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How to Improve Culture and Team Dynamics Remotely with Shiran Yaroslavsky

Shiran Yaroslavsky is the CEO and co-founder of Cassiopeia, a startup specializing in delivering actionable insights to boost remote team collaboration, belonging, and mental health by analyzing communication patterns within and among teams. Shiran has worked as a product manager, leading innovative products and teams, and coaching product managers. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law and has been featured in the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list.

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Luis Magalhaes:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of The Distant Job podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host, Luis Magalhaes. And today with me I have Shiran Yaroslavsky. She is the CEO and co-founder of Cassiopeia, a startup that specializes in delivering actionable insights to boost remote team collaboration, belonging, and mental health by analyzing communication patterns within and among teams. Shiran has worked as a product manager, leading both innovative products and teams, and coaching product managers. She has managed complex strategic business efforts, both in product and marketing domains. And she’s a lawyer by training. She holds a bachelor and master’s degree in law and has been featured in the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list. Shiran, welcome to the podcast.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Thank you. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Luis Magalhaes:

It’s a pleasure to have you, so a couple of questions to start. How has remote work made your business possible or helped you make it better?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. Well, so for us it’s extremely relevant. So I’m originally from Israel and I moved to the Bay area seven months ago, something like that. And the R and D side of Cassiopeia located in Israel and the business side in the US, so for us, we’re definitely a distributed team and without the ability to work remotely, we couldn’t actually operate Cassiopeia. So remote work is a big part of Cassiopeia today.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right, awesome. So Cassiopeia, so I said, Cassiopeia, I guess I’m being Portuguese about it. So sorry about this, pronouncing it before. I have to ask, is it named after the constellation or the queen of Ethiopia?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. So it’s named after the constellation. When you navigate, you usually use the Northern star and Cassiopeia, and we thought that it makes sense because we are helping companies and leaders, showing them how to better improve the team culture and team dynamics. So we thought it will… it’s kind of poetic, but it makes sense.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, it makes absolute sense following the North Star. So those were two possibilities in my mind, right. I thought that that also made sense with the legend, because it was basically Poseidon basically condemned Cassiopeia to to be stuck in the stars because she was basically a bad boss, she belittled the subjects of Poseidon, because they weren’t as beautiful as her daughter Andromeda. So I thought that could be a possible interpretation of the name.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I haven’t thought about this interpretation, but thank you.

Luis Magalhaes:

So you have your team, your business part in the US and your development site in Israel. Tell me a bit more about the dynamics of those two teams. How do you keep them in sync? How do you interact with them? How do you manage them on a day to day basis?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Sure. So we do have processes we set in order to make sure that we are synchronized and we keep our collaboration. So we have dailies, we have weeklies, as we have one on one, we have our own update system, written update system, because we are also working in different time zones. This is really important. And we have all the informal interactions that we have. So we have happy hour, also we make sure when there is a success, so there is also informal gathering and celebrating it together, across time zones, which is really important as well.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. So you talk about happy hour, obviously, in your business, practicing what you preach is important. So keeping people happy and productive and all of that is important. So what would you say are the most important communication metrics to evaluate the remote team performance, and the health of communication, let’s say? Because, so I’m nearing 100 shows right now, and this is almost the one hundred. I’m sorry I couldn’t have you for the 100 podcast, but it’s almost there. And I would say that one of the top three things, if not the top thing that is mentioned is always communication. Obviously communication is important in any business, but when it comes to remote work, it does seem that it makes or breaks the company.

Luis Magalhaes:

So obviously your business is very important because it’s allows us to be better at communication, and not in the traditional sense, right, where usually a company that focuses on making other businesses better at communication presents a communication tool. But what you present is communication insights. So I guess, take me a bit over those, and what are the metrics that you think are worth focusing the most, putting the spotlight in?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. Thank you. So definitely what we see, and this is something I’ve heard with one of the advisors we’re working with, we’re working with the leading advisors in the space of remote work and organizational development. And one of them mentioned to me, and since then, I’m just stuck with this image. Well, when you’re working remotely as a leader, you basically working with a smaller data set. You don’t have all these small data points you used to have while working from the office. So you don’t sense how people feel, you don’t see if they’re smiling during the day, or with whom they’re drinking coffee with, or with whom they interacting on lunchtime. So you don’t get all these data points.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

So the question is how we can actually close that gap, helping leaders to close that gap, helping them to better sense their team dynamics and spot problems or difficulties in a time manner right? So this is what we do, and collaboration is a big part of it. Also, we see there’s other layers also, that it’s really important to keep the company culture on the right track.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

So what I can share, our main layers that we are focusing on, is the first one is about collaboration. So basically for example, if there is a drop between different teams, collaboration between different teams, for example, or between different departments. So this is the kind of things that we also help to track and understand and highlight for managers. New employees, onboarding new employees. I don’t know Luis, if you did it recently, but onboarding new employees remotely is a big challenge.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, it is.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Also providing insights around that. For example, if new employees are less connected to their teammates compared to their colleagues. So just for example, but this is kind of insights we also provide for leaders, helping them to give new employees the support they need.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

The third one, the third layer, is about work day bonds. And this is also a lot about meeting efficiency or how you design better your work day. So I can share that also from our data, what we saw that 44% of companies’ experience of people, are just experiencing increasing meeting time, due to the shift to remote work, which is quite a lot. And what’s happening is that when you shift to remote work, people also feel that they want to close that gap by just over communicating. So they’re setting up more meetings, more calls and over communication is really important, but what’s happened in the meantime is that many employees just feel that all their calendar is just blank. They don’t have any time left to actually work on their personal tasks. So how you balance between the need to communicate, but also not causing any stress and work overload to your employees as well. So we have a lot of insights around that and how to help managers to better balance the workday.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

And the last one is about work life balance. And I guess you hear that a lot, but when people are working remotely and especially people that just shifted to remote work, it’s really hard for them to just separate between work and not work. We’re just eating, working, sleeping in the same few rooms. So it’s really hard to separate. So how we can help managers to really just create better work life balance also while working remotely.

Luis Magalhaes:

So how do you measure the work life balance? How do you determine? Because I would assume that it’s different for every person, right? I mean, I can see that you can more or less easily identify, well, not to say easily, if it was easy, everyone would do it. But I can see how you would go about identifying communication and meeting overload. At the same sense you just need to interview people, and you compare that with past metrics, but how do you detect if there’s a deficit in work life balance?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. So first of all, we just use metadata. So the way Cassiopeia is working, we analyze only metadata of communication. So that are like who sent to whom, and when. We are not analyzing any texts or any content, nothing like that. So basically we tag the metadata from Zoom, from email, calendar, Slack, whatever the company is using.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

And then we provide an actionable email report for managers with the most actionable insights for them about how to improve collaboration, belonging, and the health within their remote team. Either we work with teams that are either partially remote, or fully remote, and regarding work life balance, so we provide insights about the manager communication with employees, but also about the team. We have insights on the team level or subgroups level, like new employees. So for example, what we can highlight is for example, if we see an increasing overload in one team, for example. Or this team is working more over the weekends or more over nighttime or to take into account different time zones. So this kind of insight, it really helps managers to be more aware of when people are experiencing work overload, or just having some trouble to separate between their work and not work or other activities. So this is how we do it.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right. You talked about belonging and this is something that I’ve also read about one of your articles, the articles that you wrote, I believe it was in Medium. I might be mistaken, but I think it was. Belonging is remarkably hard in remote teams, right? Because you don’t have all the day to day context that lets people be linked. So what are some actionable suggestions that you can give the listeners that are struggling with that?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, for sure. So according to our data, with the shift to remote work, 37% of employees feel a decrease in their sense of belonging. So it’s definitely a challenge. And what I would also recommend is… So first of all, for leaders to try and be better listeners. With the shift to remote work, there’s a lot of challenges there. So trying to ask more questions about what’s in your employee’s mind right now, what’s bothering them? So be a better listener when talking to them. Try to get the nuance.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

The second thing is to be also aware of the data signals. So if people are less maybe interacting with their teammates, or less connected, so helping, just try to get these signals, if people may be just a bit more excluded or less interacting with other people. So this is really important as well. Also, people just react differently to recent changes so as managers, we need to, to be aware of that.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

And also, I know it’s harder while working remotely, but find a way to just make people feel more connected. So more informal gathering, more one on one meetings, but also make sure there is… Also your employees, is making one on one with people they’re not usually talking to, the rest, and setting the right process for it. At Cassiopeia, we also help leaders to set the right process, to really help create this kind of sense of belonging within teams.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

So try to do that, try to also understand what is right for your teams. So for example, we have leaders that are setting one on one with people that they are not usually talking to because of the shift to remote work, every two weeks. So they’re having some informal coffee break. So try to think, and also you can share it with your team and think about it together, what is the right processes for you to really keep your sense of belonging?

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. Okay. So I’ve basically lived in the internet for most of my life. And the one thing that I usually get mocked about when I’m out with friends is that I have this friend who also grew up on the internet, and whenever we get together, we talk about browsers. It’s our super interesting conversation topic, just because we spend so much time on them. It’s basically our internet office, is the browser.

Luis Magalhaes:

And I was thinking that, related again to belonging and to how someone feels like they belong in a company, the reality is that all the tools that we have together, form our virtual office. Now in a physical location, you can use workspace, design, office design to create the certain vibe about the company. Have you found out, I suspect this, but I’ve never looked at data, is there any relation between the culture of a company and the set of tools that they tend to use? And if so, what kind of set of tools makes more sense to increase belonging, increase cultural participation and inclusion?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t have the data, the correlation between the different tools and belonging level. So definitely it’s interesting topic and I’m not sure. I think it’s more about, my assumption, it’s more about also the processes, and how we use the tools that we already have more than the tools themselves. So definitely if you’re using, this is what we’re trying to do at Cassiopeia, if you’re using the data that you already have in order to create a better sense of belonging and collaboration, better collaboration, I think this is… How you use it, it’s a better question or the more important question then if you’re using, I don’t know, Microsoft or Google, but this is my assumption. I must admit that I haven’t checked the correlation yet, but it’s interesting.

Luis Magalhaes:

That’s fine, but surely it makes sense that if a company uses a project management system that has integrated time tracking, let’s say, versus one that doesn’t, and just relies on the principle of trust, certainly that sends a different vibe about the company culture.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, definitely. I agree. And also what I see is that more and more tools are taking into account when they’re designing the product, the needs of the remote work area, which is amazing. And also in our space, providing insights for leaders, we can see that other tools as well start to also provide more insights, more for remote leaders, which is exactly what you’re just describing, how we design a better work experience while working remotely.

Luis Magalhaes:

Okay. So I want to talk a bit about personality types because that was… Some years ago, it was very in vouge for companies to know the personality types of their employees, even of potential candidates before they hire. Now, some companies still are very interested in that, though it’s not as much as common. I’m wondering how you sit in the personality type literature and if you find that it influences communication patterns at all, especially in remote?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. It’s definitely interesting. We are not assessing the personality types of employees or managers, so don’t have the data to actually correlate it with our findings. But what I can see from our end is that when we are working with managers, we found that the managers that choose to use Cassiopeia are the managers that are really important for them to create a better work experience. Also they are very intentional leaders, which is important. Also sense of belonging and being empathetic. It’s really important for them to be better listeners. And this is the kind of leaders we are working with. So I can share that that I have a lot of fun working with our customers.

Luis Magalhaes:

That’s cool. That’s great. And obviously, and it’s certainly a good match because if a leader actually takes the initiative to invest in getting help for that, it means that they’re already committed from the start.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Exactly.

Luis Magalhaes:

Right. So that’s definitely great. So I want to go back, a bit back to the work life balance thing, because, well, again, this is a podcast for leaders and managers and you are a CEO. So it’s a high stress, high stakes job, certainly, you probably have a very busy life. So working remotely, how do you handle the work life balance issue?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Wow, this is a terrific question. So I think every manager, every employee need to find the things that helps ourselves to be in a better balance. For me, what I adopted in the last year or so, I used to wake up and just start working on my computer, just also because of the time difference, I woke up, and I have tons of email and tons of messages. And I feel like I’m in a battle, I need to get all these things done by the end of the day.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

And what I adopted is that now, when I’m waking up in the morning, when I wake up, I’m just start with a very short meditation and some breath exercising, and practicing some positive thinking as well, some gratitude, which is very important and really affect my day. So it’s very short, something between five to seven minutes in the morning. And then, and then I start working and doing all the things that I have to do.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

So this is what helps me and also I’m working a lot, I must admit, I’m working a lot of hours, but also I’m trying to block in my calendar also time for my other activities. So I’m usually, I’m just blocking it, so I don’t have any choice. I have to do it. So for me, what energize me and I think every person needs to think what brings you… What provides you this amazing energy, what motivated you as a person, when you are the most happy right? So for me, it’s spending time with my family and friends, but for me also running, I’m a long distance runner. So for me, it’s also running. Really helps also with stress, with just maybe processing some thoughts. So definitely spending time running, and making sure I have the time for it really helps.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice, nice. So for myself, went of the things that pushed me to work less was that I noticed that it stressed my team when the boss is writing stuff on Slack at 11 in the evening. Even though I didn’t expect no one to do answer me right. I only expected them… the expectation was that they will look at that, and answer in the morning when they start working. Just that feeling, that they were already starting to the day with something pending eight hours, that stressed people. So I learned not to do it just because if I’m working late, the team feels obliged to work late, and then they’ll burn out and that’s not good. So that was my own way of looking at things.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Cool. What’s your takeaway? What do you do to keep your mental health work life balance better?

Luis Magalhaes:

Well, I’m a fan of meditation like you. I try to meditate, though I’ve been doing home renovations for the past couple of weeks, so it’s been harder to meditate in the mornings, but I usually am pretty good at it. Exercising. I have an by the beach, so I can just go out for a run on the beach or a swim if the weather is suitable. So actually it’s a really nice time of the day.

Luis Magalhaes:

And then as far as solving that being working until very late, I just do the same thing you do. I block out the calendar. I block out the calendar after some decent work hours, I find that works best. Yes. So I’m with you on that.

Luis Magalhaes:

Okay. So I want to be respectful of your time. We’ve been at this for a while, but I want to, before you tell everyone about Cassiopeia, and how to find you, I want to ask some rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be, feel free, feel comfortable to answer as long as you like.

Luis Magalhaes:

So the first thing is, what is your computer set up when you start first time in the morning? What apps do you have open on your browser? What apps do you open right away?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. Good question. So definitely my email, and Slack, also news in the morning. I spend some time reading the news, a lot of news app, and Google doc I would say.

Luis Magalhaes:

Okay, so next question. If you had 100 euros to spend with each person working for you, what would you give them? And the rules are, you can’t give them the money, and you need to give the same thing to everyone. You can’t ask individually.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Again, rephrase the question?

Luis Magalhaes:

If you had 100 euros to spend with each person working for you, what would you give them? You can’t give them the money and you can’t buy individual gifts. You need to buy the same thing for everyone.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Wow. People that works with me. Wow. Terrific question. Interesting. Probably it will be either something fun, like for example food, like a chef meal or something like that. Or something for the soul, maybe some subscription to meditation service, or something that will help them to develop their hobby, something like that.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. You can combine both of those and give chicken soup for the soul.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Exactly.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right. So what about you, what purchase has improved your work life over the past year? Something that you have bought that improved your work life. Can be work life balance, can be something that made you more productive, et cetera.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Good ear phones. Definitely. It’s a lot of fun.

Luis Magalhaes:

What brand is your favorite?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. We have AirPod.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

I love this. Definitely one of the best purchases that I had.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. Are they the regular ones are the pro? I’m divided.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

The pro.

Luis Magalhaes:

Pro. Wow. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been… I’ve had those in my shopping cart some five times, but then I look at the price and I’m like eish.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, I know. I know, but it’s worth it.

Luis Magalhaes:

Well, nice knowing. Nice knowing. Yeah. Okay. Nice suggestion. So what about education. Obviously, you’re building a company, everyone that I know that’s building a company is very into learning. So what are your favorite resources for learning? What are some that you would recommend that maybe you have passed to people?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. I read a lot of blogs. There is great blogs these days about either marketing or product, or if it’s great content, everywhere. So a lot of bloggings and also, I love reading other entrepreneurs experience about their experience as entrepreneurs. So I’m a big fan of autobiographies or biographies. So I read all the biography of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, and… But also politicians and not just tech entrepreneurs. And I think you can learn a lot from it. Also, you really, I think what helps is that you get the proportions about when it looks like… When you’re having a bad day, you understand, okay, everyone got really bad days and dealing with their catastrophes and it just helps you to get the proportions. It could be much worse.

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

And also people are able to find the energies and strengths to deal with really tough situations, difficult, complex situation. So I think it really helped to understand how other leaders thinks about things. So I am a big fan of autobiographies and biographies, and I hear it a lot on audiobooks. So Audible. So Audible is a great app. And I think when you have time for… When you’re washing your dishes or running, or I think it’s a great way to keep learning while doing other things.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, for sure. For sure. I tend to hear podcasts, but I’m thinking of switching to audiobooks during the make dish time. So, and definitely Steve Jobs had his bad days. If some biographies are to be believed, he could have benefited from a service like Cassiopeia’s.

Luis Magalhaes:

Anyway. So my final question takes a bit more of a setup. So bear with me, but here’s the setup. You are hosting a dinner where are in attendance are the top execs from worldwide tech companies. You’re getting CEOs, CTOs, high end managers, people that make real decisions about the composition of the company’s workforce. During the dinner, there’s going to be a round table about the future of work and remote work. The twist is that the dinner happens in a Chinese restaurant. So you, as the host, get to choose the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What is your fortune cookie message?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah, I would say something like, be a good listener, be agile and use data to empower people.

Luis Magalhaes:

Okay. That’s a good message. So thank you so much for being, it was a pleasure talking with you and now the listeners certainly will want to learn more about your business, and about you. How can the listeners connect to continue the conversation and learn more about Cassiopeia?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. You’re welcome to reach out. I’m very available on LinkedIn. So you can search for Shiran Yaroslavsky on LinkedIn. Feel free to ping me. And also write on email, it [email protected] We’d love to hear your thoughts as well. And yeah. Thank you. Thank you Luis for having me, it was a real pleasure.

Luis Magalhaes:

It was my pleasure. So am I saying Cassiopeia right by the way?

Shiran Yaroslavsky:

Yeah. Great. I think it’s also, it’s a very challenging word, everyone… British pronounce it differently. American pronounce it differently. Israelis completely different, so.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. Well I started on the wrong foot by saying it, by mangling it, so I wanted to make sure I got it right for the ending. So ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to the Distant Job Podcast, the podcast about building and leading awesome remote themes. I was your host Luis. And with me today, I had Shiran Yaroslavsky, the CEO and co-founder of Cassiopeia. Thank you so much, Shiran, and see you next week, everybody.

Luis Magalhaes:

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 these conversations that are a joy to have for me. And I hope to enjoy for you to listen to as well.

Luis Magalhaes:

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. 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.

Luis Magalhaes:

By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form. And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent.

Luis Magalhaes:

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:

Three of the main topics regarding remote work are how companies can strengthen their communication, collaboration, and sense of belonging among their employees. There is the myth that without in-person interaction, it’s impossible to create a strong culture with empowered managers and employees.

In this podcast episode, our guest, Shiran Yaroslavky, reveals strategies and tips that leaders can do to improve their culture and their team collaboration. Also, the importance of looking out for employees well being and mental health.

'' Leaders should try to be better listeners. With the shift to remote work, there's a lot of challenges there. So try to ask more questions about what's in your employee's minds or if something is bothering them.'' Click To Tweet

Highlights:

  • Shiran’s insights on how to build remote communication strategies
  • How leaders can close the distance gap virtually 
  • How communication (and over-communication) affects virtual employees performance
  • How to determine work/life balance in employees
  • Tips for remote leaders to create a sense of belonging in their teams
  • The importance of looking out for employee’s mental health

 

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