Accountability in the Remote Workplace with Erica McMannes

Erica McMannes is the Founder and COO of Instant Teams, a 100% remote organization that specializes in creating remote options for untapped talent pools of professionals and delivering the best remote workforce solutions to companies.

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Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the Distant Job Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome teams. Today with me, I have Erica McMannes. Erica is the Founder and COO of Instant Teams, a 100% remote organization.

Luis:

Erica, great having you on the show. Tell us a bit more about what you do at Instant Teams and what it’s all about.

Erica McMannes:

Yeah, well, your intro pretty much said it. You’re talking about building great remote teams, and that is what we do everyday. So, like you said, my name is Erica McMannes. I take care of building high quality remote customer support teams for our customers across the US. I do that with a really unique talent pool of military spouses within the US. There’s a really unique match there for building a business case that taps into nomadic people by lifestyle, who really require that ability to move with their jobs and build careers.

Erica McMannes:

So, being able to bring those two situations into one business model, where we’re bringing a solution to customers, but really bringing a social impact to a community that means a lot to me is what we do.

Luis:

Yeah. So, like I said before we started, I really love that model. It’s rare the business model that creates value for both ends instead of just extracting, right? A lot of companies have a very extractive model. You really are bettering people’s lives and profiting from it, which is amazing. So, can you tell me about the day when you and your partners came up with this? How did that came to you? What was the insight there?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. So, personally, I am an active duty military spouse. So, I personally experienced we’ve made 12 moves in 19 years. So, I’ve gone to college, I have degrees, and I really struggled with finding a way to put that to use and have a personal career identity outside of role as a spouse, role as a mother, all of those things that we fulfill in life. Most human beings really also want to have a belonging outside of that and in careers are usually where people turn to.

Erica McMannes:

So, I had that personal experience and ended up out in Silicon Valley, and jumped into the startup space consulting, doing user acquisition, boots on the ground community growth. As I was learning that and doing that in realtime for these companies, I was building these pods across the US and they were people I knew. They were other military spouses that I knew had skillsets.

Erica McMannes:

So, I did that for about five years until it was one of those light bulb moments. I had a customer say to me, “Not a lot of people know about military spouses and their ability to work remotely. More people should know about that.” It was that light bulb like, “You know what? I think there’s a business model there. How do we build that so that we can make that scalable, make it to an enterprise level type of company using curated, unique different types of talent pipeline?”

Erica McMannes:

So, my co-founder is a software engineer. She’s also a military spouse, but she was a software engineer before she joined the military lifestyle and she saw that need for organizations and companies to have a quick access to talent that was pre-vetted, that was ready to go to help scale up projects or launch new lines.

Erica McMannes:

So, when we met, we both realized that we had this passion for remote teams. We both had a passion for social impact on a community that we were a part of. Really, it was I talked to her, pitched her the idea, and the next day we were all in. We’re like, “All right. Let’s do this. Let’s figure out how we’re going to build this, what it’s going to look like, how the business model is going to work.” We’ve been doing that now for almost four and a half years.

Luis:

Nice. Nice. So, you do strike me as having a very unique business model because you don’t only find the people, but you also have software to help manage them, right? So, how did you come to that hybrid solution, where you’re not just a recruitment solution, but you actually provide the software that people can use to manage the people they hire? How did that come about? What do you think that that adds to your brand and to your customers?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. So, we do. We have built our own proprietary software we ARTI. That stands for Automated Remote Team Innovation. So, it flows really well. As I think any startup does, we started out that process very manually. So, we were bringing in talent. We were having them create profiles. We were talking to customers, finding those matches, and to the genius of my co-founder being a software engineer, she saw that we were replicating that process enough, and we’re hitting the same data points and having the same success at certain parts in that process that we could turn that into technology.

Erica McMannes:

So, we did an angel round of investment and got some cash injections so that we could actually invest and build the software. That software is what allows us to build those teams within five to seven days. So, that is a really fast turnaround for somebody coming. I think there’s an average of if you go to staffing or outsourcing arm, it’s a 42-day spin up, and we can identify those team members and get them back to a customer within five to seven days.

Erica McMannes:

So, that actually definitely is driving our growth, drives how we can scale, drives how we can deliver that, but we put a lot of work into the pre-vetting of the talent as well. So, ARTI sits in the middle, where customers are incoming, the talent is there, and our technology allows us to bring those two pieces together and operate all of those backend functions of …

Erica McMannes:

Basically, people don’t want to do the heavy lifting of having remote teams. It’s a headache, right? There’s a lot of, especially in the US, a lot of state compliance between different states and federal. I don’t think those compliance type measures have quite caught up with where remote work is going. So, a lot of companies are like, “We don’t know how to do that.” So, we bring the team, but we also manage and are actually the caregiver of all the team members, I guess you could say.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. No. That’s absolutely fascinating. It’s nice to listen to that point of view because that’s very similar to what DistantJob does, only our market is different. We deal and develop software engineers and software developers. So, it’s very similar that two very different industries that customer support is one and development one, but we come up with very similar solutions and services. So, that’s actually great because it feels that our ideas are validated if someone else is doing something similar successful. So, I love that. I love that.

Luis:

I’m surprised about the investment part. I didn’t know that you had investment, but, usually, investors are very, usually, investors are more interested in software. So, didn’t you have any difficulty selling them the idea that you also had recruitment behind the software?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. We are very unique and we are very cognizant of that. We’re female founders, which is unique in the space, and we’ve actually done two rounds. So, we did an angel round, and then we closed a VC round last January, and we’ve also done that 100% remotely, which most people say you’ll have to take a year of your life to travel and fundraise and you’ll never be able to do it remotely. We’ve done both of those rounds remotely.

Erica McMannes:

The angel round, I guess you could say selling and pitching to the investors, was the transition of taking the drive from what we’ve done is a tech-enabled service to a technology software space. So, we’re still making that transition. We’re looking in the coming year to even bring more of a SaaS marketplace concept to what we’re doing, which is a unique mix up of access to talent, remote teams, and just continuing to innovate as we’re learning along the way to continue to gain interest of investors and gain some share in the marketplace of what remote teams actually can do and what that looks like for organizations at how they can engage in that in the future.

Luis:

Nice. So, that’s very interesting to me the part about meeting the VCs and getting the funding because that’s exactly what people say about many things, not only funding, but many things in the remote space that sometimes you need to do in-person. You need the energy. You need the eye contact. You need the body language. You need this and that in order to generate trust because at the end of the day, that’s what you’re doing when you’re pitching. You’re trying to generate enough trust in people for them to hand you a couple of million dollars or a couple of tens of millions of dollars, right? So, that’s quite a lot of trust that needs to be generated.

Luis:

How did you do it? What are your tips for people that need to quickly, because it’s not like you can take your VC investors for virtual coffee every other day? How to quickly generate trust over a video call? How did you handle that?

Erica McMannes:

I think our advantage point is that we’ve been a remote company from day one. So, my co-founder and I have never lived in the same place. We’ve never had a brick and mortar business. Some of the first policies that we created as a company where we call it our remote communication ethos. So, we’ve really paid a lot of attention to how do you build relationships remotely, how do you have engagement and energy. We put a lot of time as an organization. So, when it got to the point to start to go talk to investors, build relationships with advisers, we knew how to do that from our end, and some of that has been interesting because we’re also, before this past year of pandemic and a lot of remote work becoming necessary, we were almost teaching people like, “Hey, there’s another way. What better access to the world of innovation than virtually?”

Erica McMannes:

If you’re in one spot and you only talk to people at a 30-mile radius, your access to talent innovation is very, very limited. So, if you can open your mind, open your access and start talking to people across the world, that is for the betterment of everybody. So, it’s been really fun to see those conversations transpire over the past several years.

Erica McMannes:

We really build relationships. I think that’s something that a lot of people miss on the investor front. It’s usually this cold transactional type of interaction where we ask for warm intros, we get to know people, we take the time to send thank you emails, all of those basic human touches in relationships. Like you said, that’s where the trust comes from like, “Oh, these are real people with a real passion who have a model of success behind them,” right? There’s revenue, so investors obviously like to see revenue and growth and scale.

Erica McMannes:

The human element almost has to be more intentful when it’s remote. You really have to put thought and process into it because it doesn’t just happen ad hoc. You’re not just going to bump into somebody in a hallway or out on the street.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah. Did you or your co-founder had a previous experience of getting capital or was this your first time?

Erica McMannes:

This is our first time as business owners. My co-founder was an entrepreneur. So, she built and sold different software engineering type of companies and just as a solopreneur. I worked in the startup space for about five years before I started Instant Teams. So, I was a part of organizations who took on funding. I saw the ups and the downs. I saw what didn’t work and what did work. So, never had that full responsibility of being the one in-charge, but did have firsthand experience to see how that process works.

Luis:

Nice. So, tell me a bit more about your software because if there’s something … I’m very interested in talking with people who build software that facilitates remote work because I’ve tried pretty much everything that’s on the market, and I always see limitations. I bet you see as well even on your own software because no software is perfect. You always have a million ideas and you have the budget and the time and money budget to execute about 10%. So, you try to get the ones that you feel are the most important. I’ve managed people on Trello. I’ve managed people on Basecamp. I’ve managed people on Asana. What do you think really makes your solution different?

Erica McMannes:

Sure. As far as tools go, right now, we’re using ClickUp. So, I think it’s one of the newer project management tools on the market. I personally have struggled with Asana or Jira. They’re just user experience not for me, but we’ve had really great success with ClickUp. So, that’s been a really great tool for us across all departments. So, we have different processes and task orientation, all of that, for everybody. We have about 43 internal team members that run the organization daily 100% remotely. So, having that kind of hub of activity in process has been really important.

Erica McMannes:

Our technology is complicated. You’re right. We’re probably, I don’t know, 30% to 40% of where we see the vision, where we want to actually take it. We just brought our first in-house dev team, so that’s very exciting as an organization, and that will allow us to start work faster. We have somebody in-house all day long that’s pushing out sprints and updates.

Erica McMannes:

The reason it’s complicated is because we are a dual-sided market. We’re serving customers. We have talent, and then in the middle of that, it’s our team utilizing what we’ve built on the backend to actually functionally build the teams and get them executed.

Erica McMannes:

So, there are a lot of components to how we do that, but just a high level two where a customer can come, self-serve, sign up, go through a process, and what they have access to in continuation outside of the managed services that we provide is a customer dashboard. So, you’re able to log in and see the individuals working on your team. You’re able to see how their time is tracking. You’re able to see the cost of that so that you can closely monitor as the point of contact internally at the organization keep budgets in line and keep an eye on that.

Erica McMannes:

On the talent side, it’s really right now just a profile creation, right? We got to get your information in order to match you on a team. So, there’s more of a user talent dashboard coming out in the coming year or two almost like a one-stop shop. You come to work, you start your day on the dashboard. So, that’s where we’re going with that.

Erica McMannes:

Then that middle piece is the most intricate. It’s where all the algorithms are. It’s where all the matching happens. It’s how we actually identify and pre-Q the teams. So, there’s a lot of stuff happening in that. We have a lot of room to keep growing and to keep improving it, but it’s working, and it’s working well. So, we’re just ready to putting resources to it and the time and the energy to be sure that we can take it to where we can.

Luis:

Yeah. So, one of the main things that we ourselves do at DistantJob and we find this to be a very big value add, but also something that’s very complex is managing. When the workforce is global, it’s managing the situation about the payments, taxes, how to pay in different countries, how are tax handled on the employee side and on the employer side, and just really giving benefits to people, making sure that the people, wherever they live, they’re well-taken care of. You were talking before. It seems that you also do this to some extent. What do you feel are the biggest challenges there and the biggest opportunities?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. The challenges are just, especially in the United States, there’s 50 states, but they all have different regulations. So, it makes it really difficult and serving a community with our military connected workforce, they are in all of those 50 states, and there’s no one place to go to say, “Hey, I want to be an employer in all 50 states.” You have to go state-by-state, and you have to be able to file and understand those different state regulations.

Erica McMannes:

So, it’s been a really big challenge especially because there’s a nuance of who our talent is, meaning they might be a resident of one state, but because they’re stationed with the military in a separate state, you have taxes going to the home of record, but worker’s comp or unemployment going to a different state. So, it’s definitely a very special heavy compliant situation, but being mission-driven, we’re very determined to figure it out, right?

Erica McMannes:

You got to love what you’re doing when it gets really, really hard, and some of those days are like, “Okay. We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to convince this state to work with us on this because at the end of the day, we’re bringing a lot of value to customers and people who are unemployed across the board.”

Erica McMannes:

As far as benefits go, we’ve been able to do the federally and the US-compliant things that you have to do like medical, vision, and dental, those types of things, but we’ve also learned that people are motivated by different types of benefits and perks when they work remotely. You’re in your house, so what do you want? So, we use a company called-

Luis:

Catnips.

Erica McMannes:

What was that?

Luis:

Catnips. That’s what you need. That’s what you need.

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. So, my favorite one is a company called Fringe. It’s a benefits marketplace. So, we give points. We put a certain dollar amount to each employee monthly, and they can go choose what they want to spend it on. So, maybe they want their groceries delivered. That’s on Instant Teams. Maybe they want to have lunch once a week. That’s on Instant Teams. It’s like those fun engagement type things with … I’m sure that you’ve had plenty of remote culture and engagement conversations with all that you do. So, it’s one of those engagement culture visas that I find a lot of fun.

Luis:

Nice. That’s actually really nice. That’s actually a really nice idea. I’ll look it up. Fringe. I’m going to put it in the show notes also so that the listeners can look it up. So, what about yourself? Tell me. You’re talking about managing the daily thing for the employees of your clients, but what about yours? How do you usually manage your team on a day-to-day basis or if you don’t have a straight day-to-day, maybe on a week-to-week basis? What is your typical day or your typical week look like?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. So, being over operations and being at the growth point that we are, I still have a lot of daily contact with about say five of our departments. So, I work very closely with people operations, customer success, marketing, finance, and workforce development. So, I have a director in all of those departments, but there’s a lot of daily touch, right? There’s a lot of things happening.

Erica McMannes:

So, I’m very intentful on how I schedule my week. I have certain syncs on certain days. I have certain days where Tuesdays are my, “Okay. What else can I get out there and do? Who do I just need to schedule calls with for business development or relationship building?”

Erica McMannes:

So, in order to manage all of that with in and out, it’s typical, right? It’s an eight-hour workday. It’s more than that on a day, but having process and being intentful with it. So, I work a lot with our department leaders. I do a lot of crisis management. I mean, we have 43 people running the company, but we have 300 remote employees across the nation. So, that’s a lot of people with a lot of life happening, right? So, a lot of things to attend to.

Luis:

Exactly.

Erica McMannes:

So, I spend a lot of time doing that, and I like it. I might be a very operationally minded person and fulfilling that function, but I love the people first concept of remote work and I love being challenged with, “Okay. That didn’t work for that person. Is that replicatable? Is that something we actually need to change?” So, paying a lot of attention to the pain points from the people side and figuring out, “Was that a process error? Is there something we can communicate more clearly? Is there a different resource we need to bring in?” So, my brain works over time on most days trying to figure these things out.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m sure it’s pretty rewarding to figure that kind of problem out, for sure. So, let’s drill a bit deep. So, you have some, from what I understood, something like five to six director boards, correct? The directors of the departments. What does a meeting look like with directors? What is the structure? What is the format? How do you usually handle it virtually?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. So, in our department leader meetings, we use a process we call PPP. It is slides that people prepare before the meeting, and it’s basically your progress, your problems, and then your plans, and each department has a column on those slides. So, you fill it out ahead of time. Then what we do, and it might sound a little strange, is the slide is up on a shared screen. Everybody’s camera is on, and we’re quiet and we read in realtime together. As you’re reading, you can just ask a question as it comes to mind. You can just engage with conversation because what I found is when you’re doing a very briefing style where you’re reading slides and people are presenting, you can end a call with nobody having had an idea or nobody having asked a question for clarity on something that they were interested in from another department.

Erica McMannes:

So, we have found that that’s a really cool way to come with what’s important to share, but then allow the conversation to happen naturally. The first time, it was awkward when we started it with the team. We’re like, “All right. Here’s your slides now. It’s going to be quiet, which is strange when you’re on a virtual call, and we’re just going to read, and as you’re reading, marketing can ask dev a question or sales can ask customer success a question.” It’s really cool and it works really well, and it gets us really into deep conversations on things that we probably wouldn’t have known to address if we haven’t allowed that organic piece to come through.

Luis:

Interesting. Interesting. I’ve never heard about that model. I guess it happens sometimes that someone asking a question while they’re reading there’s other people throwing a thought, right? How do you usually manage interruptions? Do you have any order or speaking or anything that you do? How do you moderate those discussions?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. For that specific call, I mean, it’s a call of maybe max seven people. I don’t know if it’s our culture that we’ve built or it’s just practice of being in these calls. We don’t really have a super dominant personality that just takes the call, right? I have been on those calls before. You’re right. It does happen. I think there’s just a level of we’ve done it enough, we work a lot on having hard conversations as team members working through those types of things that we just have a really cool level of respect. So, you ask a question, you have an answer. The next person can ask a question, and it really popcorns around pretty easily, but I have been on those calls where somebody is dominating the conversation, another people haven’t had a chance to speak.

Erica McMannes:

In those situations changing just a kind interjection like, “Hey, these are really great thoughts. Let’s sidebar on that and let’s be sure that other people have time to have a conversation.” You can address that in ways that I think we’ve been able to find helpful.

Luis:

Nice. Nice. So, what about accountability? I mean, 2020 was a special year for us all. A lot of people were forced to go remote, and I keep getting questions about accountability, right? Usually, I answer to the best of my capacity, but, obviously, you are not managing, but you are responsible for such a wide workforce, right? I’m sure that clients come to you all the time with questions about accountability. What are the biggest challenges and what do you usually tell them?

Erica McMannes:

So, I see accountability in the remote workspace in two avenues. One is process. When process is in place where you can … People have to deliver tasks, right? Their work is visible in some way, and not like you have a camera on somebody in their office all day long, but the moving executable pieces of their work, and then there’s trust. Trust is a unique thing to build with a customer directly, but then we also have the challenge of building trust directly with our team members and then completing that triangle and building trust between the customers and the team members.

Erica McMannes:

So, part of that comes through how we communicate, how we tell people how we communicate, how we teach people how we communicate, but also the process. In remote work, I think the biggest advantage is accountability. If there’s a team member that’s required to complete something in order for somebody else to do their job, that’s very visible at the end of the day if somebody hasn’t done it because you’re not being able to see them. I know some people question like, “Well, what do you mean by see? People are just working. What are you actually seeing?” It’s those things in ClickUp. It’s those status updates. It’s, “Hey, where are we here?” We have an unspoken ethos of a decision should be made everyday. Something should be moving forward every single day. Nothing should ever sit stale for a day, and if it sits stale for a day, then maybe it’s not worth putting your time towards. So, if it’s worth putting your time towards and it’s something you want to see happening, then be sure you’re moving it forward.

Erica McMannes:

So, it’s just those types of culture, right? It’s 100% culture and building that in. That’s hard. Not everybody fits. I think there’s those hard conversations of when skills don’t fit, but there’s also in the remote workspace when culture doesn’t fit. So, as a company who provides team members, that’s why we do a lot of our pre-vetting. It’s to be sure that we are finding the right people not only from a skill level, but also a cultural level.

Luis:

Yeah. I know. I love that point. I love that you take that approach to management in your business that when a task isn’t done, instead of assuming that this task wasn’t done because the person isn’t up to it, you say, “Well, maybe this task is not important enough that it properly incentivizes, that it properly motivates the person that’s responsible.” I mean, that goes back to what I keep saying.

Luis:

When I ask about accountability, I usually tell people, “Well, did you give the people that are working on it a strong enough why? Do they know what’s the benefit? It might not be for them, probably not for them, but for the business, for the project. Do you know the benefit? Did they know the benefit?” Because I find that nine times out of 10, when someone fails at a job and even forget, I mean, myself, right? When I forget stuff, when I don’t get stuff done, it’s usually because I don’t really realize the importance of it. So, it automatically, my brain is busy. I have a lot of things in my mind. It get shoved back because I don’t see the clear benefit. I don’t see the clear benefit in doing it, and I think that happens with a lot of people. So, that’s a very interesting angle that you’re taking.

Luis:

Tell me a bit more about that triangle, right? I really like the way that you put it, that you have a relationship between your business and the customer. You have a relationship between your business and the worker, but then you also facilitate the relationship between the worker and the person they’re working for, the company they’re working for. So, tell me a bit about that, right? What is your special thing there? How do you make that relationship into a win?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. That’s a lot of relationships when you say it that way, isn’t it?

Luis:

It is.

Erica McMannes:

It’s a lot of work.

Luis:

It’s complicated because I know it.

Erica McMannes:

I know I mentioned it, but that’s the part that I love. My background is in human ecology. So, I don’t have a business background. I don’t have a business background. I don’t have a background in HR, customer support. What I really love is process and how people process together. So, I think it’s unique to bring that to something what we’re doing because it’s definitely a very key piece of how it works.

Erica McMannes:

We’ve built a lot of those lanes, I guess, completing that, that triangle of relationships. Again, I’ve probably have said process 5,000 times on this podcast, but in remote work, it is so important, right? People have to have clarity. They have to know the steps. They have to know what to expect. Expectation management on all three sides of that triangle are either your win or your killer.

Erica McMannes:

So, whether it’s communication like internal marketing communications, how we post information, how we support people in Slack, how our customer success managers are keeping people up-to-date on what’s happening on their accounts, being able to have really hard conversations when things aren’t going right, things, our product, our people. People are unpredictable. So, that’s a big challenge.

Erica McMannes:

So, being able to build those relationships is what allows you to have hard conversations versus customers just if something is not going right, just, “Hey, this is not working or out the door.” Having those people involved and having the buy in to the whole experience of what we do at Instant Teams is really, really critical.

Erica McMannes:

So, all of those sides of that relationship, and there’s different specific tactical things that happen that aren’t the same on all three sides, but at the end of the day, it’s really paying attention to what do people want, how are they receiving the information, how are they asking for more, are they asking for more, and really taking just all of those things into consideration and putting it into programming.

Luis:

Yeah. I mean, you say that as if it’s simple. Putting that into programming is one big deal, right?

Erica McMannes:

Yup.

Luis:

Right? Do you have any specific instance, any story of a challenge or something like that?

Erica McMannes:

Oh, my gosh! It depends on what area you want to talk about. Yeah. I mean, we have lots of challenges. I think in the past year, the biggest one, again, communicating it to all three of those relationship sides has just been the change of remote work dynamic for individuals in the homes. Like I said, we’ve always been remote first. So, we’re very cognizant to who we’re hiring and who we’re working with, and how you’re in your home surrounded by a lot of life and things happening in your home, children, pets, spouses, doorbells, deliveries, all of that, but it’s been unique in this past year that our customers are now also in their homes.

Erica McMannes:

So, it’s been a challenge but also a really cool value add. I’m one of those eternally optimistic, right? Anytime there’s a challenge, you’re learning a lesson or there’s value there has just been being sure that we’re taking care of our people because remote work can be stressful. Any job can be stressful, but now we have these other stress layers. So, how do we keep a business running and growing with high quality people who want to be engaged when they’re under a whole new level of stress?

Erica McMannes:

So, that has been hard, and there has been situations where people just they’re just not going to be able to do it anymore. So, we’re understanding of that, and we have to support that, and then putting more programming into place, right? “Okay. What are the things that we can do now to support people more? What does that next level of support look like?”

Erica McMannes:

So, in a way, this past year has taught us, “Hey, pandemic or not, these are just great layers of support for people to have, and it’s probably just best practice no matter what’s happening to continue to evolve that.”

Luis:

So, I love that you built your product based on the data point that you collected over the running of your business. 2020 was, of course, a very different year. What were the data points in 2020 that surprised you the most? I can share some of mine if you’d like, but-

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. I think the most surprising thing has actually been the hesitancy of companies to adopt a remote workforce, which all you see out there is people going remote and this and that. Of course, big tech giants and the companies that were probably predestined to head that way anyway were the first to absorb it, but there’s still a lot of really, really resistant organizations out there.

Erica McMannes:

To me, it’s almost a crisis management or a sustainability move to say, “Hey, if this keeps happening or in an environment where it’s really unpredictable, why shouldn’t we just have a remote workforce to start with? If it’s doable, there’s trainable, there’s a process, Instant Teams can help us do it, why are we not doing it that way?”

Erica McMannes:

So, I think that’s probably the biggest just scene. While there’s a lot of movement towards that, there’s still a lot of resistance that I just think it would have been a little bit easier given everything we’ve been through.

Luis:

So, I don’t know the state of affairs in the US, but Portugal basically made it illegal to work from the office if your work could be work from home. Now, I’m not sure I appreciate that level of control of the government over the people’s lives, but it definitely worked, right?

Erica McMannes:

Yup.

Luis:

So, I’m a bit torn about, yeah, it takes off the thing, but, definitely, that was a problem that we didn’t need to face here, right? Suddenly, it didn’t matter what the company thought. If you have knowledge workers, they work from home. That’s it.

Erica McMannes:

Wow. Yeah.

Luis:

Right. So, that’s definitely something interesting. On my end, one of the things that I noticed was actually for the better, that a lot of teams that had some dysfunctions because they were hybrid because some people were in the office and those people are A citizens, and then the people remotely were B citizens, right? I saw that those companies suddenly, their processes in their team work became against what you would expect because it’s a year of prices, but they actually suddenly realized that, “Oh, if everyone is remote, the work flows much more smoothly between all the employees and between all the team members.” So, that was a data point that I was surprised by, but in retrospect, if it makes sense, it’s easier to do a full remote team than a half remote team.

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. No. That’s interesting. We’ve always been remote, so I haven’t personally experienced that hybrid level. I guess I probably did experience that when I was working for a company remotely, and I was actually the only one on the East Coast. The rest of the team is in California. Sometimes I would get those followup emails from a meeting and I’m like, “Wait. You all had a meeting,” and they’re like, “Well, yeah. It was 7:00 PM in California, so we figured it was too late for you.” So, I can see that when suddenly that cognitive process of, “Wait. We’re all remotely. Where are all the time zones? How do we do this best and bringing everybody to the table?” So, yeah, that’s probably a good hidden value.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Okay. So, I want to be respectful of your time, and we’ve been at this for a while. I’d like to ask some quick questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be. Feel free to expand as much as you’d like. I’d like to start with if you have $100 to spend with each person in your team, what would you give them, and the quick rules, you can’t give them the money or equivalent, gift cards, et cetera. You need to buy in bulk. So, you need to buy the same thing for everyone. It could be anything, tool, app, experience, whatever.

Erica McMannes:

That is a really good question. So, if I had $100 for every team member and we’re remote, so that makes it even more difficult, some kind of swag. I will just say we have not been great at buying swag as a company, and I don’t know if it’s just we’re very business-driven, but the thing is our team, those swag things make so much difference.

Luis:

Oh, they do. They do.

Erica McMannes:

So, I would buy some big tumblers that look awesome with the Instant Teams logo on it, and I might need a couple of thousand more dollars, though, to ship them to everybody.

Luis:

I mean, at DistantJob, we did the coffee cups with the team people’s names. That was a win, the coffee mugs. That was an absolute win. Everyone loved them. Everyone loved them. So, I can definitely recommend that approach. So, what about yourself? What purchase in the last year to six months has made your work life easier or more balanced?

Erica McMannes:

So, I bought a high def camera. So, I’m a Chromebook user, and also bought a MacBook Pro. So, I went to a MacBook Pro, bought a high def camera. You can tell how much difference it makes when you’re on. So, I have a very small desk. I’m sitting in the bedroom, my corner in my bedroom. So, I don’t take up a lot of real estate in the house. I like to keep it minimalist and clean, right? It’s a fun process to go through with having such a big impact in reaching so many people, yet very small in my space. I just love the mental process of how that connects how to everything. Yeah. I mean, working remotely, you got to have your technology ready to go.

Luis:

You have the coolest looking headset, by the way. It looks military. I don’t know if it is, but-

Erica McMannes:

The story behind this headset is I have two boys and they’ve been virtual schooling for a year now. So, I actually stole this from one of my kids this morning.

Luis:

Nice. It’s a gaming headset. Nice, nice, nice. I do love that. That’s my hot tip for everyone out there. Don’t bother with the professional work headsets. Get the gaming headsets. The gamers have it good.

Erica McMannes:

They’re so much more comfortable. I cannot handle things in my ear pressing hard. Yeah. These things are comfortable.

Luis:

Yeah. All right. So, let’s talk a bit about books. Are you a book gifter? Do you enjoy gifting books?

Erica McMannes:

I do. I do. I also enjoy reading books, but I probably have more time to gift them than read them nowadays.

Luis:

So, what are your most gifted books?

Erica McMannes:

I love Simon Sinek. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Simon Sinek.

Luis:

I am. I am.

Erica McMannes:

You mentioned why earlier, and so that’s one of the big books I think is just a really good … It’s a good team level, right? Everybody on the same page. I’ve just recently picked up and have gifted. It’s called Five Tips to Mindful Communication. I love it because it’s almost touchy feely, but in a business sense. It really allows you to see how you can communication with people and it challenges your own communication styles more than teaching you about how to communicate with other people. It challenges you and how you communicate, which is really where the work starts.

Erica McMannes:

So, that’s been a really good one, and the The Culture Code. I talk a lot about culture. I love working on that and being challenged by that. So, that’s been a really great one to share with our team, too.

Luis:

Awesome, awesome. So, my final question has a bit longer of a setup, so please bear with me, but let’s say that you are hosting a dinner. I know, you can’t host dinners right now, but in the future, in the future when it’s legal, when it’s proper to host a dinner. You’re hosting a dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and you’re inviting the team leads, the top decision makers at tech companies from all around the world. The topic of the night, the topic of discussion is remote work and the future of work. Now, because we’re dealing with a Chinese restaurant and you are the host, you get to pick the message that comes inside the Chinese fortune cookie. So, what is this message?

Erica McMannes:

Oh, my gosh! I’m an introvert. This is a really hard question for an introvert to process quickly.

Luis:

Sure. Don’t worry. That’s why editing exists.

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. No. I love that question. As far as the future of work goes, side note, I will answer the question, but the future of work is already here and that hit us really hard because we had a tagline at Instant Teams that was like, “The future of work,” and then 2020 hit and we’re like, “Well, that tagline is gone because we’re here now.”

Luis:

Let me do your marketing. So, you scratched it on the website, strike through and put, “The present of work,” right?

Erica McMannes:

Right, right, yeah. That would have been a fun marketing campaign. So, inside of that fortune cookie, I would say very short message would be, “Invest in yourself.” What I mean by that is there are digital skills that people are lacking, and there’s digital readiness and virtual readiness that people are really struggling with. I think that future of work is coming faster and faster as we’ve just discussed. If we have large workforces who aren’t prepared for that migration, which is going to continue to happen, we’re going to have bigger issues at hand.

Erica McMannes:

So, as thought leaders, as people who already on the cutting edge of remote work and the future of work, I think it’s our job to get other people ready in a way. So, invest in yourself. Get yourself some training. Figure out how you can take whatever brick and mortar skills that you have into a digital world because that is what is going to happen.

Luis:

All right. All right. That’s a lovely message to close on. Erica, it was a pleasure having you. Please tell our listeners where can they find more about Instant Teams, how can they figure out if they should apply or if they should consider becoming a client, and how can they find yourself. How can they continue this conversation?

Erica McMannes:

Yeah. So, you can visit us anytime at instantteams.com. We actually just updated with a new stylization and everything this past week. So, hopefully, all the information is there, whether you’re a job seeker or a customer interested in learning more how to work with Instant Teams. There is the experience and information for both sides of our story, right? They’re on the site.

Erica McMannes:

I love to connect on LinkedIn. I love following remote work and future of work hashtags on LinkedIn and there’s a really great remote workforce thought leaders and group out there. So, you could find me on LinkedIn, @EricaMcMannes, and I look forward to following along.

Luis:

Awesome. Thank you so much. Ladies and gentlemen, this was Erica McMannes, the co-founder and the COO at Instant Teams, and this was Luis with your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams, the Distant Job Podcast. See you next week.

Luis:

So, we close another episode of the Distant Job Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well.

Luis:

You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blogs/podcasts, click on your favorite episode, any episode, really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

Of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. To help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 40% faster than in the industry can do it. With that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of Distant Job Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

When you lead a remote team, there are many aspects you need to keep in mind. It’s not just about results. Its also about process, trust, connection, communication, accountability, and many other aspects.

How to measure accountability in the remote workplace? This is one of the most common questions from new remote leaders who are not sure how to deal with their teams virtually. During this podcast episode, Erica McMannes shares how accountability is based on trust. She also reveals insights about the truth of leading remote teams and how hiring remotely has made her business successful.

Highlights:

  • Importance of pre-vetting when hiring.
  • How to encourage accountability in the remote workspace.
  • What is expectation management and why does it matter.
  • Building trust remotely with both customers and team members.
  • Insights about management in Instant Teams.

Book Recommendation:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!