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How to Measure Productivity in Virtual Teams with Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer is a remote work expert and the best-selling author of The Power of Company Culture. He is also the founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a human capital risk management firm founded over a decade ago on the core belief that all suppliers of services should truly make a difference.

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Chris Dyer

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. This is a podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams and I am your host, Luis. In this episode, I am joined by Chris Dyer. Chris is a remote work expert and advocate and the best selling author of The Power of Company Culture. He teaches a course on remote working at Udemy, and is also the founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a human capital risk management firm founded over a decade ago on the core belief that all suppliers of services should truly make a difference. Chris, great having you on the show.

Chris Dyer:

Thank you so much for having me.

Luis:

It’s my absolute pleasure. People who are used to listening to the show know that I make a point of reading my guest’s books, and I dropped the ball on you. I am very, very sorry. As I said before we started, my time management skills were very poor the past two weeks, probably something to do with me getting married, it happens. It’s not a good excuse. But anyway, it’s my excuse. In any case, if something that I ask is completely and utterly covered in the book you can just tell me to shut up and go read the book.

Luis:

Needless to say, you are a best selling author. I will include the links in the show notes. And I hope that this conversation will be far from exhausting the contents of your book, and that people at the end will feel compelled to read more and to go and grab it. So, I have introduced you already. But did I miss anything? Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and what you do?

Chris Dyer:

Sure. So, I do a lot of things. I have a little bit of too much energy sometimes. And my day job is by day I am running my company, PeopleG2. We actually have been around since 2001. So, it’s actually been two decades now.

Luis:

Wow.

Chris Dyer:

And we help companies with their hiring, when they’re hiring somebody to make sure that they had that degree they said they had, and they really did work at that job or did the things they said they did. So, really verifying those people. But along the way, my company started to really experiment and do a lot with our culture and really focusing on our people.

Chris Dyer:

We were having such incredible results that I began talking about that with groups, sharing that with other companies. Along the way started a podcast, wrote a book, and that turned into then me prior to COVID speaking all around the world. And so, part of what I spend my time doing is training, consulting, speaking, and really helping organizations, usually with one of the two main focuses and sometimes a combination of these two. And that is how to have a fantastic culture. Really working with them on their company culture. And if they have remote workers, or they want their company to be remote, and because my organization has been fully remote since 2009, I can also help them with that part as well.

Chris Dyer:

Now that COVID is here, I’ve done over 70 trainings with organizations from Johnson & Johnson to IKEA to Citibank to the small mom and pop shops that you maybe wouldn’t ever recognize their name to help them. How do you be remote? How do you have a team? How do you lead? How do you do it? And so, that’s really been filling up my time this year.

Luis:

Okay. So, let’s move right into the remote part. So your company has been remote since 2009, fully remote, correct? Did I get that right?

Chris Dyer:

Right.

Luis:

So, how do you feel that remote work has made your company better?

Chris Dyer:

Well, to be honest, when we started our remote journey in 2009, it was really in response to the recession that we were having very specifically United States and it was around the world. But for the United States, it was very, very hard. It hit us very hard. And we made the decision to go remote as a part of a strategy to save money and to attempt to not have to lose anybody. We didn’t want to lose any employees or lay anybody off. And so, it started off as a strategy really based in self preservation and also finance. But we found out pretty quickly that it was more enjoyable, we were getting more done, we were more productive. But we needed to make some changes. We couldn’t keep doing things like we were doing them before.

Chris Dyer:

So, when we sort of made this accidental discovery that remote was better for us we really jumped in and said, “Let’s figure out how to do this really, really well. Let’s figure out what is different. What we need to do differently.” And then that became a strategy for us, and caused me to turn and say, “You know what, we can no longer be a customer service focused organization.” That was what we always… Kind of was our pride that our customer was first, that our customer we really were focused on our customer. And instead, I caused a little bit of chaos for a while when I told everyone, our number one focus, our number one priority is our people. And we’re going to focus on our employees first, that is our number one focus. And they will take care of our customers. They will then take that energy. They will take that goodwill. They will take that process that we put in place, and make our clients even happier than we ever could have. That turned out to be true, that turned out to be a much better way to operate.

Luis:

Okay, so how do you feel that the remote work shift impacted the employees first then? How do you feel? Was it a smooth transition? Was just the fact that they were working from home, obviously, that in the midst of a crisis, that they all still had a job, that has to make people very happy, right? But over that, was it a smooth transition to remote? What did you have to adapt? And specifically, you talk a lot about culture, that’s a big part of your personal brand. So what cultural shifts were needed, if any? What initiatives did you feel that you needed to take to make sure that the culture, either that you maintain the culture, or that you grew the culture into what it needed to be considering the new remote reality?

Chris Dyer:

So, the simple answer is, I sum it up in this that within the first two weeks of us going remote every single employee called me on their own to tell me this was the best thing we’d ever done.

Luis:

Wow.

Chris Dyer:

And none of them had worked remotely before. None of them had ever had that experience. We did a lot of work to prepare them. We went through everything. We dealt with every contingency possible. There were a lot of bumps in the road, there were a lot of things, but that initial idea that they could be home in peace and quiet, no one bothering them. No noise, no one cooking fish in the microwave that was three days old. No one burning popcorn. None of the stuff that goes on at work. You have human beings around you, and they’re either going to make your day great, or they’re going to annoy the heck out of you sometimes. That’s just a natural sort of thing. People were now home. They could save money by not buying out. They weren’t driving in. They weren’t having a commute in traffic. And they were getting that deep, deep time to sit and think and get their job done. They were finding they were getting so much more done. They were so much more productive that the simple answer is they loved it.

Chris Dyer:

Now, what did we have to change? What do we have to kind of figure out? Well, the culture part was really a journey for us to figure out what we needed to focus on. But the biggest area that we made, initially realized was that we had to change how we met. And so, we have become an organization that is… I mean, we are so fascinated and focused on how to meet well. We are always iterating our meetings and finding new ways to make it better. We really landed into a really good group. But the simple example is we realized there was people that were picking up a phone and talking to John. Hanging up then they would call Luis and tell Luis what they had talked to John about. Then they hung up and they called Jose, and told Jose when they talked to Louis and John.

Chris Dyer:

And so, there was one person having five calls in a day and really wasting their entire day trying to bring information and move things along and all that. There’s only so much negotiating and talking and brainstorming you can do over email or Slack. So, what we realized was we needed to cut that out. They were having five hour long, 30 to hour long phone meetings one at a time. And instead we said, “No more meeting one-on-one. We need to start having group meetings.” So we have different meeting types. I’ll tell you about one of them. One of them is called the cockroach meeting. So imagine you have a cockroach in your bathroom. It’s a small problem. You may not be the one that cleans it up, but it’s a small problem. So, you can go in and deal with it quickly. So if we call a cockroach meeting, it means it’s no more than 15 minutes. It always starts on time. We try to end early if we can. It’s optional for anyone who you invite. It’s optional for them to show up.

Chris Dyer:

Elon Musk is getting a lot of attention right now because he tells people, his employees recently in a memo that if you’re in a meeting and you’re not contributing, you don’t need to be there, you should leave. It’s not rude to leave a meeting. It’s rude to waste someone’s time. We found that out a long time ago that it should be optional for people to show up to most meetings, because they may not be able to be there. They may not be able to contribute. It may not be the right time for them. And forcing people into meetings is a cultural killer.

Luis:

I assume that if you make the cockroach meeting, and no one shows up, then you need to go and kill the cockroach yourself.

Chris Dyer:

Right. But I would say that, as far as I know, that has never happened in our entire history of the company that because we are inviting five people, five to seven people, what we do is we say, “Hey, I’ve got this one problem. A client called and they need to know how to format an invoice some other weird way or something.” And so, you send out a note to five to seven people you think might be able to help you across the company. This could be sales people, this could be accounting, this could be customer service, this could be research. You’re sending it out to people who you think might be able to help you. So, you’re getting to interact with people across the organization that aren’t just on your team, and say, “Hey, here’s the problem, who can help me?”

Chris Dyer:

And they show up, and then they say, “Oh, well, here’s this tool. Or this happened before, we realize you can’t do that.” Maybe the seven people show up and they say, I’ve got some ideas. And then they finally say, “You know what, we don’t really know, maybe you need to talk to Chris. You need to go and ask him.” But whatever it is, you’re just moving them along. But think about how much gets done in 15 minutes or less getting those people together on one topic, there’s no bringing up other issues. There’s no bird walking. There’s no… And then they’re off the phone. And that is not only a productivity saver, it’s not only a performance enhancer, it is huge for profits because I’m now not spending my money as the business owner on paying people to sit on having one-on-one meetings all day.

Chris Dyer:

And so, we average about 35 cockroach meetings a day across the organization that happens. We average another 15 ostrich meetings a day. Ostrich meetings are basically I don’t know something. Who knows how to do this thing? Who can help me get my head out of the sand? Who can teach me something? And then we average maybe one to two tiger team meetings a day. Those are larger, bigger, intense meetings on large topics. And we do tsunami planning meetings. Each team does them at least once a month.

Chris Dyer:

So, of all the different meetings that give everyone a very clear understanding of what is expected of them. What will happen? What do they have to do in the meeting? What will other people do in the meeting? How long will I be on this meeting? And am I required to be on this meeting? And all by the name of the meeting. No one has to write a five page email explaining to everybody what’s going to happen in this meeting. Based on how it’s titled everyone knows what their job is when they show up.

Luis:

Got it. So, a couple of questions is wouldn’t a lot of those kinds of problems that you described be perhaps better solved, maybe not, but just through asynchronous communication? Through pinging the people on Slack? Pinging all the people on Slack and just waiting for the replies to come in, instead of setting up a meeting, setting up a call. Why necessarily the 35 cockroach meetings a day? Again, maybe it would help people visualize that if you talked a bit about the scope of your organization, of course, right? It’s if you have 3,000 people in your organization 35 meetings is not so much. If you have 35 people, that’s a lot of meetings.

Chris Dyer:

So, yeah. We definitely do have asynchronistic work happening. And there are people across time zones. And so, I think that David Marquez recent book Leadership Is Language really explains this pretty well. He talks about that there’s red work, and blue work. So red work is the task. It’s the doing of your work. Whatever it is your job is, doing the work. And so, I find that our asynchronous communication and those things around doing what the job is that they were asked to do is definitely happening across Slack and email and those. Hey, I’m going to go do this thing and I’ve completed this thing. Okay, how did that go? All that kind of stuff is happening exactly how you just suggested.

Chris Dyer:

But there are times when something new comes up. And so, what we’ve trained our people to do is to not think about this like red work. This is not your route, normal work that you do on autopilot that you’re barely thinking about. I mean, think about when you’re driving. Have you ever gotten in the car, you drive somewhere, and you get to your destination and you realize you don’t even remember the drive over. It’s so your brain is working on auto sync. You just go because you’ve done it 100 times. But now imagine on that same car ride, the major highway that you normally take to get there suddenly is shut down. Do you just go ahead and go on that freeway, even though that it’s shut down? Do you just keep going and ignore all of the signs and the cones and the police officers? Of course, not.

Chris Dyer:

You would stop. You’d pull over. Google Maps might help you redirect. You might decide you have to go home. You got to stop and brainstorm about what you need to find a new way to do what you want to do. And that is blue work, and that is what those cockroach meetings are for. I have run into this new thing I’ve never seen before, this new issue, this new problem. A client called me they have a new problem, a new issue, a new suggestion. And that is where we need to get people together and break the routine of Slack, break the routine of email of that red work, and get them into blue work of this brainstorming. Hey, let’s let’s think about this. Let’s redraw this map. Let’s throw out ideas really quickly and get an idea of maybe what we should be doing. That is what allows good companies to become great to really help people to foster that idea that hey, it’s okay to stop, think, talk out loud, get people to argue about it, and then make a decision, and go.

Luis:

Got it. Okay. So, let’s go a bit back in time to your shift into remote work. What expectations did you have that you found challenging? What were some things that you expected were going to happen that actually didn’t happen? And what were some things that you weren’t expecting that actually happened? What surprised you?

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, the surprises in remote work. I think, well, the first one was that all my employees called me and said how happy they were. That was a big surprise. I mean, I was really worried we were going to lose people, that they weren’t going to like it, that that part was certainly a surprise. The other surprise has been how much more productive everyone is. And I thought my employees were pretty protected before, that they always did a good job. And then we send them home, and they’re 40% more productive. I mean, that’s just insane.

Chris Dyer:

I mean, it’s not 4%, this was 40% more productive. And they’re happier about it. They were not feeling like they’re suddenly overworking. Either doing this, excuse me, the same amount of hours in the same job, and they’re more productive. That was really interesting. Now, on the negative side, a bit of surprises. We did figure out that there was some manipulating going on with some of the work. There were some employees that had been manipulating the system to ensure they got the easiest work. And so, I tell the story all the time that we had an employee who we thought was our best employee in this one department. She always got the most amount of work done. And we thought, “Wow, she’s amazing.” And we had another employee who was barely making her quota, barely getting the amount of work done that we expected. And we were very close to firing her. We went remote, and we had to change how we assign the work.

Chris Dyer:

Now, we were no longer in-person where someone could go and take the work they wanted. It now had to be democratically assigned through our computer system. We had to make it much more democratic, much more just you get two, you get five, you get two, whatever it was. We were just sort of handing it out almost like a deck of cards and blindly passing them out to all the players. That wasn’t happening before. Before we put the whole deck of cards on the table, and everyone came and just grabbed the work and grabbed the cards they wanted. We didn’t realize that that’s what was happening.

Chris Dyer:

So within a matter of a few weeks, we realized that our best… Who we thought was our best employee was our worst employee and our worst employee was our best employee. So, we realized that the person who was getting the most done prior to remote was taking the easiest work and leaving the hardest work for everybody else. And the employee that was struggling was actually taking the hardest work. They were taking the most difficult projects because they had great pride in that. They found it interesting. They were trying to do the hardest work because they were trying to show that they were valuable by doing the hardest work. Unfortunately, all we saw employee one got 10 done an hour and employee two got four done an hour. And that looked like they were underperforming.

Chris Dyer:

When we made it more democratic. Suddenly, that person who was taking the hardest work was now getting a mix of hard and easy. And they were doing 15 or 16 an hour. They were not only better than before, they were better than the best was before remote work. And so, by removing this human issue, this ability of human beings to come in and cherry pick… I love this. We call it cherry picking in the United States. I don’t know if this carries over-

Luis:

Yeah.

Chris Dyer:

… anywhere else, but sort of-

Luis:

In any case, most of the audience of this podcast is in North America.

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, okay. So, this idea of cherry picking. We’re sort of just not… You’re just sitting on one side of the court waiting for the ball to come to you and you’re not doing the rest of the work. So, that was a huge surprise to us that we could really think about how to redefine the work and keep the work democratic. We went and we looked at our sales team, and it was the same thing. Certain sales people were getting the best deals coming to them. And other salespeople, were getting the leftovers. We got democratic, and then realized, too. And so, we just kept doing that process. So, I think that’s one of the big surprises a lot of people find.

Luis:

Yeah, I usually say that being remote removes certain biases from the work. People tend to… It tends to even out. Even when it comes to personality, suddenly, sometimes people that were louder or had more imposing body language when you were meeting in the same location. Suddenly on a video call, maybe they don’t talk so much of the conversation, and the brainstorming, and the ideation, and other people can also shine. So, definitely remote work I say it levels the playing field a bit in those situations. But there’s another thing that I want to tie into your story because it’s such a great story. A lot of people ask me how to track productivity. Obviously, you had a 40% increase in productivity. That’s pretty good, and I want to talk a bit more in depth of why you think that is later on.

Luis:

But the reality is that, especially now in COVID times, people are used to using a pretty bad metric, which is lifting their head from their cubicle and looking around at their employees if they’re working or not. It’s a terrible metric, but it’s a metric all the same. And now, when it comes to, let’s say, Basecamp or Asana or whatever project management system you use reports and assigning of KPIs. A lot of people that were used to working in a shared office are a bit at a loss of how to track productivity. So, that’s the second part. So, the first part is the picking off the work. But the second part is the reporting of the work. And how have you figured out a way to make that fair and transparent? Because I can imagine that some employee could also over report while others under report?

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, so there’s a lot. That’s a very, very complex issue. And it really will be employee or employee type by employee type. So, what you need to do is remove this idea that you have to somehow come up with some magical thing that’s going to measure everyone in the same way. We cannot treat everyone the same in organizations. We can treat them all fairly by putting in some sort of fair metrics for them. But we cannot gauge productivity of the CEO is the same as the intern. These are not the same jobs. Someone in my company in research is not the same as someone in verifications. A salesperson and a customer service person. Those metrics are totally different. So we look at each job, and we try to look at several things. So let me compare maybe sales and customer service.

Luis:

Sure.

Chris Dyer:

For sales, I’m going to look at several things. The first and most important thing is, are they meeting their quota. Sales is being asked to bring in a certain amount of business every year. We set goals with them that they agree to. We don’t personally tell the salespeople, ‘you must get this number.” We come up with them, we work with them, and they figure out what shows they want to go to or things they can do, and they help us derive a number they think they can meet. So, it’s a very open and collaborative process. So whatever that is, we break that over 12 months. And we say, that’s the most important metric.

Chris Dyer:

Now, if they’re not meeting that metric, or I have any concern about that, then I would go down to the next metric for them, which is what is their activity level in the CRM? What does their call volume look like? What does their email volume look like? What other sorts of activity levels? If they’re not meeting their quota then I might say, “Well, what is their activity levels look like in these other areas where I can measure? And if their activity level is low, well, then that’s a pretty good indicator they’re not trying very hard. If their activity level is very high, and they’re still not meeting their quota, then they might need some other help. There might be some other way we can provide training or assistance to them. And we really have to look at that differently.

Chris Dyer:

Now customer service, they’re going to be rated on how satisfied clients are with their tickets. We asked our clients are they satisfied with the service they got. We’re going to look at that. We’re going to look at how many tickets they responded to, their activity levels. And so, that’s very different than, let’s say, a sales quota. So, when we look at lots of different parts of the business, lots of different metrics, we call them KPIs, key performance indicators, and really focus there on what is the most important KPI that’s being met or surpassed. I really am not that worried about the rest of it. That’s just me. That’s my management style. I’m not going to… Someone is getting 99% customer satisfaction rating. I’m not really worried. I’m not going to -. They’re doing a great job, right? People

Luis:

Sure. Maybe they’re doing that by making them the rain dance out on the parking, that’s okay, whatever works.

Chris Dyer:

Right, whatever works. And as long as there… And we mix that with response time for tickets. We look at that as overall for the department. Their average response time on a ticket is two hours. And our happiness rating is 99%. I’m a happy guy. I’m leaving them alone. Go do your job. You guys are great. High five, we’re done. That goes down to 95, or response rates go up to 12 hours or something. Yeah, now I’m going to start asking questions. Now, we’re going to start looking at the data. We’re going to dig in and we’re going to figure out, do we have a problem? Is there a certain employee? Is there a couple clients that maybe need some special love and attention? We’ll figure that out.

Chris Dyer:

It’s easy for business owners to say, “I just want to think of one thing I can do. I want to keep it simple. One thing that will tell me is everyone productive.” And I’ve seen organizations come and go by just basing it on just activity. Just their platform activity or just happiness ratings instead of looking at multi-pronged things that is more complicated and a little bit harder to track, but will give you the real answer you need.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a very thorough answer. Thank you for that. So back to that specific productivity increase. Now, overall, and there are there is actually some really good data out there from 2020 that overall, really, the shift to remote has resulted in increased productivity across the board. So, I think that’s pretty much a done deal that people believe now that remote work almost always, almost in all cases increases productivity, even when it’s done in a crash course situation, like it was this year. So, that’s hooray for that. People are finally understanding that. But even having done so in a more thoughtful manner like you certainly did, a 40%, productivity boost is huge. And and I want to ask, in short, why? What do you think were the things that you had in place when you did the shift that allowed you and your business to get such a great results?

Chris Dyer:

So, it was really two big areas, two big things that are pretty simple. One, by sending them home, we removed all of the distractions. We removed all of these dumb meetings and all this time spent hanging out in the kitchen or the water cooler and commute time and all these things. Think about if someone needed to go to the doctor. They would take half the day off instead of just taking an hour, and they’re returning back. Because their doctor is by their home not where our office was, probably. So, we removed all of that stuff, all the minutia, all the junk that comes along with being in an office with people.

Chris Dyer:

The second thing is we gave them deep time to work and concentrate and think where they were not interrupted. So, if they needed, if they had a lot of work today, and they really need to work at something then they could put their head down and work hard for a period of time and no once could interrupt them. They can ignore meetings. They could just put their head down and really, really work hard to stay ahead of the game. Those are the big areas. I would say that two sub areas would be by making meetings really effective and giving them an opportunity to be able to brainstorm and to think. Help them be able to find and continue to iterate and find new ways of working and thinking and doing that. And the last thing is we actually changed how people work. So, a traditional American office is you get two 15 minute breaks every four hours or whatever, and then you get a 30 minute… You get an hour lunch, a 30 minute paid lunch, 30 minute off. And it’s very structured and regimented, and all of that.

Chris Dyer:

I mean, if you’re working on an assembly line, that makes sense. If your work is directly connected to somebody else’s work in a line that makes sense. If you’re working at a desk, I think that’s stupid.

Luis:

Absolutely.

Chris Dyer:

And yet it is like people are told when their break is and they’re told when their lunch is. And so, what we did is we said, we really want you to sprint for 45 minutes, and rest for 15. We advocated for our employees to take a 15 minute break every hour, essentially. We told them get a… Now, not necessarily a break, I mean, per se, we just said, spread, work hard for 45 minutes, get up 15 minutes, go do the laundry, take the dog for a walk good, then go get more coffee, sit and think about something because that’s when you could do your blue work.

Chris Dyer:

That’s when you started thinking about why am I doing the job this way? I just spent 45 minutes killing myself. There’s got to be an easier way to do that. And your brain starts thinking about that almost even subconsciously. And then they come back to the computer, and they start thinking about, maybe there’s a better way that I can do this. They started thinking about efficiencies. As opposed to being locked into your chair and your desk for four hours, told to do your job, and now you’re exhausted, you’re upset, you’re worn out, and you’re never thinking about how to make anything better. You’re just trying to survive the hell that you’re in. I think that is where a lot of these efficiencies and changes happened.

Luis:

That’s a really good strategy. You basically implemented the Pomodoro Timer Method. You made it part of the way the company operates. That’s quite surprisingly simple yet profound tactic.

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, yeah.

Luis:

Pretty interesting. So, the other question that I had burning in me is how do you feel that once you shifted to remote, and while this obviously has worked out fine for you because it’s almost been… It’s been a long time. It’s been 11 years. How has that impacted your hiring, if in any way? Personally, I mean, spoiler alert, obviously, we are a remote recruitment agency. So, of course, I’m going to say that, but personally, I find that once I started recruiting remotely, I was looking for a different skill set. Not technical skill set. You still should have the skills that are needed for your job. But there are another set of skills, soft skills, and organizational skills that I look for. I’m wondering if you mirror that experience in any way?

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, I think one of the best things about remote work is that you eliminate this location bias. And so, what I mean by that is I’m in Orange County, California. It’d be really easy to say, I need to have a director of marketing here in Orange County, California. Or, well, we’re crazy in California. We’ll drive two hours for a job. So even just in the whole southern part of the state. That could be LA or San Diego. I mean, people will drive a long ways for a job, which is why they hate their job. But anyways, so that comes with a bigger salary because the cost of living is much higher here.

Chris Dyer:

And so, and I’m limited to the people that are here. When I’m remote, and I say, “I just want the best remote.” I just want the best kind of marketing I can find, let’s say in the United States if I’m restricted to my country, but they can live anywhere. So I might find someone in a different state, a different town, a different county, where the cost of living is significantly lower. And so, I may get the same great person I could have got here, but now they don’t require the same salary from me. Their cost of living is so much lower. If I hire someone from Kansas, I’m going to pay a little bit less. Even a lot less than I will someone who lives in Manhattan or lives in downtown, and lives in Los Angeles, where the cost of living is significantly different. I mean, probably the same for you maybe where you’re at

Luis:

What are the odds that all the best marketing, the best directors of marketing are all located in Orange County, California? What are the odds?

Chris Dyer:

Right. The odds are pretty bad. Now, there is some… Prior to COVID, there was some people going to those places because that’s where people expected them to work. But there was a lot of people who said, “I don’t want to live in a big city. I don’t want to live in a small apartment.” Where I could make a little bit less, but I could have a big house in a different state. And so, we’re also finding a lot of people are leaving big cities right now because they don’t have to be there for their job. They’re being allowed to remote work. And so, they’re returning back to more suburbs, and states where the cost of living is lower. I think that’s going to be a fundamental long term impact, at least on our country, that we’re seeing people really leaving the bigger cities, which will help rents. I think it’s a good thing overall.

Chris Dyer:

But yes, so we were able to actually expand. Before, if we had someone coming into our office, we could only hire someone who was willing to drive to our office every day, which really limited our scope, limited our ability on who we could get. And that put us in a pretty big competitive war, a price war in trying to lure in the best people and pay them top dollar. If I have all 50 states in the United States, I have what? Almost 300 million people to possibly consider as opposed to maybe three million people to consider in my area. So, that’s pretty significant talent pool that I now have access to if I’m allowing remote work.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. This wasn’t planned, folks, but you basically hit all my market bullet points there. So thank you so much. Thank you so much. This was great. This went much better than I expected. So, let’s move on, because I want to be respectful of your time. Let’s move on to… Well, before we move on to some rapid fire questions, I do want to talk about your personal productivity. How you conduct your personal productivity. Tell me how you manage your remote team. What is your typical day look like? What does your typical week look like?

Chris Dyer:

It really does depend. So I mean, prior to COVID, I was on the road a lot. So, I was working always in pockets and different times. I may have found myself four days at home and working hard and deep on stuff. And then I may have found myself three days on the road and speaking in two different cities and on planes. And so, I really had to learn how to remove the guilt that I wasn’t necessarily available at the moment, maybe when my people wanted me. I may have been on the plane or I couldn’t respond exactly when I wanted to.

Chris Dyer:

And so, that was kind of an interesting… It took me a few years to really realize that I had to when I’m on, I’m on, and when I’m off, I’m off. And so work hard when I’m on. I used to be really guilty, I would feel guilty if I took an hour to go and do something else. Maybe if my brain was just done and I couldn’t work anymore, and it was one o’clock in the afternoon. And I would go and do something and go play guitar or go do something else that wasn’t work. I would feel guilty about that. But yet, I never felt guilty if I sat in front of the TV and worked until midnight. And those two things don’t go together.

Luis:

I definitely feel what you mean.

Chris Dyer:

So, I realized I needed to when I need to stop, when I’m burnt out, when my brain is telling me no more. No mas. Your work is not on your agenda right now, and I can go do something else. And sometimes that’s a different type of work that maybe is different and just makes me feel like I’m in a rut. Sometimes it’s a hobby. Maybe that’s just going and taking a walk. Maybe that’s just sitting on my butt and watching TikTok for an hour. I mean, whatever it is I need to do to give my brain a break, and then I don’t have to feel guilty about working. If I pick up my laptop at 10:00 PM and I suddenly have a rush of creativity or energy that I could work for a couple hours. So, I really allowed myself that huge ebb and flow.

Luis:

Yeah. Sometimes my fiancee, well, my wife is… She looks at me, she gives me a funny look when I’m on the PlayStation playing for an hour during work hours. And I’m like, “I’m working.” And she’s like, “Really?” But yeah, it’s important because it’s specifically leading a marketing team, and setting the direction of marketing campaigns, and all of that. It’s not going to go well if I just sit my ass in front of the monitor and work for eight hours straight. Some days might look like that. But other days, I work for two hours, and then nothing is coming out. So, I need to go play some shooting video games. And then until I feel like the fountain of creativity to put it in a very, very pompous way is unblocked sometimes. Or sometimes it’s taking a walk. Sometimes work looks like taking a walk.

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it’s having those pockets of time. I mean, it’s almost like dreaming. People don’t realize it. If you’re trying to learn a new language, you’re trying to memorize something, if you do a little bit of work right before you go to bed, when you go to sleep, your brain is still working on that. So, it’s going without you, you don’t have to do the work. It’s actually helping you to do that work. It’s the same thing. When you stop and you go and play video game, and you take a walk, your brain is still working out problems in the background. Your operating system is doing sub routines without you knowing it. And then you come back to it and have ideas. I find that that’s what creative people do who solve big problems, who come up with new ways to work. Whereas, those that don’t are locked into this, I work from this time to this time, and then I’m done, right?

Luis:

Yeah.

Chris Dyer:

And they are constantly pushing through exhaustion, and are pushing through frustration, and they do not have the same results that people who can make that shift can have.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. So, again, let’s move on to some more streamlined questions. I mean, the questions are streamlined, but the answers don’t need to be. Feel free to expand as much as you’d like. So, let’s talk about tools. Specifically, if you had $100 to spend with each person working for you, and you have to buy the same thing for everyone, and it can’t be a gift cards. Meaning you need to actually select a tool, could be software, could be hardware, could be an experience, but you have to select something to give to everyone working with you. What would you give them?

Chris Dyer:

Something to give them that’s $100 that’s the same for everyone.

Luis:

Flexible pricing, it doesn’t need to be exactly $100.

Chris Dyer:

I mean, my natural inclination would be to go back to them and say, “What do you need?” I would ask them what they want to spend the $100. That would be my first… That was my gut reaction is to go back and say, “Hey, here’s $100 everyone. What is it? What tool? What thing? What software? What do you need to make your life easier or better?” Because they know better than I do. If I’m forced to give them something, then I probably would give them something, if I had to choose it that would give them joy, or make them laugh, or be something that had a bit of… That they would remember. Sending them an editable arrangement or I don’t know a funny gadget they would put on their desk. I mean, just something that might be memorable.

Chris Dyer:

I remember a funny line from a movie. I think it was Finding Forrester with Sean Connery. He said, “The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.” I’ve taken that lesson to my employees. To give an unexpected gift at an unexpected time brings a lot of value. The same with your clients. People expect a gift around the holidays, around Christmas, or Hanukkah. They expect a gift then. They might expect something on their annual renewal time or whatever. But when you just send them something randomly in a random time, it makes a huge impact. It’s a bigger splash. So, I might do it that way.

Luis:

Exactly. I’m actually, I’m like that with my friends and family. I usually forget birthdays, and I’m not very good at Christmas either. But the thing that I do that usually gets me in the good graces of people is, “Hey, I bought this. It reminded me of you. So, here, have this thing. But so what is something? What is something that you have gifted your employees? Give me an example of one of those surprise gifts.

Chris Dyer:

We have different times we did like fun Valentine’s Day things and I sent everyone a giant five pound bag of red hots.

Luis:

Nice.

Chris Dyer:

So, I did this a couple years in a row. First year I sent everyone this cool glass bowl that looked like a melting piece of, like a plastic bag. But it was actually a glass bowl. And if there was new employees then I would send them that as well the next year. One year I did the red hots. The next year I did the giant wholesale version of those little candy hearts with little messages on them. We’ve done a St. Patty’s Day gift. When we have our annual holiday party I also like to try to give them something that’s cool that maybe is new. We’ve done the Amazon Alexa when that was a new thing. We’ve done cool speakers. Last year, and again, this wasn’t a very expensive but we did a personalized mouse pad. So, every employee got a mouse pad that we thought fit their personality and it fit their likes and showed that we thought about who they were. This was the one that they got me. You can see this is a storm trooper

Luis:

Oh, yeah.

Chris Dyer:

This is a famous painting, I think hanging in the louvre, but they’ve replaced the guy with the storm trooper. So, it was a funny way to-

Luis:

You’re a guy.

Chris Dyer:

Yeah, so it was a funny thing. So, we’ve tried to do those kind of things where you take a moment to think about the person when you’re getting them something. Or you’re just doing something so ridiculous. It’s a funny conversation and something they remember for a long time.

Luis:

Okay. Well, nice, interesting. So, what about yourself? What is the thing that you have spent money on, any amount of money in the last year to six months that you feel has considerably improved your work life?

Chris Dyer:

I brought this Jabra, little speaker thing that I use. Now, I’m actually on the podcast mic right now because we’re on a podcast, but I use this Jabra every day for my regular calls. And that pretty much eliminates most of the echoes, hissings, poppings, whatever. It’s easy to click a little button and mute myself if I need to. It’ll also work as Bluetooth if I can’t plug it in. I mean, it has made all these conference calls the sound quality, not only me, so people can hear me better, but I can hear them better. Because a lot of times these little laptop speakers aren’t very powerful. And so, you can’t always hear people very well. So, that’s been a big one that’s been helpful. I also-

Luis:

Is  an old DistantJob Podcast favorite, by the way. Many guests have recommended it. It’s a solid favorite.

Chris Dyer:

Yeah. This is the Jabra GN. The other thing that I invested in, that it just sort of I like to do. So, I like to create signposts. And what I mean by that is nice to have a thing that happens that starts your day or end your day. If you need that break to not be stuck in your office all day and all night working. If you need to… So when you drive into an office, and then when you leave and you get in the car, when you drive and you go there, that’s your signpost that it’s time to start work. When you’re driving on the way home, that’s your signpost to say, “Well, I’m done with work.”

Chris Dyer:

We don’t have that with remote work. So what I did is I got these sort of e-plugs where you can connect it to your smart home. Whatever device or thing that you use. I’m avoiding saying her name, so she doesn’t turn on right now during our podcast. But one of those like, hey, Google, or whatever. I connected it and created a voice routine. So, I’d say a particular phrase when I walk into my office and all of the lights turn on.

Luis:

Nice.

Chris Dyer:

Everything turns on automatically, and then when I leave I have the same routine, and it shuts everything down. It’s sort of fun. You feel like you’re in Star Trek or Star Wars or something. The computer’s using your voice command. That’s a little bit of a signpost for me that when I leave my office it’s time for me to go think about the family, go make dinner, do all that. I can come back to work if I want to or need to. But for that moment, I stop and that’s my signpost.

Luis:

Nice. That’s actually a really good. That’s actually a really good tip. Rituals are powerful. Even if they’re small rituals, they make a difference. So, great point. So let’s talk a bit about books. Do you gift books? Are you a book gifting person?

Chris Dyer:

I am.

Luis:

So, what are your most gifted books, if I may ask.

Chris Dyer:

There’s a couple books that I really love to give to people that depend on their… What’s going on in their lives. But probably my most gifted book recently is The Art of Gathering. I absolutely love this book. It really explains. It talks about the importance of creating the right environment. And as I talked earlier in the podcast about how we meet and how we have certain rules and it’s very clear about what’s expected. This gets into everything from business meetings to parties. It’s how do you create the right environment so that whoever’s there, you get the expected outcome.

Chris Dyer:

And so, I gave you the business example, so I’ll give you a personal example. Prior to COVID, we have two parties at my house every year. One is a beer garden party where we invite everyone we know, and we get a giant keg of German beer, and we get giant pretzels and sausages and everything. And we invite everyone but we tell them, “This is a German party. You must drink German or Bavarian beer,” the whole Bavarian region. Bring that, that’s all that’s allowed. There’s no bringing Coors Light or Budweiser or Heineken. And so, we have these very strict rules. We highly suggest they dress up or wear German colors, or Bavarian colors, do something.

Chris Dyer:

And so, because I always felt a little bit like a jerk that I’m having this party, and I’m being a nice guy by doing a giant party. But I’m also telling people I’m going to throw you out if you’re not going to play along with the rules. Here are the rules the party. That is our most popular party. We had 150 people come to my house the last time we had it.

Luis:

It’s in Orange County.

Chris Dyer:

Yeah. But that was because people knew what was expected. They knew what it was. If I just said, “Hey, we’re going to have a pool party.” Or, “Hey, we’re just going to have a party for no reason. Everyone come by, bring something if you want.” I’m sure I would have had people come. Maybe I would have had 20 people come or 30 people. It would have been a nice party. But when I tell everyone, here are the rules. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what’s expected of you, more people showed up.

Chris Dyer:

It’s the same thing in life with your clients, with your vendors, with your employees. You give them all of the framework, what is expected? And what will happen to them, and what will other people do, and what will they not do? The participation level goes way up because people, if they don’t know what’s going to happen. And they don’t know what’s expected of them, they can’t show up and be themselves fully. Or they find a reason why not to show up. So, that book in itself was groundbreaking.

Luis:

Awesome.

Chris Dyer:

I highly suggest it to a lot of people. Another one, if people need help with sales and negotiation there’s a great book by Jim camp called Start With No, which is basically the anti win-win. So, if you’re walking into negotiations, and you think win-win is the way to go this book will shockingly change your mind that that is what you should be doing. Really focusing on trying to get people to tell you no. The more nos you can get, the better off you are on a sales process. The more likely you are to actually close deals if you can actually get people to the point that they’ll tell you no to something. Because we are polite people, and we like to say yes, and maybe, and we don’t actually mean it. Not in every culture, but in a lot of cultures, especially my culture in the United States. We will avoid telling you no as much as we can then we’ll just not return your phone call anymore or not ever respond.

Luis:

Exactly. Don’t call me, we’ll call you.

Chris Dyer:

Right. And instead, we want them to feel open and comfortable to say no. We want to advocate for them to tell us no because then that starts a real conversation and really gets us somewhere. So I could go on for hours on on different books for people to read. But those are two big ones that just popped in my head.

Luis:

Okay, so thank you so much. Let’s move on to the final question then. This one takes a bit of a big larger setup. So, please bear with me. But let’s say that… This is not COVID safe. So obviously, we are in imagination land, folks. Don’t take this very literally. But let’s say that you are hosting a dinner. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner. In the dinner, the topic of the night, the topic of the roundtable is remote work and the future of work. And you are inviting people from the biggest tech companies all around the world. The important people that are going to impact their policies, CEOs, CTOs, hiring managers, et cetera. Now the twist is that you are hosting a dinner in a Chinese restaurant. So as the host, you get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What are these people going to read once they crack open their fortune cookies?

Chris Dyer:

So, this is a remote work dinner. We’ve invited the biggest techs, and what is the thing that we want to leave them with? I guess it might be a question. I like to ask questions to try to create some sort of a thought in someone’s mind and it might be, what could they do to make remote work better? Or how could they best leverage remote work going forward or something? So, give them a question to think about what they might do.

Luis:

Yeah. So, what can you do to make remote better? That’s a good one. That’s a good… What can you do is always a smart question to ask. And I don’t think it’s been asked before in the podcast. So thank you for that. Good. For the fortune cookie question. You replied my fortune cookie question with an actual fortune cookie question. So, congratulations. And yeah, so thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure having you. I loved the conversation. I hope you’re going to be available for round two after I finally read your book. Again, sorry for that. Where can people continue the conversation with you? Where can they find you, and know what you’re up to, and learn more about you and your business?

Chris Dyer:

So, they can go to chrisdyer.com. I have a complete remote course there as well if you want to learn how to be a better remote leader, a better remote employee. That’s anyone who is hearing this podcast, you can use the coupon code CD50. C as in Chris, D as in Dyer, CD50 and get 50% off and get into that course. So, if you’re there, you can sign up for the newsletter. I do webinars every month for free. Of course, if you connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m happy if you can. I have a lot of content there, and I will keep in touch with you there. So, those are two great ways if you’re interested.

Luis:

Awesome. We are going to include all of that in the show notes. Chris, thank you so much for being here. It was an absolute pleasure.

Chris Dyer:

Thank you very much for having me.

Luis:

Thank you too. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure as always counting on you as listeners. This was Luis from the DistantJob Podcast, a podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

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

Luis:

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

 

More ways to listen:

Remote teams are more productive mainly because they have fewer distractions. However, it is sometimes difficult to know if an employee is truly working or if they make it seem like it.

Chris Dyer has been working remotely for more than two decades and during this podcast episode he explained how shifting to remote work made his company 40% more productive. He also shared the best ways on how to measure productivity in virtual teams without being a micromanager.

''What you need to do is remove this idea that you have to somehow come up with some magical thing that will measure everyone in the same way. We cannot treat everyone the same in organizations. '' Click To Tweet

Highlights:

  • How to build a strong culture remotely
  • How his organization transitioned from on-site to remote due to a crisis
  • Tips to make virtual meetings more efficient
  • Strategies to make your remote team more productive
  • How to track productivity in remote employees
  • Insights on KPIs to measure productivity

 

Book Recommendation:

 

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