Building Successful Remote Teams with Graham Gill

Graham is the Co-Founder and Advisor at Global Success Advisors, a 100% remote company with workers in NY, Boston and Connecticut. He’s worked with teams all around the world and has figured out how to deal with timezones.

He’s also the Vice President of Sales at DEVCON, an anti-ad fraud software company providing digital revenue protection through patent protected technology and expert teams.

Follow our guest on their social media:

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host as usual, Luis, in this podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams.

Luis:

My guest today is Graham Gill. Graham is the co-founder and advisor at Global Success Advisors. They are focused on improving customer success and experience growth. He is also the vice president of sales at DEVCON. A company devoted to protecting websites from JavaScript vulnerabilities and exploits, data leakage and all the other black hat, hacker-ish shenanigans that you find in the internet business. So, Graham, welcome to the podcast.

Graham Gill:

Thank you very much for having me. I’m looking forward to this great topic. I’ve listened to a few of your other podcasts and very quite informative.

Luis:

I appreciate it. I appreciate it. Thanks for the listenership. Let’s get right out to it. You seem very excited when you’re talking about remote work. What do you think is most exciting about the place that remote work is right now?

Luis:

I jokingly say that every year I say, “This is the era for remote work. 2017 is going to be the year of remote work.” 2018, 2019. And I’m always partly right, but it definitely seems that it’s more of a slow march than revolution.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. It’s interesting you say that. I’ve been saying the same thing since about 2001, 2002 when I had my first “virtual” remote job. I think technology is evolving, right? So, where is it today?

Graham Gill:

I think it’s becoming a little bit more of a norm. I think you see managers hiring for it nowadays. I think you see folks asking for it as a benefit. Like free soda, beer, whatever the candies at some of the startups used to be.

Graham Gill:

I think you’re starting to see folks asking for, “Hey, can I work remote for one day a week or two days a week?” So, I think it’s now sort of shifted into the mainstream. Where before, it was sort of this cult thing. If you had a really loose supervisor, they will allow it. With technology now … I mean, look, you and I were across a couple of different ponds here having this conversation.

Luis:

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. It used to be that it was work for lazy people. In fact …

Graham Gill:

It’s funny. I mean, I’m sure we’ll get into this and you’ve gotten into with a couple of your other guests. I mean, remote work doesn’t mean you go and sit in your basement and you never have interaction. I think you find yourself working even harder at times. The longer hours. You’re able to bridge gaps with global teams. So, it’s definitely with technology.

Graham Gill:

And by the way, I mean, I started remote work and it was using Telnet and a telephone. And now, everything we’re doing now is just on a single machine with Zoom, so it’s great.

Luis:

Yeah. I mean, I have my sister who was in law. She has told me to my face that it’s very unfair that I win as much as her when she has a real job and I don’t.

Graham Gill:

Look, that was always the stigma with remote work. And you see that even now with some of the job postings. Look, as a hiring manager, I get a lot of folks reaching out to me.

Graham Gill:

And I think there still is that stigma that it’s like, “Hey, let me fill the time with ‘remote work.’” Whereas folks like yourself, myself and others, have really built a good portion of their career managing and interacting with folks globally from their house or from a coffee shop. That’s kind of the way it’s evolved.

Luis:

I don’t mean to complain from my privileged position, managing people from my MacBook Air with my fancy microphone and my nice sparkling spring water and basically living the hipster dream. Managers face usually routinely like the impostor syndrome.

Luis:

I mean, I read a lot of managers that feel like at the end of the week, their work is intangible. Their team’s work can be seen, but the work that they do, which is removing blockers, talking to people, figuring out to allocate resources, is mostly invisible. And when you’re doing that and remote, sometimes you kind of feel like a double impostor, right? Do you feel this?

Graham Gill:

Look, I’ve never felt “the impostor syndrome.” I think it’s definitely early on when I first started working in this type of environment. It allowed me to broaden my horizons, get into some different areas.

Graham Gill:

Look, I’m a parent. I coach sports. Certain people have the ability to just interact and communicate. I don’t think a remote manager who can’t communicate, who doesn’t want to show face time, whether it’s in person or on the web is suited for it.

Graham Gill:

But if you have the mentality where you can pick up the phone in the early days or jump on Zoom like most everyone does these days, Slack, I think the impostor syndrome goes down. There are tangibles, right? The soft skills, the ability to communicate, that shines through.

Graham Gill:

And look, I’ve never had a week where I said, “Gee, I haven’t accomplished anything or the team hasn’t ever accomplished anything.” You set goals, right? I think it’s very important. Again, I use the mentality and I think you’ve brought it up before where remote work doesn’t mean out of sight. And you have to make sure …

Graham Gill:

You sometimes do have to work extra hard to be visible. There’s days when you don’t feel like that you’re on your game. You still have to hold team meetings. You still have to have interviews. You still have to talk with clients. That doesn’t go away just because it’s remote.

Luis:

Yeah. I guess it’s part of a background thing. I mean, before you went remote, what was your background? Because mine was very specifically creative. So I produced content. I produced stuff. And going into a remote managing position, you shift your time from producing stuff to developing relationships.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. So my original first job out of college was at a big bank in Boston, Massachusetts. So if you want to talk about the old school mentality, [inaudible 00:06:39], 8:00 to 5:00. Everyone is in the cubes, in the office. That was where I started out.

Graham Gill:

I’ve always had the gift of gab. I enjoy talking. I enjoy communicating. I was the person who would always make sure my friends were informed of what was going on for the weekend. What family members were ailing?

Graham Gill:

So I think that mentality is translated into how do you keep a team together. It’s you have to communicate, you have to bring people together, you have to understand if folks are feeling isolated. That’s not something they kind of teach you. I think you have to pick up on the social cues.

Graham Gill:

Isolation is probably one of the biggest drawbacks you hear about remote work. “I can’t be at home because I get distracted.” Or, “I don’t interact with people during the day.” I would argue you actually interact more, because you’re kind of forced to. You have to be seen.

Graham Gill:

If you’re in a leadership position like I am in and have been in, people are coming to you on a daily basis. You have to understand their communication skills. So the one stop just for phone doesn’t always work for a few folks. You have to understand, “Are they visual? Are they texting?” So you do really have to work hard to build that rapport and be visible.

Luis:

See, I’ve worked with some people that … I definitely err myself. And I tried to get better of that, but I definitely err on the side of talking too little. Of having too little face time. So I try to force myself to have more face time with the people working under me.

Luis:

But I’ve also met people who have the opposite problem where I try to have face time with everyone whenever everyone needs me. And at the end of the day, I feel I got nothing done. I just talked to people all day. So how do you frame this in your experience?

Graham Gill:

So, I think that, that’s a real thing. That’s a real experience. There are days where you’re just constantly on the phone or you’re constantly in Slack. I don’t look at that as a negative. I think if you look at what your week looks like, and if you’re very structured, you have days where these are my communication days. I know I’m going to be on calls because it’s a team meeting or there’s one-on-ones.

Graham Gill:

So, I look at as that’s what that day is for. And then obviously, the ebb and flow. I don’t look at them as a negative where you don’t get anything accomplished. I think anytime you’re renewing clients or you’re selling goods and services, that’s a positive. So all that other stuff is a byproduct of have a day.

Graham Gill:

And by the way, it doesn’t matter where you are. That’s always going to be how days are measured, right? I mean, I still go into offices. We can talk about that. I don’t think remote means you never go in, but there will be days where I go, “Man, I traveled two and a half hours and I got nothing accomplished.” So, it goes both ways.

Luis:

We definitely need to talk about that, because for example, in DistantJob’s case, we are a fully remote company. We have salespeople, and the sales people obviously, when they’re in the office so to say, they work remotely, but they still have to visit with clients. They still have to go to conferences. So having remote work doesn’t mean that your work doesn’t take you places I guess.

Graham Gill:

100%. I think that’s one of the biggest misunderstandings or misconceptions about remote work. I’ve said it before, it doesn’t mean you go into your basement or lie in bed and that’s your work. I’m a huge proponent of if you have regional teams.

Graham Gill:

So, if you have folks and I’ll use the East Coast. So if you have folks of United States. If you have someone in Boston, a remote worker in New York, down in the Carolinas, get those folks together. Have them at least once a quarter get together. Find a central location if you’re global. Bring folks over once or twice a year.

Graham Gill:

It’s very important that you don’t lose that interpersonal communication, that bonding, that fun experience. Does it mean you have to go and stand by the “water cooler” every day? No, you can still do that virtually. You can get on.

Graham Gill:

Full disclosure to your audience, you and I got on a few minutes earlier and we talk, right? That’s the type of things that I always try to do. So if you have a meeting with me, you’ll notice that the times kind of shift. It’s not just an hour. Maybe it’s five minutes before. Maybe it’s five minutes after. And that’s to allow for that water cooler talk.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely.

Graham Gill:

Sales is a huge thing. You brought that up. You do. I mean, you have to be able to switch gears from being working by yourself to walking into a client and being on, but that’s everywhere.

Luis:

Yeah. So a couple of things there, I want to flag the sales thing for a bit later after we talk a bit your teams. But I definitely want to talk remote sales with you. But the thing that you said, which I think is so important is that the tagline for remote work used to be office optional.

Luis:

And I like to say that office optional is not the same as office forbidden. I mean, obviously, it’s nice to have those savings if you really need it, but it’s also nice if you can afford it to have some key offices in central locations where people can go and hang out and do work. That is so beneficial.

Luis:

Even if someone actually will go from being working alone at their home to getting out of their house, doing a one hour commute to the office and sitting alone at the office, just the changing environment.

Luis:

Again, to me the key is optional. It sucks and it’s a waste of time if you have to take a one hour commute every day. But if you do it once a week, maybe it’s actually nice.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. I mean, I fully believe in that. In previous lives where I started in an office, worked to virtual, started hiring virtual, we had in the office Wednesdays. And that was a day where the entire team, regardless of where they were going, was going to be in the office on a Wednesday. So that allowed folks who needed to commute, you just knew that you were going to have that.

Graham Gill:

And look, if you’re building a product or a service and you’re working product management or marketing, and you’re very visual, you love to write on the whiteboard. You love to have everyone in the room and say, “Hey, have you thought about X, Y, and Z?”

Graham Gill:

And you don’t always get that virtually. I think the world has gotten better. But for very complex concepts or very complex product or service offerings, I still find that the face-to-face, you can omit that. You really do need to have that.

Luis:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I can definitely see that. Okay. So let’s talk a bit about your team or teams. So what percentage of your team is remote and what areas of the business are handled primarily remotely?

Graham Gill:

Yeah. So right now, with Global Success Advisors, the entire organization is remote. It started as a project about eight months ago. It’s turning into a little bit more of a business. And so everyone is remote. There’s folks in Boston. I got a person in New York, and we’re talking with someone else locally here in Connecticut. So, it’s all over the place.

Graham Gill:

In the past, I’ve had teams that have been in Singapore, the UK, Denver, Salt Lake City, New York, and even virtual on the West Coast. I think one of the things that gets really lost is you can have a completely dispersed team, but you have to figure out how to work the time zones.

Graham Gill:

So right now, I’m working in 100% remote environment with quarterly meetups. DEVCON does the same thing. They get together quarterly and that makes sure that everyone from all over the globe is together.

Luis:

What’s DEVCON’s spread? I mean, I see that Global Success Advisors is coast to coast US. What about DEVCON?

Graham Gill:

DEVCON, they just moved their headquarters to Memphis. They have folks in Atlanta and then dispersed around the country. And so it is a “home base,” but it also has many of the key players are remote.

Luis:

Nice. Obviously that restricts the timezone problems, which is that they always exist. But from West Coast to East Coast, it’s more manageable. But when you are dealing with people in Singapore, what was your typical day like and how did you manage to juggle that?

Graham Gill:

Very early. Remote work, I think one of the things that gets very overlooked is the amount of compromise that needs to happen if you want to make it successful. I think we’ve all talked with folks and you hear, “It doesn’t work for our organization. I don’t like getting up early. I don’t like staying late.” It’s the compromise.

Graham Gill:

If you want to do good things, and I always do, I compromise. So it’s getting up early. Luckily, I come from a military family, so I get up early. I’ve always done that. Getting up early is not a problem. Staying late is not a problem to catch the West Coast folks, but it is a compromise.

Graham Gill:

You can’t see, but over to my left, I have my calendar up. And it’s a huge … I have to put events for my family on there so that they know that, “Hey, this is a day that dad is going to be staying late or dad is going to be getting up early for an important call. Let’s not run in right away.”

Graham Gill:

So, it’s a compromise. My family has actually grown up in this remote world and they kind of adjust to it as well. It’s compromise.

Luis:

How do you prevent that compromise? Taking into account that compromise that is necessary, how do you prevent your calendar from taking over your life?

Graham Gill:

It’s a really good question. I think at times it does, because if you’re very analytical like I am and you want to make sure that you’re touching base with everyone, there are times when you just have to block time to get stuff done. Right?

Graham Gill:

Because if not, you do get into this constant world of preparation and preparing. You could get in these cycles where things don’t get accomplished. But I think having a calendar at least says that next Thursday, I’m going to get up an extra hour early so that I can talk with Singapore or I can take a 7:00 PM East Coast conversation on a Friday night with a large Californian organization.

Graham Gill:

I always like to prepare. And you can’t prepare all the time, but if you know you have key events, you build your calendar around it.

Luis:

Yeah, that make sense. It does take.

Graham Gill:

Look, I mean, you use Calendly, right? And we booked this a couple of weeks in advance, so you knew you’re going to …

Luis:

I am very defensive. I am very defensive of my time. I used to tell myself that you know what, if I have to choose between getting enough sleep and getting fired from my job, I will risk getting fired. That’s how defensive I get, because I know that it’s very easy for me to lapse into overwork and just rack my social life and health.

Luis:

So, that is my defense mechanism. It means that sometimes maybe I’m not a model employee, but I like to think that keeping myself healthy is a long term benefit for my productivity in the company.

Graham Gill:

I don’t disagree. And I think that’s why you made the comment about getting out and going into an office or switching like … I mean, look, I have one of the requirements when I bought this house was I’d have a place to have a dedicated office studio where I can just do my thing, but I still go to coffee shops, I still co-locate with folks.

Graham Gill:

I still go into Boston, New York, New Haven, because I think it’s important to switch it up and keep it fresh. And by doing that, I also build in some of that stuff, that travel time. As much as I am a proponent of remote work, I think you do have to switch it up.

Graham Gill:

I mean, I’ve talked with folks, every time I see them, they’re lying in bed, they get their stuff done. I just personally couldn’t imagine working like that. I get dressed every day. I think that’s important that you act the role as if you’re doing work. That goes both ways. When I’m done with work, I’m in my sweatpants or my shorts. I’m physically in the same dress, but I’ve switched gears.

Luis:

Yeah, and that switching gears is very powerful and that clothing does play a part on that. It’s funny. People make fun of the dress the way you want to be or dress for the work that you want to do, but there is some truth to that. Because you’re changing your clothes, you’re changing your roles, right? So that definitely makes sense.

Graham Gill:

Also, just to tag on that, it triggers not only … I don’t know if you have a family or you have others around the house, but it triggers to my environment that, “Hey, look, work is over. Now, let’s go have some fun.” And if you don’t have the ability to switch gears remotely, that’s when you get into the burnout. That’s when you get into constantly working. And that’s when you get into not actually getting things accomplished, because you have this paralysis of just constantly being things into the ground.

Luis:

Yeah. No, for sure. For sure. So I want to go back to what we talked a bit when we started talking and it’s about sales. And I want to talk about sales people working remotely, specifically because I think that remote work moves on a continuum depending on your profession.

Luis:

I started working remotely 18 years ago before I even knew that there was such a term as remote work. I got my first editorial position, managing a team of I think at the time was six writers. And look, for writers, it’s easy because writers have almost been remote. Even 100 years ago, writers for newspapers usually did their work from their houses, not from the newspaper office, right?

Luis:

It’s like a forever remote person. Writers were remote before the Internet. They mail their work in. Now, software developers, that’s a lot of the bulk of the remote where people now. It’s different because they’re used to a certain culture of being together of pair programming one next to another, et cetera.

Luis:

So there’s a bit more tension there, but they still adapt very well to remote. What I found out is that sales people, they have no trouble doing their regular sales thing when it’s going to conferences or to setting meetings with potential clients. But then they start floundering a bit adapting to the in-office part where the prospecting for leads that the outreach for leads it’s more LinkedIn to LinkedIn or email to email instead of door to door.

Luis:

And sometimes they were a bit uncertain if they’re getting into digital marketing territory. It feels that the transition in a sales job from an in-office, go outside salesperson to keep hitting the outside squats, but now we work from home the rest of the time salesperson. Seems to be a lot harder. Have you faced this? Have you thought about this? Have you seen this in your teams?

Graham Gill:

So I’ve seen it, but I also think it’s the weird makeup of sales. There are times when I’ve even early on in my career, where I would just … Sales would come in the office and they go, “Gee, I wonder what they’re doing.” Because their job was send, wait, prospect. How do you measure the effectiveness of this? They’re walking around the office.

Graham Gill:

Again, I think it’s outlining how you want to attack your day. I think it’s really important from a sales perspective that you’re focused. You know today is going to be my prospecting day. This is the day I’m just going to hit the phones, I’m going to hit LinkedIn, I’m going to hit follow ups.

Graham Gill:

That can really be done anywhere. Think about sales traditionally. There wasn’t a lot of office work. I think bringing sales into the office is sort of a newer 25, 30-year phenomenon. Because back in the early days, everyone was out on the road selling stuff.

Graham Gill:

I have a friend that lives a couple roads down. I don’t think he’s ever been to an office. Yet, he runs a team virtually. He’s a top sales in his organization, salesman in his organization, without ever stepping foot in. But he’s very disciplined. Someone like myself, like you. You have to be very disciplined about it.

Graham Gill:

I don’t think it’s for everyone. But I also don’t think … I want to be very clear here. I don’t think that there’s one role or another that is more remote friendly or works remote. I mean, I think we’ve seen them all roles remote. It’s the person. So when I hire new folks into the team, it’s not like, “Hey, you’re hired immediately. You start working remote.”

Graham Gill:

You start in the office. You start with that camaraderie. You have to learn things. You have to acquire those skills. If it’s your first role that allows you to work remote, you can’t be a kid in a candy shop. So I think that discipline also is … That’s how sales is, right? You have to be very disciplined. It’s rinse, it’s repeat. And you have to make sure that you’re well outlined in your day.

Luis:

But there are certain … I mean I see this pattern in a lot of salespeople that they are incredible at shows, at meeting people, at face time. They have energy. They’re extroverted. They are great, smooth talkers. They can really sell the product, but then when it comes with dealing with the actual technology and there are very good working from home, there are very good software programs like lead funnel management like Pipedrive, like Salesforce, et cetera.

Luis:

But they really lack the … At least a lot of the sales people that I’ve seen over the time, they have trouble doing the transition from being the life of the party salesman into the discipline, let’s keep track of everything salesperson.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. I think again, look, some sales is an act. You have to be on. I mean, you can’t be …

Luis:

You definitely need to be on.

Graham Gill:

You know how life is right? You can’t beat the star of the show constantly, but I think it’s being able to … It comes down to, again, how do you manage yourself? How do you manage your day? You know you have to fill that funnel. You know you’re going to have to put in the grunt work.

Graham Gill:

I think one of the struggles that I’ve had in sales before is I’m very good at relationship building. Where I really have to work on is the prospecting exercise, the filling the funnel, the kind of the grunt stuff. And it’s humbling sometimes to go back to that, but it’s very easy to say, “You know what, I’m not going to do it. I’m just going to wait. I’ll get a business development or SDR rep to come in and hand me the business.”

Graham Gill:

You have to be hungry constantly. Not everyone is like that. So when you’re building a team, I think you never look for the same person and replicate. You want to have folks that have different skill sets, whether it’s from a sales perspective, whether it’s from a customer success perspective, or engineering perspective, because you’re going to figure out who’s good at those type of things.

Graham Gill:

And as a manager, you want to make sure that you have a diverse enough team that can fill in. You may be really good at hitting the trade shows, hitting the floor, not so well at prospecting. So maybe I’ll partner with you as someone, right? That’s kind of the added layer of complexity, which by the way is evident in the office, but I think it’s highlighted remotely.

Luis:

Yeah, for sure. For sure. One of the things that I like/hate about remote work is that it’s very good at exposing the weaknesses in your processes. Because when everyone is at the office, you can get by with mediocre processes. People will still happen because you can push constantly. But when you are remotely, you live or die by your processes.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. That’s a really good point. I think you see that advising some smaller organizations right now, but how do you bring a framework into place? Because I really believe … Not to be cliche, but you really need at least the four pillars of the wall, at least the buck.

Graham Gill:

It may be very wide and disjointed, but you have to have some framework in place that you can then refine. And I don’t think it’s fair to bring in new employees into an organization and not have at least some governing principles or those four pillars, or six pillars or whatever your organization happens to be. And then expect that there’s going to be a success.

Graham Gill:

I think you really need to have processes, at least for folks to use as a starting point. Use them to help make the process better, but don’t just throw new employees into the fire and expect that there’s going to be immediate success if there’s no framework in place.

Luis:

Absolutely. It’s super important. Hey there, it’s Luis. Welcome to the intermission of the DistantJob Podcast. If you’re listening to this podcast, there’s a very big chance that you’re interested in building a great remote team. And to build a great remote team, you need great remote employees. That’s where DistantJob comes in.

Luis:

So here’s how it works. You tell us the kind of position that you need to fill. We talk to you, we try to figure out not only what are the exact requirements that, that person should have, but also we try to figure out who would be a perfect fit for your company culture, because we really believe that, that matters.

Luis:

Then once we have an exact picture of what we’re looking for, we’re off to the races. Our recruiters tap into their global network. And we filter people very well so that you don’t waste your time interviewing people that are never going to be of interest to you.

Luis:

We make sure, because we are techies and our recruiters are techies as well. So when people get to you, they are already preselected and you just have to decide between the cream of the crop.

Luis:

And once you make your selection, we handle all the paperwork, we handle HR for you, we handle payments, and you get a full-time remote employee that’s among the best on the world and managed entirely by you, by your processes and following your culture. If this sounds good, visit us at www.DistantJob.com. And without further ado, let’s get back with the show. Thank you for listening.

Luis:

So I want to step back a bit to my original question. In this virtual world, in a completely virtual company, in a completely remote company, how do you feel is the relationship between sales and marketing? Because again, with the prospective, with the finding leads, et cetera, I feel that when there was an office mentality and when it was a physical business they were two very separate camps.

Luis:

Marketing was more about branding and setting up stuff and shows and stuff like that. But when it’s all digital, it feels that the things overlap a bit. So how do you feel is the relationship there?

Graham Gill:

That’s a really good question. My answer isn’t a cop-out but I think it really depends on the folks you have in those roles. I do agree with you, the lines tend to blur. That’s where their special attention needs to take place.

Graham Gill:

I think in a traditional sense, marketing or product marketing gives air coverage for sales. Sales goes out that they bring prospects in, you pull them through and then you provide feedback. And you’re always having … The message in sales is out a little bit ahead of the product.

Graham Gill:

I bring product into this because where I see so many small organizations … I’ve been in this before. Sales, marketing and product, the holy triangle of a business aren’t necessarily in sync. And so you see other folks, you see sales trying to create their own collateral and kind of tailor the message where that should be marketing’s job.

Graham Gill:

And so you really have to make sure that you have strong leaders in sales, marketing and product for a virtual organization and team to work.

Luis:

Yeah. I don’t know if you agree or if this is your experience, but I see there’s a difference in short, in the length of time where that is taken into account when you’re planning your strategy. I see that product tends to think long term. Marketing tends to think medium term and sales thinks to term short term, partly because of the incentives. Because most sales position are commission based.

Luis:

So they really want to keep their eye on the ball and on the next commission, whereas marketing is taking a bit of a longer game. And sometimes this creates a bit of a disjointment between departments if you .

Graham Gill:

I do agree. Now, I also don’t believe that, that’s unique to remote. Again, we talked about highlighting, accenting the fault or the pitfalls. I think it highlights it, right? Because when you’re remote and your team is remote, you may have a meeting where you come together. Here’s the marketing schedule. Here’s the events we’re going to go to from marketing and sales perspective. Here’s the type of clients.

Graham Gill:

And then you kind of go off and you start doing it. Marketing is very creative, so it’s heads down. What happens when you’re kind of heads down? I mean, you’re creative. You tend to lose track of timing of where things are. So it really is making sure that you have those check-ins where marketing and sales will sit down in an office, but will they necessarily do that multiple times a week?

Graham Gill:

And sometimes you need that in a virtual world to make sure that, that timing is in sync. And again, there are great leaders who can do that. But it’s not something you kind of just learn overnight in my opinion.

Luis:

Yeah, it definitely takes some work. Actually, that’s the whole reason, to asses how it answers for those kinds of questions is the whole reason why I started this podcast in the first place. I’m very glad that I built a solid listenership, and that a lot of people seem to enjoy it, but it was usually the main purpose was really to educate myself. So I definitely agree that it’s certainly not something that you can learn overnight .

Graham Gill:

Yeah. Each situation is different. And I don’t mean this to you, but I do take offense where folks come at remote relationships and say that the problems or the challenges are unique, because it’s remote.

Graham Gill:

I would argue 20 years ago or 18 years ago. Yeah, you could use that. You didn’t have that face to face. It was harder to hear over a phone line. I think the challenges that remote workers have today are the same ones that folks had at IBM or any large bank many years ago.

Graham Gill:

You have to have those interpersonal skills. You have to be willing to go three desks over and talk to the marketing or product or salesperson. You have to be approachable and say, “Hey, look, your sales strategy isn’t working, because it doesn’t tie to the product vision.” Those are age old dilemmas, and it’s not unique to being remote.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. So I want to take another step back because we always say it’s a … As we talk, I tend to try to flag things to go back later, just because it’s nice to let the conversation develop. It’s so rarely that I get someone from a company that’s all about security in the podcast that I really would be remiss to take the chance to ask you a bit about remote work and security.

Luis:

Because I’ve had cases where I’m talking with people. In fact, a couple of months ago, we were working on finding a remote position for a banking institution. And they ended up stopping with the process because they were really afraid that the kind of sensitive data that they work with wouldn’t be in good hands if they’re working with someone outside US.

Luis:

So, I wanted to ask you about how do you handle. And I understand that the companies that you work with are fully US based, but still there is mostly the same problems with internet connections and WiFi and the security thereof. How safe do you feel remote is? And what tools and rules do you ask your team to apply in order to security?

Graham Gill:

That’s a great question. And again, I come from an ad tech security background. I’m a privacy and data person at heart, being a geek for many years. Most importantly, you have to keep business and pleasure separate. I mean, you can’t see me but I have my email machine next to me. I’m on a work machine talking to you. I recommend VPNs if you’re working in a coffee shop.

Luis:

Do you have any favorite?

Graham Gill:

I actually like NordVPN up until about a week ago when they had some security breaches, but that’s one of the better ones. Again, I look for ones that don’t hold from a data privacy perspective once they don’t collect user information.

Graham Gill:

I mean, everyone should be using an ad blocker. My friends in advertising won’t like me saying that, but the reality is, people are trying to get your information. People are trying to exploit JavaScript.

Luis: in marketing and running ads, then it will be a problem if you use an ad blocker.

Graham Gill:

It’s funny. Look, I worked for an organization before where we built an ad blocker and tried to justify that, “Hey, we were helping marketers.” But if you’re privacy conscious … I’m not really worried in this day and age. I really stress.

Graham Gill:

And with DEVCON, the head of security there, really FBI background, so he’s constantly preaching, understanding your workstation. I still get up on my Windows machine and hit Windows L and lock my machine.

Graham Gill:

I started in banking, so I’m not really worried about it. I don’t jump on check sports scores on my work machine. I mean, we’re in a world where most people have multiple devices, but it is a concern.

Graham Gill:

I have a family member who’s a pretty big stock broker setting up a place down south. You’ll enjoy this. They sent a three man crew to evaluate his workspace.

Luis:

Wow.

Graham Gill:

“Could someone shine a camera in through the window?” All sorts of weird stuff that I never thought about, but I guess you’re right. Banking and financial institutions are very worried about that. I don’t. I think everyone is pretty aware of the implications nowadays and whatnot.

Luis:

So among your team, the teams that you lead, you don’t have even recommendations in place? You don’t talk to them about that?

Graham Gill:

Oh, we do. I mean, there’s PDFs about … I mean, even basic reminder security. Don’t share a password. Use a password manager. Obviously, if you have a machine … You have network policies, right? So you can remote network policies back when we were at Evidon.

Graham Gill:

Every 30 days, we were getting recycling passwords. And that’s the way to do it. Just because you’re remote, it doesn’t mean you lose some of the corporate security policies. You have to have good password protection. Reminders don’t go on the web and download from whatever site you might go to. It’s good hygiene. No, I’m not worried about it, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to educate.

Luis:

Yeah. I actually think that whoever hires a remote employee should actually provide them with a corporate laptop. And if possible, they’re still not a technology … I mean, not a lot of laptops have this technology, but if possible, a laptop that will only unlock with your fingerprint and that will lock as soon as you leave your place.

Luis:

So for example, it shouldn’t be … If they forget their laptop in a coffee shop, which that doesn’t reflect well on them as employees in the first place. But if it happens, you want that laptop to be as unbreakable as it’s reasonably possible to expect.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. Look, all the remote environments that I’ve worked in have the ability to remote wipe phones. You have to have corporate policy on, especially if you’re dealing with financial or contracts or any sensitive data. I mean, you have to be careful in this day and age.

Graham Gill:

I mean, we hear about data breaches left and right, because sometimes contractor left a laptop at McDonald’s or Starbucks or wherever they did, which I can’t imagine leaving a $1500 computer accidentally, but it does happen.

Graham Gill:

Yeah, I preach a strong, just personal security, being aware of your surroundings, making sure you understand what information is being exposed if you’re on a train or plane, screen protector so people next to you can’t look in. I mean, there’s all sorts of ways to do it. But yeah, you have to remind you have that policies and procedures in place.

Luis:

So just more on a data security and privacy sort of way and not necessarily tied to corporate environments. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to securing your personal data? I mean, I know for one that I’ve been in a quest for the past two to three years to wean myself off Google, but I just found out that it’s impossible to conduct my work without eventually logging into a Google service. I mean, Gmail especially gets me all the time.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. I’m always surprised that people are surprised that a company that gave away Gmail with “unlimited storage” in 2004, I mean, you could see what the business model is. I used Android. I have iOS devices. I use ad blockers constantly. I use a VPN. I just don’t like people …

Graham Gill:

I’m not doing anything crazy. I just don’t like to be inundated with ads and with the ability to build profiles on me. Google is that weird one because like you, I’m tied to it, but I do use other services. I think Microsoft has come a long way with Office 365 and some of their security policies.

Graham Gill:

What I see whether it’s family members, friends, when I see teammates, logging into Facebook on a work machine with no ad blocker and no VPN and wondering like, “What’s going on?” That just doesn’t sound right to me.

Graham Gill:

I think one of the things that as a remote leader, you have to preach data security. You have to make sure folks understand the ramifications of exposing everything to the web, and then bringing your personal life into your work life. Because that where things start to go awry.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely agree. I have this weird story that happened to me a couple of years ago that people … Sometimes, I tell this story and people think that I’m paranoid, but I always use it to illustrate the point.

Luis:

I broke up with the person that I was already living with. We had a several multi-year long relationship and we didn’t make it public. We didn’t change our Facebook statuses or anything like that, but I did message a couple like four to five close friends to let them know about our breakup, and I did it on Facebook Messenger. That’s the thing that people use in Portugal a lot.

Luis:

And overnight, I immediately started being bombarded with dating sites ads. And that really triggered it for me. I mean, obviously, it wasn’t. I mean, you could argue that this was useful for me. They were showing me a product that I was now in the market for, but there was just something so sleazy about it, I guess.

Graham Gill:

Yeah. I mean, look, we actually have a machine upstairs that we run. I think it’s got an IP address from Germany now and it’s kind of like a test machine. We go on there and it’s interesting. There’s no ad blockers on it. And it’s sort of like a living experiment to see what happens.

Graham Gill:

And it’s funny. Everyone searches for boots and then all of a sudden they get ads for boots. You with your breakup many years ago, you started getting dating. It’s funny, my mother who’s 78 years old now, she’s coming to me asking about an ad blocker. She just wants to simply read the local newspaper and she’s wondering why the Christmas present ideas that she’s looking for the kids are showing up now as ads.

Graham Gill:

I think people are starting to get the sense, but yeah, it’s mind bending to realize what these organizations know about you. And look, you’re never going to fully escape it. But when you’re dealing with sensitive data, you really need to think about who you’re logged into.

Graham Gill:

I mean, everything comes at a cost. You think about the social widgets on company websites where it has the quick share to Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, that comes out.

Luis:

Facebook now knows that you visit that website, right?

Graham Gill:

Right. And so how do you think they know who you are? I mean, you go to visit XYZ new site, you share the article, and your little picture from Facebook is there. I mean, think about the ramifications of what your data is. I think that’s something that gets overlooked. People don’t take responsibility for data.

Luis:

And for people who think that this is outside the business, it’s not. It’s not outside the business world, because if some of your … I mean, if you offer health insurance to your employees, and if some of those employees start searching or even sending emails about Parkinson’s, about neurodegenerative diseases, your insurance premium will go up.

Graham Gill:

Yes.

Luis:

That’s the scary thing.

Graham Gill:

Companies buy and sell data. And so one of the things when I’m working with remote teams, I stress, we’re giving you a machine. That’s for work. I don’t want you on Facebook. You have your phone for that. You have your Chromebook. You have whatever you have. But when you’re working, because what you don’t want to have is you don’t want to allow for exploits or data collection to happen that brings your businesses to play, right?

Luis:

Exactly.

Graham Gill:

It just doesn’t make sense.

Luis:

Exactly. Okay. So, let’s talk a bit about hiring. You are a hiring manager, of course. I mean, obviously, there’s something to be said about hiring people that are technically competent at what they’re supposed to do. But I’m really interested in what do you look for hiring people specifically, knowing that they will be working remotely.

Luis:

You’ve already talked that in some cases, you want them to have an office period before they go remote, but I assume you’re thinking about the remote status. So what are some kind of the skills, traits, characteristics that you think make a good remote hire?

Graham Gill:

Communication. I mean, one of the biggest things … I participate a lot sometimes to a fault in the hiring process for my roles. I want to make sure that someone can have a conversation. I want to make sure that someone is comfortable sitting down, like you and I for an hour. Being able to hold attention. Because that’s how the communication is going to be. That’s how remote is going to be.

Graham Gill:

I do a lot of research in terms of the type of company folks are coming from, what their experiences are. To see if there’s any transferable skills. We talked about transferable skills in the offensive environment. There has to be a transferable skill into remote work. So is the person attentive? Do they show up on time for meetings?

Graham Gill:

Like all the basic stuff that you do when you evaluate anyone face to face, you really have to do remotely and multiple conversations, right? Some folks get really up and can do the face to face interview, video for a half hour, but can they follow it up? Is there a follow up communication? That’s really important to me.

Graham Gill:

You hear a lot about like, “Hey, do thank you notes still matter? Does connections on LinkedIn matter?” Those are the things that I play into as a hiring manager, because that shows me that someone, A, really wants to pursue the role and also that they’re going to do that with customers.

Graham Gill:

I think it’s very easy to jump on the phone or WebEx with a client, show them a demo, and then kind of wait for them. Well, are you going to make those connections and reach out to them?

Luis:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Again, we go back to the sales thing, the follow up game is extremely important. I’ve known a lot of salesperson that are great at the follow up game on telephone. But the reality is that telephone is not where the game is anymore. I mean, some people still are very persuaded by the power of the call. But I mean if my phone … If you call me, I automatically hate you.

Graham Gill:

Yes.

Luis:

I mean, we have become a very phone call sensitive society, I think.

Graham Gill:

Yeah, but you know what’s interesting, I’ve actually found that with remote working and dealing with folks, there are certain things where either I’m really long winded and I’m trying to get an idea out or I’ll actually text someone or message them and say, “Hey, do you have 10 minutes today to jump on the phone or jump on WebEx?”

Graham Gill:

So I’ve actually brought the phone back into the process a little bit. I agree, though, if someone calls me I’m like, “Oh, boy.” But yeah, I think there are still a need for … I think the way the phone conversation is evolved though is really important. You have to know when and why. The heads up. “Do you have time to talk?” Is kind of the new thing I’ve been working on.

Luis:

That’s a good one. “Do you have time to talk?” I am a very big fan of Calendly. As you know, we’ve used … I like that it helps me set the meetings on my own terms. There’s definitely something to be … I know that some people are more like fans of your approach, where they don’t want to feel like they’re being funneled into a Calendly schedule and they prefer the, do you have time to talk method.

Graham Gill:

I was actually having this conversation with someone. Maybe last week, where we were talking about one of the skills that I’ve really found a need to is understanding that remote management accents how different people are at doing work. Even though they may get from point A to B, but the route they take is different. I guess that’s a bad example because it’s only A and B.

Graham Gill:

I have certain folks where I’ve managed in the past where they weren’t good at that weekly one on one. They didn’t want Thursday at 11:00 because they might not be ready. But what they would do is they would keep a long list and they would kind of refine their thoughts. And then they would say, “Hey, in the next two days, can we get our one on one in?”

Graham Gill:

And then I was slotted and I found that, that approach and this person who did that, they were so prepared, so succinct that we actually move … The half hour would fly by because we were getting so much accomplished. But if I had that Thursday at 11:30, it would be pulling teeth. And I think one on ones are really the employee’s time, right?

Luis:

Yeah.

Graham Gill:

So understanding what works for the employee. I certainly would love to have the face to face, but if it’s not working, what works for you? Because it’s your time. And I think that’s something that remote managers have to kind of get adjusted to, right?

Luis:

Oh, yeah. That’s a good tip. It’s something to consider for sure. Okay. I’m aware that we’ve been at this for a while now, and I appreciate the conversation. It’s always a good sign when I take longer than I plan to. So I do want to get a few rapid fire questions in …

Graham Gill:

Go ahead.

Luis:

… before we finish. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be of course. Feel free to go as long, as short as you can do.

Luis:

If you could buy a tool in bulk, it can be hardware, it can be software, to the tune of, let’s say, $100 per person for everyone working remotely with you, what would you give them?

Graham Gill:

So not hardware, and not software or.

Luis:

No, hardware or software, it doesn’t matter. It needs to be the same for everyone. That’s the main criteria.

Graham Gill:

A good VPN.

Luis:

Okay.

Luis:The previous recommendation was NordVPN or are you jumping over after the breach?

Graham Gill: I’m stuck with them for three years and I still recommend that.

Luis:

Okay, good. Any particular reason?

Graham Gill:

I like the fact that they don’t have user logs. They have multiple connections from different areas. You’re not limited. TunnelBear is another good one that I’ve used in the past and recommend in the future. Not too technical. But yeah, those …

Luis:

[crosstalk 00:55:34] as well.

Graham Gill:

Yeah.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So what about yourself? What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year?

Graham Gill:

iPad. I take a lot of notes. And I used to have a stack of the nice writing things. I would leave them someplace or I’d spill coffee on them. So my iPad. I’ve tried a bunch of different note taking applications. I like OneNote now.

Graham Gill:

Again, we talked about the Google versus Microsoft, I’ve been trying to give Microsoft a chance. I got my Apple Pencil on my iPad. It’s really helped me stay organized and on track.

Luis:

Nice. What do you feel is the advantage of OneNote versus the default notes app? Because I know the default notes app has pretty robust pencil support.

Graham Gill:

I’m OS agnostic. So in front of me, I have a Raspberry Pi, I have another Linux machine, I have a Windows machine. I’m talking you on my apple machine. I like cross device, cross platform. And so Microsoft has done a really good with that with OneNote.

Luis:

Okay, awesome. What book or books have you gifted the most? Or if you don’t give books, which ones have influenced you the most?

Graham Gill:

So I recently read Three Signs of a Miserable Job. That was actually recommended to me by a previous CEO. Great book. I’d recommend it to everyone

Luis:

Nice, awesome. So, final question, the Chinese fortune cookie question. So if you’re hosting a dinner in a Chinese restaurant, for tech entrepreneurs, leaders at tech companies, CEOs, CTOs, hiring managers, and there’s a round table about the future of work and remote work, what is the fortune cookie message that you as the host are going to have delivered in the fortune cookies?

Graham Gill:

So I’m not good at coming up with the one liners off the bat, but I think it would be some something around the removing the stigma of remote work that in the future … I mean, we started this conversation where it’s now becoming the norm.

Graham Gill:

I think it would be something along the effect of remote work is just work. I mean, it’s really, at the end of the day, we keep trying to add the remote before. At the end of the day, I work every day. I work long hours, you work long hours, right? It doesn’t matter if that’s remote.

Luis:

Okay. That’s a good way to finish on. When people want to continue the conversation with you, or if they want to avail themselves of the services that you provide at Global Success Advisors, or if they even want to learn more about DEVCON and how can DEVCON can help their companies, all of that, where can they reach you? Where can they find more about the places where you work?

Graham Gill:

Sure. I’m a huge proponent of LinkedIn. So I’m on LinkedIn. It’s G Gill at LinkedIn, Graham at Global Success Advisors, and I’m sure you’ll put that in your link, but that’s the best way to get in touch with me.

Graham Gill:

Again, I’m actively participating in a lot of LinkedIn forums about remote work. I’ve had these conversations with a lot of folks. It’s something that I really believe and I think that it’s … I’ve enjoyed being on your podcast, but also listen to the others.

Graham Gill:

I think there’s different perspectives of why it does and doesn’t work. I wish you great success in the future. I love to come back on and continue the conversation.

Luis:

I would love that. I would love that. Let’s definitely have around two some time.

Graham Gill:

Great. Well, thank you.

Luis:

Thank you so much. Have a great day.

Graham Gill:

Same to you.

Luis:

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And 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/blog/podcasts. Click on your favorite episode, any episode really and subscribe.

Luis:

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. And, 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.

Luis:

Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, DistantJob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of DistantJob Podcast.

More ways to listen:

Technology is evolving to the point that remote work is starting to become a norm. Employees are starting to ask for remote work benefits and Graham believes it’s starting to shift into the mainstream.

In this podcast episode, Graham Gill shares his experience working as a remote leader and what he’s done to manage and build a successful remote team. He tries to find people with different skills when looking for people to join their team but the one skill that they all have to have in common is good communication.

In his opinion, remote work isn’t for everyone but it can definitely be a skill that can be acquired. Something he does when he hires a new team member is first to take them to an office to show them everything they need to learn and how to outline their day so they can then work remotely.

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