How to Grow a Deep Culture In Your Remote Work Company, with Amanda Ono

Gabriela Molina

Amanda Ono is the VP of customer experience and people and culture at Resolver, a crawl business and worldwide leader in defining risk intelligence. She has spent her career learning to maximize the company’s most valuable investment, its people. Boasting over 20 years of international experience in organizational development, HR consulting, and change management. She’s implemented successful talent and leadership initiatives in six countries across four continents. 



Amanda Ono

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Luis Magalhaes:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host Luis and my guest today is Amanda Ono. Amanda is the VP of customer experience and people and culture at Resolver, a crawl business and worldwide leader in defining risk intelligence. She has spent her career learning to maximize the most valuable investment the company has, it’s people. Boasting over 20 years of international experience in organizational development, HR consulting, and change management. She’s implemented successful talent and leadership initiatives in six countries across four continents. That’s a lot of countries and continents, Amanda, welcome to the show.

Amanda Ono:

Sure is yes. Thank you, really happy to be here.

Luis Magalhaes:

Is this a fair introduction or did I miss something important?

Amanda Ono:

I think that’s a wonderful introduction. Probably the other thing I would just supplement is over the past six years during my time at Resolver, I’ve certainly gained some mastery in figuring out how to help companies scale, which is a totally different mindset rather than being in maintenance mode. How do we help companies grow and continue to be successful?

Luis Magalhaes:

Got it, got it. Okay. So let’s jump into your history with remote work. How did you first come to remote work and how has it shaped your career?

Amanda Ono:

Like many people remote work was put onto us during COVID. We certainly went through the journey of being totally disrupted as a business, as many people were, to then trying to figure out how do we take this disruption and move it to an opportunity. And I think a lot of remote work really aligned for how we think about being flexible with our employees. And so for the past two and a half, three years, we’ve been operating in what we call a flexible first environment, which is mainly remote, but certainly some people are starting to trickle back to the office. So it’s been an incredible journey. I mean, I think we’ve learned like many businesses that shifting from an in-office environment to a remote environment provides many opportunities for our businesses as well as our customer base, but certainly comes with challenges. So we’ve been accidental remotes, we’ll say, but certainly flourishing now.

Luis Magalhaes:

So let’s see, as far as silver lining goes, what is that, one to 10?

Amanda Ono:

Silver lining, I would say it’s a very strong eight. I think the flexibility of work really fits in a technology business. We were very fortunate to have our technology enabled so people could easily go remote. I think you can’t undermine the importance of having the right tools to help people be remote. I think we had really thought a lot about how to make aspects of our culture meaningful and what I think of as deep culture. Certainly we had an office that had lots of bells and whistles. You had your ping pong table. You had your beer fridge, but that’s easy stuff, that’s actually not that hard to do. What’s hard is to create a deep culture where people really want to be part of your organization.

Amanda Ono:

And so what we found is we transitioned to be remote, that was still true, but we had to work hard at it. You know, really have to be deliberate about what your culture means when you can’t see a person face to face anymore when you can’t necessarily connect with them in informal ways. And so we’ve worked hard at that. I think a lot of companies that just tried to say, okay, you’re remote now, let’s operate the same. You just log in and you log into Zoom or Teams, you had a bit of an uphill battle. So I think we really made sure we invested in enabling people to be remote and for them to be successful.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right. So that’s interesting. So those are typical challenges, but nonetheless challenges that are hard to solve. I want to talk a bit about the concept that you introduced of deep culture, because I hear a lot of talk about culture, but I don’t hear the term deep culture a lot. So would you care to expand what you mean by deep culture and how have you found that it scaled into remote work?

Amanda Ono:

For sure. I think it was a concept that Edgar Schein made popular and it was the concept of an iceberg. So there’re the things you see that maybe you’re right on your wall or your website, and then there’re the things that happened below the iceberg. And so as we were building Resolver, we kind of said, who do we want to be? And then let’s go build the mechanisms and supports to make that true. I think sometimes people aren’t as intentional about building culture. So then what happens if you’re remote, you don’t necessarily have the really strong foundations to connect and hold people together. So one example is we agreed that we really want it to work with really smart, talented people. I think most companies want to do that. So then how do you build a recruiting practice and a talent acquisition practice that helps make that true?

Amanda Ono:

A second thing for us is we really wanted to enable our managers to be successful coaches. And so we were thoughtful about calling managers coaches rather than traditional managers. And we invested in training around emotional intelligence, around creating a one-on-one culture around feedback. The third pillar we really looked at is we want it to be an inclusive environment. And for me inclusion, yes, it’s about representation. But again, on the deeper side, it really came back to us for something as foundational as pay equity. So that was one of the very early things that we did as we grew Resolver. So those are three of the key pillars that we kind of focused in on and said, yeah, that’s going to be important for us and it’s going to be important for our business. And so rather than just being something that’s written on the wall or something that you talk about once a month, when you build those mechanisms deep into your culture, when you remove the office, they still exist.

Luis Magalhaes:

Got it. So what does it look like making that a part of the company day-to-day? How do you make those? Because I mean, what I see in a lot of companies is that they have their hands full, just making sure they have good product and they take good care of their clients. And obviously I’m talking, if you do that, if you have great product, you take good care of your clients, you’re already one of the better companies in the world.

Amanda Ono:

Totally.

Luis Magalhaes:

And that can be a tall order. That can be a tall order. So how do you fit these very mindful things about culture in a way that they’re constantly visible and people keep them to heart?

Amanda Ono:

So I think one of the things that we did really well when we were in office that translated very effectively when we went remote, was having very strong communication channels. And when I started within my career, I think I undervalued the importance of good communication and very clear and frequent communication. I love the adage from advertising that I think you need to see a message seven to eight times before you start to internalize it. And that’s certainly true for employee communications. And so we built in these systems where people learned to have these rituals around when they’re going to hear from us. So very, very easy, small win for us is we started with a weekend review and the CEO would write just a summary of what was happening in our business, the successes we were having, maybe some of the challenges and the failures, and that has evolved to now we can review that other leaders in our companies take hold of.

Amanda Ono:

So it’s a very small win that you can have, but it certainly provides people visibility into the business. I think the second thing that we did and we really modeled and we enabled our coaches to be effective with in terms of communication, is to help disrupt the idea that conflict is negative. We really believe that conflict and healthy conflict that’s done respectfully is an important part of helping businesses grow. And so we did training with folks on leveraging the concepts from Kim Scott’s Radical Candor to talk about what does it mean to tell someone directly where they stand to do it with respect. And then I think the third thing that we did to really make this make communication and how we connect it with people a deep part of our culture is within onboarding. We used a tool called Twenty One Toys and essentially what it is it’s a toy that helps develop and harness empathy.

Amanda Ono:

So how do you use play to work with your colleagues to understand what empathy means and how the power of connection is so important? Some of our most successful uses of Twenty One Toys have actually been doing it remotely where you have different people who have the toy, they’re trying to build it over Zoom and trying to give instructions to their colleagues, to help them understand what empathy really is. And so I think when you put these things deep into your culture, you can have simultaneously a culture where you challenge each other and sometimes there’s conflict, but as well, be very empathetic. I think that becomes a deep part of what we do. So it was weekly communication, it was coaching our managers to manage the conflict as well as really making empathy part of our onboarding and throughout how we manage team building was highly effective for us in terms of communication.

Luis Magalhaes:

That makes a lot of sense. And the conflict part, I think is especially relevant to remote work because, well, I usually like to say that when you’re looking for diversity in your company, you shouldn’t stop in at your country. You probably want people from many other countries and that something that remote work enables. But it’s also fair to say that people in different countries tend to have different cultures, and there’s a lot of variety in how different cultures handle conflict specifically. Some cultures are very aggressive on handling conflict and some tend to be very submissive. And then when you have people from all of these cultures in a business, if you’re not mindful about it, it’s very easy to have some always voicing their opinions and some never voicing their opinions, some saying what needs to be done and then others never feeling comfortable in saying no.

Luis Magalhaes:

So I think that it’s important to emphasize that conflict doesn’t necessarily mean fights, which could be good natures. When creative meetings, if you’re a healthy company, you can often have good natured fights, but it doesn’t need to be just that. It can be something as easy as someone being able to say, hey, I can commit to that. I have too much on my plate. When I started doing remote work, I found that kind of thing came much harder to people used to a certain culture than others. So I don’t know if you’ve found this, but I do think that the conflict pays an important part on this, wouldn’t you say?

Amanda Ono:

Absolutely. And we’ve definitely experienced that with working from folks across different countries. We’ve especially experienced that with our team based out of ed in India. I think different cultures are raised to have different perceptions of hierarchy. And we certainly in North America have normalized that it’s okay to manage up and to provide your opinion to a leader. Whereas in other cultures, that hierarchy is very strong and that’s not something that would be deemed acceptable. So I think there’s a couple things. Yeah, that’s right. So I think there’s a couple of things, I think first and foremost, it’s about continuing to model the behavior of the fact that we will share opinions. And one thing the CEO and the leadership team of the organization I believe does really well is when people ask questions or have challenges, we respond and we respond with very thoughtful answers that try to address the context behind why we have made decisions.

Amanda Ono:

And I think it’s a key thing that one of my mentors taught me is that a leader shares what happens behind the decision so that people recognize that given the same set of choices and trade-offs, they might make the same choice. So I think modeling the behavior is really important. I think another really wonderful thing that happened with remote work is we started to be better at organizing ourselves around meetings and meetings is one of those things that often people cringe at the classic meme is this meeting could have been an email, which is true in many circumstances. But what we did is we became really thoughtful about what that looked like and made sure that there was an agenda. There was an outcome, there was prep material. So we’re a big culture now where if you’re coming to a meeting, you pre-read and you do the reading beforehand.

Amanda Ono:

And so the purpose of the meeting is discussion, it’s not presenting. And I think that’s really important and it does help equalize a little bit for folks that might come from cultures where it’s not as accepted to speak up because they’ve done the prep work. They’re not made to think on the spot, they can come with their ideas. The second thing we did with that is started engaging in some technologies. So there’s a great technology called Easy Retro that allowed us to when there was a decision to be made, we started enabling voting. And so the voting was anonymous. The voting wasn’t if you had say nine people vote on one idea and four people vote on the other, that didn’t mean it was that the choice that got the nine votes was going to be the winner, but it did mean that you could have a really vigorous discussion about why.

Amanda Ono:

And I think the really important thing that using some of those tools did for us is it took the power out of the room. And what I mean by that is it’s very common that if you see the leader in the room vote a certain way or make a decision a certain way, you’re going to follow. So when you remove that capability and you allow people to share their ideas more anonymously, the discussion can become a lot more rich. And I think had we not been put into a remote environment, we wouldn’t necessarily been as deliberate about that, but it’s been an incredible outcome to really engage people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different thought processes, and I think our organization has become much richer as a result.

Luis Magalhaes:

Interesting. Those are some interesting processes and it shows that you’ve put a lot of thought in into them. So it make sense, it goes in hand in hand with what you said about being mindful about how the things are run, especially now that you’re remote. I wanted to circle back to something that you said, correct me if I’m wrong, but you said that you asked managers to manage as coaches. Is that an accurate statement? Okay.

Amanda Ono:

Yes.

Luis Magalhaes:

This is very interesting to me because once upon a time, and in a previous life, I did take a coaching certification and I did that for a while. And I find that translating that to remote work is a bit of a mixed bag because on one hand, most coaches do their work mostly remotely. When I was a coach, it was mostly handled to calls and check-ins and sometimes even texting, but there was a lot of emphasis, certainly in the certification that I did. And I noticed that as well, when I was practicing coaching, when at least having the first meeting and possibly then a meeting semi regularly in person to deal with the empathy situation. Part of a coach’s job is to develop a lot of empathy for the client. So how did this translate into your manager’s function once they went remote?

Amanda Ono:

This is a great question. So I think we were fortunate that many managers had existing relationships, but certainly over the past two and a half years, we have hired a great deal of people that managers have never met in real life. I certainly have many people on my team that are the same. So I think the translation point, it’s a couple full. So one is being deliberate about how you understand what matters to your coachee. And I think it’s really important to build trust. I think a lot of building trust is listening and validating someone’s experience. Just really understanding even things like saying remote work can be hard. I have kids at home. I have maybe taking care of an elderly parent plus some kids aren’t necessarily in school. So I think we did provide some training for our managers to help people understand what some of those signs might look like when people were potentially edging towards burnout or not able to manage effectively.

Amanda Ono:

So I think carving time and making sure people are actually trained on how they can start to build trust. I know it sometimes sounds funny. Most people might think it’s natural, but I do think competencies around emotional intelligence can be developed and built and certainly relationship building is part of it. I think the other thing is that we really encourage our coaches to one one-on-one a month is really tactical and making sure they understand what’s happening in the business. And then one of the one-on-ones in the month is really about career development, where you carve time to talk about how the person is growing and how do you set those career plans to chat about it? Are you tracking towards it? Are you building the skills and competencies that are going to take you to your next role? I think that the final thing that helps build trust is creating performance conversations.

Amanda Ono:

So we do performance conversations four times a year, and I think you definitely build trust in that way because you’re coaching forward. You’re really invested in the person’s future growth rather than an annual review that looks back and is often seen as, okay, these are the things you did well, these are the things you didn’t do so well. So again, I think some of those aspects of deep culture around performance also help us really continue to build trust because certainly I personally tend to trust the people the most who give me good news, but also not great news. If someone only tells you all the stuff that’s great about you, they’re probably missing something. And so I think actually by proxy of being very open with people’s performance and very clear about how they need to grow and be successful, that’s also a mechanism to help build trust.

Luis Magalhaes:

Certainly the biggest fall from graces I have seen in businesses over the years have been from people who developed the reputation of shooting the messenger. Right? They were invariably very smart people who managed to achieve a great deal of success in their own, but people would more and more people stop telling them the truth. And when people stop telling you the truth, you stop hitting home runs because you didn’t know what’s happening.

Amanda Ono:

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. And I think for us, we also do training and development for our resolve rights on how to accept feedback because you’re spot on. You can create a very negative feedback loop if you are creating a scenario where you provide someone honest feedback that’s really targeted at their development and they respond with anger or maybe they respond with tears. Those are very human emotions. Sometimes they need to happen, but what it can do for the coach is make it so they feel fearful to give that feedback the next time. So it needs to go accepting and receiving feedback and giving feedback needs to be a mutual engagement. And certainly what I often say to my coachee’s is the opposite of me telling you this is me not telling you this because I just don’t care, and that’s not who I’m going to be as a coach.

Amanda Ono:

And because I care about you, I will continue to give you feedback even though it’s difficult. I’ve certainly learned in my career some of the toughest feedback that I’ve received has been the ones that have been most impactful and have really helped shape my career. So I’ll often tell people those stories about the tough feedback I’ve received and what I did with it. So we’re all human. We have an ego. It doesn’t feel great maybe to hear about things that you’re not doing super well, but I think you have to look back at intent. We often use references related to people who are musicians or who are in sports. They’re constantly being coached and anyone who achieves a very high level in a function that they perform in has probably received continuous feedback and accepted it to continue to excel.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. I really like the metaphor of management as coaches because it speaks to something that I really believe on, which is that the concept of the servant leader in that the coach is not there to further their own interest or even to realize their own ideas, it really is to help unblock the potential in others. And I think that just tends to work very well when managing teams, because no matter how smart you are, let’s say that you have a team of seven people, no matter how smart you are, your intelligence and creativity is not superior to aggregate of the seven people working for you. Right? It’s very hard for that not to work out.

Amanda Ono:

And I also think, I mean, to build on that, it’s the multiplier effect. I mean, if you have seven people within your organization who have various different strengths and who are as strong as you, within those strengths, you’re going to have better results for your customer base and for your business. So I think it’s super important. And to coaches or managers that feel fearful of someone growing beyond their scope, the conversation that I often have is I personally believe that one of the best metrics for how effective a leader you are is how many people in your organization are promoted or grow to other teams. Because I think what that is a sign of how much you have invested in their growth. So I would love that to be a metric that becomes more internalized within organizations, because I think that’s where you truly show how good a leader and a coach someone is.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. I’ve been refining this concept over the years and what I have arrived at recently is that if you get really good at training people to replace you, you’ll never be replaced.

Amanda Ono:

That’s right. I totally agree with that.

Luis Magalhaes:

You’re irreplaceable.

Amanda Ono:

And I think it allows you also, when you have people that are very enabled, it allows you to do some of the more strategic work, some of the longer term work, certainly more customer facing and thinking about how you can develop the business. So I think it depends on people’s mindset. Certainly, I think we’ve shifted our belief system on this and certainly the capability of leaders should be about growth and allowing people to be more successful than you in their particular function.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. All right. So let’s talk to something that’s probably related to this desire for growth, which is the part about recruiting for people who love working at the business. Now, when I first joined DistantJob, so a recruitment agency, I joined them five years ago. And the thing that they had going for them was that they were the first fully remote recruitment agency. Not that their employees worked fully remotely, which they did, but that they only recruited people for remote positions. And they’ve been doing this for 15 years. So that’s so long and they were the first doing it, but I thought that was going to be the thing that the clients were going to point out as a distinctive feature. That DistantJob is the company that’s been recruiting remotely for the longest time and they really know how to do it well, and that was true.

Luis Magalhaes:

But the thing that actually I found that differentiated was that DistantJob recruiters looked for people who would love to work on the client companies. And I was coming from a different industry altogether, I didn’t realize that was special until I did. And I’m like, oh my God, why don’t many recruitment companies only look for talent fit and skill fit and don’t care if the person really enjoys working in the company or not? So this came as a shock for me, me moving industries. And still, I don’t see a lot of people focusing on that on hiring. When you are hiring, how do you find, and how do you figure out if the people are going to enjoy working in Resolver?

Amanda Ono:

That’s a great question. So I think as we were growing and scaling, we were in a very interesting position specifically within the technology market. It’s extremely competitive, as you’d know. And we had to decide who we were and who we weren’t. We’re certainly not going to compete against the Fang companies. We just don’t have the resources. We don’t necessarily have the brand. So we had to say, who are we and who do we want to be in the marketplace? And most importantly, what is compelling about working for us? And so I think it really starts with having a very defined employee value proposition. So actually stepping back and being thoughtful about this, I was very fortunate to have an extremely strong marketing team to partner with and help us define that. And so what was compelling for us as we unpacked it is that we were growing and scaling.

Amanda Ono:

We weren’t a startup, we’d start it. So we had predictable revenue, we had product market fit, we didn’t have a payroll burn, but we also weren’t a large bureaucratic organization that had maybe 40,000 people. So we had this really interesting sweet spot where we could take some of the best qualities of both kinds of organizations and make it compelling. And so I think the people that ended up doing really well with us were the people that were owners. They wanted to own things and take initiative and experiment. They wanted to work in a very collaborative environment. And so what we really did is pull those things out, and as we were going through the needs analysis with hiring managers, we really made sure we understood how those values mapped to the specific job. We’re very also thoughtful, especially now today, about how someone works in a remote environment.

Amanda Ono:

We certainly screen more for communication skills because when you can’t see someone in real life having strong communication skills, both written and oral is super critical. So I think it started with creating a really compelling value proposition and then bringing that through our recruitment process. So how do we do the needs analysis with hiring managers to find out really what a successful candidate is going to be? How did we then screen those candidates to make sure we understand that they are motivated to be part of us? We introduced a case study where we ask folks to think about how they might approach a problem. And I like doing this because it’s a good assessment of conscientiousness. Do they complete it? Do they do it well? It helps with seeing someone’s critical thinking, which is another pillar for us.

Amanda Ono:

And then it certainly also helps us see a work sample. So what does their written communication skill look like? The other reason I like this is because I think a lot of times as you know when you’re doing those initial screening calls, often people that are extroverted do better in screening calls, unless you’re hiring for extroversion and that’s an important trait. You have to look at being able to round out your data points for recruiting really great people,

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I also think that written communication, especially clarity of written communication, is a very underrated scale in remote work. People tend to forget that most of remote work just happens written form anyway, despite the evolutions in video and audio.

Amanda Ono:

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Certainly, I mean when I think of the skills that Resolver ask us to help develop written communication is a huge part of it and being concise and clear. I think it was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one. I think that’s so true with written communication. It takes way longer to write something that’s very succinct and that actually matters because in a remote world, you’re getting communication over email, you’re getting it over Slack, you’re getting it on text. And so being able to really, again, to my earlier point, to leverage that employee strategy is so critical in remote work.

Luis Magalhaes:

Everyone loves getting that message from the boss that’s where are we at with the thing? Right? That’s a perfect message.

Amanda Ono:

Yeah. Yes, yes, yes, for sure, for sure. And then I’ve received feedback that maybe I need to put an emoji in here or there, so they don’t perceive that I’m cross when I’m sending the Slack message. So I’ve learned to sprinkle in the emojis. I always find it funny, as you’re probably seeing, I’m a pretty positive enthusiastic person. So whenever someone said, oh, you seem really mad over that Slack. I’m like, when have you really seen me mad? Why did the written communication form make you think it was something else?

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. I’m going to kill you, smiley face, right?

Amanda Ono:

Yeah. Yeah. As long as there’s a gif or an emoji everything’s okay. So you definitely learn that in a remote world.

Luis Magalhaes:

Oh yeah. Okay. So speaking of remote work, I want to circle back to a note that I had made in the beginning of the interview that was, you said that you went remote due to COVID, seems like you enjoy it up to 10, et cetera. It’s been good for the company, but some people are trickling back into the office. I’d like to ask if they said why? Why do they feel that’s a valuable part of the experience? And by the way, I’m a remote work guy, but I totally defend that there should be companies with offices. I know a lot of people that really love that and build their lives around them. So no judgment on my part. I’m just curious about the reasons.

Amanda Ono:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think we will ultimately shift to hybrid where we have the combination of office and remote. I think what we found is that in cities where people live very close to the office and can walk, they’ve really just enjoyed having a space to come to that is a change in scenery. Certainly in a large metropolitan city, like Toronto, most people are not living in locations where they can have a separate office and a separate bedroom and all that stuff. So if you’re sitting in a 500 square foot condo, and especially if you have a roommate, being able to have an office space to come to just has been critical for people. I think it’s also just so there’s some that’s just geographical, they’re close and they can walk. And I think some of it is just being able to have that connection again. I think for many people, our lives were completely disrupted and that social aspect was taken away.

Amanda Ono:

And so being able to see people face-to-face again, a lot of people have joked that they’re probably not quite as productive when they come to the office because they have more social time, but they certainly feel better. And so I don’t think you can under index on the fact that your mental health and having connection, especially if you don’t live with someone at home and maybe you don’t have a family where you have that social outlet at home is super valuable. So that’s the choice we’ve seen most folks making to come back to the office.

Luis Magalhaes:

Got it. Let’s talk a bit about how that choice worked out for you. I mean, based on what we talked before, it doesn’t feel like you were remote before the great COVID disaster. Is that a fair statement? So how did you organize, what are the daily practices? Again, because especially the kind of work you do with people and leadership and et cetera, there’s a lot of variables, a lot of things to keep track of and a lot of people in positions such as yours really struggle with finding management time versus maker time. Let’s see. So there’s a lot of moving parts to jobs such as yours. It’s one of the most challenging ones to do remotely. And it looks like you were put there without any previous experience, not in your role, you obviously have a lot of experience for your role, but in doing it remotely. So how do you organize that and what practices dis you ultimately landed on that you use today? How do you organize your day or your week, let’s say?

Amanda Ono:

Yeah, it’s a great question. And certainly within a week of going remote, we did quite a bit of training on what it meant to be an effective remote organization and how to manage your time. So some of that is just practicing what we preach. I am very rigorous with time blocking, I color code my calendar. So there’s a color for a customer, a color for one-on-ones, a color for executive and strategy time, a color for recruiting and talent development time. So it actually allows me to see how my week is playing out and if I don’t have enough of that maker time, part of it is, do I need to be in this meeting? It’s a question I often talk with about my team. If you don’t need to be in the meeting, just say I’ll be updated afterwards. And so I think being okay to set that boundary in terms of how you schedule your time is really critical.

Amanda Ono:

I think the other thing I do is any one-on-one with my directs where I don’t need to see a screen, I do a walk and talk. I’m very lucky to live right by a really beautiful park in Toronto and so I’ll just put my sneakers on actually rain or shine. I got rain boots, snow boots, I got all. And I’ll just go and do that coaching conversation while I’m walking. And so I think it’s also acknowledging that having screen time for eight to 10 hours a day is too much for most people. And so how do you also block time to make sure you’re carving space for your brain to have rest while also getting some exercise in.

Luis Magalhaes:

I really like the walk and talk. I haven’t done it nearly as much as I feel I should, because I’m always fearful that the 4G won’t hold up. But I was actually introduced to the walk and talk about two years ago when I began this podcast by one of the people at MailChimp, that was one of the early things that I learned during the podcast, but I still feel like I under-use it.

Amanda Ono:

And one thing we actually did, we did this as an organization, it was coming up within the first summer, we had engaged in a charitable walk where the number of steps that an individual Resolver rate put into the tracker amounted to a dollar amount. And so we created some healthy competition, but in doing that early times, we set a habit. And so I think there’s also ways you can structure it for the organization to encourage people to go out. I mean, when people were typically commuting to an office, you could almost guarantee two slots of fresh air a day. During COVID, I know certainly people didn’t necessarily get up and go out. So I think there’re ways organization can structure that. We’ve also just done walk challenges, especially important in months like November, when it starts to get a little cooler, a little darker, and we did the 30 over 30.

Amanda Ono:

So get outside for 30 minutes a day for the next 30 days. And again, starts to make a habit for people. And so they’re really caring for their mental health and being mindful about it. And again, that’s something that we really impressed upon our coaches is part of the remote coaching conversations were understanding what people were doing for their mental health, what they were doing to fill their cups. Were they taking breaks? I think certainly the coaching one-on-ones did have to be structured slightly differently because I think being thoughtful about having those conversations and making sure that people felt safe to bring up if they didn’t feel great was a really key part of our journey. And I think that is a practice that will continue for us and is one that is just great coaching.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s obvious that you invest a lot of time and resources in caring well for your employees and that’s pretty awesome. You did manage because I’m an app nerd. I can’t avoid asking, you did manage you like to color code your calendar, what app do you use for that?

Amanda Ono:

It’s actually just old school Outlook that you can do a right click and color code it. So not anything super, super fancy, but yeah. I do find having the visualization of the week, certainly for me, if I’m not seeing enough customer time on the calendar, I’ve got to look at how I can get engaged, but I think it’s really key and I’m a big believer. One thing a mentor taught me as well is set the plan for the week on the Friday and get your week ready. It will help you enjoy your weekend a whole lot more, but also set time on the Friday to assess, how did you do? Did you achieve what you thought you were going to achieve? Were there blockers that got in the way?

Amanda Ono:

I am certainly very susceptible to optimism bias. I think I can do way more in a week than I actually can. So I think also carving that time to assess helps you be more realistic about how you set project timelines, how you set outcomes for yourself personally, as well as your team. So I think the setup for the week, as well as the review, super critical to make sure you’re set up for success for your time.

Luis Magalhaes:

I find that a lot of remote workers who time block then have a problem when reality meets their plans. I mean, for example, not going to be the case, obviously, because I’m going to be respectful of your time, but let’s say this interview runs 30 minutes extra. How does your time blocking recover from that? Or are you assuming some level of petting?

Amanda Ono:

Yeah, it’s a great question. I think life happens and I think what we’ve found in a remote context is our folks are really empathetic to it. Even having a moment where it’s like, hey, I need to take a breath, I’ll be back in 10 minutes and people get it now. Whereas I think those conversations around meeting those mental breaks weren’t necessarily normalized before. So I think because empathy and that connection is ingrained into our culture, that’s mapped into how we manage each other’s time and we acknowledge that sometimes things happen and maybe we need to make a shift. I do typically though, I am a bit of a time bandit and I will say, okay, we’re coming up on 10 minutes or five minutes, is there anything important that we need to talk about or do we need to shift it to another meeting?

Amanda Ono:

I think that’s a fair thing to say, because if someone has a really important objective that they want to cover and you’re not going to cover it in a very comprehensive way in a couple of minutes, then let’s just book more time. I think that’s okay. I’d rather make sure people have the space to really get their thoughts out than to try to rush something in a couple of minutes.

Luis Magalhaes:

Agreed, agreed. So in the spirit of that, let’s jump to some rapid fire questions to close off the podcast, though, you don’t need to answer them rapidly. Please take as long as you’d like. So the first question is, if you could give something to everyone in your team, what would it be? And there are some rules. The rules is that you can’t ask them, you need to buy the same thing for everyone. You need to buy in bulk, let’s say, and you can’t make it money or a gift card. You need to pick an actual item to give to everyone. Now it can be anything, right? It can be a software, hardware, an app, a tool, even an experience if you’d like, so what would you give them?

Amanda Ono:

That’s a great question. I’m a ferocious reader. Do I have to give the same book to everyone or can I make it unique?

Luis Magalhaes:

I think you have to give the same book to everyone, but you’ll have time to talk about books soon in the conversation. Okay.

Amanda Ono:

Because I do like gifting books. I think I would give an experience. I think I would do something like a group wine tasting or barista course, something that was fun for folks to do remotely and to connect to each other and have some fun. But just to do something that wasn’t related to work. I think so much happens when you allow your brain to not think about the day-to-day and maybe do something that’s a little bit creative. If you could find an online painting class that you could do remotely and ship people many canvases, I think that would be super cool because I certainly think oftentimes the only way we use our hands is putting it on a keyboard. And I think being able to do something creative and fun is a great way to have people connect.

Luis Magalhaes:

That’s a great point. Today I was watching a little video on Twitter about the master scissor crafters in England. I believe there’s just two of them left. They’re like this old man that craft scissors by hands and I’m looking at that and I’m like, oh, that looks so cool.

Amanda Ono:

So maybe a master scissor class is in your future maybe. Is this what you’re saying? Okay, amazing.

Luis Magalhaes:

Maybe. Well, they say training to be one takes like five years. So that’s a big commitment. That’s a big commitment, but yeah. Okay. So what about yourself? What have you brought in the past six months to a year that has considerably improved your productivity, life, work balance, any work related metric you care to measure?

Amanda Ono:

I would say just really good AirPods because it’s allowed me to be able to move outside and not necessarily be tied to a desk, it’s been so critical. Again, so many conversations, if you don’t need to see a monitor, you can be on the move, and I think that’s been really great. I’ve also started consuming quite a lot of podcasts. I just signed up for a Blinkist subscription and I think that’s been really great. It gives you a bit of the teaser to understand the content and then I go ahead and will buy the full book and read it. So yeah, that’s also been great for me. It allows me to have space to think differently about stuff and also get some great knowledge.

Luis Magalhaes:

So what kind of AirPods do you have if you don’t mind me asking?

Amanda Ono:

The Apple AirPod Pro’s.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. Nice.

Amanda Ono:

They’re very good.

Luis Magalhaes:

They’re very good.

Amanda Ono:

Yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:

They’re very good. I have weird ears. So if I try to do physical exercise that involves me lying down-

Amanda Ono:

They’re popping out?

Luis Magalhaes:

They tend to fall off my ears, but otherwise even for walking and running, which I suppose that’s most used that they really are perfect.

Amanda Ono:

Absolutely.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. So the question that you’ve been waiting for of course is, what books do you usually gift out the most?

Amanda Ono:

The book I’ve gifted the most is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. And it’s not necessarily about leadership, it’s more about self. But I think I’ve yet to meet a leader who was extraordinary, that didn’t have extraordinary self-awareness and wasn’t able to look inside and understand who they were and then how they would impact the team. So I find that’s a great one. She’s an incredible storyteller. And I think when people hear stories, they remember them. So that’s probably the one that I give out the most. Also, a classic is Peter Drucker’s Effective Executive. There’re some concepts in there that are a little bit old school, but I certainly think the tenants of building management systems, really making sure you have process nailed down for so many of my leaders, I think that’s really critical to help them level up.

Luis Magalhaes:

It’s an absolute great book. No need to throw the baby out of the bath water, right? There’s plenty of good stuff in there. Okay. Right. So thank you for the suggestions, those are great. I’ve read both of them and they are fantastic books. I hope that the audience will have a look at them. Okay. So I guess a final question, please bear with me this one has a longer setup. You know what it is, because I know you’ve heard some of them with the podcast, but let’s have a go at it. So let’s say that it’s fine to go back and have dinners because I know that’s still a problem in some countries, but let’s say that it’s okay. And you’re joining for dinner. A lot of people from tech companies, executives, people, real decision makers, the twist is, the topic of the night is the future of work and remote work and the dinner happens to be at a Chinese restaurant. So you, as the host, get to choose what comes written inside the fortune cookie. So what is your fortune cookie message?

Amanda Ono:

My fortune cookie message is value your people.

Luis Magalhaes:

Value your people. That is a beautiful message and very consistent to everything that we’ve been talking about, oh, yeah.

Amanda Ono:

Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, if you don’t value your people and bring value to your people, most businesses just don’t run. And I think even with automation and AI and machine learning, I think the power of people and the empathy that they can bring to customer bases and their fellow employees will be completely irreplaceable. So if leaders aren’t thinking about that, their businesses will just not scale. So it’s such a key message for people to really internalize and not just write on a wall or a website that really helped me true.

Luis Magalhaes:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it was delightful having you, I enjoyed this conversation so much. Please tell people where can they find you? Where can they continue the conversation and where can they learn more about you and Resolver?

Amanda Ono:

Amazing. I think probably the best thing, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on LinkedIn fairly regularly. So I think there’s not many Amanda Ono’s. I’m very, very lucky that way, but it is just Amanda Ono based out of Toronto, I would love to connect with folks on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear questions that you have from this conversation and resolver.com. We’re doing some really incredible things with our risk intelligence technology. We’re super proud that we serve many of the world’s leading brands and will continue to do so by connecting the value of risk to a business. So you can find us in lots of places and we would definitely be keen to connect.

Luis Magalhaes:

That’s fantastic. I’ll have all of that in the show notes again. Thank you so much for being a guest in the DistantJob Podcast.

Amanda Ono:

Thank you. It was a lot of fun.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. And thank you for listening dear listeners to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week. 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 with 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. 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/podcast. 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 read the conversations in text form.

Luis Magalhaes:

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, 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 you 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 a deal. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

Company culture is a hot topic these days. Businesses have realized that while ping pong tables, gym benefits, and snacks are easy benefits that make remote employees happy, they are not the only ones.

During this episode, Amanda Ono shares that what´s truly challenging but far more rewarding is to create a deep culture where people be part of and stay in your organization. Amanda also gives valuable insights about deep culture and strategies to help managers become coaches.

Highlights:

  • How to redefine your culture when shifting from an onsite environment to a remote one 
  • What is deep culture, and why it matters in a remote work environment? 
  • Strategies to enhance your communication channels on remote teams
  • Why you should stop seeing conflict as something negative
  • Encouraging empathy in your remote team
  • Changing the perception of hierarchy across different cultures 
  • How to manage as a coach

Book Recommendations:

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Monday!

Are you our next superstar remote developer?

You live, breathe and eat code, and have fun figuring out how to solve problems. And you love living in South America or Eastern Europe. But you don’t feel as fulfilled as your friends in North America.

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