On Business On Teams

Life lesson #3: What you are doing is great, now find friends who think so too

Focus on working with people who are passionate about what they are doing @rigelstpierre

I want to thank @rigelstpierre for inspiring this blog article.

It’s vitally important to have passion when you are running a business, working on projects and changing the world. Passion helps sustain us when very little else is. It’s also really important to know what inspires you. I learned this lesson the hard way. Inspiration is like the stream that brings life into your passion. I learned what it felt like to have passion dry up. There is another lesson that I’ve learned along the way as well. Surround yourself with people who are passionate about what you are doing and want to see you succeed.

I used to attend UBCO and I had this class in my third year where everyone sat at opposite sides of the room. It’s normal for people to spread out, but this was to the extreme. Everyone kept to themselves. Every once in a while I get little ideas. I don’t usually act on them, but one day, before the lecture started, I thought it would be fun to try an experiment and start a conversation with the guy at the furthest corner away from me in the classroom.

Long story short, it broke the ice in the room. What ended up happening over the course of the next few weeks was a major shift in the social dynamics of the class. An unexpected outcome was that I became a really good friend with one of the guys in the class. My new friend was disciplined, intelligent and very interested in what we were learning. Way more disciplined than I was at the time. His passion about what we were studying rubbed off on me. Looking back at my university days the subjects that I really enjoyed and still think about today were ones I shared with my friend.

A couple things happened. First my marks improved. We were both competitive and watching the other guy do well motivated both of us to do better. Second I became more passionate about what we were doing. It was way more fun writing a paper on a subject that I was actually interested in.

One of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes is “Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people.” I think what is even more enlightening about that quote was his comment preceding it.

“My model for business is the Beatles: they were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of its parts.” – Steve Jobs

He looked at four guys that when they worked together could create something better than when they worked apart. Why do you think that was? I think it was because their passion was infectious, not just because they balanced one another. The Beatles not only impacted their zeitgeist but their mark is felt in the cultures of all the generations since.

Many people are passionate about what they do. For example, a judge might be passionate about seeing justice upheld. However, is he always passionate about the cases that he is presiding over? Possibly, but not always. There is a difference between being passionate about what one does and what one is doing. My friend was passionate about what he was doing and that passion was infectious. Find people who share your passion for what you are doing and then hangout with often. You might just find that the total is greater than its parts.

On Business On Teams

Remote teams part 2: Is it working?

Remote Teams

I like the photo above because I think it does a good job of telling the story of remote teams. Remote teams take work, and you need to be in it for the long distance. About four months ago I wrote a post about starting a remote team, I was pretty curious to see how things would go. And then things got busy, really busy. To be frank I thought creating a remote team would mean that things would get less busy. What I didn’t realize was how much communication was needed to keep everyone on the same page. I think the cliche “managing people” is a bad phrase. Instead I prefer “managing communication”, because that is what having a remote team really entails.

I kind of have a hard time delegating,… but I’m getting better at it. Taking the step to set up a remote team was really tough for me. I dragged my feet because I like being really involved in the production of everything. Just being honest here. Also, something that I love about our office is that we have a team culture. We are all in the same boat. I wanted our remote team members to feel they are apart of the team too.

4 months later you are asking, is it working? Yes it is. It did take a ton of time initially setting up clear lines of communication. But here are 3 things I have found have helped “managing communication”.

1. After a while I learned to set a regular time where I can meet via Skype with my core team members once a day. If we can’t meet for some reason we let each other know the previous day.

2. After spending tons of time communicating our core values, code practices, and naming conventions etc. I let our longest standing remote team member lead our newest team member. Now the job of passing on our culture and coding practices is largely his. So far that has worked out really well.

3. Remote teams work really well in pods. What I mean by this is that when working on a project remotely it feels natural to work with the same people during the whole project. Whereas when we are in the office we tend to pass projects on to each other at specific phases. For whatever reason remote teams work better in 2’s and 3’s. For programming I’ve found tools like github essential in this process.

If you are thinking about setting up a remote team, here’s what you need to know. It is going to take a lot of your time preparing for each work day. You need to prepare what everyone is doing. It’s not possible for a remote team member to pull you aside during the work day and ask you a question. So be ready to plan ahead. You will need to be actively thinking about communication and be really intentional with it. It’s easy to forget to book those Skype chats, but if you don’t projects could derail very quickly.

Lastly, spend a lot of time before choosing your first remote teammate or employee. I looked at well over 80 resumes before selecting a few and starting the interview process. I wanted a self-starter, someone who was eager and who I wouldn’t have to chase around or need to spend a lot of energy motivating them. So it took a while, but it was worth it because we are pleased with our new bigger (more remote) team. If you’ve been thinking about setting up a remote team, but are concerned about the unknown, I encourage you to just go for it. I was afraid too, but now I’m really glad I took the risk (at least so far).