (cross-team) is an everyday job.

It requires empathy and commitment to keep company culture alive, especially in a remote world. When employees feel connected to a company culture and are excited about the values there is a feel of connection and togetherness.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

What a great question! I have spent a lot of time thinking about empathy. If we could all be intentional about understanding others, empowering them to speak their truth, and knowing that we all can’t agree on everything, that would make such a difference in the world and certainly in the workplace. If each of us expresses that desire to understand one another, there is a lot we can accomplish together.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on LinkedIn:

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.



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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication