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In the past four years, I’ve lived in three different countries. During that time, I’ve also managed a remote team spread out across three continents.

Some of my team worked from an office, while others were completely remote. The same goes for me. I’ve worked full time from an office in Dublin and also Boston, and I’m now fully remote working from London.

Add to this that I co-founded a company with two people, neither of which live in the same country as me. I’d never actually met one of my co-founders in person until we’d owned a business together for six months, so it’s fair to say that I’m well acquainted with a remote working environment.

In this article, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned from my time as a remote leader over the past few years. You’ll be able to apply some of this directly to your own situation, while other parts of my experience might be less relevant to your situation. This is all part of the nuance of both leadership and remote working.

  • MB

    Matthew Barby

    2 months ago #

    Would love to hear from any other remote people managers out there with things that have worked well for them, things they got wrong, etc. :)

  • KS

    Ken Savage

    2 months ago #

    What's your preferred tool to stay in contact with what people are doing at any time?

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      2 months ago #

      Personally, I like Slack for this - for the real-time conversation side of thing, that is.

  • JW

    Johanna Wells

    2 months ago #

    Great !!

  • SV

    Steven van Vessum

    2 months ago #

    Thanks for sharing Matthew. The entire article is good, but the calendar management bit stood out for personally :)

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      2 months ago #

      Thanks, Steven - glad you took something useful away from it. The piece around what to share/what not to share in your calendar is something that I hadn't given that much thought to until I moved to managing completely remote, but it's definitely made a big impact.

  • JM

    Jordi Mon

    2 months ago #

    Openness, transparency and asynchronicity. Those are the keys to me. (Please press play here for and ASMR experience of asynchronicity https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/asynchronicity.) Hopefully this doesn't come through as a GitLab advert. It is just my experience in this company and, like Matthew, as a person with already years of experience in remote, I may have a somewhat vetted opinion about it.

    I really liked the text and would just like to chip in my two cents on why GitLab's remote culture works. I obviously work for GitLab. To me it's fundamental that you know how to operate in a company. Working in product marketing requires one to be part of Sales, part of Marketing (acquisition and field, that is) and part of Product. I know exactly what these three enormous areas of the company are doing because of the handbook. The handbook? Yes, the hand book https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/. More than a remote company we are a handbook-first company: we are hear to learn and share. We publish how we operate in a more than 3000 page long handbook precisely for anyone to look up and contribute. Back to my Product Marketing challenge, I would look up what Sales, Marketing or Product is up to here: https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/#marketing, https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/#product, https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/#sales.

    If I want deeper visibility I can always attend their group calls in which not only I am allowed but I am encouraged too to make questions, request visibility and eventually raise an issue to collaborate across teams and track the progress and eventual success. This can be done asynchronously through our Youtube channels, where these calls are uploaded.

    These two points, only address the operational part. However, communication and humanity is what holds this together. In person meeting changes everything. Completely. Social meetings, coffee chats and so many other interactions between colleagues as well company meetups, local, regional, and global are happening almost constantly across the company. Communication is clear and opinions (with feelings attached) are usually put forward expressively and respectfully. More than over communicate, as Matthew says, I believe the key here is again process transparency: let everyone know what the process looks like and where you are at.

    The ultimate level of the human part is encouraging everyone to take time off. Despite working from home or, in fact, precisely because we work from home it is difficult to take time off. I mean it. GitLab managers, encourage, nudge and push one gently to take time off. Regularly and for no "official" reason. Again, be transparent about it, like Matthew's calendar screenshot.

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