Human behavior and psychology have always fascinated Shauna. They’ve influenced her education, her work, and her passion. After studying psychology for her undergrad, when worked at Shopify, remotely managing their channel partnerships while obtaining her PhD in Innovation Management.
Now, with additional certifications in executive coaching and emotional intelligence, she’s leading Operate Remote, a consultancy and coaching business focused on empowering remote and hybrid teams to work more effectively and efficiently.
She’s also part of a community in Ireland called Grow Remote, which does events around Ireland educating businesses and community about the benefits of remote work.
Proactive communication & transparency are the lifelines for making remote teams successful.
The problem: remote work can be challenging to manage
Shauna started Operate Remote because she knew that working remotely was both an opportunity and a challenge:
Studies have shown that remote teams perform better than non-remote teams, and Shauna knew from her own experience that she loved working remotely. Still, it was a challenge for her to effectively manage communications, culture, individuals, teams, projects, and onboarding new hires.
So she wanted to diagnose the issue and discover what separated the positive from the negative with remote work.
I wanted to know: what is it that makes remote teams successful in what they do? What's the formula?
What makes remote teams successful?
So, that’s how she got to this point — her work in neuroscience, her executive coaching experience, and her personal experience working in remote set her up to solve the remote work complex.
Overall, she’s realized that the issues don’t just involve logistics — emotional intelligence is an especially important aspect of remote teams. Overall, Shauna’s found that, increasingly, remote teams are almost too productive, leading to burnout and isolation, often creating retention problems for the employers.
But from her research and experience, she’s found a few keys that will help any remote team find success:
1. Make expectations clear
Setting expectations early on avoids huge problems later; this is perhaps even more important with remote teams, as there is no physical “office culture” to help shape behaviors.
- Do you expect workers to login to Slack every day?
- Do you expect daily/weekly/monthly updates on projects?
- Do you want remote workers to use video so there’s a visual interaction?
2. Set boundaries
Boundaries are incredibly important in remote work, as there is no cultural office closing time, and the digital mobile age has created an environment of nonstop connectivity. There’s no “off switch.”
Also, there’s the issue of timezones, which Shauna knows this all too well — while at Shopify, she was managing teams in 10 different time zones.
3. Employees should take responsibility for themselves
Managers can help by setting boundaries and expectations, but ultimately, it’s the worker’s responsibility to ensure they know how to set their own boundaries, take breaks when needed, spend time with their family, etc.
4. Set an example
This one’s pretty simple: if the team leader is working 12 hours a day, but saying “don’t work 12 hours a day” at the same time … it simply won’t work.
People follow examples more than words.
5. Fast-track trust within the hiring process
The issue of trust comes up consistently, Shauna says: employers are constantly asking, “How can I trust my employees if they aren’t in the office?”
Your hiring process is perhaps one of the best places to invest in when trying to create that trust.
To start with, leaders must clearly define what they believe helps create trust; then, they can hire accordingly, knowing that half the battle is already won just by hiring to those qualities.
6. Create remote-first processes
As anyone who’s worked on a remote team knows, documentation and tech stack become even more important without the traditional office environment.
Document everything, and ensure the tools your team are using are created with a remote team in mind.
Shauna left us with her personal mission statement:
Empower and transform distributed companies, by supporting founders and management teams and helping them to build emotionally healthy and high growth teams in remote environments.
A couple books Shauna mentioned that are helpful for remote teams:
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Shauna helps her client gain true strategic clarity on their teams working operations; to achieve excellent & measurable results, and to do it quickly. As a coach, Shauna brings emotional intelligence and leadership development strategies to empower teams, regardless of where they are located.
How to reach Shauna: