Intentionally Teaching Remote Leaders To Be Intentional w/ Alex Spahn @Gomada
Why new remote leaders need training to learn how to be intentional. And why it's the difference maker in great or poor company cultures
Here's the recap...In today's episode, I spoke with Alex Spahn one of the co-founders of one of my favorite under-the-radar tools, Gomada. Today's conversation was all about team engagement and the need for remote leaders to have intentionality in doing so. We dove into the topics focusing both on Alex as a leader of a remote company and also as someone building a product, especially for this. This still remains one of the biggest needs for remote managers. Up-skilling on how and why intentionality is so crucial.
Remote is nothing without intentionality
The number 1 word that has come up on this show over the past 4 seasons is intentionality. Remote work depends on it to be successful. Remote companies must have intention with everything they do. Hiring, onboarding, mentoring, engagement, and everything in between. The problem is all these managers that became remote leaders during the pandemic have never been taught how or why. Thus the complaints about missing the water cooler moments, Gen-Zs missing out on learning over the shoulder, and so much more from the office environment. Yet, so few managers leading remotely understand why it's important for them to be intentional with their teams or even how to do so. I had a previous manager who was a great office-based manager. Supportive, empathetic, etc. But I only spoke with him once a month. In the office, it was easier to see how everyone was doing. Whether at lunch, the water cooler, or seeing that person through each day. In a remote environment, this simply doesn't happen and shouldn't (hopefully you're not in all-day Zooms). Though my manager was great in parts, he simply didn't understand the need to drop me a Slack DM every few days.."How are you? How's your kid feeling or similar."
So on one side, it was impossible for him to really understand the impact I was making day to day and for me to know that he knew (tongue twister) the impact I was making. More importantly, it would be impossible to ever build a real connection, partnership, and trust with someone you interacted with only once in a blue moon. And that relationship means a lot to employee happiness, longevity with the company, and productivity.
We need to force-feed remote managers
Because these remote managers pivoted to remote during the pandemic they don't understand the how and why of intentionality. As discussed above. Because their companies still haven't invested in up-skilling them on how to be remote managers vs
managers they continue and will continue to fail. So the only (at least 2-year solution) is force-feeding them. Or in a nicer way, handing them what to do on a silver platter. And that's the beauty of Gomada's new feature. Not only do they provide important happiness and engagement insights from your team but they give you helpful hints of exactly what to do and try to improve in lacking areas.
There's a feeling of poor communication across the team. Without training, a manager may think the solution is more standups, or @ mentioning colleagues on Trello tickets, or some forced exercise. Instead, the better plays which Gomada may share are 1) play this iterative drawing where the participant needs to continually provide more insights into the exact picture they see that needs to be drawn by the team. Teaching each member how to better describe things, how to be more concise, etc. Or perhaps it may suggest some adjustment to a daily/weekly team standup where the team has to share a pitch of a block they're running into for the team to provide possible solutions all within a few minutes.
Tools like Gomada will be teaching remote managers what to do. The next step is teaching them the why
Scott - [02:56 - 03:00]
Good morning, Alex. Thank you for joining today. How's everything going?
Alex - [03:00 - 03:07]
Hi, Scott. Thanks for having me. And yeah, doing it. Doing well. Doing all right? Yeah, all good.
Scott - [03:07 - 03:20]
Ah, it's, it's great to have you remind me where in, in beautiful Switzerland. I've been there once in Enjoy, was amazing, like three days that I was there. I very much look forward, but I don't, I, when I remember You're not in Zurich, remind me where you are.
Alex - [03:20 - 03:23]
No, I'm in Zurich, so Oh, in Zurich.
Scott - [03:23 - 03:23]
Alex - [03:23 - 03:34]
Yep. Central Switzerland. And yeah, it's a beautiful place, nice town, but also you are quite close to the, to the mountains and have a nice lake. Yeah. So couldn't ask for more.
Scott - [03:34 - 04:22]
Absolutely. And everybody's so nice and polite. And I remember my wife and I were there on our honeymoon and we were walking wherever we were walking, we were coming to like a street. There was like a little bit of a crossover. And I remember we stopped waiting and there was a car that was coming, let's call it 30 kilometers an hour or whatever it was, and they just like stopped. It wasn't like in a proper no street or like a traffic light, and they just stop. I'm like, like looking around. I'm like, why are people so nice? Like, no, especially I think, you know, I spent, you know, four years in York, grew up in the parts of the states where no, maybe yes, like at certain points, like a crosswalk or something like that. But car was like driving like kind of foolish speed and just like came to a spot and I'm like, wow, it's, That's so great.
Alex - [04:22 - 04:34]
Always be careful once you walk, like, especially at crosswalks, if you walk slowly, people always think, okay, you wanna cross and then they just stop. If you wanna cross or not, doesn't matter. Just stop forward looking drivers there.
Scott - [04:34 - 04:38]
That, that's awesome. I, I love to hear it.
Alex - [04:38 - 04:48]
In different countries, crosswalks sometimes have a meaning and sometimes it's just like, no, cars go first and if you wanna walk, then you have to wait until there's no car and you can cross.
Scott - [04:48 - 05:00]
Yeah, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So usually the way that we start off each one of these episodes is just, tell everybody a little bit more about yourself and we'd love to hear a little bit more about the founding and origin story of Goma.
Alex - [05:00 - 06:44]
Sure, yeah. My name's Alex, German living in Switzerland. I actually started my, my official career after the studies at, consulting. And then I created my first own company, or actually second, second own company together with my co-founder as well. And we created in, back in 2020, before Covid hit, we have created a, event, virtual event platform, which was quite nice. we had a nice growth story in the first two years during Covid obviously. And we grew our company from basically zero to 20 people in a very short time. Also onboarded a third co-founder Josh, a longtime friend as well of mine. And so we were running this online events platform, for two and a half years. And we have built our company completely remote cuz my co-founder job is in Geneva, I'm in Zurich. And then the rest of the team, we were like, okay, why should we hire in expenses Switzerland if we can get the best talent and from context that we might have in Portugal and Germany and like all other places in the world. So we, we basically started from scratch to work fully remote. And since, since we have built the company for, for 20 people in a, in a fully remote setup, we realized what is slacking currently in the world out there and what is going well for us. And what also from talking to other founders, what, what do they like, what they don't they like? And so that's basically, that was the, the inception of Gomada when we realized, okay, let's build something for our own team that makes us as a team better. That was the, the inception, inception of Kama and yeah, I dunno if I should continue on talking or No, no.
Scott - [06:44 - 06:49]
That it's, it's very interesting. So your, your co-founders are also from Germany or they're from Switzerland?
Alex - [06:49 - 06:54]
The one is, Portuguese living in Switzerland. Okay. And the other one is, German living in Germany.
Scott - [06:54 - 08:17]
Okay. Yeah, because it, it was, I was thinking, I remember before the pandemic probably about six to 12 months leading up to the pandemic, most of the remote companies that, that were launching that I had seen were either coming either outta Paris or Berlin. So it was very, very fascinated why these two places seemed to be like the epicenter of all these remote companies. So I started meeting a lot of the founders, similar to now how we connected and we spoke, no while back it was just like fascinating and kind of to hear that story. And it was the same story that every company all over the world was having was hey. Right. If, especially before the pandemic, if we weren't curing cancer, if we're not getting people tomorrows, we can't compete against Facebook or Google. So we understand that in Paris or wherever to be, we need to be remote first from day one. Cause that's the only way we're going to hire the best people that are out there. So that's kind of a trigger is obviously being from yourself, being from Germany. And it was thinking maybe there's again that kind of German connection that, you know, very forward thinking even before the pandemic, of getting in there. But kind of to, to jump right into our topic, and I know I think we're gonna cover a lot today in the ideas of employee engagement and which seems to be still, I'm, I'm quite baffled, right? I mean, we look before the pandemic and there's so much research and there's so much money and there's so many everything that had come out in the importance of employee engagement, right? You have to spend money and employees are engaged from more productive and more happier, and that means more, more revenue.
Scott - [08:17 - 09:16]
And there's just so much that's out there. And so many companies are spending, and probably Google probably your best example historically of companies that have always focused on the employee engagement, right? With all these different things like Project Aristotle, whatever it is. But now the pandemic's hit and companies are staying remote or they're going hybrid or they're trying to figure out what the heck they're doing because again, many of them still had still have no idea what they're doing. Would love to hear, hear, I mean, especially companies that Gomada is working with and people that you've been speaking with, why are these companies just struggling so much know if, I mean, especially just thinking about like a Google who's always known this, who spent so much money focused on employee engagement in theory has always done it right. And then they, when they went remote, hybrid, whatever, know back and forth, they just like, they can't figure it out. So we'd love to, again, the sense of like what you've been hearing, what you've been seeing, like what the trouble is around know employee engagement, why, why still such a miss with many of these companies?
Alex - [09:16 - 10:51]
Yeah. that's a really good question. I think what I see for often, like how do they actually define employee engagement? What does employee engagement mean for them, right? Is it, and, and I think for many, it's just like this office talks, coming together, the coffee machine or water cooler, like these are like, hey, people engage, people talk. And it's just so easy to grasp and to see like, yes, there's engagement, people are here, they talk to each other, right? It's engagement. if this was the definition of engagement, then I see many people have never really defined it. so where I think pe many people start to struggle is like, okay, you, you don't have these obvious moments of engagement that you can see and grasp and people talk to each other because you're not remote. You're at your desktop or at your, at your, PC or laptop. And then, you, you don't see what your colleagues are doing at home, right? You don't, you don't see them unless you are in a call with them. And in calls, I think there's also one big trap, which is distraction. in physical meetings, yes, people maybe put out their phones and were also a bit distracted, but most of the time people were in the room, they were there, they were present, they were active. And what I've experienced myself as well, right, is that you're in a meeting and you talk to people, there are four people in, in, in the call and no one is responding. You're like, hello, are you listening? Are you with me? Are you like, please contribute to the meeting, contribute to the workshop. And you sometimes feel like it's, they're not there, right?
Alex - [10:51 - 11:30]
And, and that I think is where many people start to struggle. Like, okay, what can I do to increase disengagement when it's needed in the meetings? And then I think there's also this whole element about synchronous versus asynchronous work. how much do you value also asynchronous communication, asynchronous engagement, and yeah. But coming back, I think it all starts from making it visible and measure it, in order to to, to save if employees are engaged or not, which is much harder in a virtual world than I said, seeing it if you're in an office.
Scott - [11:30 - 12:43]
No, that makes perfect sense. And I think very much leads me to kind of a follow up question of where employee engagement to me is, is one of the core anchors of when done wrong, of burnout and anxiety that people are, are feeling, especially in a remote environment, right? We've seen the last year and a half quiet quitting and quiet firing and what new one quite opposite, quite posturing. Like every, every couple months there's some quiet something that that's popping up. No, no, here and there. But for me, I mean, in essence it's if somebody's engaged at work and they're, they're connected again, whether that's to the work or whether that's to the non-work pieces, there's less anxiety, there's less burnout because again, they're more connected into what's going on. But obviously in a remote environment, it kind of, as you said, you don't see your colleagues every day. So really requires leaders to be intentional and requires tools to be in place for leaders to understand, hey, what the heck's kind of going on with my team. So I'd love to kinda hear a little bit, you know, from your perspective as both a leader and, and from the Gomada side now, how can leaders who are listening to this episode use tools like Gomada to better gather feedback on their engagement of their employees and what the heck do they actually look for?
Alex - [12:43 - 14:41]
Right? so what we do at Gomada is, we have employee, engagement surveys and or surveys for people, but also, maybe I need to explain a bit more what Gomada is. But we also run activities with the teams where we also measure how how well teams are engaged. And what we have done is we, we thought, okay, what does drive engagement? And the four drivers that we have, identified this relationships, it's satisfaction, employee wellbeing and personal growth. And these are four elements that are really impacting if people are engaged or not. However, at Gomada we can, for now, we can, we are not very good at influencing their personal growth because we are not a learning platform. We are also not the best in improving the employee wellbeing. meaning kind of network life balance and on. But what we can influence quite well is the relationships side. And this is often a tricky part if you're working remotely, and I've listened us to previous shows that you had where people said, yeah, they don't see each other in person for like a year until they first come together, or they work fully synchronously. They have like, I think, yeah, it, it was Chase Warrington that said from Duris that they work fully synchronously and they have like one, one hour meetings per week. yeah. How can they build relationships if they don't speak to each other, right? How can they talk to each other? And so we are, as you said, we, we plan or we, we, we help leaders to be intentional on absolute engagement by helping them to build stronger relationships. But also what you said about, psychological troubles are what people have. I think it's a lot of, a lot triggered by yes, relationships is one very important factor of happiness, of making people happy if they connect and engage with others.
Alex - [14:41 - 15:46]
but the other element is also appreciation, which I think is in a remote world also often underestimated and doesn't happen so much. so what do we at Gomada do about that? We have built team building activities with a very specific goal. And one goal could be for an activity to get to know each other better. And that's something probably you have seen as well. But then there are other activities that focus on building trust or sharing appreciation. One activity is called appreciation show, which is really only to come for people to come together and basically share appreciation with each other, in a guided way. So this is not really awkward, but like really in a nice and sensible way where people, after they leave the activities, it's like, okay, this was a really, really nice session. They feel much better. And this is, yeah, this is what we do and try to help to prevent some of these issues, but also to ultimately make teams more effective and, help them to collaborate better. But yeah. What, what is your stance? I mean, you also talk to a lot of, a lot of founders, a lot of startups, a of remote teams. Yeah. How do you see that?
Scott - [15:46 - 17:20]
Yeah, I mean I I I, I agree with kinda everything that you said. I believe as if you obviously have listened to episodes here, know the one word that comes up more than anything else is intentionality. And the biggest issue for, for leaders who went remote during the pandemic, unless they've actually had the opportunity to upscale, which very few have, they just don't, don't grasp that concept of intentionality. They need to intentionally create moments and opportunities in all the different ways. No, again, whether it's learning, development, mentoring, there was another article, someone recently outside the Guardian a couple months, couple years ago that argued about, about mentoring and the Gen Zs losing access to looking over the shoulder, whether it's onboarding these water cooler moments where I had no, a previous manager who was great, was a great leader on the side, we're always supportive, like, whatever you need, I'll help you. Wonderful. But coming from an office environment, the way that he got to understand how everyone's doing, both work-wise and personal-wise, was by seeing them in the water cooler and having lunch with them and going for beers with them. So in a remote environment, that switch didn't happen to say, Hey, I need to intentionally check in, whether it's Slack, whether it's one of whatever different formats, which again, we've spoken about at, at, at length in, in the, in episodes of the shows. But, so I had one-on-ones with him every other week, and one of those two always got canceled, right? So I spoke with my manager once a month, right? So how do they know the impact that I'm making for the team? How do I know that they understand the impact that I'm making from the team? So it's very much creating a understanding, you have to know. Scott - [17:20 - 18:51]
And then I think it then comes to the point of, okay, well I understand I need to bring my team team together, right? I need to do team building things to help with engagement. I don't know what the hell to do and what even understanding of what to do. And I think that's one of the beautiful things about Gomada. It's just, it's not, Hey, let's do a game. I'm a big believer in games. Let's, every week let's play a game, or every week let's do like a lunch and learn. But it's very focused on, again, and some of the feedback that you get of what pieces may be lacking at the moment. And that's the event type that you, that you give to them. It's like handing them on the platter. It's like, here, here's the feedback that, that we have from your team on Wednesday at two o'clock. Here's the event that you're going to do that's very focused on this week. You'll get to know you. So it's going to be a lunch and learn, it's gonna be whatever it is, show and tell something. So I think having those, again, opportunities of creating intentionally create those moments. So again, it could be games, it could be fun, it could be whatever the heck it is, but understanding, hey, we need to create these cuz yes, like I said, you know, speaking with Chase, and I've been a very big fan of Doist and I'm also a big advocate for Async know by default, and I've run my teams that way. But you also need synchronous opportunities for that team building, right? For teams to get together and brainstorm and have fun and ask questions and do coworking. So I'm very much of, right, yes, we should get rid of meetings because me sitting in a meeting and I always think about where, how you started off right in, in the office, in the conference room, probably mentally I was checked out of almost all those meetings.
Scott - [18:51 - 19:38]
I didn't care. But yes, when you're sitting in front of them in a room, like you have to kind of just pretend like you're paying attention versus here on Zoom, right? You don't, you don't have to be, but it was, it wasn't a different, I wasn't engaged on, on a different level in the office as I was remotely. I'm just like, same thing. Why couldn't you just send me the damn presentation? Let me, let me do, look at it myself. I'll give you comments, I'll give you feedback and save my 60 minutes of being sitting in this room for, for no reason and let me get work done. but I I, I think it's, you know, definitely to your points of giving leaders the understanding of here, here's the things that we see with your team and here's here's how we can help. And again, just even in those cases, how we can do team building, how we can do trust, and being able to hand that to them. So I think it's an awesome thing that, that, that you guys are doing.
Alex - [19:38 - 21:12]
Yeah. And that's what we have also seen, right? We, with, with our first product that we have built, we virtually remote and we have used tools like office vibe and other tools that, that are really great in giving you insights about your team. And then you read the results and you see like they're lacking, I dunno, appreciation or they're lacking. And you, you read them and you're like, okay, but I'm, I'm doing a, b, c like, you, you think like checking in with yourself, like, okay, I'm doing things here. Then I ask them, so what else can I do? And you get very little results because they also don't know what else you can do. It's just their feeling, right? And then you're a little bit puzzled, like, or HR is puzzle, like, okay, what else can we do? And they think and think, and you try to do more and more without really changing anything in the results over time. And so that made us think, okay, how can we create activities together with professionals in order to really make an impact? And not just tell them, this is your score, this is where you're not perfect yet where you can improve. But actually telling them and guiding them on how to improve it by building activities that they can run. And this is I think, the big game changer that we were trying to do here. And, yeah, so far people, people seem to to love it. And as you said, it needs to be intentional and many managers, that's a second kind of side effect and benefit of Gramada is that you need to invest a lot of time. I think team building is very important for many people. so it is on top of the agenda, but it's also the first thing that is being removed.
Alex - [21:12 - 22:01]
If the day-to-day is too busy, which is basically every week. So every week they're like, oh yeah, we need to do team building, but not this week. I'm so busy with all the other things I have to do. So that's why we take all the efforts and the hustle of organizing things, thinking about what do we do this time? All these things we take away from the people, from the leaders, from the team and just tell them, this is our, your results from what we've learned about you, this is what you should do next. Click here and just started our schedule it. So really simple, really time, time saving for managers and don't, as I said, many of them, they don't have the experience through it online. And they, after the third time, they look for online games, online activities, they're like, okay, same results pop up again. So we just help them keep it, keep it fun, keep it interesting for the team with a real meaningful impact.
Scott - [22:01 - 23:28]
I mean, those to me or mean are like the two core points. It's number one of yes, you as a leader are actually going and organizing some events, right? We have to do events. So I'm going to now take the time to structure some events or give ownership to the people on, on my team to do events like, like I did. But the backend of that issue is right. Most people probably don't even know what type of events to do. Like even if you're just not focusing on, on, on trust or awareness, it was just right, just have fun, right? How many games can you do? How many show and tells, like people just don't know, don't, don't know what to do Outside of being able to go find and go set it up, like, I mean, we had that across our teams. It's like, okay, what should we do? Should we play this game or that game? Or should we do this show and tell what should be the topic? Like again, it's, it's difficult for people who have, don't have that old school remote, experience to really understand here, here's the types of things that we should do and no mix those in. So I think that's one of the beautiful areas. And they would actually love, let's maybe deep dive into a couple of those specific activities that you organize, because God knows how many times I've had this argument with how many people, around like return to office and, you know, many companies are saying, oh, return to the office is for culture. Okay, we understand like productivity and work can be done in, in home and wonderful, but culture doesn't happen outside an office. You need that physical space to do the office.
Scott - [23:28 - 24:05]
And I just kind of laugh and say, that's just absolutely ridiculous to the people that create the culture. But again, as we've said here a couple times, remote leaders need that intentional opportunity for creating that culture. So, and especially in like the team, team building and fund and different things. So maybe let's deep dive, take two or three specific activities that Gomada creates. Maybe come up with a story again, is you kind of hinted to it before, like maybe there was a lacking of trust, so let's maybe use that case. Okay, you're getting the feedback, maybe there's like a dip in trust. Let's talk through like what activity is created, like what that activity looks like. Maybe like two or three examples of those would love to hear about.
Alex - [24:05 - 25:47]
Sure. happy to share. So one, one activity that we have is about improving communication skills, in a kind of fun, interesting way. So what happens is that one person gets shown a picture of let's say a bridge, or like a drawing of a bridge. And this person then needs to describe to the team, and they can say, I'm have, like, you're, they have to describe what they see. Example, they can say it's a, it's a bridge. It looks similar to the Golden Gate Bridge, for example. And then the, the, the other team members, they need to draw what the person is explaining. And so you start off like, Hey, it's a bridge. And they're like, okay, so how do we start to explain it? And then it's a line here and the line there, and then basically it goes for like three minutes or so until, the time, time is over. And then people or the, the, the, everyone will see all the results and the original picture, and then the person needs to say, if this prototype that was drawn is functional and basically a good prototype or not. And then you have some form of reflection of, okay, what was the failure? Why, why didn't we all get the perfect bridge, drawn? And can you can kind of reflect, okay, we missed this information, or this wasn't clear to us. And then the next person is on, next person's, time to kind of again, explain a different picture, a different drawing. And the other straw, I think there's like three, three rounds. And this is really intentional. Like, okay, how can you explain, how can you communicate yourself clearly, set the big picture first, then go into the details and like you, you understand really like what people need in order to, to get the most information in a very or in a very short time and draw perfect prototypes in the end.
so yeah, that's about communication. Of course, it, it's an abstract way to to apply that to your day-to-day.
Scott - [25:53 - 27:21]
But I guess, we, we try also to help the people to make this transition of, Okay, I mean that, I mean that sounds to me like a a just a, a super fascinating, activity. And yes, being able to work on the communication skills, and I, I think it's so core at this point, right? Because we, we, old school remote leaders all say that the future of remote is async by default, as we kind of hinted to with, with Chase and DUIs before. So if async by default is the future, right? That means much more of this is not a 30 minute meeting where we kind of go no ping pong back and forth. Every, every response has to be thoughtful and precise. And I think very much of to what your point is very clear, right? How can I make that response? How can I, if it's a future, whatever it is, how can I help you visualize that bridge is clearly and concisely as possible so when you get it in one message, you've got all the bullet points and the colors and this and that and the other, and you'll come as close as you possibly can to the right looking bridge with one message. So I I, I love that idea of just even preparing people now for what the future is going to be within remote of very much of that async a very long form writing, or whether video, but very concise and not just winding on, on a loom video for, for 35 minutes just talking about something, boom, boom, boom, right to the specific point. So I I, I love that idea. Like, give us maybe one more.
Alex - [27:21 - 28:57]
Yep. another one is memorable, memorable moment, which is basically a reflection activity where you come together, you have a short icebreaker at the beginning, and many of our activities here have icebreakers, for example, okay, put something, red on your head and then you look for around in your room or you jump out and like get a red hat or get, get something else and put in your head and they can take a picture and you have a fun tea moment and people are energized, stood up from there, from the desk and so on. But then the activity itself, memorable moments is, talked about this, about trust. And so it starts off with, you have a, also within our, within our application, you have a little, whiteboard. And then the first, task, for example is to kind of, share, share and reflect of some moment, that were very challenging in the past month. And also the most memorable moments, like I'm thinking about them. And then you put them in on little sticky notes, on the board. And then a couple of people are highlighted to share what was the most challenging moment for them and what, what is the most rewarding moment. And next up you basically you're asked to, to share some photos of these moments. Like maybe you have a screenshot, maybe you have a team picture when you have basically we're coming together in person for, for in person kind of gathering an event and people kind of collect these photos or the Gomada screenshots that we have done and, and just share these very special moments that you had as a team over, over the past month. And, ultimately there is also then some, some questions, being asked individually.
Alex - [28:57 - 30:16]
And they're of course not, not shown who answered what. But you will see on the graph, like, okay, question for example. how is the trust level in your team? people are being asked, are you open? Like did you feel comfortable to share your real challenges that you're having at the moment? Or was it more the, the high level challenges? Like questions like these where you can understand, okay, are people opening up at these sessions or not? And if not, okay, then then these, these might help too. Or like a one-on-one for example, could help that people are opening more up and so on. So, yeah, it's quite intuitive, intuitive, but also very deep exercise about, yeah, sharing what you struggle with can get work, can be personal. and all the sessions is really important. They're guided, so all the team needs to do is come be there and then the activity starts and you will be guided step by step through activity and in this case specific outcomes. And one of the outcome is say, yeah, build, building more trust and and opening up to share that you keep. But yeah, as I said, there are multiple other activities or some really fun like, the activities that you might have seen, out there, like we have also something like that, which is really fun, crisp based activities, get to know each other, activities, like a lot of different activities. Some are really fun, all have a fun element, but, some of them are also really, really meaningful and really deep, to actually improve your team.
Scott - [30:16 - 30:49]
No, those are very cool. We'll, love, maybe to hear a little bit more outside of all the, the activities that your team is running, obviously through Gomada, but as a, founder of, of the team and a founder of a remote startup, we would love to hear what else, again, outside of Gomada that you're doing and your team is doing to build relationships remotely again, are you, have you done any ils you thinking about IRLs, like other different activities, getting people together just a little bit here, a little bit more about what you're thinking about as a, as a startup leader, right? Remote startup leader outside of this specific tool that you're, that you're building.
Alex - [30:49 - 32:33]
Yeah, so what we do is, so we call it pop-up office and other people call it, I think, gatherings or, we, so basically what we do is we bring the team, twice a year. We bring the team together into different locations. We've been to Portugal, to, lake Forest, Austria, to different locations where we are no big house usually. And then focus for one week on, it's a mix between kind of workshops, but then also focusing really on, on team building, on coming together, having fun, some free time for people to explore some activities that we do outside. And this is actually a really important part of who we are and what we do and how we connect the people with each other and where we build these long lasting moments as well. we can also build them virtual, but also added by by those physical moments. And yeah, this is something I think we always wanted to do because we enjoyed this to really come together in person. but also now the team is really like, so far everybody has always tried to make it, even though they had families, like kids at home and all these things, but people, you can really see that people value them and ask for them, since they really make it possible to join. And yeah, it can, it can sometimes also bring relationships to a next level if you then there in person and have never seen each other before. So, that's certainly a very important aspect of how we work remotely. Also, we are and would be interesting to hear your, your view, but we are not at all as synchronous. We, we are really also, when we hire people, that was a big learning for us to make this clear to people when we started to say, we are not this remote company where you, you join, you do your work and you don't interact with others.
Alex - [32:33 - 34:07]
Like that's, that's an us that's the remote companies out there. You can do that there, but if you wanna join us, then we are interested in you and in communicating, connecting with you. And if this is not what you're here for, then it's probably not the right place. So we do have kind of meetings where we say at least once a week the whole team should be in and the whole team is currently 15 people. The whole team, should be in one meeting together and see each other up until two months ago or one month ago. We actually have done basically updates, like sharing each team, but sharing what they have done. However, we are also sharing with us synchronously, cuz it's more effective, it's like easier to follow and to see, okay, double checking, what did they say? So we said, okay, let's, it's not really the best use of our time. Let's really use the time when we are together for these moments to, to bond, to, to talk about, talk to each other about non-work topics, about running activities of Gomada and these, these kind of things. So we really changed it from, if we have the moments together, then let's use them to really have funding moments and, and fun moments. Or for example, one that was really interesting was, we, we asked people to share some topics and everybody could submit a topic and then we voted on the top three topics and we broke up into breakout rooms. And we had three really beautiful conversations in these three breakout rooms about different topics like, can we work, can we private sustainability whatever, was really interesting and, felt really nice, much better than okay, just sharing the update that you have any base sharing in writing. Alex - [34:07 - 34:20]
So really making it those moments when you come together, intentional and think about what is value adding and sharing the update, what you have done and what you plan to work on. It's not really value adding for a meeting.
Scott - [34:20 - 35:43]
No, it's a hundred percent no. The way I was running my teams in my previous role was, was very much on that, team meetings and one-on-ones. The work portion was asynchronous. So I, right, I created Google Sheet. I recorded know using, clad up a video of me walking through, sharing extra context on Monday mornings. I shared with, with the team in Slack or individually, no one-on-one. I said, Hey, no team or individuals, we have until Wednesday to ask questions, questions, leave feedback, whatever format it is in the thread and we'll do it asynchronously any feedback or questions or or issues in there. And then what we did is we kept the wed the Wednesday synchronous time slots in the calendars that are always there. And as a team, we start off the conversation, right? And there anything that's open or pending from the asynchronous space. And if there was, we we'd go through that and if not, then it was team fun and lunch and learns and things like that. Taking that synchronous time that was in the calendar and using it for relationships and team building. And it was the same thing for the one-on-ones where the same format start off any, any open items from the, from the one-on-ones. Yes. Great. No, then it was very much focused on like, Hey Alex, how's it going? How's your week? Did your kid make the soccer team again, relationship bullying and also professional development, and what have you been learning? What have you been working on? What do you wanna be working on? How could I be no helpful and, and be an unlock for you? But it was also, again, information session should never be done synchronously, right? At least in my opinion, always to do that asynchronous.
Scott - [35:43 - 37:02]
And when you take that time, because there's a cost, right? I remember like two months, six weeks ago, two months ago, somebody, they shared that post on one of the social media channels that went viral of, you know, the Google calendar. What if somebody built this where it said, here's the cost of the meeting, right? You had these four people and this meeting cost, you know, $650. Then somebody actually went and built it, which I think is fantastic. So when you look at it, you have this whole team, they're not doing work, they're not getting things done. If you're thinking about four day work weeks or anything else, it's just, it's a time suck. But at the same time, right, synchronous time is important. So if you have that time block right, use it for the right reason, right. Don't share information. So I love that point. I wanna hit two more points that you spoke about before. So the first one about relationships, going to another level when you meet in person. I couldn't agree more when I was in Envision and I was there for, I think six years before the first I r l, seven years, seven years before the I R L. And I'm very much of an extrovert. So I spoke to my team every single day, you know, zoom calls Slack, what, what have you? And the relationships that I had the week before and the week after those few days together were night and day different. Like, we were so much closer and like most of the time we just sat there, we were in Phoenix, Arizona in the middle of the winter, so it was cold at night and like they had couches all over this, place that they had with like little fire pits and bonfires.
Scott - [37:02 - 37:44]
So just to sit there by like a fire pit, drinking a beer, like sitting next to somebody having a nice conversation, had nothing to do about work, the relationships got so much deeper and such, again, such a believer on that importance of getting people together. And that's why I went to, to Berlin about six months ago, right? I met so many people, virtually, I've mentored, I've spoken to them, right? Let me go sit and actually have lunch with them, right? Let me go have a coffee with, let me have a beer with him. And, and I felt like that relationship was deeper because of that experience. All right? Could have been 30 minutes on the coffee shop or 30 minutes on Zoom, but just sitting there across the table from somebody. So I I, I completely agree with you. And there was a third point that you had said, which I totally forgot, so please maybe I'll think about it.
Alex - [37:44 - 37:54]
when you, when you met the people then in person, how did it feel? Like, did it feel like you know them or did it feel like, okay, these are strangers to me, or how was it for you?
Scott - [37:54 - 39:15]
It, it, it felt like I'm, I, I, I knew them only maybe because I'm very much an extrovert and I was talking to them every day, but I felt like, wow, you're in real life and there's something, there's some nuance more that I get to know about you by physically being next to you and spending time with you. So as much as you can know somebody or talk to somebody, like that opportunity just to sit next to them is so crucially important. and I think I reminded me, I think coming back to this was right, any old school remote leader, right? ILS are an absolute core and a necessity to remote work, right? The whole idea of, you know, the hacker in the room, but like, you know, the, the sweatshirt and things like that. Like, none of us believe in that. That's, that's not remote work. Like we need to get people together as often as as possible because those real life relationships take the work and the things that you do virtually to the, the next level. And ah, ah, this is actually the point that you wanna make, is I, again, when you had said big believer that it's not just for, it's, it's a combination of virtual and in real life. So as your team, like you, you get together twice a year mm-hmm. and some of the companies may think, oh, okay, we get together twice a year, that's what we need to do. But you need to do those virtual pieces in between those six months. So when you come home and you're, you're on fire and you're excited, like you keep that energy going Yeah. And then towards like, makes you more excited when the next six months comes along.
Scott - [39:15 - 39:25]
And like, you look so much more forward to seeing those people than you met before, but now you've built even deeper relationships with virtually and now you're looking exciting. I'll be excited to, to be with 'em again in person.
Alex - [39:25 - 39:58]
Yeah, no, a hundred percent. And also what you said interesting for us, and we met for the very first time as a, the first pop-up office, it felt like we know each other so well already. Like, yes, it's a different level, but it was like, okay, all my friends, and I mean, at least for us, we always have our cameras on pretty much all, almost always. And I think that adds a big element to, okay, you get to know each other if you don't see each other on a day-to-day basis. I think that's, that's an important aspect, at least for us as well. yeah.
Scott - [39:58 - 41:22]
Yeah. I, I love that point. And one thing I, I've also said across a lot of episodes, it's how well I knew my team and every meal, and this is something we've spoken about, especially in the last three episodes about IRLs, was you're getting the company together and you would think, oh, okay, the whole, because the point is for the whole team to mix and mingle, right? Engineering meets product and sales and meets finance and, but, right. That's not really reality. People are people and people tend to cluster in the groups that they know. So at every meal at this IRL that I went to, right, every team sat siloed, your iOS team with the iOS team, your APAC sales team. So I sat at a different table purposely every meal. Like I, I refuse to sit with my team. And they drove me nuts. Like, why aren't you sitting with us? And like, here, we get the view together. I'm like, I talk to you every day. I know you already like all these people here, I have no idea who they are. I never would've met them outside of this. And having like that, an intentional, again, not for this episode, but that importance of just meeting people and connecting with people outside of, especially as your team grows. Because I remember at the beginning of your vision, like I talked to the early developers every day in whatever capacity is product design support. And then as time went, like my interaction with developers kind of drifted away. So by that time, like I rarely talked to the developers, but these are more relationships I had before. And okay, like, yes, it was great to see these OGs, but I wouldn't necessarily think of, of talking to any engineers cuz I didn't really have any interaction with them. But how important that is when you, when you get your team together.
Alex - [41:25 - 42:37]
Absolutely. And I think also for us, we have, amazing people who organize our, like internally internal people who organize these popup offices. But there, we, we really manage managed two or make activities at lunch rather. You really sit have to sit with other people or like get a challenge or draw a number, like doing things that people actually have to talk to others. But, I, I feel like you're at a size where people are really open. Okay, let's check with others. It's not like a hundred people shop for, okay, you talk to your, to your five people in, in your team and, and, and that, that's it. But what you also said is, is a very important aspect. I think this, yes, meeting twice a year is very crucial for us, but also for us as crucial as meeting in person as these monthly or bi-weekly sessions where we do something for the team, right? Where we, strengthening relationships. Because imagine also you have someone joining right after such a, such a, such an event or one person not a, being able to join, they feel for the next half year or year that they're excluded of the, of the, of the team. So, it's important to constantly engage and bring the team together to, to have these moments also, virtually.
Scott - [42:37 - 43:24]
So that's really, So I wanna get us back on topic cause I talk about ILS and fun and things like all day long, but what I really excited about was, I think it was about three or so weeks ago, your, your team launched a new feature, if I'm corrected, I think it was called like team assessments mm-hmm. And when I, when I saw the post, I'm like, holy, holy moly, no, finally, right? I've been doing this for a long time. I've been saying this, you know, here on the podcast for years, we need this thing. And finally was so excited to see somebody built what was really needed, for remote leaders to really understand what the heck to do with their team. So let's maybe start with like, tell us a little bit more about the new feature that you rolled out. No team assessments and really how is this going to, I mean, from my opinion, this is going to be game changing for remote leaders.
Alex - [43:24 - 45:07]
Mm-hmm. Yeah. So what is the team assessment? It's basically three parts. The first part is a team owner assessments, whoever, whoever's the team lead gets a bit of a different set of questions, than the team members. And that is in order to kind of compare what is the team owner's view versus to how the team members actually feel and kind of, you can get some very interesting insights from that, versus kind of how the, yeah, self self-assessment, versus, outside, outside view. And then the second part is the team member assessment, basically where the team members, I think it takes about five minutes or so some questions to, to answer 11, 12 questions or even shorter than five minutes. So, very short assessment for, for you. And then afterwards, kind of the results that run together important to mention is that the results only shown if three or more people have answered in order to not draw conclusions on who gave which answer. so it's anonymized obviously. and then you will see very interesting, like you get an assessment report of, okay, what is your assessment? What professor team's assessment? You see the, is it like if you get a four, for example, four to five, is it that everybody's kind of, okay, or do you have, you have like five fives and two twos. Like, do you have outliers or is pretty much everyone, at the same level. And again here we use our dimensions of what I shared before, like relationship, satisfaction, wellbeing, where we measure and then we have further broken down the set that the dimensions of relationships and, so relationships we have broken further down to familiarity, recognition, trust, and collaboration.
Alex - [45:07 - 45:41]
And this is very, we give you scores, but not only give do we give you scores, but we also tell you in the end, as a, as an outcome, what are the key takeaways of the answers as well? Like, we show you some of the questions that we asked and what was the, what were the answers to these questions, what is most insightful? But most importantly, we, we have a button like, okay, let's improve, the, the score and then based on these results, we will make a recommendation which Gomada activity you should run next. And basically help you step by step based on these insights to improve your team.
Scott - [45:41 - 47:11]
That that's the, that for me, that's the piece right there. Because I gotta, I, I've been ranting for, well, no, three years, two and a half years on this podcast about why, why, why companies aren't investing in upskilling managers to do, again, to be remote leaders because it's so different and they, they just lack that understanding. And here it's finally a tool that, that comes along and, and not only gives you the analytics a piece of ah, your, your team seems to have be lacking trust or collaboration at the moment. But here's, like, again, because of the lack of upscaling, some leader may say, oh, okay, my, my team lacks trust. Okay, what do I do about that? Right? Mm-hmm. maybe I'm gonna put again, some show and tell or I don't know, everyone tell their most embarrassing moment, whatever, whatever it is. But to be able to say, here, here are three things that you can do. Like here's one activity like you just schedule right through Gomada, but here's things that you could do. And like, to me, this is the power because there's that lack of upskilling, there's that lack of learning and development that people just have no idea. Like here you're giving it like on a silver platter here, you, you're lacking trust and you have no idea to do what to do. Start with these three things, right? Start with these three things again. We'll, we'll do another survey and whatever it is to see if those are making an impact. And if they are, great, keep doing them. If they're not, we'll retool them. Like to me that's the power because again, just people have no idea, right? With my former manager, he had no idea that he should send a message in Slack once or twice a week.
Scott - [47:11 - 47:39]
Hey, just even, Hey, how is everything going? How are you doing? And just even being able to give like a little hint like that to, to a manager. Just go check in twice a week on Slack. Do a quick, you know, five minute thing, get the team like on a, a coworking session and everyone kind of talk, just hear little things that you can do again that you wouldn't have never, never figured out yourself. Because again, you haven't, the company hasn't invested in an upscaling and learning and development. But to me that's just absolutely, I mean, totally, totally game changing.
Alex - [47:39 - 49:04]
I'm, I'm so, so ex Yeah, no, what you said, super crucial, but it's often the small things for the people. And so we, we also try to nudge more and more the team leads. Like, Hey, did you check in with this person or do that? Or like really helping them and guide them because as you said, some are really amazing leaders in kind of in office settings. They come in, they exec directly feel the mood, they feel how the people are and they can, yeah, they, they react on that. but if you're remotely and you see each other only in a video call like once a week, then it's very, very different setting because people can just put in a smile like, hey, all good, and then leave and you don't really know how they really feel. So that's a very super crucial, element in what you say, right? But we also get as feedback, and we don't try also to build more and more into the product, but our leaders always get, or many of us get the feedback that we really care about the people. So when someone is sick, right? You ask the next day, Hey, how are you doing? Are you feeling better? It's not about are you working today? It's really about how do you do like it's about a person. And so I think these small gestures or a quick thank you after they have done something like doesn't cost you anything, record a video, what you said, send a message. Like these small things, they are really, game changers. Yeah.
Scott - [49:04 - 49:50]
I love the so, so much goodness here. from data that you've seen historically, Gomada and maybe especially the last few weeks since the team assessment feature ha has rolled out, and again, I don't know how much data you have as of yet and what you may or not may not be able to share mm-hmm. But would love to hear like what impact you've seen so far through Gomada of, hey, your team is this, right? You have a score of this or your team is struggling with this and here are like the events that you should do and the team building things you should do or the ideas you should do, and what are you seeing from that? I would just, I'm just fascinated by again, especially cuz you're laying it out for them even previously, just here's the event that you should do to build collaboration. Right? And that, that great idea about the bridge even so much more where it's now detailed. We just love to hear like what that impact has been and what you've seen so far.
Alex - [49:50 - 51:24]
Yeah. as you said, since the, since we only launched the team assessment, not so long ago, it's hard to really draw conclusions Okay. That the active teams and Gomada, what impact did it have, compared to not so active teams. so that's why I don't wanna make any wrong conclusions too early here and, and can't share any data I can share from our own team. So since we, we started using it for ourselves, kind of, we had a score before of like kind of 3.7 of kind of engagement score and engagement score is kind of a combination of the different sub-scores that we are calculating and, in, since we are now having the team assessment and running basically every week or every other week in a team, an activity, we have now moved, basically 0.5 up to basically four 4.2, in engagement. And it's once the score, but at the same time, each time we run the Gomada activity afterwards, I feel like this was actually really good invested time, compared to the, the meetings that we had before of I share what I've done this week and what I'm going to do. No, this was not well invested because this could have been done much more effectively as synchronously, but every time it did an activity was like, this was good, this was fun, I learned something about them, I feel closer, like just motivated me to continue on going like, yeah, I could really draw some energy compared to attending meetings where you just share things, which is actually just energy drawing, draining. So yeah.
Scott - [51:24 - 52:47]
Very, very interesting. The last question I have, I know we have a running low on time. You mentioned earlier in the beginning that you're obviously not a learning and development company. and I don't know again, how much you want to share. You can share about kind of pro product roadmap, but I would love to hear you, just thoughts of where you can kind of take even the next step. Right. And I think we've gotten to the point where you could do the studies, right? And originally Gomada and the team is feeling lonely, so maybe now the suggestions will say, Hey, simply suggestion, check in twice a week in Slack or what have you. That's a great step, but little bit. Is there any thought of, you know, giving more of a insight or kind of a learning into why you should do that or what the impact is of sending message twice a week? Or if it's on communication, how a game of drawing a bridge will actually can help with collaboration and that and how? Cause again, for me it's like super amazing step one, I have no idea what to do. I know my team is struggling. Some areas Gomada tells me what to do. That's absolutely amazing. But the only way that I'm going to get better as a leader is understanding why is it a problem and what this activity to do is going to help. So then I can understand that myself and be able to try to do those things in the future. So just even just your thoughts, again, it doesn't have to be on the roadmap, but would love to even get, hear just the ideas and things that you're kind of kicking around of how to take that to the next level.
Alex - [52:47 - 54:38]
Yeah, very, very important, aspect of, yeah, give the people the why. Why should we not want this activity? Why should we do it? Why does it matter? And we, we have started already to before the activity tell the people, basically why they should run it. And also afterwards try to tell them more like, Hey, this activity help you now with a b abc that they can really reflect and like, oh yeah, it wasn't just a fun activity, it was fun, but there's actually more to it so that they understand it. At the same time, what we do is after certain activities we do send, sometimes with the intended time, like we do send some follow up messages. For example, on the communication element, there's said even between each drawing, there's a reflection session and someone takes notes and these notes will be sent to the whole group afterwards. Like, Hey, this is the communication session you have done, this is what you've learned, and here are actually your core takeaways on your takeaways. Not any takeaways randomly, but your takeaways, what you should kind of, look at more closely when you communicate next. to really have this intentional long term, impact and not just this one of, oh, the was nice was fun. So, but yeah, I think we, we still can go a step further on explaining the why and making this even more obvious and making it better at the same time. Yeah, communications or attention span is also limited. Like you don't wanna talk too much about, about it, but rather get quickly to it and then once it's over, okay, then, then let them go again. But one, yeah, throwing it out here, the, the big key word that is all around, but I think there's a lot we can do now with AI and the tools out there leveraging these existing tools to, besides what Gomada can do, also what you said, right? Alex - [54:38 - 55:07]
Given these recommendations based on artificial intelligence on, okay, this is for your team, these are your challenges, this is what we can recommend you besides running activities. And, here we are still in a kind of exploration phase, but yeah, seeing other platforms in different spaces, how quickly they manage to adapt these new technologies. I'm very confident it can also product quickly, give some value add to clients by adding, adding these components.
Scott - [55:07 - 55:37]
That's super exciting. I mean, for how much, you know, I, I've, I've fallen more in love, with the product, with that release to hear that some of these pieces are already there. this is absolutely fantastic. So I highly recommend everyone who's listening to this episode to, to go sign up. So for people who are listening who are interested and should with absolute cause and without any delay, go connect with Gomada. Go sign up, connect with you, learn more about you, what's the best place to get ahold of you, learn more about you, sign up for Gomada all that good stuff.
Alex - [55:37 - 56:06]
Yeah. so yeah, for Goma, visit gomada.co. not.com. sign up. You have a 30 day free trial. You can just test it for free with your team. yeah, no credit card required. Really easy to, to just explore it, test it, try it out. And yeah, with regards to me, I'm on LinkedIn, so you can find me under LinkedIn, Alexander Spa, and probably don't even need Gomada, but if you have Gomada as well, you'll, you'll find it. For sure.
Scott - [56:06 - 56:50]
That's amazing. I think I hear the, the end of the episode here, the, the thunder in the background toward the end of the episode. But Alex, fantastic conversation now. Thank you so much for joining. Love to hear, all the things that you're doing as a remote leader yourself, you know, with your teams and certainly as someone who's building a tool to make the remote experience so much better, and way beyond excited about the, the features and the things that you're building there. As excited as I was when we first connected, probably maybe about a year ago for what you're building, here, even more, what you're building now when you're looking to build, like, for me, this is a totally game changing, feature and tool for remote leaders to, to absolutely be using. I appreciate the time. No, thank you so much for, for coming on and, and for everyone who's listening, I guess, until the next episode, have a wonderful day, everybody.