We have this natural tendency to focus on what feels urgent, and often what's urgent isn't really important. It's also really easy to make ourselves feel productive when we're just checking tasks off our list and the time-sensitive ones are the ones we tend to gravitate to.
In this episode
It’s easy to feel productive when checking off time-sensitive tasks.
But are you focusing on impact?
In episode #116, Chase explains how to ensure impact, unite employees around work, and prevent isolation all while in a remote organization.
Chase Warrington is the Head of Remote at Doist, a remote-first team of 93 people representing 41 nationalities in 39 countries and 75 cities.
Chase also explains Doist’s remote culture, how they approach meetings and leverage asynchronous communication.
Tune in to hear all about Chase’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Obtaining location independence
Delegation is an art
Are you focusing on impact?
Uniting around work
Connectivity with remote work
Doist’s meeting culture
Why the pros of remote first outweigh the cons
Re-thinking how you manage
- Find Chase on Twitter
- Listen to About Abroad
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:32
Chase, welcome to the show.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 04:24
Hey, thanks. Great to be here. I appreciate you guys having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 04:27
Yeah, it’s really good to speak to you again. You were just telling me that I think you normally live in Spain. You’re now calling in from Germany and you and I met in Montreal. So
Chase Warrington (Doist) 04:40
yes, we’re living the remote life. I guess I’m doing a little stint of nomadic. I guess I’m not normally very nomadic. I’ve been living in Spain for almost five years. You might be able to tell from my accent. I’m not from Spain. I grew up in the US but yeah, I have been spending the last couple years living in Spain and now spending the summer up in in Germany escaping the heat a little bit, supposedly, but it’s not been the case.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:04
Yeah, it’s definitely true to form, especially for what you do. So you’ve obviously worked at a bunch of different companies. But one of the things that is super interesting about your background is today, you’re the head of remote at duelist. And, you know, I think this is a name that millions of people have heard of. But basically, one of the nice things about doing this as a company is that you’ve just been all remote from the get go. And a lot of companies look to you as an example of a company that does this really well. But you have just started to be the head of remote at Dubai. So maybe tell me about that. How did you get into this role?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 05:45
Yeah, that’s a good question. I actually just had my annual review yesterday. So it’s been one year in this position, officially. And it’s been a blast. I mean, it’s a dream come true. For someone that’s really passionate about location independence and global mobility and making that happen via remote work, I was really honored to be doing this first head of remote and thankful to all the people kind of ahead of me and other companies that set this precedent for us, because we are very invested in being a pillar of the remote work community. And it’s a big part of our brands, it serves our products, and it’s just kind of baked into the company DNA. So we do try to lead by example, and share and build in public. But we do also look to other companies that are doing that. And the head of remote roll was one of those things that we learned from some of the other companies out there to get labs of the world and Darren Murphy and some of the others. So yeah, it’s been a blast. And something that I’ve really enjoyed doing, I kind of pivoted into this position. over several years, I’ve always worked remotely. So a little bit of background, I’ve been working remotely my entire career, which happens to line up pretty much with this trajectory in existence about 15 years. And I didn’t have location independence early on, but I had remote work. And I thought that was good enough. And I always wanted to obtain what we now call location independence, but wasn’t really sure how to go about that. So that’s always been very central to me to make sure that I have that freedom and flexibility over where and when I work. And as I progressed in my career, I wanted to keep that at the center of whatever it was I was doing. And that pivoted through a couple different things. But basically, I got into business development fit that nicely. With my background, I was kind of a people person and able to negotiate deals and things like that. But I wanted to do it in a remote location independent setting. So long story short, landed a duelist. And at duelists, the way we defined business development was we wanted to take all those projects out there that didn’t really fit perfectly into any other department and have somebody kind of lead them we have a system we call dr. D, which is directly responsible do a stir, so we wanted to dr. D, for all these projects. So one of them was how do we maintain our status as a leading remote first company, we’re 100 People in 35 different countries, and we want to remain a part of that conversation, we want to actually at the time, we really wanted to insert ourselves into the conversation. We were doing it a little bit, but we wanted to become more prevalent. So as the head of business development, I said, That’s a great project for me, I would love for us to take that on. And we wove that into the fabric of the bizdev department, and then eventually went from a side project to something that we wanted to really invest in heavier. And so that became the head of remote role. And I moved into that position.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:30
That’s awesome. And just to emphasize something that you just said, which was 100 people and 35 countries, that it’s one heck of a statistic that’s crazy
Chase Warrington (Doist) 08:40
spans all timezones to, which I think is kind of an interesting element. I mean, if you do the quick math, there you go. We’ve got somebody in every time zone, we’ve got basically every third person is from a different country. So a super diverse, very distributed team. So yeah, that international remote first aspect is really very core to us.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:01
Yeah, it’s leaving no timezone behind. So, yeah, so super interesting. I mean, we’re gonna dig into a bunch of different things. One of the questions that we like to start with, though, is, if you were to remember, you know, dial back to the very early days of when you first started managing or leading a team, do you remember some of the early mistakes that you would have made and maybe make less of today?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 09:26
Yeah, I was really bad at delegating, and choosing when to offload something. I’m a guest by nature, a little bit of a control freak and want to hold on to the task, the project to kind of do it my way, I’ve got a vision for how I want things to go. And learning to delegate is an art form, isn’t it? I mean, it’s, it doesn’t come naturally. And I think to a lot of people that have sort of risen through the ranks and whatever it is that they do, they’ve done it by working hard and being diligent and kind of doing things themselves a lot of times and I think the ones that really elevate from that standpoint. It’s sort of though What got me here won’t get me there thing, the ones that really elevate beyond that are the ones that learn to delegate and do so in a fairly efficient manner. And, and that was something I was not good at at all for quite some time.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:12
So how did it change? Do you remember an example or a story of when you kind of clued in on this and how you made an impact to change it?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 10:22
I do, actually, yeah, I’ve got a pretty specific example. There was a time my previous chapter of my career, where I had, we’ll just call it for brevity sake, just a very big project that I was leading for the company. And I had a team underneath that did their day to day work. But we had kind of modeled the structure of the team off of every other team that was exactly like us and other geographic areas. And it was not really working in the way that we’re going about it. I was supposed to be the point person, the lead person, but sort of delegate tasks to people here and there. And that model wasn’t really working with this cookie cutter model that we were applying everywhere else wasn’t really working here. And I got some advice from our CMO who who said, you know, it would be great if you could get good at delegating, if you could get good at passing some of these things off, that you’re trying to do, you’re trying to do everything, and it’s not really working that well. And so we recreated the whole model came up with a totally different way of doing things kind of rethought the whole process from the ground up, and delegated about 50% of what I was supposed to be doing to one or two other people. But that freed me up to focus on this new set of challenges that we were facing in this area. And we knocked it out of the park. I mean, we set all kinds of new records for the company, we became a, this team became a model for what we were trying to do in the other geographic areas. And we actually ended up doing like a full presentation to them and, and kind of restructuring the way we did things elsewhere. So it was a huge eye opener for me to one like, you know, what we’ve done up until this point isn’t always what we need to continue doing. It’s okay to reinvent the wheel sometimes. And then to passing off things to people who are really talented can be the thing that opens you up and lets you step into your light. And that was very true in that situation for me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 12:11
Yeah, that’s a great story. What’s interesting is, I feel like, especially for roles that expand over time, say that you start doing something, and it’s actually not time consuming in the beginning. But over time, you know, the scope increases. And all of a sudden, it takes up a lot of time, but you’re used to doing all of the things. And I think in that kind of like slow creep method where something just gets bigger and bigger. Sometimes you forget that, Hey, maybe I should go back to the delegation framework. I’m wondering, do you have today like a trigger or a feeling or a gut feeling or something where it’s like, hey, Chase, you’re doing it again, you’re not delegating. It reminds you to go back to things,
Chase Warrington (Doist) 12:51
I have to constantly remind myself honestly, it is a forever work in progress, I think because the innate knee jerk reaction is just pick whatever it is up and just do it, get it done. Yeah, just get it done. And I also work at a productivity company we got we’re, you know, Todoist is our flagship product, which is a task manager. And it’s very easy. My whole life lives there. It’s very easy just to add a task. And so I think that triggers is really not super concrete. But in a in a more vague way is this concept of just being stressed and feeling that you’re not performing at peak efficiency anymore. And recognizing going a little bit inward and recognizing when that’s happening, there’s not a specific thing that happens. But I know when I hit that ceiling, and when I need to reevaluate my to do list and say, Okay, what can I delegate and having? I think there’s two pieces to that one is having the intuition and developing the intuition to know, okay, I’m hitting that ceiling, and then to having the tool or the process in place ahead of time, so that you’re capable of doing that delegation in those frantic moments.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 13:52
Yeah, I think you’re right. I think the trigger is if you feel overwhelmed, stretched, then and you’re struggling to figure out what should I work on? Because there’s so many things. I mean, it’s also a sign of other things, but also like, that may be a Hey, does all of this need to be me? Or should I start to delegate?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 14:10
I think the Eisenhower matrix is like, so key for people in the world that we’re living in, you know, it’s just it can move so fast paced, and it’s really hard to sometimes decide, you know, what’s urgent and what’s, you know, important, and deciding between those two things being like deliberately vocal about it, you know, even speaking it out loud. Is this saying to myself, is this urgent? Or is it important? And is it impactful? Is it not? Can I delegate this kind of not having those conversations is extremely valuable?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 14:39
And for those that may not be familiar, so this is the Eisenhower matrix, two by two matrix, urgent and important being like the dividing axes, Where should one spend their time? Or how do you think about things if you do classify them that way?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 14:55
Well, I think we have this natural tendency and I shouldn’t try to claim it as my own my own knowledge of you. There’s plenty of reports and statistics and books on this. But we have this natural tendency to focus on what feels urgent and often what’s urgent isn’t really important. It’s also really easy to make ourselves feel productive when we’re just checking tasks off our list and the time sensitive ones are the ones that we tend to gravitate to. So I think what what we need to do as as leaders is be very, again, very deliberate about that and think through every single activity that we’re working on and say, Is it urgent? Is it impactful? Is it important for the team does it align with my goals, quarterly, monthly, annually, whatever it may be, and really hone in on those activities that are very impactful and remove time sensitivity from it, I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves and way too much emphasis on speed, we overvalue speed a lot. And I think we should really be going for value and impact. So recalibrating on that can be a bit difficult because I think we’re in a speedy world. That’s what I tried to do for myself. And I won’t say it always comes easy. Like I have to be pretty actionable about it actually have a task on my to do list that will remind me just weekly just to rethink what I’m doing and make sure that I’m focused on on impact.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 16:14
What is a task? I mean, this is super tactical, but what is the task called? Or what does it say?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 16:19
Are you focusing on impact? It’s just a question and it pops up and it pops up every Wednesday. And it’s like midweek. And it’s really, really great. I mean, it’s been a great reminder for me, and I said, I don’t just like check it off, I sit and think about it. Because by the middle of the week, you’ve been pulled in a couple of different directions, things have come up that weren’t on your to do list on Monday, things happen. And so you have to be, you know, reevaluating, and so that that middle of the week check in with myself is has been a great little tip that’s helped me work through some of that,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 16:49
that’s a great tip. So you mentioned it, you are an all remote company, you’re also a productivity company. So I want to dig into some of these things. Because I think it can be very instructive to a lot of people, I have this quote from you, where it’s related to a lot of people equating a strong team culture with a team that builds personal bonds outside of their work. So in other words, you’re gonna have a great culture, if people hang out after work and go for drinks or do that sort of thing. But your view on this is that it’s not about how people socialize but more about you know how people actually work together. But love for you to maybe explain that a little bit more and why you have that view and why people get it wrong.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 17:37
Absolutely. I mean, and for a bit of like context and clarity. I I’m a pretty social person. And I’m I’m extroverted. I have a group of friends and family that I’m very close with. And I enjoy the after work, happy hour, one of the things that I lead at a duelist is our our retreats are off sites, bringing people together and humanizing remote work is probably my favorite part of my job and what I really love working on. So it’s not to say there’s no value or place for socializing for bringing people together quite the contrary, there’s a huge space for that, and it should be done. But when we really get down to it, like that’s not the thing that unites us, we didn’t come and join duelist to go on a retreat together once a year in an awesome place. That’s a great addition. That’s a side dish. The main course is the work. The main course is the thing that actually unites us, it literally is what unites us as a team. So we kind of subscribe to this mentality that you know that we’re a team, not a family, we are brought here to work. And when we work, we’re going to be very intentional about that work. And we’re going to make sure that we create opportunities to connect with each other. And as a remote team that takes effort. But we’re going to make sure that we have that opportunity to connect as a team around work, and then sprinkle in the social aspect around that. And I think a lot of teams tend to want to create this environment where the socialization aspect is the culture. And I feel like that sounds a lot better than it actually works in practice. So we’ve subscribed to the other mentality that we’re going to unite around our work, we’re going to sprinkle in the social aspects, where it makes sense.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 19:11
I think that’s a good way to distinguish the two. But I wonder if you also have an example of how you can build a culture around doing the work, I think the way you put it, which is, you know, the socialization is a side dish. It’s not the main thing that we do. I think that part makes sense. But maybe give us an example of you know, how you work together may be part of the culture.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 19:35
So this really starts with a few things like one is having a really clear, strong mission statement. And then to having core values that tie to that mission statement and can connect the dots between that mission statement and the work. So we spend a lot of effort on that we’ve refined our our mission statement and our core values multiple times very frequently. We take that really seriously and I think it’s especially important as a distributed team. Who’s not, you know, sitting in an office together every day, we need to have those building blocks in place that help us, you know, stick together. Then after that, once you have that in place, we need to have the infrastructure that creates opportunities for collaboration. It’s that all sounds wonderful if you actually have a team that you’re working with, but when you’re working in a silo all by yourself, and you have these nice sounding mission statements and goals, that and core values, it doesn’t really do a whole lot for you. So we have an intentional system that we’ve created, we call it the do system, that gives people the opportunity to collaborate with people across the organization, from multiple teams every month. So every month that’s changing, we’re working in these four week Sprint’s and you’re getting to interact with people from all around the world, different parts of the company, building really cool things, things that really aligned with what you’re interested in. And then we sprinkle in around that these opportunities to connect around personal matters, that are also of interest to you. So we’re constantly thinking about how can we give people the chance to work together and spend time together around things that actually interest them, and that will, you know, help them build some sort of bond and team camaraderie.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 21:11
Hey, there. Just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single spaced font, you know, lots of tax, there’s a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to fellow dot app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones, it’s there for you, we hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. Thank you for clarifying that. One of the things that I think is related here is just the potential isolation that may come with working remotely. So again, especially I mean, for you 35 different countries, again, like every third person is in a different country. So I feel like if anyone has it harder than other people, I think if you figured out how to do this, you know, basically handle isolation and getting people to feel connected at the free to just give us some thoughts or how you go about that.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 22:41
I think there’s two main pieces to this. So there’s the one side that we can talk about, which is like within the confines of the quote, unquote, office, all the stuff we do at work, I think the really interesting part that maybe sometimes doesn’t get a lot of attention paid to it is the fact that the way we view work, as we see, it really is just a part of your life. It’s not everything, right. So you have the ability to have a social life and a very engaging life outside of work. And so we really try to encourage people to disconnect from work, we’re very strict about when you go on vacation, when you take time off, when it’s the weekends, when it’s after hours, whatever your hours are, whatever you choose, we want people to disconnect and have a life outside of life, we encourage people to work on side projects and share that or to do community service and share that or to say, Hey, I’m taking off early to take my kids to school or whatever it may be. So we want you to have that life outside of work and actively encouraging. That is one way to prevent isolation. I think a lot of people hear remote work and they see people, they envision people sitting in their bedroom in their pajamas all alone and miserable. And there’s a whole big world out there that when you have the freedom of remote work that you should embrace and enjoy. So we encourage that we also encourage that through perks, like we pay for people’s gym memberships, and we pay for people to go do social activities or do meetups with other dusters, or go to a co working for example. So like we’re actively trying to push people outside of that figurative bedroom, all alone in your silo. So I think that’s one bit. The other is you know, what we create inside dualist where we have three main categories of this. We have synchronous in person meetups, like retreats and off sites, which we do a couple times a year. We also have like mentorship trips, where we send people to work with a mentor and I just mentioned like do Mr. Meetup perks so we pay people to go meet up with other coworkers. So those are like in real life in person, or creating those bonds together. And we invest a lot in those and it’s a core part of my job, which I love. Then we have synchronous virtual meetups and activities, anything from cooking classes, to exercise classes, to TED Talk style presentations, things like that, that give people a chance to connect virtually and synchronously and then we have asynchronous As communication, built social channels and activities, and right now we’re playing a game of telephone, the kid game that you played when you were young, with, you know, 20 people from around the world, and things like this. So we’ve been, you know, very deliberate about creating those spaces where people can choose to opt in or opt out and participate in these types of things. And I think it’s worked really well. For us, we have a very high bar when it comes to expecting people to feel engaged and satisfied with their social life. And being a remote company. I think you have to, you know, you really have to work at that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 25:31
Yeah. So that’s a lot of activities. So if we’re to look at it in terms of how often something happens, so I think it’s nice to use the number 100. Because it makes you know, the percentages work out great. But so for 100 people, did you say twice a year you have everybody come together for an in person meetup? How does that work? Is it like two days? Is it a week?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 25:54
Yeah, we have two meetups per year exploring more, I’m hoping for more. We believe in it a lot. We think it’s it’s kind of the glue that holds things together and pays dividends throughout the year. So we’re all about investing in it heavily. We have two primary ways that we bring teams together. One is the entire company, we call that our company retreat, all 100 people in one location, it’s a full week, people usually come in on Sunday and leave on Friday. And we try to do it in really exciting destinations around the world. And so we just rented a village in the Austrian Alps, for example, and had everybody there in this little village on a lake and we just had a blast together. I mean, these things are really focused on building team camaraderie, giving people the opportunity to connect, we do some work, but it’s not your day to day work, it’s pretty light on the work, it’s meant to give us that chance to connect on a deeper level that we just don’t get to throughout the year. And then we have a second type of retreat, which we call mini retreats, which are the individual teams getting together. And so we try to space those out about every six months. So twice a year, you’re looking forward to meeting up with your team, or the whole company and seeing some of your teammates.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:03
So would it then be basically because each each one of these things is spaced out by six months, is it once a quarter, you’ll meet up either with your team or with the whole company? Is that how it works.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 27:15
It’s like, for instance, this year, we did mini retreats in February, and the company retreat in June. And then so now we’re evaluating when we’ll do many retreats again, probably beginning of of next year. So more or less, every five or six months, we want to have some kind of a retreat. So every do a stir has something to look forward to, as far as you know, getting together face to face with people in the company.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:38
Got it. And so when it’s the team, it’s a similar sort of structure is it also one week that people go away?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 27:44
Yeah, we optimize those for a little bit, it’s a little bit less of like a vacation and more like a little bit more like a work trip. We don’t want people having to travel on the weekends, we have some people that have to come in from very far, you know, we have seen people in Taiwan and Australia and the South of Chile. And like, it’s just probably wherever we go, it’s gonna be a long trip. And you might want to come in a couple days early to get over jetlag, and such So, but for the most part, people are flying in on a Monday, and then it’s Monday through Thursday, kind of getting after it. And then Friday is a free day to to travel back, you know, we go a little bit heavier on the work during those mini retreats. But we still keep it very high level, we don’t see much value in bringing people together just to do their day to day work. So we put a lot of emphasis on making these fun, and interactive and collaborative and doing the things that we don’t do super well, asynchronously and virtually. And so a lot of that still focuses on the team connection part, we probably will work on average, you know, three, four hours in the morning, and then take the afternoon to go do fun stuff or let people recharge their batteries, go out for a fun dinner, have some activities after that. So we want to find that right balance between making it really interactive and fun and exciting. And also, you know, part of that, again, coming back to what unites us is the work is moving something forward in the work world as well.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 29:07
So we talked about the social part, one of the things that, you know, you can imagine I would be curious about how you folks to is just the meetings at the company and what you think of meetings from what I understand you don’t do a lot of them. It is very highly asynchronous communication. And I think that makes a lot of sense. They’re 35 countries for 100 people. So maybe explain how you approach collaborating and what kind of tools you use for that. And the other thing that I’m also curious about is just roughly speaking, the mix of the company is like very product and engineering focus or their sales folks or you know, business development folks and how that works in two different teams maybe operate differently. That’s a
Chase Warrington (Doist) 29:52
really good question. So taking that last part first to set the stage we’re about 100 people and about half of the company is engineering and the other half offers like other marketing, finance, people ops, things like that. So, in terms of like one particular role, we’ve got a lot of engineers and product focused people. We also are like a dog food company. So we eat our own dog food, we produce a couple products to do just a task manager and twist communication apps specifically built for remote teams. The context there is, we were running on Slack, we built our company on Slack. But we were also feeling a lot of pain as a distributed team, working in what we feel is a very synchronous tool. And slack, we wanted something different. But there wasn’t a better tool out there that really promoted asynchronous communication the way that we want it to work. So we built twist, and now we run pretty much all on twist. So it’s not to unnecessarily plug twist, but it’d be impossible for me to talk about how we work without mentioning twist directly. So we do almost all of our collaboration. In twist, it’s very thread based, it produces a situation where we can basically have a single thread living within various channels for every individual topic, and really lets us control how we’re notifying people. And we feel like, if we’re going to do a synchronous communication, then we need to do it really well. And so we pretty much focus on doing everything in twist that we possibly can. But we use meetings as a last resort. And I think that’s the difference between us. And a lot of companies, even a lot of remote companies that see meetings as a pretty big part of how they conduct the day to day. For us, it really is a very last resort. There’s a funny Twitter thread going around right now where our executives and leaders are sharing a picture of their calendars. And people are just blown away by this because there’s just no meetings. I mean, there’s our CEO has like one meeting or two meetings a week. And that’s just that’s how we function. And a lot of those meetings that are on there are usually like social style meeting. So it’s just a hard lean into a sink, and saying, you know, we’re going to commit to that, and we’re going to be really, really good at it.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 31:56
One question I had is you said your CEO has one or two meetings a week? Do you do one on one meetings synchronously? Are those acing as well?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 32:07
We do. Yeah. So that those are the type of meetings like one on ones or something that a manager would have, you know, generally it varies, but I mean, I would say the baseline is a monthly one on one, with a direct report, maybe a new direct report, you’re going to meet with weekly or somebody that just needs more, we will obviously lean into that as needed, the tendency is to try to reduce meetings as much as possible, and push things to twist. The reason for that is, you know, we feel like the one on one is a perfect example of when a meeting makes a lot of sense, you want to know how your teammates are feeling you want to, you need to gauge some of the context clues that you can’t get so well in the async virtual world and connect with them on a more personal level. But async provides us with everything being kept in a very transparent, accessible place that holds people accountable, it gives us a easy way to control our day to day. So without having a bunch of stuff on our calendars, we can create our own perfect work day every day. And we feel like that’s a superpower that really powers our work or our team. So it gives us a lot there are pros and cons with everything like we recognize that it can be a little bit cold, you know, it can be a little bit less friendly, a little bit less humane. And so we we actually had, at one point, a thread that somebody started, it said like, have we gone off the deep end? It was basically like, have we gone too far with this whole async? Like, don’t you dare ask me for a meeting kind of thing. And the truth was, is that we had like we had to dial that back a little bit. And I think it’s one of the reasons why it’s a core part of my job is to create that, that more human element within the remote world. Because we do recognize that a sink standing on its own can have that downside, there are a lot of pros that come with it. But a lot of you know a lot, a lot of good that comes as well. And so we’re just constantly trying to find that balance.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 33:49
So it would be great to go through an example. So for example, something that maybe other people do in a meeting format, and you know, something that maybe you don’t start that way use twist. It’s a synchronous, and where as a last resort may be turned into a meeting, just to like really paint the boundaries and how things start and how they might end up in a meeting. For example, yeah.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 34:18
One of the easiest example there are two that come to mind. The first one is we’ve never had all hands, like we’ve never had the entire company on one call in 15 years of existence, which is just mind blowing to a lot of people like how can you run a company like that, but we just see it as totally useless. Like, I don’t get why you would try to get, you know, 100 people from 35 Different countries on a call at the same time. We have never done that. What we do instead is like a quarterly asynchronous update, kind of ama style, we actually do a real ama virtually and in person, in person whenever we get together with our with our executives, and and then also virtually they’re invited to do AMA’s. asynchronously we even think corporates started incorporating async video into those. So, like our CEO responding to questions with a loom, and they ama style, so really getting a bit more creative around how you do these sorts of things. And that works a lot better for us. You know, doing it all, all asynchronously allows everybody to get the exact same experience around the world. It lets people process their questions. Interestingly, when we do an AMA, in person with our executives, I get a lot of pushback from people saying, you know, I don’t feel comfortable asking a question in to directly to the CEO, who am I, you know, I’m an I’m a new person here at the company. It’s very, you know, I’m standing up in front of 100 people to ask a question to our executive, I’m not going to be brutally honest and challenge something in that environment in an async environment, I will or I’ll have more time to think about my question and process it and maybe challenge something that was said. So it’s interesting to see those push and pull so the all hands is one. Another example is we don’t do stand ups like we don’t do like a weekly or daily stand up. We do all of that a synchronously once a week. And the same goes for like product kickoffs, when we’re doing sprints related to any kind of project, we have 1012 projects going on every cycle or every month. And we don’t do synchronous kickoffs for those except in extenuating circumstances, if something’s really complex, we’re not getting it, you know, we really feel like we need to bring the team together for whatever unique reason that might be, but 99% of them are done asynchronously.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 36:28
Got it. And so let’s take an example of something that people might you know, today be doing synchronously, let’s say that it’s a debate around, you’re running this experiment within the company. And the results are potentially controversial. Like there’s data, you kind of have to debate it. So for something like that, maybe what you would do is you would say, like, everybody contribute to this document, or say on twist, and then there’s there’s a deadline, everybody just respects deadlines. And so that’s how you get things to be done on a cadence, right?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 37:02
100%? Correct. Yeah. So that’s exactly the type of thing where we would say async is superior to synchronous, exactly, for the reason that I was mentioning earlier, the same pain points that the person might feel standing up and asking a question, in that live environment, you know, especially people that are a bit more introverted, or, you know, often we find like creatives, who have really great ideas don’t thrive in that debate at situation where it’s live. But they have really great ideas and challenges to put forward when given the space and time to think about it and craft exactly how they want to write it out. So we actually feel like we’ll get the best outcome. Very good example of this is, when we were looking at buying the domain for twist, it was extremely expensive. We had another domain, I don’t even remember what it was. But it wasn’t as good as twist.com, which is what it is now. It was extremely expensive. We’re a bootstrap startup. And we had to, you know, make a decision. And we’re very big on transparency. I think it’s also a key pillar, have any really well done, distributed team. And we said, Let’s just be transparent about this. Let’s share it with the team. We started a thread, we said, Hey, should we buy twist.com? Here’s how much it’s going to cost. This is what it’s going to affect? pros, cons. What do you guys think in the whole company, I think we said, you know, this is Monday, everybody chime in between now and Friday. And then we’ll make a decision. And that democratic, transparent approach, giving people time to think through it produced a much better result than if we had said, Hey, we’re holding a one hour all hands, everybody chime in live, and then we’ll make a decision. Again, like optimizing for speed, there probably would have produced a less quality product in the end,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:38
that is a good way to describe it. So we kind of touched on I assume brainstorming is the same approach, right? So if you’re brainstorming on a topic, it just makes sense that people can contribute on their own time. But then think about what they want to contribute. If they’re introverted. If something becomes like, there’s just a lot of back and forth, and it doesn’t seem to be resolved, you’re not shy to if two people happen to be in the same timezone or something to just basically call the other person, right.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 39:06
Yeah, correct. You know, we recognize it’s, it’s not all or nothing, there’s a place and a time and it happens. I won’t say frequently, but you know, it’s not abnormal, to say, hey, let’s just hop on a call and hash this out, we’re obviously not seeing eye to eye or I’m just not getting what you’re saying. This would be quicker and better over a quick call, you know, I’ll share generally we were using Calendly, or something like that to set those up or a doodle, if it’s a group to get people on the same page. But yeah, we absolutely do that. And we do have, we will also do like occasional team huddles or some teams have like a standing meeting where they just, you know, once a month, let’s all just hop on a call, whoever can be there. It’s optional, if you want to be there. And you know, those are great spaces to hash some of those things out as well.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 39:49
Yeah. So one question I might have and maybe this is a controversial question, which is, so you have 100 people 35 Different countries either almost seems like you really are going trying to hire the best possible person. And as a result, you know, they may be in different locations. And so this is the situation. But if you had the same company and all of you were in, I don’t know the west coast in the US, would you still operate the way that you do? If you were all in the same timezone?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 40:23
My tendency is to say, Yes, I think we believe in asynchronous and remote first enough to fully invest in that I don’t think we see a lot of value in forcing people to live in a certain place come to a certain place every day to do their work. We’re primarily knowledge workers, and I can’t see us ever pulling that lever to say, you know, actually, it would make sense to do that. It’s not to say that there’s not value in coming together, though, you know, like it like the remote world has its drawbacks also. And it can be things can move a little bit slower things can be challenging at times to collaborate on. And if we could just sit down in a room together and hash it out. It probably that would be great, too. But we believe enough in the in the pros, the general pros that we get in the in the drawbacks of forcing people to live and work in certain places that I think we would always lean back into the remote first model.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 41:18
Got it. So you know, Chase, this has been super instructive. We’ve dived into how to delegate how there’s a difference between socializing and form a culture around work, and some tips and tricks on how to actually make remote collaboration work and going more asynchronous. One question that we like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips or tricks or parting words of wisdom that you would leave them with?
Chase Warrington (Doist) 41:50
I’ll try to be wise, you know, I don’t know. I think that, first of all, I’ve really enjoyed this thanks for the awesome questions and making me think a little bit as well, speaking specifically about the remote space, because I think, obviously, that’s the unique value add that newest offers, I believe, and unique experiences. And then also, so many people are just going through this transition right now is to really get very intentional, for those of you transitioning into a remote setting, thinking about going in that direction, whether it be remote first, or some form of hybrid, almost everybody is going to have some form of distribution to their company. Now, I think it’s just super important to rethink how you are a manager in the old way you were working and in the new way that you’re working, the spectrum will vary quite a bit depending on you know, where you were and where you are now in terms of that distribution. But the way you manage somebody in the office, a team in the office, versus how you manage them at a distance is quite different. And it can be really easy to fall into the trap of let’s just apply all the same methods. You know, we used to do our weekly one on one in my office. Now let’s just do it over zoom and just paint that broad stroke and do that. And I would just challenge people to rethink every aspect of being a leader and a manager and try to decide does it make sense in the new world that we’re working in? Is there is there possibly a better way? Are there companies out there that are doing this differently? And what can I learn from them? Generally speaking, applying old methods to new practices is probably not a great sustainable model for the future. So just challenge yourself on those things.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 43:22
That’s great advice and great place to end it Chase. Thanks so much for doing this.
Chase Warrington (Doist) 43:26
Yeah, really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.