049 Leading From Anywhere – The Essential Guide To Managing Remote Teams with David Burkus

“Spend a lot of time on the frontend building shared understanding and shared identity.” – David Burkus

We are kicking off a new season with special guest, David Burkus. David is an author, professor, and keynote speaker who has been ranked as one of the world’s top business thought leaders by Thinkers50.  Today I’m excited to share relevant and practical insights from his brand new book, Leading From Anywhere. You can purchase a copy here.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • why different personalities aren’t the secret to great remote teams, and how to leverage culture to spur performance,
  • 3 ways to create remote meetings that actually hit the mark (hint: being funny doesn’t always translate),
  • forward-thinking hiring practices for the future,
  • why cutting yourself some slack right now is important; leading remotely is a skill, and takes time to build

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Important Elements of a Team Culture

What I think was interesting was the elements of culture that mattered. When we talk about culture and when we think about a place like Google, we actually think about what Edgar Schein would call “artifacts of culture.” We think about the things that we can see, the rituals, the free food, the crazy office layouts…and we think that’s culture.

It turns out, Project Aristotle not only showed that it wasn’t just culture, it was these specific elements of culture like whether or not people had a sense of impact and meaning in their job, whether or not they felt like they were a part of a team and that team was doing good, impactful work for the world, but especially for the company, whether or not there were clear expectations and whether or not people knew what to expect of each other on a team.

The biggest one, and this was a surprise for an organization like Google, the predominant element of a thriving team culture was a sense of psychological safety, whether or not people felt free to express themselves fully, bring their whole selves to work, speak up when they have an idea that goes against the grain but could be valuable, and whether or not that team had interactions that were marked by a sense of trust and a sense of respect.

Presence does not equal productivity.

I think a lot of those calls stem from a misconception in the mind of too many leaders that presence equals productivity. When you’re managing a remote team, you don’t get the ability to see what time they come to the office, how late do they stay, how long are their lunch breaks and all these little things that actually have nothing to do with outcomes, but we use as a proxy – it’s never been that good of a proxy, but it’s easier to measure so we do it. And then when you flip to remote work, you trade presence for responsiveness.

Google, Facebook, and other tech companies, right after Yahoo! started building these elaborate playgrounds of offices, the hidden agenda behind those was always to get people to get people to come [to the workplace] as much as possible on the assumption that they would not work more productively.

And yet, distributing companies, companies that are marked by trust and autonomy have been outperforming them precisely because they’re focused on outcomes and not necessarily activity and how much of it is being done on campus.

Virtual Meetings and How You Can Make Them Better

  1. Host the meeting, but another person should handle the tech side of things. One, a lot of tech stuff is going to go wrong. When people are trying to figure out why they’re on mute when their computer is telling them they‘re not on mute and all that stuff, you don’t need that to derail what you’re doing. The second reason is you can have that other person watch you, your demeanor, the way you’re interacting, what you say, and how you say things so you’ll learn how to have more respectful communication that resonates with your team.
  2. Allow for socialization before and after the meeting.

Links and Resources

Connect with David: LinkedIn | Twitter


Leading from Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Leading Remote Teams by David Burkus

Books by Peter F. Drucker

Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader by Ryan Hawk

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded by Michael D. Watkins

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger L. Martin

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