Humans Around A Desk #1 - It's all about the people

Sat, Feb 6, 2021       3-minute read

People matter most

Back in May I spoke on a podcast about remote working. Although it already felt like it had been forever, the pandemic was still relatively fresh, and my message was clear: everything is great—we were already set up to support remote working, and all we’re missing is a bit of face time.

Now it’s 2021 and I’ll be the first to admit that the events of the last year have humbled me. It’s easy to support remote working for brief stints, but it’s hard to create a remote-first culture that makes team members feel valued, psychologically safe and not siloed by their physical location.

If you are embracing fully remote working, you simply cannot afford to underestimate the people aspect of what you are doing. You need to work hard at including everyone and creating the opportunity for real human interactions without resorting to forced fun.

It’s a process, and one that I try to improve on a little every day.

‘I have people skills!’

It is easy to look at a large company and conflate their processes with their success—they must be doing something right, after all?

But it is dangerous to assume that more process = more success. Mimicking the organisational structure and communication lines of a megacorp when there are only ten of you will introduce delays that you simply may not have time for.

Imagine yourself in each of your team members' job roles. Who holds the information and decision-making abilities that they need to get their job done? Can they reach out directly to obtain that information or decision (or, better yet, can they make decisions themselves)? If not, is there a valid, mission-critical, reason why?

When you open the lines of communication in your team and allow them to self-serve, you’ll start to see amazing things happen.

Sensei says, ‘Slow down’

Many years ago I did martial arts. Fanatically. I attended every single training session. And as with most organisations and teams, once you become that dependable, people start delegating things to you.

I often had the responsibility of onboarding prospective new members. The routine was simple: guide them through the warm-up exercises and show them some of the basic techniques.

I had a knack for understanding the inner workings of things, so I treated everyone I took under my wing to in-depth, detailed explanations of how it all worked.

Very few of them came back for a second session.

Spotting this pattern, my sensei explained something to me. He said, ‘Just slow down. Don’t worry about explaining all the little details to them; it’s too much to remember. Help them do it all, but don’t worry if they get it all wrong. They’ll come back next week, and you can throw in some more detail.’

I think of that conversation every time I mentor someone new.