Running successful remote meetings with Elise Keith - DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency

Running successful remote meetings with Elise Keith

Erika

Elise Keith is the Founder & CEO at Lucid Meetings, an app that makes it easy for teams to run a successful meeting every day. Their software embeds basic best practices and automates the administrative work involved in scaling a great meeting habit.

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Luis Magalhaes: Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob podcast. The podcast that’s all about how to build and manage and lead awesome remote teams, and to help me talk about that today I have Elise Keith. Elise, welcome to the show.

Elise Keith: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Luis Magalhaes: Why don’t you start telling our listeners what you’re all about, what you do, what does your company stand for?

Elise Keith: I am the CEO and founder of a company called Lucid Meetings, and we are about helping people run successful meetings every day. That is our shtick. That’s our goal.

Luis Magalhaes: Is it successful so far? How am I doing?

Elise Keith: We have a clarity of why we’re here, we’ve got a nice pleasant introduction, we are on track for success.

Luis Magalhaes: Cool.

Elise Keith: Clear goal, awesome, right? In my last couple of years I wrote a book about how to go about understanding meetings and organizations and develop a system for making sure that they’re successful on a consistent basis. Because while there’s a lot of gray divides out there about how to run a great meeting, some of us meet just once, we meet every day, often many times a day and having that be something that’s consistently productive and valuable and effective is a fabulous place and a fabulous way to do your work. That is our focus.

Our company has a variety of things that we do, including a software platform that is used by both in-person and remote teams to help run a bunch of their meetings.

Luis Magalhaes: Nice. Because this is a podcast about remote, of course I have to ask, what’s the thing that excites you the most right now, when it comes having meetings in remote?

Elise Keith: You know, I think one thing that’s really awesome about remote teams and meetings is that, when you look at the complaints and the problems that we have with meetings traditionally, they’ve been the same for 2,000, 3,000 years. There are stories about meetings in the Bible that, if you changed out the topic and it wasn’t about persecuting the wheat thrashers and whatnot, and it was about dealing with infosec policy. You couldn’t tell the difference. We run meetings in exactly the same way, and they have all the same problems.

When people first started going remote, they took these terrible practices, these ancient command and control boring meeting practices and then they just stretched them over a bad phone connection. That made it just worse. But with remote teams today, we have new technologies that not only allow us to speak to each other better across the globe, video conferencing is vastly better than the old spider phone. But we also technologies that build in all of the things that we’ve learned about communicating effectively.

How do you get a group to collaborate and understand something and make a decision? And because remote teams have to use technology to meet, they’re more likely to pick up some of the things that actually make meetings good for humans. They can make them worth having. I think that they’re poised to help lead the revolution, not just in technology but also in practice to make that a really useful use of time.

Luis Magalhaes: Interesting. I guess the [inaudible 00:03:50] approach is not recommended.

Elise Keith: It’s a little outdated.

Luis Magalhaes: You’ve clearly put some thought about how meetings should be built differently, not just as meetings in general, but for remote as well. Why have you changed your mind the most in the last two to three years?

Elise Keith: My team is entirely remote, and it helps us understand … one of the things that we research into, like what makes for successful meetings and successful meeting patterns, we found that there are 16 distinct types of meetings each of which runs a slightly different way which makes them like tools. An interview, podcast interview, is a very different thing than the meeting where we sign a contract or negotiate with a client. These are different animals.

When you understand that, you can then take those and put them together in processes that keep your work moving forward and your team connected, and by defining those things, like our team is going to have this kind of meeting every Wednesday. Everybody on our remote team has a working team agreement about how we’re going to get together and how we’re going to make decisions using these tools.

We were able to take the meeting patterns and tools from really high-powered, high-performing teams across the world and translate them into a remote setting, and it’s been really empowering because our team, we’re tiny, we’re a very small company and yet we’re able to do an enormous amount of successful work because we know how to get together and move that work forward very, very efficiently.

Luis Magalhaes: How did that fully remote company happen? Was it something you wanted to do from the start or it just happened like that? And how do you think it helped make your business possible or better than it would have been if it wasn’t remote?

Elise Keith: Well, I have always worked at least partially remote my whole career. I started working from home at least a couple of days a week starting in 2004. It’s been an assumption for me as a technology-based practitioner that we do that, and then when we started our company, one of our partners was based in St. Martin and I live in Portland.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s a harsh compute.

Elise Keith: If you want to work with that person you’ve got to figure out how to navigate time zones and make it work. We definitely have more people who work in the Portland area, and we do have a central office which we use on occasion. But it’s not a requirement, and we’re having people who work on the East side of the US and people in Europe and being a remote team allows you to access and the people that you need to do the work that you need to do it. It also, I think, more importantly, because you’re so comfortable and used to it, you can work with customers everywhere.

Luis Magalhaes: Oh, yeah. That’s definitely a plus.

Elise Keith: It’s definitely a plus.

Luis Magalhaes: You work with customers as if they were your colleagues. There’s less of a disconnect between the people you work with everyday and the people you serve, because-

Elise Keith: Absolutely.

Luis Magalhaes: … it’s not that different. It’s always a different kind of interaction, but not as much as it usually is.

Elise Keith: Absolutely. We don’t have to have a room with sticky notes and a white board to be able to have an effective brainstorming session with a client. We are a fully remote team who has fully embraced excellent meetings at a remote level, so we have the four major categories of technology in our tool kit and we know how to use them.

Luis Magalhaes: Realistically, not every company has remote employees or a remote team, but almost every company has remote clients because there are very few companies that bring their clients into their offices.

Elise Keith: Absolutely. For example right now, we’re doing a project with a client based in the UK, and one of the processes that we use when we start a big new project is a kick off. Because understanding who’s on the project and how decisions will be made and where are their goals and opportunities, it’s a huge enabler of a success.

Luis Magalhaes: How long does this usually take, this kick off?

Elise Keith: It can depend on the size of the group and how well organized they are in advance. 90 minutes to three hours, depending on the group.

Luis Magalhaes: Take me through that. What are the steps?

Elise Keith: I can absolutely do that. But, what I was going to say is that, we can run it remotely. It’s better in person, but we know how to run it remotely. There are a couple of techniques that you can bring to bear in a kick off that are truly powerful. One is, you start with clarity of the goal. Oftentimes, in every project or in every meeting we get together and we have these assumptions about why we’re here and what we’re trying to do. Starting a kick off with the person who’s responsible for that project saying why it’s such a great idea and why everybody should care, and what they’re trying to do is the beginning.

Luis Magalhaes: So, it’s the why?

Elise Keith: Yeah. Then you get everybody involved in exploring what that means for them. Looking forward towards the end of the project, let’s say we’re a year and a half out, and this project was a wild success, what are we celebrating and how are our lives different? What has it done for us? Basically, what you’re trying to do is, you’re trying to help people build in their minds what’s called a vivid vision.

Luis Magalhaes: Got it. I’ve read about this. It was a book by Cameron Herold, I think?

Elise Keith: Yeah. Cameron Herold wrote a book about it. There’s been the vivid visioning or experience visioning, it’s a technique that’s been around for quite a while, and he’s done a nice job with that. You help them build their own version of the vivid vision together, which creates some commitment to that success. They can see it. They can understand why they might want it.

Luis Magalhaes: Nice.

Elise Keith: Then, you go through the actual plan.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s when it starts.

Elise Keith: Then you say, “Here are our constraints, here’s our budget, here’s who’s involved, here’s this.” All this stuff. You look at the actual plan. After you’ve looked at the actual plan, then you run what’s known as a pre-mortem. Is that a technique you’ve heard of?

Luis Magalhaes: I heard of it. It was in your book.

Elise Keith: Awesome. The pre-mortem, it’s a wonderful technique that was introduced by Gary Klein, who was a cognitive psychologist who looked at how do we make effective decisions and get rid of bias? You take the group who’s looked at this wonderful idea and they’ve looked at the actual plan and then you say, “Okay, given all of that and based on our experience trying to do things like this in the past, what might go wrong? How might we get three months out and realize that we’ve totally messed it up and we’ve completely failed and if we do, what would have happened?” And they work through the failure scenarios and people will say, “Golly jeepers, that sounds like such a downer.” Why do I want to build up all this excitement and then be downers?

But what happens in practice is people go, “We could get there and we could realize that legal hasn’t signed off on the contract and we’re not allowed to launch, or the marketing team doesn’t have anything prepared and we forget to tell our customers about how cool it would be.” Whatever it is, they realize all of the things that might go wrong and they start to make plans to fix it. Which is really cool. Because then, folks, especially when you’re working with a client, oftentimes a client has hired you to do a job because they don’t have time, interest or expertise in doing it themselves.

Luis Magalhaes: Exactly.

Elise Keith: Like, “Hi, come fix this problem for me.” But for most of us, our worlds are too complex. You can’t just fix problems for other people without their involvement.

Luis Magalhaes: The people are often part of the problem as much as they don’t want to admit it.

Elise Keith: Yes, right. The problem isn’t a technology problem. It’s not a one and done training problem, it’s a change of behavior, and oftentimes they have the problem because they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. That pre-mortem thing gets folks to go, “Oh, I don’t want this to fail. I’m going to do this differently this time.” And they create their own plan. Then finally you wrap up by being super clear. You have that whole action plan and you know exactly how the decisions will be made to get you to the next couple of steps. Who makes these decisions? Is it Fred, is it a committee? Are we going to do a thumb wave and go, “Hey, maybe we think it’s this.” What’s our process? At the very end of the meeting, you get the group together and you get very, very clear on all of the decisions that you’ve made about actions and your vision and then how decisions will be made going forward.

As you get to every stage in the project, and as you determine whether this project is successful or not, who’s making that decision? And how are they doing that? Is it Fred, is it a committee in a vote? Is it another workshop? What is it that you’re going to do to decide on your success at every stage? And that clarity about how those decisions get made and who’s involved and how they are involved is really one of the keys to making any project go well.

Luis Magalhaes: I really like the idea of the pre-mortem just because I’m a fan. Well, I guess I’m amateurish at it at best, but I enjoy reading philosophy and studying philosophy and the old psych said a similar concept that was, “I’m going to butcher the Latin, but that was [inaudible 00:15:03].” That’s basically envisioning the worst case scenario so you could prepare for it.

Elise Keith: Have you seen Tim Ferriss beer casting TED talk about that?

Luis Magalhaes: Oh, yeah. I think that his was directly based on the psych literature and it’s super interesting. That’s a great model. I guess that’s where I want to go next. Because you did mention that your full company was remote, even though you have an office you have access to an office in Portland and you can work that if you so choose. Why don’t you take me through your day managing, leading them. Take me through your typical day. What does your typical day look like? Or if a typical day is very typical, what about a typical week?

Elise Keith: Our team, we have a cadence, which is part of our agreement about how we communicate. We are all based in different places. We all have different expectations about when we should have to get up in the morning. Many of us have children and pets and lives. It turns out most of the people that we work with have lives.

Luis Magalhaes: Interesting.

Elise Keith: Oh, fascinating. Our day begins, we do a daily check-in, which is very much like an agile standup or like a leadership team huddle. But because we are distributed in, we’re all working on different schedules. We do ours in Slack, and so when somebody is up and on and ready to participate, they will do a check-in in Slack and their check in talks about what they accomplished the day before, what they are planning to do today and any places where they need help or where they have … times where they’re going to be unavailable. So, planned travel, planned appointments, that kind of thing. That’s a practice you’ll see common just to pretty much every high performing team. Whether they’re doing it electronically or in person, and you’ll see it. It’s in hospitals, it’s in the delivery distribution centers, it’s in the performance bakers. It’s in the military and it’s in software teams. That check in is just really critical.

Luis Magalhaes: Well, it is, but it’s interesting in your approach that, for example, this is something that we do on the marketing team at this job, and I’ve seen it done at many software companies, but the one thing that I don’t usually see is people communicating their personal stuff in between. I have a doctor’s appointment then won’t be available at this time, et cetera, et cetera. How do you get people to buy in on that? What’s the conversation like?

Elise Keith: Well, part of what we do is we a model it. As leaders we talk about … my co founders and I, we talk about our parents and we talk about our children and our pets and when we’ve burnt the thumb and are having trouble typing, we make it okay because we lead that way.

Luis Magalhaes: Nice.

Elise Keith: A half of the trick with getting engagement. One of the questions as a meeting expert that I get asked all the time is like, “I’ve done this, but I can’t get anybody to engage.” Is that you have to actually ask for that engagement. You have to be explicit about the kinds of things you want and why you want them, and then you have to actually put out yourself. You have to lead with a proper example. That’s how we learn just in general. We learned how to be effective communicators in groups by watching how the group communicates.

One thing our team doesn’t do that I know is very common on other teams with Slack, is we don’t litter our Slack litter with emojis. It’s not full of animated GIFs. It’s not full of lots of jokes like that. It’s very work focused with the occasional bit of amusement in a channel that’s specifically for that. But, we model what we would like to see because we’re all very, very, very focused.

Luis Magalhaes: I see. I interrupted you, but you were amidst discussing your typical day. There’s the morning standup and what comes next?

Elise Keith: That depends basically of course on what’s going on for the week and what kind of projects we have on tap. We have four regularly scheduled meetings that are all designed over the course of the week to focus on a different area of the business. We have one that is about software development explicitly. We have one that is about sales, one that’s about marketing and one that is about larger company metrics. Where we go over what’s the cashflow balance look like, what victories do we have, what problems do we have, how are we doing on our strategic priorities.

Luis Magalhaes: All right. So that varies depending on the day?

Elise Keith: It depends on the week. But that’s a weekly meeting where we are sharing … we’re basically open book, so we’re sharing the financials, we’re what’s in the pipeline, we’re sharing what’s going on with expenses and health care costs and all of those things with everybody in the company once a week and updating those numbers. That practice, and then talking about. Like, these are the things that are going really great for us, these are the things that are not going great. How can we work on solving them?

Luis Magalhaes: You’re using your own internal software for that?

Elise Keith: We do. Our software is about helping teams design how they’re going to run their meetings and then automating that as much as possible. We have a structure that we use for running all four of those meetings and then multiple integrations. We keep our scorecard with our financials and things in … our sales data’s in HubSpot, our scorecards in Smartsheet. There are things all over the place, so we’ve integrated them into the template we use to run that meeting and can run from there. It’s an integration with a product called Storm which is about sticky note brainstorming, which we will bring in when we do a strategy session. It’s all in there and then we can see week to week, here’s what we said last week, here’s how that’s changed this week.

Which has been really useful for when we onboard new people because you can have a new employee come in and one of the things they can do is they can go back and look and see at how our company has progressed and what we’ve talked about and how that’s evolved.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s one of the great things about Slack and other things like that that keeps an infinite history of the company. That’s always very cool. You have these meetings and the topic changes depending on the week, but obviously as is your policy, at least from what I’ve read, they are very specific or very determined. But as a leader, how do you go about seeing that your team is fully remote? How do you keep the pulse of the company? How do you have a sense of what everyone else is accomplishing in that day? Apart from obviously the stand up. The stand up is where they commit to something or at least they give their forecast for the day. But how do you actually keep your pulse, the pulse of the company?

Elise Keith: We use a number of tools for that. The stand up is the big deal though. Because the check-in includes not only what you commit to for the day, but also what you actually accomplished the day before. Basically its promise, report, promise, report every day. Then in those meetings, we have the one which is company-wide, but the others are functionally focused. One of them is about software and one of them is about sales. In those meetings, we look at the records in detail about things that are ongoing. In the sales meeting, that agenda template has an action item. Which is, “Here are all of the hot prospects and exactly what are we doing, and when was the last time we talked to them and who’s got the ball and what’s the block?” And we go through that in detail.

Luis Magalhaes: Got It.

Elise Keith: Every day we have that check in, and then once a week in every functional area, we have a deep dive into progress and next steps.

Lewis: Hey there. It’s Lewis. 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. To build a great remote team, you need great remote employees. That’s where DistantJob comes in. Here’s how it works. You tell us the kind of position that you need to fill, we talked 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 off interest to you.

We make sure, because we are techies and our recruiters are techies as well. When people get to you, they are already pressed, selected and you just have to decide between the cream of the crop. 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 we [inaudible 00:26:06], let’s get back with the show. Thank you for listening.

Luis Magalhaes: You mentioned, and I’ve read this in your blog as well. You mentioned-

Elise Keith: I’m so glad you read my blog.

Luis Magalhaes: … Well, I wanted to read your book actually, but the reality is that you have so much content out there. By the way, we need to oversell people on this at the end of the podcast because I don’t think you did a good job of it at the beginning. You write a lot.

Elise Keith: I do write a lot.

Luis Magalhaes: Not only do you have several in that post on your company’s website blog, but you also write regularly for Inc.com and you have some articles on Forbes. I usually try to read the books of the guests. I think you are the first guest where I haven’t been able to touch the book just because I usually start like four or five days in advance of the podcast and I haven’t been able to go through the blog yet. Really, you have a lot of content. It’s also very useful and I’ll be sure to link to it. Really enjoyed what I’ve read so far, so congratulations.

Elise Keith: Good. Thank you. One tip. My favorite, favorite blog post that isn’t in the book, is the one on decision making. Because it’s full of cool little videos about how our brains work and how we work as teams and there’s a picture of an octopus on it and it just makes me happy.

Luis Magalhaes: Well, I love octopuses. Good thing you are mentioning it because I skipped it. I always skip posted videos. My video watching speeds … I have a decent reading speed because my background is as an editor and writer. When I get to the video and I need to put up with the slowness of someone’s speaking on camera, it just throws me for a loop, so I always avoid posted video.

Elise Keith: We recently just put out meeting school, which is a bunch of online training on how to run effective meetings, and the audio book version of my book just came out. In those two things, I have learned the joy of doing double speed on both audio books and on video. I like watching all of the training videos at double speed. I now listen to all my audio books at double speed. I thought it would be weird, but it’s amazing how quickly the brain adapts. It’s exciting for me, because now I’m doing better on my good reads challenge [inaudible 00:29:06] through audio books while I’m cooking and gardening and doing other things.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s the game changer isn’t it? It’s not necessarily that you can do it faster, though you can, but you can actually “read” while you’re doing something else, and that’s pretty cool.

Elise Keith: It’s super cool. I’ve been really surprised. The audio book came out, I want to say last week or the week before or something like that and it’s performing better in terms of sales than the other two versions combined, and I can see why.

Luis Magalhaes: I just wish that someone came up with an audio book playing app that allow you to do the audio equivalent of underlining. Just save short snippets of the audio to refer back later.

Elise Keith: No, you need them both half the time. If you’re doing business books, you need the audio and then you need the physical, so you can go find that book.

Luis Magalhaes: Exactly [crosstalk 00:30:09].

Elise Keith: It’s so nice.

Luis Magalhaes: I read on the blog, the same thing that you said just a couple of minutes ago, that it’s important to ask for people’s engagement. Obviously, you think that meetings are a big deal.

Elise Keith: I certainly do.

Luis Magalhaes: It would be weird to have your career trajectory if you didn’t. But a lot of people are resistant to it and sure, I can ask people to embrace meetings, but ultimately I have to sell them on it. I have to try to explain to them the importance, why we should be doing this. The why’s. As you outlined, when you are talking about dealing with clients, explained why. What is some good ammo for that? For people that are your readers, that are sold on having great super productive meetings. How do they get the team on board? The team that shows up with dead eyes thinking, “Oh, this is just going to be the same meeting as it always is.” Because you have to improve. Realistically, if you’re used to running terrible meetings, you’re not going to become the meeting expert overnight. You need people on board to get better at it with you. What’s the conversation like?

Elise Keith: There are a couple of things that are useful to tackle. I think one of them is, as a leader, if you are in fact running terrible meetings on a regular basis, absolutely 100%, that is your fault. That’s the total bummer to learn, but it is in fact your fault. But, here’s the exciting thing about it. Once you notice it, you are leagues ahead of most leaders. Because most leaders run terrible meetings and think they’re doing a great job. They think that … and this is built in to what makes meeting satisfaction go. We all believe that a meeting where we know what to expect going into it, we have a chance to participate and those expectations we had in advance are met was a good meeting.

The leader always has that. As a leader always thinks that the meetings they’re running are relatively decent meetings and gosh, they wish the rest of the team would get on board. But the challenge is, they have not structured it in a way to allow that team to get on board. That team doesn’t have a clear expectation going in. What’s going to happen? That team-

Luis Magalhaes: Because they’re traumatized by years of that meeting, not necessarily even at the hands of that leader, but just over there their whole careers. You can’t blame them for that.

Elise Keith: … That is a prevailing, basically a mythology out there. What we’ve worked really hard to do is to help burst the bad meetings myth. Because, when you ask people if they like meetings, they always say, “No, I hate meetings. What a waste of time, blah, blah, blah.” And then if you say, “Well, we’re going to be meeting to decide on the roadmap or on the next series of marketing campaigns, we’ll leave you out then.” They’re not interested in being dis invited. They want to be in the room where the action happens, and that’s what a meeting is. That’s where we make our decisions about what we’re going to do together. There are a couple things you can do. When you realize that this is a chronic problem you have, and you’re ready to change it, one, is that you can have conversation with your team because well, really terrible meetings are the leader’s fault. Really excellent meetings are the team’s responsibility.

The first step is to invite your team to be responsible for that with you. Then once you have that shared assumption in place, it’s a good time to go ahead and make some agreements as a team. Basically, Lizette Sutherland has this wonderful process. It’s about creating working team agreements. You can see our process is about creating meeting guidelines, but you make some agreements about how you’re going to all try to interact together and you use that as a starting spot.

Luis Magalhaes: By the way, the listeners cannot actually refer back to my podcast with Lizette because she did a very thorough explanation of it on the podcast. So, if you want to resource about this, you can check the backlog, the podcast backlog.

Elise Keith: Lizette worked with us. We built a template with a facilitator guide that you can download. It’s really available on our website and it’s a multi page PDF that walks you step by step exactly through how to lead that conversation.

Luis Magalhaes: Nice. I’ll link to that.

Elise Keith: It’s handy. But after that, you have to be vigilant continuing to break down that myth, and one of the ways that you do that is, when you go ahead and schedule meetings on your calendar, you set yourself a personal role that says, “I’m never going to put anything on the calendar that has the word meeting in it.” That word just means people will have to get into a room or on a call together. It doesn’t mean anything. There’s nothing exciting about it, there’s no purpose behind it and it instantly creates that negative reaction in people’s mind. If you’re going to schedule something, think harder about exactly what it is and what you’re meant to achieve, and use that as the name of what you put on the calendar.

Luis Magalhaes: I love that. I guess that the word just has earned maybe unwarrantably but there we are, a bad connotation. I try to have stand-ups, catch-ups, brainstorms, jams sometimes. Sometimes when I want it just to be a quick conversation with someone, I just call it coffee.

Elise Keith: Absolutely. Putting something on the calendar … in meetings school, there’s a free course there called, how to know why you are meeting and what you’ll get at the end. It has examples for, here are the purposes for different kinds of meetings and here’s what you can actually achieve in them. When you use those, the purpose of a meeting as the name of the meeting, like to decide on the color for the logo or to check in and make sure we’re on track for next week’s campaign or whatever it’s going to be. Not only can people get more interested in it, they know what to expect, so you’re meeting that criteria. But it also gives you a chance to use it as a gatekeeper because that other bit about having meetings be successful as people get to participate. If they don’t have anything to say-

Luis Magalhaes: You’re saying that the strategy for a meeting is not to offer an Amazon gift cards at the end? That’s it. That does not work?

Elise Keith: … I might go to some of those actually. [inaudible 00:38:10].

Luis Magalhaes: But then you wouldn’t have anything to say. You’ll just be waiting for your gift card. Right?

Elise Keith: Exactly. Give me a chance to write quietly while I’m not interrupted.

Luis Magalhaes: I want to ask a few rapid fire questions. But before we get to that, there is a question that’s not so rapid fire, but I think that it’s important to ask. Because there’s one specific, very specific kind of meeting that plays a big role in my company. Because we are recruiters, and that’s the job interview. We’re a remote company, we have our own process, we like to think that we’re good at it, but I also like to think that we can always improve. When you’re hiring someone, when you sit down for that interview to hire someone that you know is going to be working with you specifically remotely, you can know their skills pretty well just from previous references, from their CV, from looking at their project, et cetera. But you want to figure out if they’re going to be good at working remotely. What is that conversation like? How do you figure out if people have the skills to work from home or from a working space? And I guess bonus question, is there anything that you do that’s different when you structure that interview meeting?

Elise Keith: When I was working on the book and doing research on interviews specifically, one thing really stood out for me, and that was that, regardless of what we might think in terms of how we structure them and how we put them together, often what we’re doing is we’re making that decision in the first 500 microseconds. If you look at the look at the data on interviews, they can see without a sound recorded interviews and panels can look and they say, “Oh, they hired that person, not that person.”

Luis Magalhaes: Nice.

Elise Keith: It has nothing to do with the content. For the most part, it really is about presentation, reaction, first impression, quite often. Knowing that, I’m especially wary and aware of that first impression because I know that, if I have a negative first impression, that I’m going to create an opportunity to reverse that if possible. But I also want to pay attention to it because that’s something that other people will have as well. We are a company that is very service oriented. We work on meetings, which means that our employees always will talk to customers. Always. We have no one in our company who is isolated from having to meet effectively with other people. That’s important for me.

Luis Magalhaes: Of course the presentation is important. Some people say that you shouldn’t judge people by their looks, but for a lot of roles, looks are important.

Elise Keith: Well, it’s not looks as in would I want to date them kind of looks.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, presentation.

Elise Keith: It’s a [crosstalk 00:41:35] how do we react to each other as people and it does matter. Of course, especially when we’re working with somebody who’s going to work remote watching to see that they get onto the technology successfully. But the other thing we do is that we ask for stories. I find that storytelling is by far the most illustrative way to see whether or not someone’s got some depth behind what they’re purporting to be good at and it gives you the best opportunity to break through what might have been a bad first impression. If you can have somebody tell you about a time that they were working remotely and they overcame a connection challenge or one time that working remotely was truly rewarding for them and then made a big difference in their lives and why that was.

Luis Magalhaes: Sounds good.

Elise Keith: Those stories, they give you a sense of that person in a deeper way.

Luis Magalhaes: All right. Before we finish, let’s move on to some rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t have to be. Feel free to take as long as you want, and say as long as you want. You’ve been nearing your 10th anniversary as the founder of your company, what’s the best lesson that being a founder taught you over these 10 years?

Elise Keith: It’s always more complex than you think it is. I firmly believe that the whole idea of the pivot is very naive.

Luis Magalhaes: What about not needing to pivot at all. That would be cool.

Elise Keith: That would be cool but that’s unrealistic. We don’t live in that world anymore. We’re always changing. Stop thinking that your idea is so special. That the pivot is a big deal. That’s just life.

Luis Magalhaes: Exactly. It’s just life. All right. Tell me the story of a lesson that you learned the hard way.

Elise Keith: I think the biggest hard lesson that we’ve learned is that, we’re founded as a meeting software company. Absolutely 100% committed to and believe in the power of technology to help people have better meetings, and meetings are not a technology problem. That is the lesson we learned the hard way.

Luis Magalhaes: If you had $100 to buy a tool and it can be a software tool or a physical thing for each person working for you, what would you buy them?

Elise Keith: How much do meeting owls cost? I would get them meeting owls. I think they’re more than $100.

Luis Magalhaes: What is a meeting owl? I hate owls.

Elise Keith: Meeting owls, it’s so cool. It’s this camera you put in the middle of a conference table and it has a microphone on it. It does a 360 camera and when you’re on something like a Zoom call, it will focus in on the different people.

Luis Magalhaes: Do you usually have people in your team working together on the same location?

Elise Keith: Yeah, we do at the office and then all of our remote people will travel to meet with clients. If they all had an owl, they could take it with them and that would be fine.

Luis Magalhaes: Interesting. This is cool. I’ll have to research that and add the link to the show notes as well. That sounds very cool.

Elise Keith: I think it probably costs more than $100, but I’m not sure.

Luis Magalhaes: It’s fair enough. I can live with that for an interesting gadget. For yourself, what purchase that you have made in the past year or six months has made your work life easier or more productive?

Elise Keith: Books. Absolutely 100% books. Daniel Pink’s When, was an excellent purchase for me. Priya Parker’s Art of The Gathering was really illuminating in some interesting ways and challenging. A big fan of Nine Lies About Work.

Luis Magalhaes: All right, books. I love books. Books are great. You said you get them both in audio and in text, so you can make notes?

Elise Keith: Yeah. I get most of my business books in text and then I read mystery thrillers in audio.

Luis Magalhaes: Final question. If you are hosting dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and you knew that all the top execs, CTOs, founders, et cetera, in Silicon Valley were attending for a round table on remote work, what would be the message that you would have put inside the fortune cookies?

Elise Keith: Interesting.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s the message? Are you talking about the question?

Elise Keith: No, the question. The question is interesting. I find it challenging because I assume most of them are already bought into remote work.

Luis Magalhaes: You’d be surprised.

Elise Keith: You think they aren’t. I live in Portland and we have so many people in our area who actually work for Silicon Valley companies.

Luis Magalhaes: Nice.

Elise Keith: But live here. We’re a bedroom community for the other big tech folks. Though it hadn’t occurred to me that they weren’t ready. I guess the cookie message would be, get with it folks.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s always a good message. Thank you so much. This was a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time and for the conversation. When our listeners would like to continue the conversation with you, how can they reach you?

Elise Keith: Everything you need to know about me is on our website at lucidmeetings.com and then on my personal website at jelisekeith.com. I’m on Linkedin. I can be contacted by email. Everything except Twitter, which I think is not a good, healthy place for conversations. So, anything except Twitter.

Luis Magalhaes: I have a harsh history with Twitter myself.

Elise Keith: Twitter is a harsh place. We’re a positive kind of company, so we spend less time talking there. But on Linkedin, on our website, happy to tap by email.

Luis Magalhaes: It’s great. Elise again, thank you so much for being around. Thank you so much for all the work that you’ve put in for free. Besides the book that I couldn’t get to, but all the great content that you’ve put out there, there are some really meaty posts, especially on the Lucid Meetings website that I honestly think that everyone should read. I had a blast going through them. Thank you so much for that and thank you so much for this conversation.

Elise Keith: Thank you for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.

Luis Magalhaes: 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 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 episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

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. To help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 20% faster than the industry standard. With that, I bid you [inaudible 00:50:54]. See you next week on the next episode.

For further inquiries regarding podcasts, eBooks, blog posts, or general information about remote recruitment don’t hesitate to send us an email at [email protected]

Elise Keith has found that when all the members in a team have clarity of decisions, they know who’s involved in what and how they are involved, it’s difficult not to see a project succeed.

Want to listen to the episode on your podcast player of choice?  Subscribe on Spotify .

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Good Reads from Elise Keith

  • Where the Action is: The Meetings That Make or Break your Organization
  • Ask the Meeting Maeven on Inc.com
  • Elise Keith’s articles on Thrive Global

As always, if you enjoy the podcast, we humbly ask that you leave a review on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice – and if you could share it, that would be even better.

Are you our next superstar remote developer?

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