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Strategies for a Successful Remote Communication with Leo Mindel

Leo Mindel is the founding director of Sotic, a multi-award-winning Digital Sports Agency. He is responsible for the technological direction of the company. Leo has more than 20 years of experience working in the sports and IT industry and has been working remotely for more than 2 years.

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Succesful remote leader

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the Distant Job Podcast. I am your host Luis. And this is a podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. My guest today is Leo Mindel. Leo is a Founding Director of Digital Sports Agency, Sotic. And he is responsible for the technological direction at the company. He’s worked in the sports and IT industry for over 20 years. And he’s an organizer of WordCamp London. Leo, thank you for being on the show. Welcome.

Leo Mindel:

Thank you. It’s been great to be here, Luis.

Luis:

It’s great to have you. We were introduced, and the person who introduced us told me that you recently changed your work setup, being that you’re working from home. And would you like to tell me a bit about that transition? Shall we start there? How has that been going on from you? Has it’s been you, or is it the whole company? How’s that working out?

Leo Mindel:

A little bit of background, the company’s coming up on 19 years old. Originally, we were completely based in London and over the period of time, we opened up some satellite offices, one in Hastings, and then we opened up an office in Cardiff. What ended up happening is as the world moved forward, we were moving more and more people to Cardiff. I’m based in London, myself. I was getting more and more remote from my staff who were based in Cardiff and that has continued. And about just over two years ago, we closed our London office and six of us went remote. Meaning that we’ve got the core of the staff based in Cardiff who are building the websites and delivering our services for our customers.

Leo Mindel:

And then some of the management remotely, which is a bit of a strange way to have it, but that’s how we ended up doing it. And the reason for doing that, was that we were finding that we would be bringing in people into London, they’re working for us and there are lots of agencies in London, and we were finding that we were losing staff who were being offered a lot higher salary to work around the corner. When the staff in Cardiff, the loyalty and the growth of the company has been much, much better. But that left a bit of a strange situation with some of these people in Cardiff and some in London.

Leo Mindel:

And what actually happened is about six months ago, we started experimenting to see how many more can work remotely. In the end, we were not quite ready. It wasn’t completely ready, but when the current situation hit, we were able to convert the last 10% of people who only ever worked into the office to being remote. So, now as we stand at the moment, we have a 100% remote. Although I do think we will have some going back to the office at the end of this process.

Luis:

How glad were you that you had put in that effort and that interest in going remote like two months ago?

Leo Mindel:

I think it’s always a challenge. I think that culturally there are some issues. I think that the hybrid model is probably the most difficult out of everything. When you’re in the office, you’ve got a water cooler moments. When you are completely remote, we have recreated the water cooler moments. One of the things we always did in the company is on Friday evening, we always had something we call Crackerjack, which for the people in the UK will know immediately that time, that is five to five on a Friday. It used to be a TV program in the UK.

Leo Mindel:

And the Crackerjack would be an email, or a Slack message that we were send out to everybody to say what we’re doing and what’s been happening and the highlights of the week. We’ve taken that a new approach now and we have that as a meeting with everybody on Zoom. And we use that as an opportunity to sit there and have everybody on camera. We theme it. The theme for this week will be show us your noughties music. The theme for last week was a country throughout the world of which some people made some flags. It’s quite interesting what people have got at home when they’re locked down. other themes to allow staff to interact and have a beer at the end of the week.

Louis:

That’s really cool. That’s really cool. We actually, at Distant Job, we tried to do that. We do that mostly with birthdays. We’re big enough now that there’s a birthday almost every week, at least a couple of times a month. We do birthday hangouts where we just talk and have some drinks, but I do like the dramatic aspect of that. How do you come up with the themes?

Leo Mindel:

How do I come up with the themes? How do we come up with themes? Well, we try and get something a bit different each time because we the company delivers sports websites. The first one was quite easy. We did sports. It was quite a warm day. The day that I remember doing this I decided to turn up in my snowboard equipment and I’m sitting here with a helmet on, my goggles, my snowboard jacket, absolutely boiling because it doesn’t even have to be warm to be hot in that sort of equipment. And then we’ve done movies and we’ll be interested to see what happens with this one as a city of night noughties music. It could go one of two ways that one really.

Louis:

What was the thought process for creating this? Was it something that you read on a market magazine or article or heard in a podcast and thought should try it or did you get together with your management team and try to brainstorm a way to get people more engaged to get that coffee break thing going? What was the thought process behind it?

Leo Mindel:

I started Crackerjack about three or four years ago and it has always, always been a lighthearted look at the company on a weekly basis. And sometimes it’s themed with a lot of puns in there. We also in the live ones, we want people to bring in their puns as well as just what they’re wearing or what they’re showing. And it is something that I’ve come up with, with the management team, but it’s something that we just want to try and keep a level of camaraderie. We can’t go down the pub. We can’t do the things that we would do regularly when we were celebrating new business wins or when we celebrate the completion of some major projects.

Leo Mindel:

And it’s just a way to keep that contact. I think it’s really, really critical in this moment in time that we don’t just sit here and work, work, work, work, work, and then cut off. And I’m trying to find a way to do it. The other side that I’m also saying to both my staff and some of the stuff that I do in the community is I want to stop having all the community events in the evening. I think this idea that we used to have with WordPress London and other meetups that they’re always at seven o’clock, eight o’clock in the evening. I actually want to switch off by that time, I spent the whole day in front of the PC. I want to switch off I’d much prefer to be doing these at lunchtime and then turning around at the end of the day and say that’s enough.

Luis:

Oh yeah. That’s absolutely. Actually, that was something that we decided consciously to implement is we do birthdays during work hours. We would rather lose an hour of productivity, which effectively we don’t lose it because being relaxed gives its own other moves to productivity, than have people just stay at their machines, doing the thing that they’ve been doing all day for an extra hour. That really is a recipe for making people care less, not more.

Leo Mindel:

Luis, I think you’re absolutely right this it’s so easy to sit here and remember that for those of us who are remote working, we are spending all day at our PCs. And that is also the best place to do a Zoom call. Even if it’s a friend’s or it’s family and you just don’t want to be doing it. You just don’t want to be doing, and let me stare at my work environment for another hour and then want to have a break and want to do something different. And it’s just fitting those things in. And I think also one of the things we found is that a lot of people, however, adapted really well to this environment. Some others not so well. But there’s always a concern that you like is somebody working or is it not? And you’ve got to trust your staff that they are.

Leo Mindel:

And actually I have not found a single case where people aren’t doing more work because they’re remote than doing it when they’re in the office.

Louis:

Oh yeah, same.

Leo Mindel:

And I think that’s a credit to all of my staff, they are really, really working hard. And in fact, we were talking today about saying to them, “Actually, you need to take holidays, even if there is a fact that we aren’t able to do anything in that holiday, you just need to step away otherwise we’re going to come out of this. And everybody’s going to be burnt out.

Luis:

Oh, for sure. That’s actually a really good point. And I find myself having to send people away from work, to go on Slack and tell people it’s enough. “It’s enough. I know you’ve been here. You were here when I started. And now I’m thinking about finishing up and you’re still here. That’s not good. I’m supposed to be your boss. You’re not supposed to work more than me. So, go away you’re embarrassing me.”

Leo Mindel:

I think Slack is, I mean, I’m a big user of Slack, but I’m also a big advocate and I do it myself. I turn off or most of the notifications in Slack because they are just disruptive. And a lot of these tools have been built with a default settings to annoy the hell out of you all day long. And it’s just trying to say to staff, turn this off. It doesn’t matter. It’s not as critical that you have to be interrupted during this time, all the time because your concentration thoughts, your delivery drops. So, turn off the Slack notifications, turn this off.

Leo Mindel:

We also have a view in the company. We will not use WhatsApp inside the company for business. We ask our clients to never use WhatsApp to us so that because you literally can’t turn WhatsApp notifications off on your mobile phone. It’s like, this is your family or your leisure product and Slack is the business one. And if you talk to me, please use don’t use WhatsApp because I want to keep the two things separate so that I can still have WhatsApp working at the weekend and not be disrupted by things that can wait till Monday.

Luis:

Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. That’s a very good policy. We have a very similar policy. We basically only use, at Distant Job, we only use WhatsApp if something is on fire and the person is not, is not available. But by on fire, I mean, literally on fire, I don’t mean it would be not, “Oh, we need that person and they’re not on Slack.” I actually mean something that cannot wait until the next workday.

Leo Mindel:

We have a very… Sorry about this. A number of years ago, we used to host all of our own sites on our own service. And we were migrating over to a cloud. We’re now completely a 100% cloud based. And a quick story about that, we were coming towards the end of that project. And I was in Cardiff where our office is and I had to see my daughter, she was at university and I’d been to the Hearst dance thing that happened that evening. And I got a text notification as you do, if you ever run a data center platform, you get a text notification saying disc has died, fine. Okay, disc has died. And I thought I’ve just on the way home because I’m passing by on the way back. I’ll pop in and change disc.

Leo Mindel:

Popped in change the disc, about 20 minutes later, I get a all of those alarms that you’ve just set there, started firing off stuff. Everybody’s screaming, something’s gone wrong. Now, I had actually changed the right desk. I had changed the right disk, but it turns out that two other disks in the system failed at the same time. And that was the end of our platform. And it was that moment in time when you went, we can either recover this. We can restore it or we can move forward. And we were about 80% cloud-based at the time. And we just pushed forward and we’re now a 100% cloud based. And very similar to being remote working cloud, took all of the hassle and stress of having to worry about discs and having to worry about PCs. And if ever you’re involved in that hardware side, you’ll know what I mean about this.

Leo Mindel:

It’s always sitting at the back of your mind saying, “Will it go wrong?” And we moved to a 100% cloud and we’re now really, really glad to be there. And I guess it’s very similar to this. We are so glad that we can deliver our staff and our solutions over remotely. We’re glad. There is one other bit that we’re probably going to drop.

Louis:

What is it?

Leo Mindel:

And that’s phones, the telephone system. I have a feeling we are never going to turn it back on again afterwards. We had a phone system in the office and people just don’t use phones the way they used to. They use their mobile phones, but the desk phones. And I put it all on a thing that says, “During this time, please email us.” And I’m not sure that we’re ever going to turn it back on again.

Luis:

It’s funny when I started my job as director of marketing at this job, one of the big discussions that we have was, does it make sense to keep the phone number in the company website? Does anyone use this anymore?

Leo Mindel:

I think it’s the same. I mean, I’ve got business cards with our fax number on it. I don’t think if it would even work. I just think there are technologies, which make sense for the time and maybe things like this are going to kill off technology, which was already on its way out. And this is the time.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I want to drill in a bit about what you said about Slack. Now, obviously-

Leo Mindel:

You can’t see me smiling on this.

Luis:

Oh, no, no, they can’t see it. This is an audio only podcast, but as happens in a remote setting, my cat just came waltzing by checking out what I was doing and departed very innate and interestingly as cats do. This is the podcast cats on your life. So, anyway-

Leo Mindel:

On that point, I was on a pitch yesterday for some new business. And the person was saying, we have real lives and you’re seeing my bedroom. I think they were in their kitchen and something happened in their seven year-old came storming in. It’s like, we always used to compartmentalize these different parts of our lives, and now they’re bleeding into each other and actually in a way, great, great. It feels so real refreshing to actually see that people that you deal with on a business perspective are also humans, so back to your point on Slack.

Luis:

Well, yeah, I absolutely agree. And let’s pick up there. I usually tell people that you should dress appropriately. Don’t show up in your pajamas. I personally prefer a nice shirts or something like… but I’m okay with people showing up for work in a tee shirt, if it’s appropriate. What I don’t want people to be doing is to not be able to put the stop, and not be able to put a wall between where work stops and life begins. There used to be this concept of work life balance. And I think now we are transitioning into a concept of work-life fusion, right. And the work-life fusion is great in the aspects that you’ve just said.

Luis:

That you actually see that the people on the other side, they’re actually people and not just a non corporeal being over the internet, but at the same time, for me being able to… I used to love video games. We talked a bit about that, I still enjoy my video games, but I have a lot of trouble enjoying video games in the computer now. I usually use a PlayStation or an Xbox just because the computer is my work. And if I’m at the computer, even if I’m playing a video game, it’s kind of feels like work. I want to ask about it. How have you encountered concept of work-life fusion? Specifically, how do you help the people working for you, know where work ends and life begins?

Leo Mindel:

I think that there really good points that it’s very easy to… we know, by the nature of everything that everybody is online and I could communicate with any member of staff virtually any time, but that doesn’t mean to say, I should. And it’s how do you draw up a line? And I’m saying this, and it sounds like I’ve achieved this always the time, but the reality is that we’ve all broken these rules, even if we try and set them. I think there’s a couple of things that we’ve tried to do. The first one is that, I do turn round and say to customers that we will answer urgent things out of hours. Of course, we will. But we will generally try and answer things in hours and the same with staff. I restrict sending things on Slack out of hours when I know that people aren’t working, we try and keep that to a minimum.

Leo Mindel:

With emails, I will actually preload it to send it, 9:30 the following morning because the issue with it and I’ve seen it, and I know this is the case, and it’s the same for everybody is if you just get one email or one Slack message and on a Saturday, and your mind starts thinking about it and you’re back in work mode and and that doesn’t help. And it doesn’t break people’s cycle. As I said earlier on Slack, I actually turn off all the notifications to try and keep it to a minimum. And still I’ve done the same with email. I think the first thing I’ve done with every mobile phone ever is to turn off the push notification on email.

Leo Mindel:

If I want to open up email, I’ll get my email. If I don’t open up email, my phone will stay black for the rest of the day. And it means that I can control when it does it. And I’ve looked at this and I’ve read a number of different articles about this. When you sit there and that can be on a call with somebody, and you can hear the clock, clock from Slack, and they’re ping from email, and it’s like, “How do you work when you’re just sounded this cacophony of things alerting at you all the time. It’s very, very distracting. And it’s like, just calm down none of these things will actually matter.

Leo Mindel:

And you’re just stressing yourself out. And when you work at home in particular is very difficult because I’m sure you’re the same. You actually sometimes sit there and realize I actually, haven’t got up for two hours. I haven’t done anything, but I’ve been busy at this and that. There’s been days when I go to lunch and it’s like I’ve been working here since nine o’clock and it’s now three, and I haven’t actually eaten anything. And I find being British, I get this, how many cups of teas have I made that I haven’t actually drunk? For me fair enough. I have either bean to cup coffee machine, that’s a savior. You have to have one of those at home. I have a bean to cup coffee machine. I go through a lot of coffee, but I don’t actually drink a lot. I make the cup of coffee, go back to go pick it up. And it’s gone cold.

Luis:

Well, at least you have the psychological significance of having done it, of having actually bridged the gap.

Leo Mindel:

I think it’s important.

Louis:

Yeah, it is.

Leo Mindel:

And we’ve got to recognize that there is some huge benefits in this. I’m not traveling. I’m not spending two hours a day traveling one hour each way. I am not having to stress out. And traveling isn’t just about the amount of hours. Based in London or near London, I used to travel on the tube every day and that’s great if it all works. And when it doesn’t work, one hour becomes two hours and you’re suddenly getting home really late o’clock at night, and it’s just not enjoyable.

Louis:

No.

Leo Mindel:

So, all of that’s gone. But it’s just trying to balance that, when you lose that, what do you gain and what are you losing by the fact that you’ve got, as you said earlier, you’ve got your equipment in your house. And I think the big thing I do is I actually, although I still my MacBook, I unplug my MacBook from my desk where I work and I take it next door to watch TV in the evening, but I don’t work on it. I just surf the usual sort of rubbish.

Luis:

Yeah. But I mean, just think about all the podcasts you go through when the tube doesn’t work. That’s missed opportunity.

Leo Mindel:

I think that’s it. I mean, my podcast listening experience has changed. I’m quite a big podcast. I’ve got a lot of favorite podcasts. I try and, I’m not a big, I like to listen to podcasts about things that are outside of the business world as well. And I do find that sometimes you end up with a stack of them.

Luis:

For sure. As I talked to you, I realized that in your business, you’re very conscientious about the way you communicate. It seems that you’ve, and of course, we always set up rules and then end up breaking them. That’s just something that happens accidentally as you run a business. But it does seem that you put some real care and attention and thought to figuring out what’s the best way to communicate. So, why don’t you take me through a bit more detail about how, let’s say that I’m joining your team on my first day. How do you explain the way you communicate? And specifically what’s the balance between a synchronous chat-like a communication? And when do you decide that you need to be synchronous and jump in a call with someone?

Leo Mindel:

It’s a really interesting thing. And I thank you for highlighting the fact that regardless of how you put these rules together and how you try and stick to them, you break them. I mean, that’s the nature of everything, unfortunately. And I would say that at times I am a Saint at this, and sometimes I think my staff will say, I’m the disaster at it. And a lot of that can come down to customers and stress and deliveries and things like that. But that’s how the world works. One of the things I’ve realized, and I’m sure you’re the same is that you bring in new people into the company and invariably they’re coming from a different generation and they’ve got different experiences and different ways of working and a lot of their ways of working work for them.

Leo Mindel:

And it’s trying to adapt and adopt to these things. So, although I’m a big user of Slack, Slack was brought into the company by staff, they thought it was a good thing. Some are the older members of staff are still heavy, heavy users of email. And I would say that some of the newer members of staff aren’t great users of email, it was never in their DNA to use email. They came in after that happened. It’s always interesting to balance it. I think what we are very keen to use in our business world is we’re a big user of Kanban boards. We’re a big user of delivering stuff where we have stand ups and where we have conversations in stuff and using various different technical products that enable the staff to communicate and to record information against a decision.

Leo Mindel:

That’s really difficult because we’ve gone from a world, which I started in where you would have a meeting and there would be minutes written up and the minutes would be circulated. And then the next meeting would be we would refer to those minutes to a world where actually decisions have to be made much faster and decisions have to be, and can, if there is opportunities where you avoid writing those decisions down and you lose the reasoning behind it. We try and ensure that as we create tickets and we try and create information, as customers bring in information, we try and record it. We had a bit of a longstanding discussion about Slack and whether we should go for the paid version for so that we could get the historical information.

Leo Mindel:

I er on the fact that I find that Slack is a great communication tool for instantaneous communication, but it’s not a great one to say, “Oh, look, this is what I said 14 days ago,” because it doesn’t necessarily reflect approach to communication where it was formal. We use GitLab for our recording of all of our documentation. And we try and use that to say, “This is actually the decision we made on a ticket.” And I know that’s sounds different, but it’s just a way to ensure that there is a different level. Otherwise, you’re just held against something that you say in passing and that’s quite difficult.

Luis:

Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. That’s the point of the internet. Imagine, I mean, before we started the recording, we were talking a bit about our 90s nostalgia. And imagine if you live through a period where everything you said was being recorded and couldn’t be consulted, on a whim could be look it up on a whim. Anyone that you thought could look it up on a whim and see what. “You said this to me 20 years ago.” And I’m like, “Oh.”

Leo Mindel:

I think there’s two sides to that. That was always the dystopia that people were worried about. But actually, if you now look, and I don’t want to go too much into politics, I’m sure you don’t either. But if you look at how some politicians that come straight to mind can actually refute the things that they say themselves, it makes you realize that while the technology can actually ensure that we can record those things, it doesn’t mean to say that what you think will be the outcome is the outcome, because people will just say, “Well, I said that now, and I’m going to change my mind. Or actually it’s just fake news. What you’re saying.”

Luis:

I reserve the right to change my mind.

Leo Mindel:

It’s written down and you said it. And it’s like, “No, you’re just bringing this up. It’s fake news.” And it shows that we can, as a people do flex and work around even what you would expect to be rigid rules. And those, you said that 20 minutes ago, and I’m going to hold you to it. And people say, “Well, did he really say it?”

Luis:

Yeah. Well, to your point, there are sometimes people think by talking. And if you’re talking on Slack while you’re really writing on Slack, but many times you’re writing as thinking, you’re thinking and writing. While you’re thinking it’s normal, that you’re going to change your mind. So, that’s why I think it’s an important point. You should hold people accountable to the things they commit, but holding them accountable to what they are thinking, that’s not the best. That’s not the best idea because thoughts are in flux.

Leo Mindel:

I think that’s a massively interesting conversation. And I think you’ve hit really important nail on the head, I think by talking and sometimes I will sit there and I’ll say some things. The history of this very quickly I set the company up, but as I said, 18 years ago with a business partner, unfortunately he passed away about two and a half years ago. And when he was alive, the two of us would just have conversations that we were realizing was in a room and we were talking to each other and it didn’t really, I would say outlandish things, or he would say this, and at the end of it, you would come out with a consensus. But some of the ideas that were left on the cutting floor were really irrelevant. Since that has happened, I’m now relying so much more on the other directors and the managers.

Leo Mindel:

And sometimes I will say things in a meeting that they will take as me saying something as fact. And I’m like, “No, no, I’m just verbalizing my thoughts here.” And it has caught me out a couple of times, because I’ve just realized that I’m sometimes saying things that, and you’re absolutely right. And I think the idea of remote communication and doing this over Zoom, or doing it over Slack or doing it over whatever the tools, adds a level of authenticity to something that may be, you weren’t necessarily meaning it should be because we were tuned into the fact that if you’ve written something, it’s fact.

Leo Mindel:

If you’re seeing something on the screen, well, that’s a broadcast, that’s TV, it’s fact. And actually the reality is in both cases, as you’ve rightly said is, “This is my thought process.” And my thought process at the time, as you say, is in flux.

Luis:

Yeah. In that aspect and bringing it back to my original question, I find that it’s actually much more productive to have the conversations in Zoom or individual conference call, just because usually, we’re just talking, I mean, this is a special occasion. Of course, we’re recording now because this is for a podcast, but usually you don’t record your calls. It’s just, you’re talking with the other person and what I find myself as I find myself balancing the needs for that, the need to discuss something with someone without it being set in stone, without it being recorded, versus just the fact that video calls are much more exhausting than discussion things by text.

Luis:

You have to be much more focused. You’re in sync with another person. If I do four or five of those a day, I’m done. I can’t do anything else productive during the day. How do you balance that?

Leo Mindel:

I think the first thing that I find with this and I recognize it on my end and I approved it was, that I found that I was having video calls and you weren’t getting over what you were saying. And a lot of it was down to technology. So, you had a poor microphone or you had a poor camera. And I approached that myself and improve that. And since I’ve improved that on my end, I think that my communication comes over better. And it wasn’t expensive. It really wasn’t, but it does make a huge amount of difference so that people can see and hear me cleanly. And I think it improves the level of communication, but I still come back to the same thing that you said earlier, even having these talks there, the fact I’m on camera with you, and we’re talking here lends a level of authenticity to what I’m saying, which may be isn’t right, because you’re looking at what you’re used to, which is a TV presentation of me, or everybody’s grew up believing what was on the TV was real.

Leo Mindel:

And what we’re saying is sometimes what you’re saying and meaning come over differently. And I think even with a higher quality microphone or high quality camera, the nuances of a communication are lost. And there is a delay online and you just can’t sometimes read the levels. And I think we’ve got to be very careful. And I’ve come across this on both sides that I’ve jumped into soon on a conversation, or I’ve found that people jumping in on me and you’re just trying to balance which normally wouldn’t happen in a room. And we’ve just got to be careful though, we’ve got to address that.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s true. It does require some self awareness because if we’re sitting at the same table, it’s okay for you to be making a point that I’m like, “Oh right. That’s it. You know about it, et cetera.” And that that’s normal. My interjection flows naturally in the conversation if it’s presential in a way that doesn’t flow here. Here, I’m just being badly mannered than interrupting you without adding anything.

Leo Mindel:

You’ve nailed it there. Exactly.

Louis:

Exactly.

Leo Mindel:

I’m not trying to be badly mannered and interrupt you, but you can find particularly on calls that if you can’t get in at the point, you would want to get into a conversation and you end up feeling like you’ve just railroaded yourself into a conversation to get your point across because the natural flow is so much different on a lone line call. And I guess we’re going to learn and we’re going to adapt. And I think that’s the really interesting thing we’re already adapting and learning. And this whole period is… We’ve been forced into it. And I do sit there with some people when I have these calls about other things. And they say, “Well, you’ve got a good microphone.” And I’m like, “Yeah, welcome to my world. This is what I’ve been doing for a number of years and welcome to my world of what and give it six months.”

Leo Mindel:

Do you remember Louis, everybody started getting iPhones and you’d sit there on a train or commuting and it’s that everybody’s looking at their phone and it’s really a weird thing. And the other one was when people started getting Kindles and people are reading this way and it’s like a change and it’s like, “Oh, that’s different. That’s different.” You saw one person, “Look, that person has got an iPhone.” And then now it’s just ubiquitous. Everybody has got them. And I think the same will happen about the, “Can I call you at home? Have you got a camera? Have you got a microphone?” “Of course, I’ve got a camera and microphone.” Here you go.

Luis:

Yeah. That makes me think about there’s something that I saw today, the cover of the 10,000 edition of the Telegraph. That’s the-

Leo Mindel:

I didn’t know it was today.

Luis:

That’s a lot of editions by the way, but the thing that struck me. They did something quite fun for the cover, they basically illustrated that the readers over the years. It’s basically a cover full of people reading the newspaper over several, several decades. And they all have something in common that they’re reading. They’re reading the newspaper as you read the newspaper, they open it and they’re looking at it except the one in the bottom right corner, which is the modern person. That’s has the newspaper in her lap, holding one page with one hand and looking at their phone with the other. And that’s really struck me like, “There’s something that still is quite weird to me about this.” And especially as someone who’s always loved reading.

Leo Mindel:

I agree. I’m a big book reader, but I haven’t bought a physical book in years because I buy everything on Kindle. I try to read it on an iPad and I try to read on a mobile phone. I just didn’t get along, get on with Kindle, but this technology and utilizing those technologies. And I think this is the very interesting thing about where we are now. I think there’s a lot of companies who sat there and went, “No, no, no, we can’t work remotely.” And they’ve been thrown in to the deep end. And as you do with children, although no, I wouldn’t recommend it, but yeah, once you get thrown in the deep end, you learn how to swim fast and they are learning.

Leo Mindel:

And do you need a massive office full of people are answering telephone calls about insurance, or can they all do it remotely? Can they work anywhere in the world? Louis, you’re in Portugal, I’m in London. Could you even vision this in the eighties that we would be having this sort of call?

Luis:

Well, actually it’s at the same time zone.

Leo Mindel:

90s for you.

Luis:

Actually it’s the same time zone. So, maybe it would be more impressive if I was in India or Australia, but still-

Leo Mindel:

But the delay in what we’re able to do is, I mean, and actually the core quality of this is so much better than a mobile phone call. I think this is where we’re going.

Luis:

Yesterday we had the blackout. So, I had to join the meeting with the President and MVP of Distant Job, I had to join by phone, actually Zoom has a rather nice feature for that. You can just call a local number and you’ll be in the meeting. I was basically calling in and it was such a terrible experience with compared with doing it like this.

Leo Mindel:

I think that was it. I mean, going back to when we started having these satellite offices and remote offices, we had a phone system and everybody had the phones on their desk. We were making phone calls all the time between offices. And I was talking to other members of staff through phone calls. Then along came, at that time, the first thing we started using was Skype and we started having phone calls, occasionally video calls, but mainly phone calls and things on Skype. You then pick up the ordinary phone to call the same person you had spoken to 20 minutes ago on a conference call in Skype, and you go, “Oh, this sounds awful. This sounds terrible. How do we have this call?” And you realize that the sound quality is so poor. And the nuances that you were listening to in you able to listen to have gone.

Leo Mindel:

And I think you’re right, yes, you can deliver conferences and you can have people dial in remotely on Zoom, but it’s hard work. And I think you’re even seeing this. If you listen to the radio, you watch TV, listen to radio, phone ins and people are still calling in on analog lines. And then every now and again, somebody calls in on a Skype or something and the quality grows. And I think this opportunity that we’ve been presented with and I do say this, that this current situation is we have to look at it as an opportunity, as well as a horrible situation, but let’s deal with the opportunity side of it is an opportunity to maybe say, “Look, this is the way it was.”

Leo Mindel:

In my other very small life, I’m involved with synagogues and churches and about that online streaming and getting them to be able to stream their services out so that people can watch. And the big thing that we’re saying with everything at the moment is connection over perfection. It’s making that connection with people rather than the perfection of what you would like it to look like. And that’s winning. It’s really, really winning. They are talking to more people and they are getting more connected to people than they were in the past. And I think a lot of businesses are seeing that.

Louis:

Oh yeah, that’s a really good point. That’s a really good point. And I do hope that one of the silver linings of us being currently in lockdown is that a lot of businesses and a lot of employees and a lot of employers will understand that we’ve been working for the past 10 years, following the templates set by the industrial revolution. And it doesn’t make sense to pay these rents. It doesn’t make sense to submit people to these commutes. It doesn’t make sense to do a lot of the things that we’ve been doing, just because that was how it was done before.

Leo Mindel:

Yeah. I mean, in one of my very last meetings before the lockdown was with a client that I see very regularly, they’re based in another country. They fly in and out. Some of their members of staff are flying in and out on a three times a week basis to different countries or to have meetings. They were one of the very last companies to adopt any sort of… We can never have online conference calls with them because they could never get it to work in their offices and this and the other. Since this has happened, of course, they’ve had to go that way and even they’ve woken up and gone. “Why do we keep coming to see you? When actually all we want to do is you’re building our website, you’re delivering our online things. We can, we can look at all of this using technology. We can screen share, we can do all of this. And actually the majority of people visiting the website, obviously are digital, well, they all are digital. Why do we have to keep meeting? Why do we have to keep flying?”

Leo Mindel:

And I think from both a personal, emotional, and the world repairing sites, dropping that number of flights is going to be a good thing.

Louis:

But, Leo, think about all the frequent flyer miles they’re missing out.

Leo Mindel:

Yeah. I know what you’re saying and at times I’m sitting here going, “Oh, I mean, I had flights booked to go snowboarding when this all happened.” And I’m still longingly looking at webcams of all the slopes still full of snow at the moment. It would have been great end of season. And things just didn’t happen, but you’re right. I mean, these things.

Luis:

There’s time, there will be other opportunities for sure. We’ve been at this for nearly an hour. I want to be respectful of your time, but I would like to know if you’re up for a quick session of rapid fire questions. The questions, I ask them rapidly, but you don’t need to answer them rapidly. You can think as long as you like. Shall we begin?

Leo Mindel:

Far away.

Luis:

Number one, what browser tabs do you have open right now?

Leo Mindel:

Well, what tabs do I have open? I’m just looking now. I’ve got a load of Google docs and a load of documents on a webinar conference that I’m going to be running. And what else? That’s it really.

Luis:

Nice. Webinar, anything related to remote work?

Leo Mindel:

No, it’s a webinar that I’m going to be running for a liberal Judaism. We’re running a live webinar. And of course it got four tabs for different clients open, including premiership rugby.

Luis:

Okay, cool. If you add 100 euros to spend with each person working for you, what would you give them? And you can give them the money. Those are the rules, can’t give them the money and you can ask them what they want.

Leo Mindel:

Well, I sort of do this anyway. I buy all of my staff Easter eggs every year. I also buy them Christmas hampers. I like buying people things that they’re not expecting, and I would probably buy them a treat like that that will be delivered for them and their families at home.

Luis:

Any treat in particular you can recommend?

Leo Mindel:

If I was doing it now, I would probably buy them a summer picnic hamper and blanket for when this is over, so that they can go out in the park and have a picnic.

Luis:

Yes. That’s going to be a big hit this summer season. As soon as people are allowed to go out, then there will be a lot of picnics. What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year?

Leo Mindel:

A brand new MacBook pro. It wasn’t the cheapest thing in the world, but I am-

Luis:

I’m jealous.

Leo Mindel:

Yeah, I had to get a new one.

Luis:

I’m jealous. Two years ago, I got the cheapest one and I regret it so much that I didn’t splurge for one that was a bit slightly better.

Leo Mindel:

My last one lasted six years and I buy a right at the top of the cost and it lasts the longest ever.

Luis:

It’s great. I love it. I love it too. What book or books have you gifted the most?

Leo Mindel:

I don’t really give books.

Luis:

Okay, let’s go with which one have influenced you the most, if you don’t give books.

Leo Mindel:

I’m a really big fiction reader rather than fact reader. I’m not a big fiction not really big fact reader. Although I must say the books that I really enjoyed recently was the Homo Deus and Homo Sapien they’re books about the history of man and how we’ve grown. And they’re fascinating things, that everything we think we’ve done has all been done before, or it will be done again. And we’re just in the middle of that.

Luis:

Those are great books. And by the way, good fiction helps you learn a surprising amount of stuff about a lot of things. It’s not only practical books or even philosophy books that help you grow good fiction can help you grow as well. What’s your favorite fiction piece?

Leo Mindel:

What’s my favorite fiction? I’m a big reader of crime novels and authors, including Stuart McBride, who’s based in outside of Aberdeen. And as I know the area very well, it’s quite to be reading books about places you know.

Luis:

Oh, nice. Yeah. Yeah, indeed it is. Final question. And this one as a bit of a long setup, so bear with me. You are organizing a dinner where the important decision makers of tech companies are invited from all over the world. And during the dinner, there’s going to be a round table on the future of work and remote work. The twist is that the dinner happens at the Chinese restaurant. And because you are the host, you get to pick the message that comes inside the fortune cookie. So, what does the message for the people that are coming to your dinner when there’s a round table about remote work and the future of work?

Leo Mindel:

The boundary of your location is in your mind.

Luis:

Oh, that’s good. Okay, let’s go with that. Let’s give it that. That makes a lot of sense, actually. Crucially, it sounds like something that would be written in a fortune book.

Leo Mindel:

That’s exactly what I wanted it to sound like.

Luis:

Exactly. Thank you for putting so much effort into it. It sounds great. It sounds great. For the people who want to continue the conversation, who wants to reach out to you and who wants to learn more about your business and what your business does, where can they do all of this?

Leo Mindel:

The company is Sotic and our website is Sotic.net you can also find me on social media, on the WFC Keego, but the main thing is get involved in things like a WordPress London, or WordPress Meetups. And I’m on a number of those in the UK and in the WordPress community around the world.

Luis:

Okay. Nice. Thank you so much, Leo. It was a pleasure having you. Thank you so much for being here and for sharing your story, and certainly we’ll keep in touch.

Leo Mindel:

Louis it’s really good. And it’s nice to be able to talk to you. As we said from you in Lisbon, or just outside of Lisbon and me just outside of London.

Louis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. Ladies and gentlemen, this was Leo Mindel from the Digital Sports Agency, Sotic. And I was as always your host Louis on the Distant Job Podcast. See you next week.

Louis:

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

Louis:

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. Now, another thing that you might want to do, is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, then 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.

Louis:

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 candidates. 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the Distant Job Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Remote work is the present, and more and more companies are experiencing the benefits of having distributed teams. However, one of the main challenges remote businesses experience is with communication.

In this episode, Leo Mindel shares his key strategies to maintain efficient communication in distributed teams. He talks about his experience transitioning from an onsite company to a fully remote company and the right tools he has gathered along the way.

''And the big thing that we're saying with everything at the moment is connection over perfection. It's making that connection with people rather than the perfection of what you would like it to look like. And that's winning.'' Click To Tweet

 

What you will learn:

  • Challenges of communicating in remote teams
  • Tips to effectively use tools such as Zoom and Slack
  • Connecting with your remote team through virtual water cooler moments
  • How to handle work/life balance while transitioning to working from home
  • The importance of having the right hardware to improve the remote experience

 

Book recommendations:

 

  • Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

 

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 Anchor.fm and on our website.

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!

 

 

 

 

 

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