Strategies for leading remote teams with Shauna Moran

Shauna Moran is an accredited coach and emotional intelligence practitioner. Founder of Operate Remote, a consultancy and coaching business, helps leaders in a remote company to create, manage, and scale high-performing distributed teams.

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Louis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the Distant Job podcast, a podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host Louis and today with me I have a returning guest, Shauna Moran is an accredited coach and an emotional intelligence practitioner, a Bachelor of Science in psychology and in innovation management, a researcher in communication within virtually dispersed teams. And she is here today to talk to us as the founder of Operate Remote where she is helping leaders become better remote leaders and managers. So welcome Shauna.

Shauna Moran:

Thanks for having me on again Louis. It’s lovely to be here.

Louis:

It is, it is. Again, I will have links for the previous interview so people will learn more as we talk about your philosophy about remote work and everything remote. So you launched Operate Remote within the last couple of months. Your flagship course I believe is a training for remote leadership. Am I right?

Shauna Moran:

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. So Operate Remote was kind of always there. But I’ve gone full time with the business this year, which is really exciting and I’ve added a couple of more services to my portfolio as well. So over the last couple of years I’ve obviously researched remote teams extensively. I’ve qualified as a coach, an executive and leadership coach. And I’ve also specialized in the area of emotional intelligence within remote teams. So it’s a huge focus for me right now is more on the holistic side of managing remote teams. And what I’ve been finding is that the companies that I work with, they hire really, really smart people.

Shauna Moran:

People are smart, people are able to do their jobs. But remote working is a new way of working, right? So we have to be able to adapt our behaviors, our mindsets, our beliefs and the ways that we’ve worked for years, which has primarily been in person in an office. So that’s where coaching comes in. Coaching believes that the client, that the team they have the answers within themselves. But as a coach, it’s my job to guide them in the right direction and work with them on developing that. So it’s empowering people to work more effectively remotely.

Shauna Moran:

And then the emotional intelligence side is obviously really important. So emotional intelligence accounts for 25 to 45% of workplace performance. So it’s a huge area. And over the last couple of months I’ve been researching how emotional intelligence plays into teams being successful and individuals being successful at remote working. And it’s really interesting because obviously emotional intelligence, the definition really is that it’s how we manage ourselves and how we manage other people.

Shauna Moran:

So it looks at a couple of different areas that are all applicable to remote working. So for example, it looks at our self-perception, so how self-aware we are, how emotionally self-aware we are, How confident within ourselves are we, how do we understand ourselves and our emotions. And this is a really important area, I think in remote working when we primarily work alone, isolated maybe in house or even a co-working space. We’re not with people every day, right? And with remote working comes a level of autonomy, flexibility.

Shauna Moran:

So we have that freedom to kind of create our own routines and design our own working days and find that work life balance. So that’s an area that’s really important, especially as remote working isolation becomes more and more challenging. Right?

Louis:

Yeah, absolutely. I was just talking to the VP earlier today, and I was telling him, “Yesterday I really did something that I shouldn’t do, which I started working at 9:00 AM and I worked like nine hours straight until six o’clock I basically stopped for 30 minutes to cook some eggs and swallow them all.” And I’m like, “This really doesn’t make the best of Louis come out, this is the recipe for being a really unpleasant person at the end of the day.” So that’s definitely something that people should look into it and take care of when interacting with other people, right. When their job is remote, staying too much at home is not good for you. And you need to be conscious of that, right?

Shauna Moran:

Right? Yeah. And I think the great thing is that you pulled yourself up on that, that you actually were able to say at the end of the day you reflected and you say, “Oh wow that that didn’t work for me. That wasn’t a good routine that I had, that’s not serving me.” So you were able to kind of have that awareness to pull yourself up on that. But a lot of people don’t. Especially I find when I see remote plus office, because there’s a need sometimes remote employees feel that they have to kind of prove themselves or that they have to work a little bit harder because they are remote so they have to kind of go the extra mile.

Shauna Moran:

Then when you add on time zones on top of that and then add on the fact that, employees are probably really excited about their jobs, they’re probably really bought into the company culture and work really hard at that. So it’s all of those things I think the leaders need to be aware of. And I think the biggest thing for leaders is leading by example. Because I speak to so many different leaders in remote companies and hybrid companies and when they say this to me I challenge them and I say, “Look, is there something that you’re doing? Like what’s your routine like?” And often they’re not leading by example. They’re the ones that are on slack all of the time, that are responding outside of work hours.

Shauna Moran:

So you really have to, I guess, have that mutual accountability on a team to say, I’m going to hold you accountable. I’m going to hold myself accountable to finishing off at a reasonable time and having that balance within my working day. And so, whether it is you’re asking your colleague, “Have you gone for your walk that you said you were going to do?” So it’s having that mutual accountability I think is really, really important.

Louis:

Oh yeah, absolutely. And that reminds me of a very funny situation where I was in a company once we were working remotely people were expected to have their availability schedule, so there was an Excel spreadsheet with all the availability schedules and guess what? Everyone had their availability schedule in the spreadsheet except the bosses. The bosses were like available on request, which is like, really? That doesn’t seem particularly inspiring. That doesn’t seem like very leading by example, let’s say.

Shauna Moran:

For sure.

Louis:

I want to go a bit back and ask you’ve been dedicating yourself more to upgrading remote now. At the time that we are speaking the actual leadership workshop is closed that you’re not accepting anymore people right now. But I’m sure that you will accept more in the future, so why now? Why did you decide that now was the time to get this training out there?

Shauna Moran:

Yeah, I think that … And just to note the training online is very much open. So it’s an online course that is open to everyone. What I did have was I had a beta program, so I had testers in there for a couple of weeks, which is closed. So it’s fully launched now. So you can head over to operateremote.com and you’ll see the courses they’re in the navigation bar. But why now? I think that there’s a huge focus on remote these days and there’s a lot of companies out there that are sharing their own experiences on a synchronous communication processes and knowledge management strategies. And it’s, right? We’re having more conversations about what works and what doesn’t, what’s a proven strategy, what isn’t.

Shauna Moran:

But what I find is every company is different. So what works for one company isn’t necessarily going to work for another company, right? It has to be authentic to that business, to that team. It has to be something that they create themselves and this course was really designed for the manager, the team leader that was sitting at home that was maybe a little bit frustrated around how they can motivate their staff, how they can engage their staff, how they can be better at communication, how they can use communication to get stuff done and to build that culture within a remote team and that level of excitement within a team.

Shauna Moran:

And this course is really focused on a holistic approach to that. So there’s a lot of reflection pieces within it because as I said, it’s authentic to everyone, right? Your leadership style is authentic to you. There’s no point in trying to be anybody else, be yourself and be the best version of you. So it’s focused on a lot of reflection pieces because as a coach, the benefit in taking time to reflect is huge. So it has a lot of reflection pieces, a lot of case studies, a lot of activities, a lot of strategies. But then building the strategy towards your team. So it looks at things like, really getting to understand yourself as a leader. So looking at the main challenges leaders face, understanding where you fit within that. Like what are your challenges on your remote team right now?

Shauna Moran:

And then looking at really understanding yourself. Like even that question that we had earlier, are you leading by example? Are you showing up the way that you want your team to show up? Do you understand what you expect from your team on how you carry communication part?

Shauna Moran:

And looking at all those different levels of expectations. And then looking at some case studies where expectations has really prevented a remote team from thriving. So looking at some example case studies in there, but it looks at everything from trust and building relationships. So we obviously don’t see each other in person every day. So how do we fast track trust on our teams? Looking at language and cultural considerations. So working in a multicultural environment, which we often are looking at the different levels of communication. So how your communication with your team on when you need to adapt that. So for example what type of communication do you need to use when you’re giving feedback? What kind of communication do you need to use when you’re facilitating a brainstorming session? What kind of communication do you need to use when you’re working more one-on-one?

Shauna Moran:

So it’s bringing more coaching into your leadership style as well. Because I’m a big believer in that. You have to listen deeper. So it looks at how managers can listen on a deeper level when they’re connected with people online, which I think is so important to feed back to our wellbeing or remote isolation piece or emotional intelligence piece as well.

Louis:

Of course. So let’s talk a bit about those challenges. What are the top three challenges that you find people face and how do they differ from the challenges in your regular office?

Shauna Moran:

I think the trust and building relationships is a challenge for sure when we don’t see each other every day. So I would say to people managers that when somebody is hired onto your team that trust battery needs to be maybe 50% full and your hiring process should cater to that. So that battery between that relationship is 50% full. And if you want to further increase that battery to 100% then you need to understand what’s expected from both parties from both sides to get up to 100%. So for example, is it that you expect an update at the end of every week from your team members? Is it that you expect them to turn on their video cameras so you can see them on team meeting calls? Is it that you expect them to ask open ended questions on brainstorming sessions?

Shauna Moran:

What is it that you expect as a leader and how can you make that work in the relationship to build that factory up to 100% as quickly as possible. So trust in building relationships. I think the other area that kind of feeds into that is the coaching element to managing people remotely. So oftentimes we’re so busy, we’re so busy, we’re so connected through technology that we’re sending messages on slack, sending emails, ticking off the to do list. Its go, go, go. We don’t have those what they say, moments in an office.

Shauna Moran:

So are we actually getting to know somebody on a deeper level? Are we muting all the notifications in our one-on-one and actually making eye contact with the person on the video call? Are we actually getting to know them? Are we asking open ended questions? How has your week been? How are you finding working remotely this week, what’s been the best practices for you to really get to know somebody and listen to them on a deeper level? So there is that level of empathy that you need to increase when you’re, when you’re managing a remote team.

Louis:

Pieces especially interesting to me because I go back and forth, right? I go back and forth because on one hand … So to look in someone’s eyes during a voice call, I actually need to be looking at the camera. Right. And I don’t think that feels authentic for some reason. I feel that yes, when someone is looking to me, when someone is doing that eye contact trick to me, I already know. Again, it’s a matter of experience that they’re not really looking at me. They’re looking at the camera in their computer and then I just take it silly. I just feel, okay, this person is talking to me and looking to the Cyclops eye on the computer.

Shauna Moran:

Yeah, no, totally. I mean it’s not that you have to 

Louis:

Valley that way. It’s like a magic trick, right? If you’re not in on the trick, it works. But once you know the trick, it kind of breaks down.

Shauna Moran:

Yeah. And that wasn’t my point really. It’s not that you have to have a call and look straight into the camera. It’s not about that, it’s about being authentic. But you can understand when somebody’s looking at you right within the camera and there’s a way to stack your gallery view, whether it’s on zoom or whatever. So it is close to your camera, but it’s getting across can you see somebody from head, shoulders and arms, right? Because even you can see on this podcast, I know we’re using video, I communicate a lot with my body language as well, like with my hands. So it’s important to be able to see that. Because the thing is somebody will say something but they might mean something different. And I think as leaders probably people have had experience in that.

Shauna Moran:

But I’ve had that experience myself where I’ve had fantastic leaders when working remotely that they were able to listen to me on a deeper level to actually pick up to say, “Something’s not right with you. And I can see not through your body language or I can hear that through your tone of voice. And even though you’re saying you’re fine.” And I think that that’s a very powerful thing to do as a leader to be able to tap into. And it’s that empathy. It’s that deeper listening. Yes, okay performance is important to measure KPIs to do lists, all of that. But are you actually taking time to have those conversations in your remote team?

Shauna Moran:

Because that is what will increase your engagement and your productivity. And some leaders do find that challenging, right? They’ve never worked in remote teams before. They’ve never managed remote people before. They might have a couple of bias against trusting remote employee, they might have some bias against what they think is going on. So in the coaching that I do, it’s about tapping into that and helping leaders kind of move forward to be the best leader that they can be in remote teams.

Louis:

So you talked a bit before about fast tracking trust and I actually want to hit that because I think that is a huge challenge for most teams. So let’s try to get the specific resemblance, some specific tools, tips and strategies for a very specific situation. Let’s say that someone just got there. And I know this is different for everyone, obviously that’s something that we already talked about. But just as a general, if someone just hired a remote employee, it’s their first week they’re going through the onboarding process. How can a manager act in the first week so that they start building trust in a reliable way. And I guess the other aspect of that, how can the employee during that first week also work on building the managers trust?

Shauna Moran:

I think it’s a great question. I think when it comes to the team leads, the manager helping the employee understand what they expect. So what are the best practices around the team for working remotely? How do you show up online every day and what is expected of you and what’s the reason behind it? Right? It’s great to have expectations, but if there’s no reason behind this, then people aren’t going to buy into it. So it’s understanding look this is some of the best practices that we do on our team in order to build these working relationships effectively in order to make sure that we’re aligned on the same vision, on the same goals and to have fun, to socialize, to interact together.

Shauna Moran:

So understanding that, I think for the employer it’s also really important for them to understand how they’re supporting remote employees on their onboarding experience. So are they going to be … Do they have like an onboarding body that they can partner up with somebody a little bit more tenured in the role or around the team so that they can have support that they’re not left alone in onboarding experience. And then I think for the employer to make sure that the employee is set up with as many kind of introductions as possible. So to the rest of the team to maybe some other teams so that they can get to know people online and get to know the company and get to know who people are.

Shauna Moran:

And that can be I think some of the most basic ways to really establish that trust and hope that employee settle in. I think for employees, I think just be curious, understanding, asking the question, what do you expect to see from me every day, every week, every month? What are the best practices on the team? Because often sometimes managers won’t have that. What are the best ways to work and what do you expect to see? How do you like to see it? How do you like to communicate? What way do we do not as a team?

Shauna Moran:

So I think being very curious around that is important. And I think also if an employee is working remotely for the first time, it’s about understanding their boundaries and best practices. Kind of how we spoke this morning Louis about you working nine hours straight yesterday. Understanding that it is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. You do have to set your boundaries, set your routine, figure out what works best for you. It’s not that you have to stick to a certain time all of the time but understand how you work best and what your self-care routine looks like as you work remotely like what are your non-negotiables, your non-negotiable might be, okay, well I go to the gym for an hour during the workday or I sit down at my table without technology and have my lunch. So what are your non-negotiable in that?

Louis:

That’s actually something that tends to happen a lot in remote work, which is that it’s really easy. It didn’t feel like a sprint. It doesn’t feel like I was grinding through anything. I just had my cup of coffee in the morning, I sat down to work and when I got up, the sun’s gone. Right?

Shauna Moran:

Yeah.

Louis:

It’s really easy when you’re working in an office, you can compartmentalize it. You know that there’s a time where you need to get in and there’s a time when you need to live. Right. And usually the kitchen is not 10 paces away from your work station. So there’s definitely really easy, I guess it also depends on the kind of work that you’re doing, but it’s definitely super easy to just not notice the hours passing by. So yeah, that definitely you kind of need to be self-conscious about that. So leading on from that, let’s talk a bit more about emotional intelligence and how it applies. I guess let’s start with the differences with the contrast. What are some emotional intelligence tools or perspectives that you find that are applied in the remote context differently from a context?

Shauna Moran:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I think with companies, I’ve found a lot of what they do is they test for maybe culture fish or they test the life story of somebody and understand who they are and then they might also test for their ability to do the job, which makes sense. But then I found and I’ve experienced even on the teams that I’ve worked on or managed, that if we just test for that, some people will go to work remotely and they may not be as successful as they thought or they may find it challenging in many different ways.

Shauna Moran:

So that really all comes down to emotional intelligence. So it’s an area that you can work on whether you have an office or you’re remote and because it does account for so much of performance, 25 to 45% right. So I think it’s an important area for all businesses to consider an all people to consider. However, I do think that because we primarily communicate online, when we work remotely, that our ability to communicate, our ability to manage ourselves and manage other people, those skills that we need to do that need to be heightened, they need to be developed and they need to be heightened. And that is where emotional intelligence comes in.

Shauna Moran:

So as I kind of said before, there’s the whole self-perception area, so how aware we are and that’s really what’s going on for us internally. And I think that’s really important to be able to catch yourself before you get into bad routines. Maybe before you do overstep those boundaries of working crazy hours, whatever it might look like. But that inner kind of dialogue of what’s going in and that ability to be conscious and aware of how you’re feeling and how your emotions are. And then really looking at the whole self-expression.

Shauna Moran:

So this is really important in remote teams of course as well. So how do we actually express those emotions to other people? So how do we express that verbally and non-verbally so that we use assertiveness. Assertiveness is another piece in that, which of course is hugely important in setting those boundaries and setting those expectations and also managing remote teams, right? We need to have that level of assertiveness. And then our level of independence. So when we work remotely we’re not with people every single day. We oftentimes have to be very resourceful and our own make decisions on our own.

Shauna Moran:

So the independence is the ability to be self-directed and free from emotional dependency. So that’s where our decision makings or planning or daily schedule all comes in. And then looking at interpersonal again for the outside world. So how we actually build those interpersonal relationships. So mutually beneficial and satisfying relationships with other people our ability to do that and then looking at a level of empathy as well as for our ability to step into somebody else’s shoes. And again, that’s a super important skill when we’re working online with people or even managing clients online, our ability to empathize with other people. But of course that has to balance with assertiveness as well, right?

Louis:

Yeah

Shauna Moran:

So that it looks at areas of decision making. So our problem solving abilities, reality testing, impulse control and then more render stress management. So our level of flexibility our level to be able to adapt to new environments, to behaviors or emotions or stressed tolerance. So what our coping mechanisms are like and then our level of optimism as well in the face of adversity, how positive are we? How upbeat are we? How resilient can we be through a positive attitude? So it covers a lot of different areas. Just to understand with emotional intelligence is that all of these skills can be developed. That’s the fantastic thing about this is that all of these skills can be developed.

Shauna Moran:

And it’s not about having a high IQ or low IQ. Everybody’s different. What it is about is having a balance there to make sure that your IQ is serving you to the best of your ability that it’s serving you in your environment, in your team, in your business and even in your personal life as well. So there’s a lot in there, you know?

Louis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course. It’s a complex subject, which is why I like to say that this interviews, especially when I’m interviewing people with courses or consultants or people with books, this is just really an introduction to the subject matter. These are not even the cliff notes of the course or book or workshop. This is, this is really just something to work your appetite so to say indeed for you understand all this material can be useful to you because there’s a lot of depth there and there’s a lot to learn. I do want to ask you, because you’ve been focusing more on this for the past month and you’ve been working with a lot more people. What has gone against your expectations? What have you changed your mind on the most in this area in the last three to six months?

Shauna Moran:

Can you clarify what you mean by that? What areas that is?

Louis:

Knowing working with people that are leading remote teams and managing remote teams. What were some expectations that you had maybe about challenges or pain points that they had that wasn’t really true and what were you expecting to find no issues are at all that you actually found some issues, some challenges to overcome?

Shauna Moran:

I guess it’s that whether or not that a company or a team is experiencing complex challenges or not, there’s always room to develop, right? There’s always room to develop as a team to develop our emotional intelligence skills to develop as leaders and to understand and reflect through coaching. So there’s always something to work on. And I think for remote teams when they’re looking at their training and development strategy for 2020 it’s about how tailored is that to remote environments, how tailored is that to virtual environments.

Shauna Moran:

So I think there is a shift happening there around companies really finding specialists in that. That understand what it’s like to be a remote worker, a remote manager and that can develop the team around that. So I think there’s, room for every team to develop and train. Most companies support that. Right? So they see the importance of doing that and investing in their workforce.

Louis:

Okay. Well you know Shauna, it’s getting close to our hard stop. So it was a pleasure having you again. And please tell people that when they want to continue the conversation with you and when they want to find more about Operator Remote, where can they go?

Shauna Moran:

Yeah, absolutely. Well thank you so much for having me on. And if anybody wants to have a chat around training development for your remote or hybrid team or leadership coaching or you just want to find out a little bit more random emotional intelligence, then you can email me at [email protected] I do have a lot of information on my website as well, which is www.operateremote.com

Louis:

okay. We’ll have links on the show notes. Again, thank you so much for doing this. It’s a pleasure.

Shauna Moran:

Thank you Louis. Take care.

Louis:

You too.

Louis:

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

Louis:

Now another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast click on your favorite episode. Any episodes really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episodes up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form. And of course if you need to find a great employee for your team 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 goal that contains the best talent.

Louis:

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 a bid you adios. See you next week on the next episode of Distant Job podcast.

More ways to listen:

In this podcast episode, we have a returning guest, Shauna Moran. Over the last couple of years, she did extensive research on remote teams and qualified as an executive leadership coach. She is now focusing more on the holistic side of managing remote teams.

She is sharing with us everything she is learned from her experience and academic background in leading and scaling remote teams. From the challenges you face in a remote team and how to overcome them to the importance of emotional intelligence and how it counts for 25-40% of work base performance.

In case you missed it, listen to our previous interview with Shauna.

 

This interview is part of the DistantJob podcast. To hear more from leaders and successful entrepreneurs on how to build and lead winning teams, check us out on our website.