My Secret Weapon For Managing a 100% Remote Team
April 20, 2020

Ever since I published my Extrovert’s Guide to Working From Home, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about remote management best practices.

Truth be told, most of these questions are better answered by resources like Remote, my personal favorite book on remote working, but there’s one tactic that I feel uniquely qualified to talk about.

It’s become my secret weapon for remote managers, and when it’s wielded appropriately, it gives remote teams superpowers that co-located teams can’t match.

My secret? Internal podcasts.

My views on this were largely inspired by a conversation we had with Radoslav Stankov, the Head of Engineering at Product Hunt, for our external podcast. He manages a 100% remote team and one of the concepts he discussed was “single-player mode.”

Put simply, the best remote teams optimize their work so that everyone can operate independently, without intervention from their managers or teammates. This allows everyone to log on to work in the morning at their leisure, work at their own pace, and prioritize their day based on their energy levels.

From a project management perspective, this is easy to accomplish. For example, you can start by:

After a few weeks of deliberate practice, this part gets easy. The only trap to avoid is solving everything with “a quick Zoom call,” but if you can resist that siren’s song, you’ll adapt well.

But, there’s a side to remote work that is much, much harder to accomplish in single-player mode… The people-side.

How can you build a cohesive team that likes and trusts one another when they never meet face-to-face? Moreover, is it possible to accomplish team-building asynchronously to optimize for single-player mode?

I would argue not only that it’s possible, but that it’s essential to remote success.

Note: If you want to listen to more of my thoughts on internal podcasts and their impact on fully remote teams, listen to this interview.

Internal podcasts are better than group Zoom calls. Change my mind.

At this point, many of us have probably lived through the Brady Bunch-style group Zoom that’s designed to mirror an informal hang session. These sessions are fine, and have their place, but are insufficient culture-builders by themselves.

Why are these calls so hard to execute well? To name a few reasons…

Internal podcasts can solve these problems, and they can allow our teams to bond at a deeper level in single-player mode!

When executed well, internal podcasts hit on three things that group video chats miss:

“Okay Tim,” you may be thinking… “Internal podcasts sound cool, but what are they about? I’ve never listened to an internal podcast, how can I produce one for my team?”

For most organizations, an internal podcast should be pretty raw. It shouldn’t be polished or overly developed. The mission of this content is to:

The audio for this should err on the shorter side and be unedited. There are three types of content I’d focus on producing first:

You want to give your teammates all the benefits of being in an office, consumable on their own schedule. Instead of trying to replicate an all-hands meeting over Zoom, you want to take the benefits of an all-hands meeting and package it in a format that’s more conducive to remote work.

This is the difference between people who merely adopted remote work vs. those who were born in it… Molded by it…

Like it or not, we’re not going back into the office in the immediate future. We can either choose to patchwork our internal communications over the next few months and hope things don’t break, or we can adopt new communication tools that are better suited to remote work and thrive.

The choice is ours.

Your Internal Podcast Content Schedule

Here’s a first draft of an internal podcast content schedule that you can steal:

Monday: Monday Morning Motivation: An Executive Address to excite the team and get them pumped for the week ahead.

Tuesday: Teammate Tuesday: A Better Know a Teammate interview.

Wednesday: Mid-Week Market Feedback: Customer or sales call that the team can learn from.

Thursday: Teammate Thursday: A Better Know a Teammate interview.

Friday: Friday Reflection: An Executive Address reflecting on the past week.

What you can do today to get an internal podcast off the ground

So, let’s say you’re all in on this idea and you want to try it out in your organization… The worst thing you can do is turn it into a big initiative. You’re better-served taking some immediate steps to launch audio content and create internal demand for a podcast feed. Here are the steps I’d take today if I were in your shoes:

  1. Record a voice memo on your phone introducing the idea of an internal podcast, what has you excited about the concept, and what schedule you want to release content on.
  2. Upload this voice memo to a new Slack channel and invite your teammates.
  3. Send private messages to three teammates and schedule 15 minute interviews with them to release on the internal podcast channel.

This is your “minimum viable” internal podcast. You can use this to validate demand. Are people listening and engaging with the content? If so, you can justify investing in a full production schedule, podcast feed, etc. If not, that’s fine, too! This doesn’t work for everyone.

Your worst-case scenario is that you’ll share some great conversations with your teammates. Your best-case scenario is that you’ll fundamentally transform the way your team bonds during these trying times.

What questions do you have about remote management, internal comms, or podcasting? Tweet at me and let me know! I’d love to answer questions!

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