What are the biggest challenges in building a distributed team as a startup? Today we discuss how to Hire, build process and lead in a distributed model. We will learn that uncovering the right people hinges on the Individual's desire and their emotional intelligence.
“Completing one another is more important than competing with one another." - John C. Maxwell
Mark Angel is the CEO and Co-founder of Amira Learning, the company reinventing learning to read with AI. Amira is a rapidly growing, venture-funded startup bringing the first intelligent reading assistant into K-3 classrooms.
Mark formerly served as Chief Technology Officer at Renaissance Learning, where he led the R&D organization and worked on the two most successful reading apps in the United States – Accelerated Reader and STAR. He has worked for 30 years in the Silicon Valley as a CEO, CTO and General Manager for innovators in the realm of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing (Ernst & Young, Nuance, KANA Software).
Mr. Angel is the founder of three successful start-ups. He is a chief inventor on more than 10 patents in the areas of search.
- The Story of the Challenges faced when building a distributed company
- 3 biggest issues you struggled with
- Tools & solutions that worked best for your team
Challenges in Hiring a Distributed Team:
- Hire for the distributed model
- Learn to screen for people who are truly able to function in a distributed environment
- People not really self-aware.
- Build process around the distributed model;
- Challenge: creating infrastructure and culture of behavior to help people to collaborate
- Choices in tooling that turned out to be wrong
- Have to "servant-lead" for the distributed model.
What issues have we struggled with around hiring?
- Where they will Thrive!
- People are not self-aware around work mode…
- The focus seems to be around the technologies they want to use or the comp they want.
Discuss the Model
- Need to put the issue up front before people get excited about the rest of the story and fool themselves and consequently us
Core Values alignment
- We need to be conscious that some folks like talking/collaborating and for others, it’s not the most pleasant part of the day. We aren't going to change a leopard’s spots.
Creating a situation where there is a balance of work and not having too many meetings. Keeping people in a place where they are getting constructive work behavior. Getting that work done but also helping others to get the work done. People are happiest when you find the “groove”.
- An issue of Upfront Expectations alignment
- Continually ask “Why”
What have we done about this?
- Put this issue front & center in the interviewing process
- Getting out of the skills-based mindset.
- Screening - needed to find people who are able to cope with the nature of the model.
- Intentional about the need for people who are wired to work in a distributed environment.
- -talk about the distributed issue up front.
- Hired a recruiting expert
- Learned to screen for being at least somewhat "outgoing" and "opinionated"
- "Servant-leadership" for the distributed model.
How do we manage work?
Baking collaboration into everyday environment. Tools like google suite/slack/zoom/github/atlassian -- basically emphasis is on creating the norms around the tools. Understand when they should be using the tools
- Slack, Zoom, Gmail suite, Google docs works really well, hangouts did not for them.
- tools around design thinking.
- Set of heuristics and norms around the tools.
Allow people Flexibility
What went right & wrong in the process?
- right -- took a "team experiment" approach
- right -- recognized they needed help & hired an expert
- wrong -- didn’t push hard enough to create norms
Rick’s first step
- Take the time to understand a person’s desires before you “Pitch” the company
- People will tell you what they want. You just have to ask.
- "If you could design your ideal company, what would that look like for you?"
- A company where you will Thrive!
- Hire people who are self-aware - Hire for EQ & cultural fit first
- Experiment with popular tools to find the tools that “best fit" for your team
- Recognize you are fighting human nature and hire to overcome