Virtual Networking and Communication for Remote Teams with Coach Kevin Claus

Kevin Claus is a coach and consultant with a focus on leadership development and employee engagement. Kevin started managing remote teams 12 years ago, helping them reach their highest potential.

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Luis:

Welcome, ladies, and gentlemen to the DistantJob Podcast, a podcast that’s all about building and leading remote teams. I am your host as usual Luis from DistantJob. And today my guest is Kevin Claus. Kevin is a coach and consultant. He has a focus on leadership and manager development and employee engagement in his practice. He has over almost three decades of business and leadership experience guiding him in this pursuit. He helps his clients being their best selves both professionally and professionally. He has consulted customized and personal approach helps build strong trusting relationships that enabled individuals and teams to achieve their business career and personal goals. So that’s what you’re here to transmit today and over the internet Kevin, welcome.

Kevin Claus:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to talk with you today, Luis.

Luis:

So, I guess that we were introduced by one of my previous guests, Louise. Thank you, Louise. It’s wonderful that you get me in touch with people like Kevin. And Kevin, so you have a lot of experience. I mean, looking at your portfolio, you’ve been at this, as I mentioned, nearly three decades. When did you first start? When did you first notice that you were starting interacting more with and moreover the internet and with people that you weren’t necessarily working with them on the same office? And they weren’t necessarily working with their talent in the same office?

Kevin Claus:

I think that personally, I started working remotely about 12 years ago, but we had been doing a lot of conference calls before that. So, I was working with global teams for a number of years prior that, but I would say, really, I started working remotely and leading remote teams about 12 years ago.

Luis:

Well, that’s still pretty early on the game, right?

Kevin Claus:

It is. And at the time, I was working for a global company. And we had people in over 100 countries around the world. And I was working with and managing people in different across the… I’m based in New York in the US, but I was working with people and leading teams that had people not only across the US but from all around the world. So initially, it was somewhat challenging getting to know people remotely, and then when we started using cameras, that’s when things really started to change and just enable. We talked about this earlier, it just is so much more engaging when you’re able to see the people that you’re talking to with, people that you’re managing, really, it opens up a lot more doors for conversation.

Luis:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, the video question at the same time, it has its foibles, I mean, a lot of work is done is handled very well through chat, and then synchronous communication. But there’s definitely something to say about the personal ability of video. So 12 years is the world has changed considerably, not just socially, economically, but also just in terms of tools and availability of internet and all of that. What have you changed your mind the most during this period regarding specifically working remotely, working with distributed teams?

Kevin Claus:

What have I changed the most?

Luis:

What have you changed your mind the most about?

Kevin Claus:

Well, I think in the very beginning it was sort of difficult, particularly for people who hadn’t worked in a remote environment before. So an example is I started managing a team, and I had somebody in the group who had been with the company for maybe about a year or so. And they were struggling with they’d always been in an office. It was the first remote position. And I think during that first year, they weren’t really getting the attention that they needed to really help them develop the skills needed to work remotely. And when we started working together, we brainstormed ways that they could connect with people because they were feeling sort of isolated in a remote part of the country where there was no local office. There were no people who they could connect with in-person really on a regular basis.

Kevin Claus:

So things that we talked about were virtual networking. So finding are there people who you don’t work with on a regular basis, who you want to get to know? Are there parts of the business that you want to get to know more about that you don’t have the opportunity to in your day to day life? So, I think the idea of virtual networking was sort of new, and I don’t remember exactly how long ago that was. Maybe it was six or eight years ago when this particular thing happened. But it really changed for this particular person. It changed a lot of things for her in that she was able to feel a connection to more people by reaching out to them and getting to know them virtually having video conferences with them.

Kevin Claus:

Another thing that I always recommend to and I guess, probably bigger companies do this more often is employee resource groups. It’s another great way for people to connect with either a group that they identify with or a group that they are an ally for. So, companies that I’ve been with there were women’s employee resource groups, there were LGBTQ employee resource groups, for people in the military or veterans of the military. So, it was a way for people to connect on something that was close to them, and they could get involved in different activities. And I think that, that’s another thing is that even when you’re remote, you kind of miss out on some of that so-called water cooler talk or-

Luis:

Definitely.

Kevin Claus:

… in-office activities and things like that. So, there are a lot of things that I think a lot of people struggle with when they work remotely for the first time.

Luis:

Absolutely. And we see that, and the virtual networking thing is very interesting. Actually, we started doing something recently at my company that our VP came up with which is donut Tuesday’s that we have a bot that basically connects two random people in the company to have a video chat sharing donuts and coffee. So just to get that to act a bit as a social lubricant, and I think it’s quite a nice idea.

Luis:

But you also touched upon career progression, and this is something that comes up every now and then in this podcast is that they’re still especially in hybrid companies, where there are both remote employees and people working on the office. The remote employees tend to become a bit out of sight, out of mind. And it’s not like the office employees are fast track to promotions, but the remote people tend to be slow tracked to promotions and to training even and career development. So, have you witnessed this at any times and how have you advise people to solve it?

Kevin Claus:

I think that can be a big challenge to a point out of sight out of mind. And people don’t get the opportunity to experience more skills on a daily basis when you’re not in the same physical place as them. And I love the idea that you just mentioned about randomly connecting people so that they can learn more about one another, maybe learn about different parts of the business. And the example that I gave you before where I suggested to this person that she connect with people who she had an interest in learning more about or learning more about their area of the business is something that was expanded upon as well through various leadership development programs. So identifying people who were in these examples, they were perhaps high potential people, but I think that this can be done in a more casual way, like we were just saying.

Kevin Claus:

But this was more of a formal approach to taking these high potential people and bringing them into this program and connecting them with a senior leader, who is perhaps in a business area, would they want to learn? Or maybe perhaps it’s an area of the business that they aspire to move into. So gives them an opportunity to get to know that leader, perhaps ask them, are there other people within your part of the organization that I can speak with, to learn more about what they do, and to sort of network a little bit more. So, I think those are some ways that you can kind of identify ways to progress your career. And I think it’s really important just as we network with people outside of work to network internally and to get to meet as many people as possible as we move into this virtual workplace more and more each year.

Luis:

Absolutely. So how do you feel that this applies to training specially in hybrid companies, where people… Career Development is such an important part of today’s work life. But when you’re in a company where you have a training program that’s working for people that are all in the office, how do you bring the remote people in assuming that it’s not feasible to just fly them in, which is actually quite good and quite recommended. But I mean, I think that it’s really makes a difference when companies fly their remote employees over once or twice a year to meet the rest of the team. But it’s not always possible. So, what’s the next best fix would you say?

Kevin Claus:

I think many people when they think of training, they think of formal training in a classroom environment. And the reality is that with things like Google and Wikipedia and YouTube, we learn in very different ways in our off time. So, it’s about incorporating some of those things into the way we learn in the workplace too. So thinking about the learning through videos. And also by shadowing, perhaps you can virtually shadow someone. And we were talking about connecting with people in different parts of the organization a few minutes ago. And I think we can do is say, if you connect with a leader and you say, “Hey, I want to learn more about your part of the organization. Is there somebody that I could work with and shadow and perhaps just maybe spend an hour or two a week with them and learn what they’re doing?” I think that’s a great way to do it.

Kevin Claus:

Another thing that a lot of companies are doing to cut costs because flying people around the country around the world is not always feasible, and it costs a lot of money. And it takes us away from our job. And there’s a lot to be said for meeting in person. But when that’s not possible, I think virtual classrooms are a reality today that is a very, very effective way to learn. I’ve facilitated a lot of virtual training. I’ve taken programs that were traditionally done in the classroom and converted them into virtual programs. And I think when you do that, it’s just really important to keep people as engaged as you possibly can. We talked about the use of video cameras, and that’s a great way to get people engaged and keep them talking.

Kevin Claus:

And then I think also just by making it very, very interactive, so that can be by the facilitator asking questions of the group. Assigning activities to the participants so that they can interact with one another and learn from one another can be a really effective way of learning. We use virtual breakout rooms. So using software that enables you to break people out into groups and they can go off and they can work on a case study, they can discuss a topic, and they can come back and they can share back with the group about what their discussion points were and what conclusions they came to, and you hear from all the different groups. And I think that can be as effective as being in person in the classroom. And like I said it’s a cost saver. And when you can’t be physically in the same place in person, it can be a very effective way to learn if it’s designed properly.

Luis:

That’s super interesting. What software do you use to manage these? What tools-

Kevin Claus:

There are lots of different software’s that you can use. There’s GoToMeeting and a whole host of different training software platforms. There are other ways when we just didn’t have the means to do that where we’ve used free software like Google Hangouts, and it doesn’t have the functionality to use breakout rooms per se. But what you can do is you can break the group up and you can say, “Okay, go create a Google Hangout.” You can give them a link, pre-created Google Hangouts link, assign them to the groups and then they can go off and use those and come back and share virtually as well. So, there are different options available.

Luis:

Of course. The logistics aren’t necessarily as easy to implement as a dedicated software but that I can definitely see. To me, the problem with Zoom is really that we’re having a conversation with Zoom right now. It’s my go-to podcast recording thing, my go-to-meeting thing. I love it. I use it a lot, but it definitely loses quality the more people we add then just because unlike a physical roundtable where we have the usual human faculties that allow us to stop when someone else is talking or to interrupt without seeming impolite. Just finding the right time to introduce what we have to introduce to the discussion. These are dynamics that are harder to adapt to video.

Luis:

Usually what happens with the video roundtable is you need a very good facilitator to help people take turns. Otherwise, it just evolves into chaos. And some people talk a lot and people don’t talk at all. It’s definitely more work. So, I’m super interested in this virtual classroom concept that you’ve helped facilitate. How long have you been doing this? And what are some key tips for the managers and leaders that want to actually give some training to their direct reports? What can they apply to make it more interactive and increase participation and specially diversified participation so it’s not like always the same two or three people participating?

Kevin Claus:

You made a great point in that it requires good facilitation skills because particularly when you’re doing training you have to be on top of all the different moving parts. I’ll keep mentioning video that’s very, very important for engagement. And I’ve even done that in staff meetings where it took a while. It was a cultural shift with getting people comfortable with turning on their cameras on every call. And eventually, we got there. It took several years, but we got everybody there. With respect to facilitating virtually, I’ve been doing it for, I would say probably about, nine or 10 years. And it’s evolved tremendously since we first started doing it. So in the beginning, it was simply audio. We didn’t have the ability to use video because to point that you made earlier, when you have a lot of people on the call, it can diminish the quality of audio and video.

Kevin Claus:

So sometimes we ended up having to turn off the video, but I think it requires really good listening skills and really listening to what people are saying, and asking questions of the group and encouraging. So if you find that typically you will have several people who are the more outspoken ones. I had trouble with this in the beginning, but by calling on people if you’re not hearing from somebody and say, “Hey, what do you think about this topic? We’re really interested in hearing your ideas and your perception of what we’re talking about.” So, I think it’s always a nice idea to ensure that you’re hearing from everyone and encouraging them to participate.

Kevin Claus:

I think you want to test out any technology that you’re going to use first and make sure that it’s going to be feasible. Like we said, tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom, maybe don’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the tools that are created specifically for virtual training. But one of the things that I found with some of those tools is that they can be a little bit more difficult for learners to navigate. So, there’s a lot more functionality, and there can be somewhat of a learning curve for both the facilitator and for the participants. So with something like Google Hangouts or Zoom, it seems to be much more intuitive to people from a learner perspective, and it’s a little bit easier for them to pick up on.

Luis:

True.

Kevin Claus:

I think another thing that’s really important is when you’re listening to somebody and when they’re sharing an idea with you is to perhaps paraphrase back what you’ve heard, and ensure that you’ve heard it correctly so that everybody is on the same page. I think that when you’re in a virtual environment, it can lead to perhaps people not understanding what the discussion is or just really what somebody’s point is. So, just confirming and saying so if I hear you correctly, what you’re saying is this and really just confirming so that everybody is on the same page in terms of what that person said. Those are a few tips that come to mind in terms of facilitating. It can be facilitating training virtually or even facilitating a virtual meeting.

Luis:

Got it. So you mentioned a while ago into the interview, that you’ve been in leadership positions leading remote teams. So, have they been fully remote teams or partially remote, partially in location and in what percentage if any, was it?

Kevin Claus:

Yeah, for me, I would say prior to 12 years ago, I pretty much-led teams that were on site with me. And I’m trying to think if I had any remote workers at that time when I had an onsite team, I don’t think so. And then, at that point, I moved into a new team that was very much dispersed. So, I started out in the business and in the beginning of my career, I was in operations roles, and I was in product development and marketing. When I moved into my first learning and development role, that was when I really started working with a lot more people remotely because I didn’t have any L&D people or HR people in my home location.

Kevin Claus:

And at that point was when I really started working remotely a few days a week, and then it turned into full-time remote. And at that point, my teams were all completely remote. And so they were initially people only in the US. And then I started leading remote teams globally. And I think one of the next challenges that I found myself running into was hiring people remotely. So, I was looking for people with very specific skill sets. And I was a remote worker myself. So, I was finding myself having to interview people remotely. And that at first was a little bit of a challenge. But I found that actually, the people that I hired during that period of time were some of the best hires that I ever made.

Luis:

Oh, yeah, that’s all of our whole shtick at DistantJob. When you stop being limited to hiring people that are within a 50-mile radius, you start being able to find quality all around the world. So that’s part of our shtick for sure. I definitely agree on that point. I mean, I tried to 

Kevin Claus:

You may not. If you’re looking for a very specific skill set, it may not be available depending on where you live, it may not be available in a 50-mile radius.

Luis:

Exactly.

Kevin Claus:

And you may not have somebody who’s willing to drop that 50, 60 miles.

Luis:

Come on, Kevin everyone knows that all the good software developers live within a 50-mile radius of San Francisco. That’s just how it happens. It’s [inaudible 00:22:07] on the water, Kevin. No, but for sure. Totally agree. So I mean, so you were in an operations as well, marketing as well. But when you are in operation, operations, it is really about building systems and then optimizing systems, right? Now, between the building and the optimizing. There’s one little thing that’s called the actual data gathering, which ends up being most of the work because you need to know after building you need to know what are the places to optimize? And a lot of people in operations that I talked to find it a bit of a challenge to gather data when people are not in the office. So, how did you solve that conundrum? How did you handle reporting and looking at how people are doing and interviewing people to know at what point in the systems the bottlenecks were, all of that? How did you make that transition from doing that in location to doing that distributed?

Kevin Claus:

So, how did I make the transition from working with that team on-site to working remotely?

Luis:

I was thinking more about the actual work, managing operations. So from the building of a system to optimizing your system, you need to get feedback. You need to get input, you need to get data, you need to find out where the bottlenecks are, and how did you manage to gather that information without it all being centralized in a single location?

Kevin Claus:

Well, but my operations days I was on site, and I was leading a team onsite. But having said that, we did work with a lot of technology people who were not on site who were located mostly around the US, and we had frequent conference calls with them. So, this was really before video platforms like we’re using today. So it was really-

Luis:

The Spiderphone days.

Kevin Claus:

Sorry.

Luis:

The Spiderphone days.

Kevin Claus:

Yeah, exactly. So it was literally us, the operations team and any local technology people and any product development people gathering in a room with people. So, I think it was much more of a formalized approach where now it’s just so natural to us to be able to connect with people via a quick video chat or via a quick instant message chat. You mentioned that earlier. And I think that we can accomplish a lot with a quick I&M than with picking up the phone. And I think that really you can do a lot of those different things to accomplish the same goals. And then I think if I think about the way I worked with remote teams more recently and I translate that back to operations days.

Kevin Claus:

I think that for those people who perhaps are data gatherers and perhaps working on processes and improving them. Perhaps one of the things that I might have to do if I were leading that kind of team today is with remote employees maybe consider if they’re still adjusting to that remote worker mentality is connecting maybe a little bit more frequently with them, than my onsite associates that are I’m working with. And working with them to help them become more comfortable in that environment. And I think that today, there are a lot of interactive tools that you can use. So, things like Google Sheets and Google Docs where you can be simultaneously editing documents. I think in an operational type role that using tools like that can be really effective because we can both be looking at the same spreadsheet. And we can both be manipulating it and sorting it. And looking at the same data at the same time without having to screen share, which is another effective way.

Kevin Claus:

But I think that by using tools where you can actually be looking at and touching the same data can be really, really effective in that type of role. And I think that same example can apply to any role that you’re in because I’ve used it just as effectively in L&D and HR teams and working on things like employee engagement. And it’s a great way to brainstorm where I’ve worked with a group and perhaps you break up into sub-teams, and you’re going to go off in your sub-team and you’re going to brainstorm ideas and you create a Google Sheet file. And everybody has their own sheet. And they’ve got a different topic that they’re going to capture ideas on. And they will capture their ideas on the sheet. And then we rotate. And the next group is going to come and they’re going to contribute their ideas to that same topic you worked on, and they’re going to go work on another topic.

Luis:

Oh nice.

Kevin Claus:

It’s made for groups to kind of, I’ve done it in a in-person classroom. And we tried to replicate that in a virtual environment. And we found that Google Sheets and things like that were very effective way to do that, to work in groups and brainstorm and then come together and look at how our ideas came together.

Luis:

That’s an interesting approach. Brainstorming is definitely something that is painful to translate into the remote world, at least in my experience, and that seems to be an interesting tactic. I will have to try it.

Luis:

Hey there, its Luis, welcome to the intermission, of 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. And to build a great remote team, you need great remote employees. That’s where DistantJob comes in. So, here’s how it works. You tell us the kind of position that you need to fill, we talk 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 of interest to you.

Luis:

We make sure because we are techies and our recruiters are techies as well. So when people get to you, they are already pre-selected and you just have to decide between the cream of the crop. And 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 of 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 without further ado, let’s get back with the show. Thank you for listening.

Luis:

So, that was my mistake because I kind of understood that when you transition to leaving remote teams you were in operations. So you were in other positions when you were dealing with remote teams. But regardless of that position, what was your… because you talked about the importance of keeping in touch with people you’re communicating, etc. That implies a certain cadence to your workday. Why don’t you take me through your typical workday when you were in that position? Or maybe what about the typical week?

Kevin Claus:

You talked about specifically in an operations type role?

Luis:

Well, in the operations that you’re the leadership role that you would be more familiar with that you spent more time within remote settings.

Kevin Claus:

I think in a remote, typical day for me, leading a remote team was first getting up, checking my email. I’m one of those people who… Some people say that when they work remotely, they say, “Oh, I can just roll out of bed and I can go and start working in my pajamas.” I’m-

Luis:

I can’t do that.

Kevin Claus:

I can’t either. I need to get up. I need to shower. Get dressed like I’m going to the office. The benefit is that I don’t have the commute. And I live on Long Island in New York and the traffic is tremendous. So, I don’t have to have that hour-long commute each way. And I can have that extra time to work. So, I would typically get up, I would have some coffee, I would get ready, I would come and sit at my desk, check my email, sometimes check that over coffee, and then respond to anything urgent. And then I typically, I’m the one who likes to get as many meetings out of the way in the morning as possible. So, I would typically schedule my one to one’s with my team members in the morning, depending on what part of the world they live in, of course.

Kevin Claus:

But try to get as many meetings out of the way as possible and then focus on doing my busy work. Similarly, I would then have some perhaps virtual training that I would facilitate throughout the day. So based on when those were scheduled, I would adjust my schedule accordingly. Then I would typically work through that whole process between meetings and getting some actual work done and facilitating training classes throughout the day, and then wrap up my day usually around six o’clock in the evening. And then I’m one of those people who typically will check email throughout the evening. I try not to check right before bedtime.

Luis:

I’m terrible at that. I just constantly check email at every time that I need someone to stop me.

Kevin Claus:

Checking right before bed is sometimes a bad idea because you could read something that’s going to cause you to lose some sleep. Try to avoid that. I don’t keep my phone in the bedroom. I keep it in another room just to avoid that, and I don’t want those distractions when I’m trying to get some much-needed rest. But I think it’s important when you work remotely to have a schedule that you try to stay stick to. Of course, things are going to come up and perhaps disrupt that. But to stick to as much of a schedule as you can, I think it’s really important to because you’re working remotely and even though you’re having interactions with people during the day, it’s really important to get up and out. And we feel like myself and a lot of other people that I’ve worked with work remotely, often feel like because we’re not physically in an office, we have to be always accessible to everybody, especially if you’re working for a global company.

Luis:

Oh, yeah, that’s a recipe for wrecking your life.

Kevin Claus:

So, you need to have some level of work-life balance. And I think that you need to understand what are the things that help you to replenish on a regular basis and to constantly build those into your schedule and your teams on a daily basis so that you don’t burn yourself out. Because I think like I said, when you’re a remote worker, you feel like you have to constantly be on and available and ready for people, which yeah, you want to be available to your team. But you also have to strike that balance of taking time for yourself and making sure that you are taking care of yourself as well.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. That reminds me of some of my earlier podcast guests, Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby. They wrote a book about agile and distributed teams. And one of their recommendations that I’ve tried to apply, is really that even if people work remotely and from lots of different countries, as much as possible, the teams should have an overlap of four hours and that’s what we try to implement in DistantJob. Today is that to work, we try to be as flexible as possible, but it’s important that there’s a four hour period where everyone’s online, and everyone’s accessible. And then you can work around your own schedules.

Luis:

We think that it’s a good compromise because when you have ultimate flexibility, number one, it’s not good for the business because processes tend to be delayed, because whose available sometimes that when two people or three people are needed for a task, there’s a long delay in communication between them. And second, it’s bad for the people themselves, because they are in a state of constant uncertainty about whether they have some input waiting for them or not. So, it’s definitely better for both the companies and the employees to have an agreement of when work happens simultaneously, synchronously.

Kevin Claus:

Absolutely. That’s a really good point. And I personally, the teams that I’ve managed, we have always had at least a few hours of overlap in our workdays. There were examples though and in a global company, there are going to be people who are on the completely opposite schedule, as you or as many people in the team, and it can impact those people tremendously. Because I’ve had people in larger teams that I’ve been a part of, who were my peers, who were 12 or 13 hours time distance from many people in the team. And it was really rough for them because they would sometimes have to get on calls at during the night, late at night for them, or we would have to adjust it. And we try to be conscious of that and adjust it so that everybody had some level of inconvenience at some point when you have those people who are really at the opposite ends of the spectrum from a timezone perspective.

Luis:

Of course. But it also happens that when you have a global company, you also tend to have many teams. So maybe you can build your teams with time zones in consideration, meaning, maybe you don’t put someone from India together with something someone from the US in the team, right? Maybe you can put them with someone from Europe, where the time difference is smaller. There is also some considerations in team building that can alleviate that, right?

Kevin Claus:

Absolutely, whenever possible that would be ideal.

Luis:

So you talked a bit about how your hiring improved once you started working remotely. And I’m a bit curious about your process. So, when you are hiring someone specifically for remote position, obviously, you have your own ways of measuring their skill set for whatever work they’re going to be doing. That’s an important part. But there’s also the second question was, is this person going to be able to self manage to the degree that it’s needed? Is this person a fit not only for the work that they’re going to be performing but for working remotely? How do you figure that out? What are some questions, some telltale signs that you look for?

Kevin Claus:

I think that like you would do even if you were hiring somebody in person, I think its first really important to have the person interview with multiple people, so that they can get different perspectives from the situation. And then, I think, always use video when interviewing people remotely, so that you can get a sense because I think when you’re talking to somebody, you want to see body language and things like that and see when you’re asking questions and see how they’re responding. So that you have that visual component as well as hearing what they’re saying.

Kevin Claus:

And I think by just really exploring how they’ve worked independently in the past and asking a lot of questions around that, and understanding their thought processes around how they work independently, how they’ve worked with other people in teams where maybe they weren’t in the same location before, and asking lot of questions about that. I think those are some really important things to utilize when you’re hiring somebody remotely. And again just as with hiring somebody in person, there are no guarantees, you can only do so much. But I think that you can spend a little bit more time on asking questions around that about how they work independently and really, really exploring that a little bit more in-depth.

Luis:

What would some of those questions be?

Kevin Claus:

I think asking them what are some of the things that you personally have worked on in the past that forced you to work independently. What was the challenge you faced? What was the challenge that you worked on independently? How did you approach it? What did you do to solve it? I think asking how they problem-solve individually or independently is something really important to really probe and you would probably do that for an in-person hire as well. But I think it’s even more important to dig into those topics and explore that a little bit deeper level when you’re hiring somebody remotely.

Luis:

I absolutely agree. We’ve been at this for 40 minutes, so I want to be respectful of your time, but I would like to ask some winding down rapid-fire questions. They are rapid-fire questions, but the answers don’t need to be rapid fire. You can take your time, please be as extensive or as brief as you like. So, if you could buy in bulk at the tune of 100 euros or dollars per person, buy in bulk a tool could be hardware could be software for everyone working remotely with you. What do you take will be the thing that would enable them to work more efficiently or more pleasantly? Give them a better work-life balance, etc. What would you choose?

Kevin Claus:

That’s a good one. I would say I guess, a way for people to interact more socially. And it’s not even something that you’d have to buy. But to encourage people to incorporate some social aspects into leading a team to build trust them and to get to know the people in their team. So by having that I mentioned it, I think at the beginning of the call water cooler talk or things that you miss out on when you’re working remotely. So asking people, how was your weekend? What did you do this weekend? Or when you get on to a team call, encourage, asking a question of the week on your team call and saying, “What’s your favorite movie? What book are you reading currently?” Or “What’s the best book you’ve read recently?” And getting to know people on more of a personal level? I think that in remote teams, it can become very transactional.

Luis:

True.

Kevin Claus:

I think that by getting to know each other on a little bit more personal level, it can help build not only trust between the individuals and the leader but trust within the team members. I think is really, really important for a remote team, and it’s something that is hard to build. If you don’t specifically, focus on it. So there’s a free one. It doesn’t cost any.

Luis:

You could buy people dinner and ask them to share the photos and experience.

Kevin Claus:

That’s a good one too. That’s a great way to prompt some good conversation on the next team call.

Luis:

So what about yourself, what purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the last year or six months?

Kevin Claus:

Something that I’ve done in probably in the last six months is I’ve always been somebody who has worked exclusively on my laptop since I’ve been a remote worker. And I finally invested in a nice sized monitor. And it’s nice to be able to have two screens and to be able to look at something on one screen and something else on the other screen and not have to keep switching back and forth between windows. So that was something that I resisted for quite a while and I’m happy that I invest in that.

Luis:

[inaudible 00:43:59]

Kevin Claus:

It’s a nice addition to have as a remote worker.

Luis:

But right now you’re talking to me on your laptop, right?

Kevin Claus:

I am, yes.

Luis:

Good. That’s my challenge. I love working on a big screen on a desktop computer. But it’s hard to do that and keep the illusion of high contact. Now, right now I was forced to be in my desktop computer. And the result is that I’m talking to you, but I’m not really looking at you, which is somewhat disruptive to the conversation. I mean, I gave you a heads up but if I hadn’t given you a heads up, you could easily think that I was doing work or playing Warcraft or not fully paying attention to you, which is usually a deal-breaker, right? So, I’m interested how do you manage that when you’re working on your desktop, do you just do all the calls on your laptop?

Kevin Claus:

I do all my calls on my laptop, and I’m actually looking at you twice right now because I got you two screens. I only have a split-screen when I’m actually doing an activity like say content development, I will have set two different screens. But I always use my laptop for calls when I’m on calls with people so that I can actually be looking at them. And I know you had an issue with your laptop screens today. So that’s fine.

Luis:

I appreciate that, the understanding. So what book or books have you gifted the most?

Kevin Claus:

Have I gifted the most?

Luis:

Yes.

Kevin Claus:

I would say one that I have given to people several times is related to Gallup strengths. It’s the Gallup Strengths Finder, the Clifton Strengths Assessment. I’ve given that to several people and encouraged them to take the assessment. And I’m also a Gallup Strengths coach. And then I’ve worked with them both in a professional and on a personal level, to help them explore their strengths and understand how they can take their strengths and utilize them on everyday basis. So that’s one that I have gifted to several-

Luis:

That’s based on Myers Briggs, correct?

Kevin Claus:

It’s not based on Myers Briggs, but it’s a similar type of concept.

Luis:

I think maybe I’m wrong, but I seem to remember it was associated to some kind of psychological profiling. So maybe it’s Big Five personality theory, something in that region,

Kevin Claus:

Actually it ranks your top 34 strengths. So there 34 strengths, they rank from one to 34. And the idea is that the things in the top five or 10 are the ones that come most naturally to you really the top third. And that those are the things I think that we’re all taught that we need to get better at the things that we’re not good at. And I’m not saying that we should ignore the things that we’re not good at those things. But your greatest chance of success is by focusing on the things you do well and looking for opportunities to incorporate things you do well into everything you do on a daily basis.

Luis:

I absolutely agree with that. I think that it’s great life advice. It’s better to invest your time into really excelling at what you’re good at than on trying to get the things that you’re bad up to mediocre, right? If you’re bad at something and you get up to mediocre. Well, guess what? You’re still mediocre.

Kevin Claus:

Absolutely.

Luis:

That’s good advice. I actually haven’t read the book, but I have read about it. Maybe, I’ll check it out. Any other recommendations?

Kevin Claus:

There’s another one that I just picked up, it is Weekend Talk or something like that, but it’s basically about when people get up to present or facilitate something, they will typically follow slides. And it’s very dry and people get PowerPoint overload. And it’s about how on weekends when we are with our family and our friends that when we talk to them, we tell stories and that people are engaged by stories. So, it’s about not necessarily eliminating PowerPoint, but minimizing PowerPoint and focusing less on the slides and focusing more on your storytelling.

Luis:

Oh, yeah-

Kevin Claus:

Another one that I’ve recently discovered that I think is a good recommendation.

Luis:

That makes a lot of sense. I mean, that’s part of the concept behind this podcast when I ask people to be guests, they always come back to me asking, “Well, so what kind of questions are you asking them?” I’m like, “We’re just going to have a conversation. That’s it. This is it.” I definitely second that. Even though I haven’t read the book, the world could stand to have fewer boring PowerPoint presentations.

Kevin Claus:

Nobody ever said, “I want to see more PowerPoint slides.”

Luis:

No, exactly. No one ever said that. All right. So, final question. Let’s say that you are organizing a dinner with the top people in Silicon Valley in the tech world. There’s going to be during dinner a roundtable about remote work, you are getting there the CEOs, the CTOs, the hiring managers, everyone that has the future of work in their hands. And because it’s in a Chinese restaurant, you get to put the message inside the fortune cookies. What is going to come out of the fortune cookies at the end of the meal?

Kevin Claus:

So it’s got to be a really short message then if it’s going to be-

Luis:

Probably not. You can fold it, folding-

Kevin Claus:

I would say my biggest request of technology for remote workers is to create an interface that is easy to use, allows for robust functionality like we were talking about before like breakout rooms, and whiteboarding and collaboration tools. Again, that’s easy to use, that doesn’t have diminished quality when everybody’s using video and everybody has their audio on. So, I would say robust tool that enables you to have a larger group and to utilize a lot of interactive tools that’s easy to use and doesn’t require a big one learning curve for the users. Something that people can just pick up on intuitively, maybe it’s using functionality from perhaps an iPhone that everybody is familiar with, or from any kind of mobile device that people are familiar with. Incorporate that into a robust tool that people can use remotely to interact.

Luis:

Sounds like a good ask. Let’s get on to that. Kevin, now, this was a pleasure. Thank you so much for being part of the podcast for taking the time out of your morning to be here with me. I know it’s fairly early in New York City. When people want to continue the conversation with you, how can they get to you? How can they avail themselves of your services or just poke you to know what’s up, to ask, to continue the conversation about any of the points you mentioned?

Kevin Claus:

They can reach out to me at [email protected] or they can connect with me on LinkedIn.

Luis:

All right, sounds good. I will-

Kevin Claus:

connect and we can discuss and learn more about each other.

Luis:

I will have those links in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on the DistantJob Podcast. It was a pleasure.

Kevin Claus:

It was a pleasure speaking with you, Luis, thank you so much. Have a great day.

Luis:

You too. And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. 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.

Luis:

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 you need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

More ways to listen:

Leadership development expert coach Kevin Claus tells us everything we need to know about networking and communicating virtually in an effective way.

Communication is the main ingredient that makes remote work possible. Taking that into consideration, Coach Kevin Claus provides a very complete guide on how to make virtual networking better: from face to face conference calls and employee resource groups to virtual shadowing and interactive training in virtual classrooms, Kevin shares some basic to do’s to achieve success as a remote team manager.

 

Book Recommendations

“Strengthsfinder from Gallup: Discover Your Clifton Strengths” by Tom Rath

“Weekend Language: Presenting with More Stories and Less PowerPoint” by Andy Craig and Dave Yewman