Helping Remote Leaders Reach their Full Potential with Helen Joy

Helen Joy is the Director at ANPR Consulting helping businesses grow by focusing on getting the best from their people. She’s been involved in learning and development for over 18 years and she’s particularly passionate about helping future leaders improve their careers.

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Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob podcast. This is another episode about building and leading remote teams. And as always, I’m Luis your host, and today I have with me Helen Joy. Helen Joy is the Director at ANPR Consulting, where she helps people with their management and leadership skills and also with change management, which is something that we will talk a lot about today. Helen, welcome to the podcast.

Helen Joy:

Hello. Thank you.

Luis:

And well I gave you a very important introduction of you. Would you like to expand on that? Would you like to do tell us a bit about your role at ANPR and the kind of the things that you help people with?

Helen Joy:

I will. Thank you very much. So at ANPR Consulting, we are focused on helping businesses to get the best from their people. So helping them to grow their business from the inside out, through the people. And I’ve been involved in learning and development for 18 years now, which is quite scary. But my passion is for particularly helping upscale future leaders of the business. So there are too many situations where managers are promoted because they’ve been great at their job, but they haven’t necessarily been prepared with the people skills. And then what you tend to find is that it all goes horribly wrong. So my passion is actually pre-schooling those people before they go into their roles, helping them to understand how to get the best out of people.

Luis:

Well that’s definitely something that’s very relevant to the remote world. In fact, I was at the workshop by Grow Remote, that was specifically about that, about career development in the remote work world. So certainly lots of talk there. But I remembered that when I invited you to this show, I sent you an email, we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and you said that you had a lot of opinions about how to do remote work and remote teams. So I guess a good place to start is really, what’s the thing that’s most interesting to you right now, when it comes to the way remote work is developing and changing the business environment and the working environment?

Helen Joy:

I think it’s really interesting to see the different ways that businesses approach it. And organizations these days need to be so much more flexible with their workforce because it’s one of the biggest factors for people when deciding where they want to work, is that flexibility. And quite often that flexibility is focused around their ability to work from home, to work remotely. And with the advent of technology and the pace that it’s moving at, there are so few barriers to people working wherever that they can. So working from home, working from cafes, working from coworking spaces. And I think the barrier to allowing that flexible working is mental. And it’s mental because it’s such an institutionalized issue for people, that they don’t believe people will work when they’re remote. And I think it’s a generational thing. And I think that older workers who have been very used to a presenteeism environment have a real issue around letting go, and having that trust that people working remotely are working.

Luis:

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And building that trust is something that we should definitely talk about a bit later, because I think that it’s still a sticking point for many people. But that I want to flag, a bit, the part about flexibility. As you said, you’ve been doing this for 18 years. It’s almost as long as I have been playing World of Warcraft, so a bit more scarier there. But definitely, the flexibility thing… I’m based in Portugal. You’re based in the UK. It’s the same time zone, but I think that culturally it’s probably a lot different. In Portugal, I still find, even among technology companies, although not so much in technology companies, the mentality that you’re lucky to have this job, right? You’re lucky to have this job. What’s this flexibility thing? No. You come into the office, you work for your eight hours, and you’re lucky, and you should be thankful for that.

Luis:

That is still a very big part of the Portuguese work culture, and it’s nice to be thankful for your job. I think that some people are not thankful enough for their jobs. But at the same time, there is still a bit of a… I don’t know if tyranny is the right word. But there’s still a bit of tension there, with the all-powerful employer up high, and the worker having to just submit to their mandates. And why do you think that, especially in the US but I guess as well in UK now, more businesses are seeing that the voices of the employees, and the giving the flexibility is more important? I guess that my question is, why do you think the English-speaking world seems to be a bit farther ahead, where it comes here?

Helen Joy:

I think, certainly in the UK, it’s predominantly because we do have such low unemployment rate. And we have skill shortages in particular areas, that mean that employers have to actually compete a little bit harder for the real top-level talent within the UK. Having spent quite a long time in the recruitment industry, there’s never this perfect time where the skills required match the jobs available. It’s either an employers market, or it’s an employee’s market. And at the moment, the key skills gaps areas, and so with this, with the technology sector, particularly, is finding that highly-skilled people are really difficult to get to and keep, because it’s so competitive that employers are having to be more flexible in terms of what they’re offering in order to attract that talent towards them. And I think it is around that low unemployment that’s driving that, and those skill sectors with those shortages. Definitely.

Luis:

That’s an interesting point though, that seeing it as a market, which obviously it’s an obvious thing to do. But the thing about markets is that they shift, right? So do you think that people will start scaling down on flexibility and remote work as the market shifts to being an employer market?

Helen Joy:

I think it depends on how long that shift takes. I think if it remains, as long as those skill shortage has remained high, that flexibility will have to remain, from an employer’s perspective. If employers see the light and start and then if there are technological shifts that automate more of those processes, and that happened sooner, then it may well be that that actually turns back before it’s a major cultural shift. Because if it, say, takes five to 10 years, for that skill shortage to change, the working environment and employer’s perspectives will have shifted. Because if the remote workers have proven, those of us who do get to would already know, is that remote workers can be so much more productive and so much better, and so much more committed in terms of the work-life balance that they’re actually enabling, that they do deliver more, they do perform better.

Helen Joy:

When I worked in an office, the days I worked from home, I could get so much more done because I wasn’t getting distracted by office politics and chats and what have you. And I think if you get businesses that see the benefits of that, on the bottom line, that could maintain that shift, I think.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. At the same time, that’s a possibility, but not the certainty, I would say. I’ve certainly worked with remote companies, where an employee can easily spend two hours of the working day just in Zoom, chit chat, right? I’m not going to say that, although we try to be disciplined in DistantJob, I’m not going to say that it never happened to me. It definitely has happened to me. Just yesterday, the VP of DistantJob called me just to catch up, just to know how each other were doing, and by the time we ended, it was like two hours at 5 o’clock. So it’s like, “Oh man, this…” We were not being the poster boys for remote productivity for sure. But yeah, the point is well taken. There’s a lot of just filler, I think, in the typical in-office work day.

Luis:

So remote work has been happening for the longest time. I’ve been working with remote teams for 15 years now, maybe even later, maybe even more, maybe even more. But at least 15 years. But it’s definitely mostly become a bigger part of the work world, for the past two to three years. I’m wondering, how has this effected your job, if at all?

Helen Joy:

So in terms of… For me, the delivery of training, so my focus is leadership management training. And the focus is slightly different in those days, if you’re talking to managers that manage remotely, versus managers who are managing a team that’s in front of you all day. And there isn’t a huge difference. It’s just for me, there’s three key areas that a… The first one is that trust. The first one is you absolutely have to have trust in that person that is working remotely. And this is one of those areas with me, I do believe, that trust has to be earned. I think that as a leader, you have to put your trust in that person before anything happens. You have to believe that they are in that role, they’re committed to that role, they are a professional adult who is going to deliver what they’re expected to deliver.

Helen Joy:

Which then the second point comes in, which is about agreeing expectations. And expectations, when it might not be I will be sat at my desk from nine til 5:30 every day, it might be I will deliver it, output, and it’s around what is delivered and the timescales, and what’s not delivered, and the clarity of that, and making sure that you both really understand each other’s expectations of what those outputs look like, and agree when those review processes are going to take place, and how those reviews are going to take place. With a remote worker, you can’t just drop by the desk on the way to the coffee machine, or out to lunch.

Helen Joy:

And then the third part is the communication, and is that maintained? So you said there about being on a Zoom call for two hours. Well, actually, that communication is so much more vital when you’re remote, because those relationships are one of the biggest keys that maintain your commitment to delivering what it is that you’re going to deliver.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah. Obviously, that’s actually something that they wanted to talk about, because I was reading some of your articles, and you definitely thought about stuff like how working in collaboration with others requires honesty, transparency, integrity and all of that. Obviously, a part of that is just spending time with people. But let’s say that… I know that you are a believer that that knowing the answer comes from the team. You should, as a leader, know that the answer comes from the team, not just from one person. But how do you balance this, or how do you teach people to balance this with the need to take action? What’s the process for tie-breaking, and how does it change, if at all, when working with remote teams? Because it’s nice, and I believe in the value of knowing that the answer comes from the team, but at some point someone needs to take a decision. And that decision will probably please some people, but make other people not so pleased. So how do you juggle that, especially when you don’t have the benefit of spending the entire work day in the same building as those people?

Helen Joy:

I think leadership is about being the person that makes the decisions. Yes, absolutely. The team has the combined experience that can deliver the right answer. But as a leader, you always have to be aware that whatever decision you make, and whichever direction you go in, you’re not going to please everybody. And it’s very much around that understanding that when make that decision, knowing your team well enough, no matter how remote they may be, no matter where in the globe they are, if you’ve had that ongoing communication with them, if you have that mutual trust between you, and if they have trust as a team, then just having a conversation, if you know that a decision is going to upset somebody, annoy somebody, the trick is you need to talk to that person. You need to communicate what you’re going to do, to them, before everybody else. Make sure that they understand the reasoning, and help get them on board. Because as a leader, if your reasoning for making a decision is the right reasoning, provided that relationship is there, you will be able to articulate to that person, because you’ll be able to help them understand how it will help them achieve their own goals in the long term, even if it doesn’t necessarily in the short term.

Luis:

Yeah, that makes sense. I wonder though, you touched on trust again. And as you said, in your case, your trust is freely given. And I like that. I like that approach. I would say that I would definitely err more on the side of giving my trust, than on having people earn my trust. So I’m definitely on board with that. But the opposite is not necessarily true. Right? You can’t expect people to give you their trust. On your end, you need to earn it. How would you advise leaders to go about earning their team’s trust, especially, when all we have is this, when the best we have is this, a call in Zoom or whatever, another video program?

Helen Joy:

For me it is around getting to know them. And you are used to an organization, if you’re in an office, you would expect to spend time in that first period of time with your leader, with your manager. And you still need to put in that time and those hours. It’s just you have to find a method of communication that works in that way. And then it’s a case of doing what you commit to doing. And when you’ve got some, and again, it is that maintaining contact, maintaining communication, agreeing what you’re going to do, sending an email to say, “This is what’s going to happen next. This is the support that is around you.” And making sure that that person understands that that support is there, and that you will do, and you will deliver. And again, it comes back to those expectations and that clarity, because, don’t get me wrong, my trust is freely given, but if those expectations are not met, then that trust is eroded just as easily as it is.

Helen Joy:

But I come from a place of, I start believing that you’re here to do the right thing, and that you’re here to deliver what I want you to deliver. And I think it is just that building that relationship, and finding whatever method works for you and that individual, as a communication tool. Not everyone is going to want to do a one hour Skype or a Zoom call every week or what have you. But it’s about working out what works for both of you, that enables you to build and grow that trust. But for me, trust is about delivering. It’s about making decisions and delivering on what you said you’re going to do.

Luis:

Well. Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve also read your writing about how it’s important for leaders to understand they’re different in personalities. And I like that you even talk about psychological tests, that you say that they’re not necessary, but it’s a way to understand better, the personalities of the people. We actually… Everyone that joins DistantJob does a Myers Briggs test, and we make some fun games with it, like associating it to Star Wars characters and stuff like that. So that’s definitely an interesting thing to go. But the most important thing is actually, as you just said, to talk. But as you pointed out, not everyone is up for a one hour Zoom call. And knowing people is one of those things that gets tougher when you’re not locked in the same building for 40 hours a week. If you’re locked in the same building for 40 hours a week, you have to get to know each other, maybe even develop a bit of Stockholm syndrome, right?

Luis:

In remote work, that doesn’t happen. But I’m not in a Zoom call. I’m only at the office to the extent that I’m disciplined enough to be in the office mental space. How do you make up for that? Let’s go a bit deep, into what it means to find the right balance to build a relationship with people online.

Helen Joy:

I think a lot of it comes down to actually making sure that you’re recruiting the right person into that role in the first place, whether they’re an internal hire, or an external person. And I think a lot of ground rules and expectations can actually be laid out right at the very, very start of that relationship. And having those conversations at that point, around, this is how I communicate. This is how I will let the team know that things are happening. This is the way that I will do team-based communications. This is my preferred way of communicating, and I’d like to speak to you this times a day, via whatever methods, but agreeing with that person, what works for them, and it’s got to then be a balance. Because if somebody’s comes to me and I’m saying, “Well, I’d like to speak to you three times a week.” And they only want to speak to me once a week, that’s going to unsettle me slightly. And so it’s about working out why they feel that way, and how you can find a balance in-between.

Helen Joy:

Again, because of that trust, there may come a point where I’m confident in what they deliver, to the point that I’m happy to say, “Actually, we only need to catch up once a week.” But it’s about agreeing the methodologies. I’ve had managers, and worked in teams as a part of a remote team, where I was expected to complete a spreadsheet every week that was, oh God, eight pages and 90 lines long on each page.

Luis:

So your job was not really doing your job, your job was filling the spreadsheet.

Helen Joy:

Absolutely. Absolutely. So I couldn’t ever actually manage my own team because I was too busy actually documenting what did and didn’t happen. And we then spent three hours on a Monday morning, as a team, going through everybody’s spreadsheets. And that’s a complete waste of everybody’s time. That’s lack of control. That’s lack of trust. That was a manager who didn’t trust each of us in our individual offices, to deliver what we were. Even though we were delivering, it was an element of that.

Luis:

Well, there are definitely… There’s also the problem that remote work originated mostly with support, right? Which you can easily measure, just by tickets answered, the questionnaires from customer satisfaction, et cetera. That then it transitioned it to coding, which developers, they can… It’s less easy to measure productivity, but you can still go by lines of codes, number of bugs resolve and et cetera. As it’s expanded to things like sales, marketing, training, it gets harder to account for one’s work. You can say, “I did this.” But it’s not as easy to estimate, “Okay. So if one person run X campaigns”, in the case of marketing, or worked on X number of creatives, “Is that the full-work’s day? Is that not the full-work’s day?”

Luis:

People come up with this question, and that’s why I think that your point is so important, about setting expectations and negotiating thing expectations. You should be able to have a conversation with the working for you about, “You did this this week. How much of your bandwidth did this take? Do you think you can take on more work per week? Do you think it actually took more time than you expected, and you need to do less to have a higher quality?” And you’re right. Part of it comes with the hiring, because when you’re having these kinds of candid conversations, you are opening yourself up to be fooled by bad actors. That’s certainly the case. And I think that you would agree, and tell me if not, that the best place to identify the bad actors is during the hiring process.

Luis:

So how would you go about it? How do you… When you are hiring specifically for remote positions, what are the characteristics that you look for that tell you that, “Yes, this person is probably going to actually want to be the best possible at their work, and not just try to use remote work as a way to do the minimum possible?

Helen Joy:

That’s a really good question. [crosstalk 00:25:06]-

Luis:

Sometimes with the with my VP of Operations, we say that some hires are like the bear in Jungle Book that sings, the bare necessities, right?

Helen Joy:

Absolutely.

Luis:

Some people look for remote work to genuinely be able to focus more on their work, and improve their work-life balance. And other people are looking for remote work to see if they can get by with the bare necessities.

Helen Joy:

Absolutely. And I think it’s definitely in the key questions that you ask around there. And I think it’s asking, getting them nice and relaxed, and getting them nice and thinking that this is just a really lovely chat that you’re having. And then asking them some really, really key questions around… But yeah. Have your competencies. Have the thing you’re really looking to investigate, whether that be whether that’d be around quality, whether that be around commitment, drive, all of those things. But asking them questions that allow you to dig really deep into actual situation. So things like, “Tell me about a time when you’ve had to complete a project under pressure, with tight timescales, in the midst of problems.” And what’s great about questions like that, I think you understand what their concept of problems, challenges, tight timescales are.

Helen Joy:

And if somebody’s telling you that a tight time scale is three months for a project that you think should be taking six weeks, then straight away you’re getting an idea of the level of the pace at which they work, and the depth at which they work. Or questions like, “Tell me about a time when you’ve worked really, really hard on a project, and a client’s been disappointed with the results.” Because if anybody delivers anything to a client, that has always happened at some point to everybody. If it hasn’t, I’d be very surprised. Half the best relationships that you have with your clients come out of the things that go wrong, quite often. And I don’t think anybody is expecting to employ someone who never makes mistakes, because we’re human, and we do. It’s how we turn… But I think it is getting them to give you an example, and listening to the keywords, and what that tells you about their approach to delivery, about their approach to getting things done under their own steam.

Helen Joy:

And if they haven’t worked remotely before, it’s asking them what they think the challenges are going to be, and what concerns them about it. Because a lot of people, when I first started working remotely, and lots of my friends said to me, “Oh, I don’t know how you manage. I’d just be watching telly all day.” And it is about discipline, isn’t it? It’s about personal discipline, to go and be in a place at a time, whether that is for a set number of hours a day, or whether that is until the project’s delivered. And I think it’s interesting, because earlier, I think one of the biggest issues traditional businesses have around remote working, is they’re so focused on the input rather than the actual output. And I think, if you are employing someone to deliver a specific set of outputs, it’s about having the trust that they will do what they need to do to deliver that output.

Helen Joy:

Because their input might be different to a different person’s input. And some people can get things done in half the time that it takes other people to do. And you’re absolutely right when you said there, about finding out the bandwidth that people have to pick up other projects, and do more things. And I think there are some people that will skate by, and will do as little as they have to do. But I think that’s about engaging those people. And again, at that recruitment process, is about engaging them in your vision, in your purpose, in what your organization is trying to deliver, and getting them excited about their part in delivering that vision.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a good point. And by the way, I don’t know if you would agree, but I usually try to make the point that, excitement doesn’t need to be a function of people being passionate about their work. I think that passion is nice if you have it, but I also think that it’s overrated. Let’s be frank, if we only had people working on stuff that they’re passionate about, we would have a problem with collecting trash. Because, although I’m sure that there are some trash collectors that are very passionate about their job, I don’t think they will be nearly enough to collect all the trash we produce, right?

Helen Joy:

No, you’re absolutely right. Okay. Maybe engaged is a better word. Maybe getting people that are engaged in your-

Luis:

I once interviewed a CTO from a tech company that has a lot of remote workers, and a big part of his recipe for motivation was just I paid him well. That’s the way to do it. We don’t need, necessarily, to live our work. Sometimes work is something that you do, and that you take pride in, which is different from passion. You take pride in being a good professional, in getting your work in pay, and then in closing the laptop, and going onto other things in your life that you are passionate, like your family or stuff like that. I think that it’s not… I think that those people who say that, “I want my employees to be passionate about my company,” and what you’re doing, I think that’s maybe setting a bar too high, and therefore missing out on some very good talent. I think that discipline is more important than passion, to be honest.

Helen Joy:

I think discipline is just as important, especially remotely. And I think, yeah, you’re absolutely right. Maybe getting people that are engaged in what you’re trying to deliver, and whether that’d be engaged for 40 hours per week, or engaged whilst they’re actually working, then personally, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I think getting people that out there to deliver, and I think that’s down to you as an individual, to develop that relationship with that person. To have them sufficiently motivated to deliver their best in the environment that they’re in.

Luis:

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. 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. 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. 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 why don’t we shift a bit, because I’m getting mindful of your time, and my time. And I wanted to talk to you about, when you started working remotely, what were the main challenges that you found? And take me through your days and weeks when you started working remotely, versus your days and weeks now, and what changed, if anything?

Helen Joy:

I think the biggest challenge is, to me, working remotely, where certainly being on my own all the time. I’d spent 20 years working. Yeah, maybe not quite 20. I’d spent a lot of years working in environments where there were always people around, and there was always someone to go and have a chat to, and I’m quite nosy. So being in the office meant that I knew what was going on everywhere, and I knew what was happening. And that was quite a big shock to the system, for me. And as much as I would communicate with people as in when I needed to during the day, it affected me more than I expected it to. The discipline wasn’t a problem, that the delivery and getting my job done wasn’t a problem. Stopping was a problem, because I would always sit there going, “I’ll just do another hour.” And then it’s eight o’clock. And when, especially if you work at home, it can be a challenge to shut the door and stay away. And again, when it’s your own business, there’s always something you can be doing.

Luis:

You know, it’s so funny, because I used to work as a dentist. I still do on occasion, because I enjoy it. But the hours were tough, as it is, because people don’t usually go to the dentist so much on work hours. They go after work. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to take some time to get to the dentist. I would work like 9:00 AM in the morning, or maybe 8:30 in the morning to sometimes, 8:30 in the afternoon, or even 9:00 in the afternoon. I would definitely, several days a week, get home at nine, and yet, sometimes when I’m working remotely, I feel that I had more time for my stuff, for my non-work stuff, when I was a dentist, when it was working all those lousy hours, than now, when I can stop whenever I want. Right?

Helen Joy:

Absolutely. And I spent a long time in the recruitment industry, which is notoriously long hours, and notoriously quite tough. And so for me, that 12, 14 hours day, you’re absolutely right. I’ve got more done, I think, in those days, than I do sometimes now. When I count, I have got a bit more flexibility about working more when I do things. But I also tend to find that I’ve filled my time, when I’m not with clients, or on clients’ sites, I fill my time by making sure that I’m around people, because I know I’ll sit in a room for two days writing a course for a client, and creating all the things I need to do. But then I need to get out, and I need to physically see people. I need to phone up friends or ex-colleagues or what have you, and clients, and make sure I’m talking to people.

Helen Joy:

But actually I’ve got to a point where my balance is really nice. And I have a lot of partners that I work with, so I have to work extra hard to maintain those relationships, because they’re all over the UK. But thankfully, I think that having had the experience of managing remotely, being managed remotely, recruiting people to be remote workers, has given me a real strong idea of how to keep those relationships going, and how to make sure that… And sometimes you forget. And I’ll have to suddenly find four people in one afternoon, because I’ve, “Hi, I haven’t spoken to you for ages.” And it’s a slightly different pressure than if they were people who were reporting to me. That could have been really damaging for that relationship. Because they’re not, it does make it a bit easier. But it is that kind of consistency. I still need to make sure that I keep in touch with those partners, to maintain those strong relationships.

Luis:

Yeah. Got it. Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. So let’s wind down with some rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid up at fire, but the answers don’t need to be. Feel free to expand as much as you like. So if you could buy a tool, in bulk, for everyone that works remotely with you, and it can be software, it can be a physical hardware, whatever, but let’s say to the tune of 100 pounds per person, or something in that region, what would that tool be?

Helen Joy:

Ooh, what a good question. God. I think it would be some kind of communication software. So whether it be something, your Slacks, your Trellos, some form of communication that means that they have got access to their team, whenever they need it. Because to me, that communication is such a vital part of that role. And maybe it’s because I don’t come from a techie background, whereas I’m sure you techies have got a completely different answer for that. But for me, I think it would be something on that, that meant at any point, that they had a way of communicating with their team, and instantly and easily. Just so solving problems, just a little bit of company, asking questions, that would be my go-to.

Luis:

Do you have any favorite?

Helen Joy:

I don’t. To be honest, the technological world has moved on so much since I was employed in a remote role. So I think the one that I’ve used most of these days is Slack, which is okay.

Luis:

Yeah. I actually… I think that’s still a replaceable. I wish people would start adopting Discord more, and not a lot of businesses do, because Discord is built for gaming. But it’s like Slack for gaming. But actually, I think that it’s better for Slack in every way. It’s definitely… The free plan is much more robust. Video chat is better, voice chat is better. You get all of those things for free. I just think that a lot of businesses don’t adopt it even when they know about it, just because it doesn’t have integrations like Slack with Trello, with Google Documents, with et cetera. But on the other end, on the other way, I think that especially small to medium businesses don’t use the integrations that much.

Helen Joy:

Yeah. I’d agree. Yeah.

Luis:

So anyway, that’s my tip. I would love to see more people using Discord, not necessarily for gaming, but also for business. So why won’t, you yourself, what purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past, let’s say one year to six months?

Helen Joy:

I’m just going to have a quick look around my office books. I don’t know. I didn’t buy much. I don’t think there is anything particularly. I think a purchase for me probably has been my networking subscription. Because of working remotely, finding a networking group that is near me, that meets regularly means that they’re not in my industry and they’re not in that business, but they are a group of people that I go and I spend time with and I can talk about business, and I can talk about problems, and I can talk about the good stuff. I suppose it’s given me a team nearby, so that I get that interaction with people, and I’ll meet up with those people once, maybe twice a month, and I can talk about things. And I think that would probably be it, because otherwise, you could just sit in your home office all day, and not see any other human.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. Even the introverts need some human connection every now and then.

Helen Joy:

There’s a guy I know whose got a guy who does some programming for him. He’s met him twice in three years, and he speaks to him probably once a quarter, and everything else is done via email. And that works for them both, because he delivers like a machine. And so he doesn’t know how many hours does what, because they’ve agreed to how much he gets paid per project, and that’s-

Luis:

Look, when I was working as a writer, I would much prefer that. The reason why I’m so into communication and video and all of that these days is simply because my job has shifted from creating to managing, because as a creator, I definitely would just refer to do it asynchronously via email. It’s much more comfortable. It’s much more comfortable, and obviously you need to have a video call if something is unclear. If the creatives that you are producing aren’t matching the vision of the people that you’re… The person that you’re producing it for, and you’ve had a few exchanges back and forth with email, and things aren’t really syncing up, then yes, that’s the time to go on a call. But generally, as a creative person, it’s much more… When you’re in creative mode, as nice as it is to talk to people, any call is a disruption.

Luis:

So I guess that the next question would be, what book, or books have you gifted the most?

Helen Joy:

The one that I’ve gifted the most, it’s quite niche, but it’s some Playing Big by Tara Mohr, and No HR-

Luis:

I’ve never heard of that one.

Helen Joy:

Have you not? It’s written for women. And it is about women who-

Luis:

So I can’t read it?

Helen Joy:

[crosstalk 00:45:42].

Luis:

Am I officially barred from reading it? I can’t?

Helen Joy:

Oh no, no, no, no. I think it’s quite great for everybody. But it’s very much around women in the workplace, more than men, quite often feel… Don’t allow themselves to step into that power, and into their full confidence because there are a lot of workplaces that make that more difficult, that involve very, very misogynistic workplaces even now. And it’s around women suffering from imposter syndrome more than men, quite often. And it’s great, because it’s just very much about helping women to understand, and build the confidence to go, “Actually, no. I’m here. I’m here, and I have a voice, and have an opinion, and my opinion is just as valid.” Because every woman has been in that meeting where their ideas are completely ignored, and need to be repeated 10 minutes later, by Bob, down the bottom.

Luis:

Actually, that’s a good segue that I might as well ask you, since we are on this line of conversation. I actually suspect that remote work doesn’t completely eliminate that kind of biases, but certainly decreases it. I think that video, and especially chat and email, but even video reduces the personality impact, and you start talking more based on actual ideas. And to me, that that reduces the biases that you feel. Do you think that remote work is inherently less biased than an in office work?

Helen Joy:

I think it’s easier for women. Women do generally take the bulk of childcare and family things. And I’ve led women that have had to turn down jobs, because the hour commute just makes the day unmanageably long. I think remote working levels of playing fields for women a little bit more, because if you can take away that commute, if you can create that flexibility of working time, and focus on output rather than input and time at desk, it allows women the opportunity to deliver around domestic things. And you’re absolutely right. I think that then gives them the confidence to step up more. And it is easier, I think, sometimes within remote group chat to… If you’ve got a six person conversation going on on video, it can be easier to just get your voice heard, than in a room.

Helen Joy:

I think there was always the element of, that you don’t know, quite, what conversations are being held on the private chat strings behind that. But that’s just paranoid woman maybe. But yeah, I think it allows more flexibility for women to achieve more, I think. Definitely.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s a whole… Another kind of… I agree with you about… I actually think, and this has been echoed by some podcast guests, that the biggest, still unexplored pool of talented remote workers, is working moms. Because it’s a possibility to have that childcare experience that women are sometimes forced into, but also a lot of times they just want to have it, and it’s often not compatible with building their career, and with remote work, it becomes compatible with building a career.

Helen Joy:

Absolutely. I think there is this massive, massive pool of underutilized talent that just cannot find a way to make it work into the traditional workplace. And I think the more enlightened employers, and they’re very, very small, and are aware of this, and are starting to do something about that. And in the UK, Travelodge have just done a huge recruitment drive for flexible workers. And they have lots of women, because men have caring issue, challenges as well. But they’ve got this whole flexible program. They’ve taken 500 people across their estate of hotels, into specifically-targeted flexible work patterns. And if you’ve got a 24 hour supplier, in hotels it’s a 24 hour process. If they can make it work, how can somebody whose office hours are 9:00 to 5:30 argue that they can’t make that work?

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It truly is a matter of… It comes back to change management, right? Change looks scary, and often feels impossible. And legitimately, it’s not a matter of people being lazy, or not having goodwill. When you’re outside and you’re looking at change, it seems easy. But when you’re inside, when you’re the actual people needing to change the way you work, the systems in your company, sometimes it just feels over overwhelming amount of work. And again, that’s why people like you exist, to be able to grab the person that’s inside, and shift their perspective to the outside.

Helen Joy:

Yeah. For all of us, the approach to change is governed by our emotions, and our immediate response to it to how about impacts on us personally. And I think when you get that extrapolated across an organization, and if the people at the top are afraid of that change, it’s not going to happen. It’s such a huge cultural shift for a lot of organizations, to create that remote culture, that I don’t know that will happen in that current generation, whether it is going to be a generational shift where it just become… But I think having said that, I saw something fleetingly, this morning, that was saying that 74% of the school leavers at the moment expect to work in an office.

Luis:

Interesting.

Helen Joy:

Which is interesting. It’s like, “Oh, okay.

Luis:

Some people just like working in office. And respect to those people. It doesn’t have to be this way for everyone. I’ve known some very competent people that were an absolute disaster at remote work. The moment they started working remotely, their live started being driven by their children, their pets, the dishes waiting in the sink. It’s like some people lose their lives to work, other people lose work to their lives. And those people definitely benefit from actually working out of their house. Now, you could argue that the way to make remote work work for those people is to find them a coworking space, or something like that, or just to move to a coffee… But some people just enjoy the office. I’m not one of those people, but respect to those. There are components of working in the office that I miss. I just don’t miss it enough compared to the benefits of working remotely.

Helen Joy:

I think the ideal is a situation where employers, in certain roles, and in certain departments, where there is the opportunity to do what works best for you as individual, but also delivers for the business. And I think if organizations could get to that point, maybe that’s an environment. Maybe we’ll never get there. But if employers could be open enough to understand that for some people, delivering certain things, could be best done. Or that if you want to really grow your business and move on, the talent that you need might be based in the US, it might be based in Singapore, it might be based anywhere in the world. But that person can still deliver what you need in your business, without having to uproot and relocate their lives. And actually, isn’t that the best of all worlds?

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. I agree. So this was a big tangent. We were talking about books.

Helen Joy:

Sorry. I do talk a lot. You’ll have to cut me, you’ll have to chop me right down.

Luis:

We don’t do cutting in this program, unless one of us says something invariably stupid that we regret, then I’ll cut it out. But otherwise it all stays in. So any other books?

Helen Joy:

I do like… Where’s it gone? It’s on my desk at the moment. I do like this one, actually, Anthony Gell, The Book of Leadership: How to Get Yourself, Your Team and Your Organization Further Than You Ever Thought Possible. And it’s just really simple, really straightforward, broken down into three parts, which is managing yourself, developing your own leadership, then looking at leading your teams. Because you’re having worked on the inside, work on the outside, work on your team. And then organizational leadership is part three. So that is about how you take all of this, and then encompass the whole organization into that as well. And I love that book. And that is great for people who manage remote teams as well, because it’s all about the relationships, and best practice of getting the most from people, and understanding yourself, and how you tick.

Luis:

Awesome. Awesome. So, last question. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner in a Chinese restaurant, where you were inviting all the tech leaders and the CTOs, hiring managers, decision makers from a top tech companies in Silicon Valley, or the UK if you prefer. And during the dinner, there’s going to be a round-table discussion about remote work and the future of work. Since you are the host, you decide what goes in the Chinese fortune. So what is the message that these people are going to crack open at the end of their meal?

Helen Joy:

Oh gosh. It’s only one of two.

Luis:

Okay.

Helen Joy:

I can’t pick one. And it would either be, “You can never communicate too much.” Or, “Trust first.”

Luis:

Okay. That is fitting Chinese cookies. So I appreciate the answer. All right, Helen, thank you so much for coming. It was a pleasure talking to you. If people want to continue the conversation, or know more about how to get in touch with ANPR and learn about their services, where can people find you? Where can people know more about ANPR? Where can people talk to you?

Helen Joy:

Well our website is anpronsulting.co.uk. And I’m on LinkedIn as Helen Joy. And yeah, those are probably the two best ways to get ahold of me. Under there, there is a contact page on the website as well. But I’m more than happy to talk to people about leadership, be that remote or not. As you can tell, one of my favorite subjects, and I do apologize, I do talk a lot.

Luis:

You don’t need to apologize. I enjoyed our conversation a lot. It was a pleasure. So I guess, see you around and have a great day.

Helen Joy:

Lovely. Thank you Luis so much. It is much appreciated. Thanks a lot. Bye.

Luis:

And so we close another episode of The Distant Job 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 this conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they were a joy for you 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 have more listeners.

Luis:

Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, any episodes really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up, and whenever we get the transcripts of the episodes 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, as great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration, and not just looking 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 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 the Distant Job podcast.

More ways to listen:

Helen Joy explains how focusing on your people, motivating them and enabling them to develop critical skills, you allow your business to grow beyond your own expectations and limitations.

In this podcast episode, Luis and Helen talk about change management and some of the benefits that remote work can bring to organizations.

Helen believes organizations need to start being more flexible with their workforce and quite often that flexibility means working from home or working remotely. In her opinion, the issue that many companies have against allowing flexible working is mental. She thinks it could also be generational, but it can be worked out by building trust within your team and believing that people don’t have to be physically in an office to be actually working.

Book Recommendations

  • Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr