Guest

79

“The recognition you give your team member is important, not just that you did this thing, but the way that you did the thing. Being specific in the praise is just as important as the praise itself because it shows someone that, oh, they're noticing all the work and the specific things that I'm putting into it.”

In this episode

For any team to work efficiently and well, ownership is important. As a leader, how do you motivate your team intrinsically? 

Kevan Lee, is the VP of Marketing at Oyster, with previous experience as the VP of Marketing at Buffer and Interim Head of Marketing at Polly. 

In today’s episode, Kevan shares why he uses intrinsic motivation with his team and how he offers feedback to encourage more positive behaviour.  

We also talk about how parenting philosophy can be tied into management and why asking questions, rather than direct decision-making, often leads to the same conclusion but with more team growth. 

Tune in to hear why Kevan uses a lighter-weight approach to decision-making and how he tries to reduce the number of stakeholders for a more efficient process.


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


02:50

Early mistakes

12:25

Significant team members

17:11

Your team’s need for safety

24:40

Principles for decision making

35:17

Flavours of diversity


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:47

 Kevan, welcome to the show. 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  02:49

Thank you, Aydin, great to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:51

Yeah, it’s awesome to have you here. Kevan, you’ve had a pretty extensive leadership career. You were VP of Marketing at Buffer Head of Marketing at Polly. And now you’re Head of Marketing at Oyster. So you’ve been head of marketing, pretty much in the last few companies that you’ve been at, if we were to rewind and maybe talk about when you first started leading teams, what were some of the early mistakes that you may be made when you’ve referred to leading lead teams? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  03:21

Oh, probably so many like I, I think anyone who’s starting fresh like that, like I was, like, I didn’t know anything about leading teams. See some of the mistakes I made. So I think the biggest one that I can think of is I had I tended to have a very specific idea of how the team should be. And so what this might look like in practices, you know, there’s a teammate that I have, has a certain role and I I need them to do this certain job. And like my very first time managing in that situation, I think I was too hard-headed about what that needed to look like. And I think what I didn’t incorporate was, you know, what does that person want? What are their strengths. In this case? Like, am I asking them to do something that’s outside of their skill set or outside of their experience outside of the things that they’re passionate about? And one case I can think of like it was headed in a very precarious direction because I was a bit too stubborn and wanted to shape the team how I thought best without bringing in these other factors of you know, how, what is the teammate best at what are they skilled at what are they passionate about? I think that was a tough lesson to learn. I ended up working out just screaming at the teammate and I chatted about it and we were able to find a really good compromise and middle ground to move forward with but that was a scary situation at first sight. I didn’t know a way out of it, other than kind of talking it through, which is kind of how we solved that. So that was one big one. I think the other ones sometimes come down to feedback and my feedback style for better or worse I think is that sometimes you’ll receive feedback from me without knowing that You’ve received feedback. And so the way that I think about it is you can either be intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated that I tried to create environments where intrinsic motivation is present. And it’s almost like a psychological trick of I’ll tell you something, but you’re the one that goes and decides, like, decides on that. And so where that comes into, into some difficulties is, you know, if someone doesn’t speak that language, or isn’t picking up on the cues, I might be dropping. So you know, there was a situation where we’re running this potentially big and impactful campaign and I, I get the sense that things might be going a bit sideways with it, or like the quality bars are where we needed it to be. And rather than just tell the person that directly, I kind of hinted at it and tried to steer them in the direction to maybe we consider this and we consider that. And so, you know, because I wasn’t as upfront and clear on that the person didn’t get the message and the campaign went live. And it did find, I don’t think it quite reached its full potential. And so I found that there needs to be a balance there. Like it’s okay to lead people toward these outcomes. But I think there are other times and person to person where I need to be a bit more direct, and the way that I communicate some of those things got it. Let me dig into this. You know, you talked about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. And maybe you could tell us more about how you said, you set up a system. So people are more intrinsically motivated? Yeah, maybe it’s just I’m scared of being too generous with it. It’s, I think it’s this more of my approach to feedback. And so you know, I have, I have Manager Tools, we have a one-to-one doc that I share feedback in, we have formal reviews and all that all those pieces are in place. I think what it comes down to for me is when I give feedback, I typically give it from either an area of strength that I see. And so I will tell someone what I think they’re doing great at Norwich occurs more of that behaviour. What I think that does is it shows the things that are valued in my mind, just the things that are valued within our team. And hopefully, they end up doing more and more of that great work. The other side of it is that I will, I will bring an approach of like question asking to a situation. And so rather than tell someone, what I think is how I think things should be, I will ask them what their take on it is. And typically I have found that they ended up coming to the same conclusions that I was going to share with them, regardless. And so a question of it might be, how did you think this campaign went? Probably the answer is going to be the way that I think has gotten rather than me just telling them that they have to say, Oh, I manager is telling me something I already know like I give them the chance to vocalize that. And share it with me. And I think that has proved to be somewhat empowering for teammates, I think it allows them to feel like I trust them to assess situations appropriately. And if we’re off by any for any reason, like I can have the opportunity to come in and say, you know, I can see how you arrive there. Here’s kind of where I’m coming from what I’ve noticed. And so it does end up kind of feeling to the teammate like they’re the ones driving that growth process. And I’m just the supporting layer to help get there.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:13

It is harder to do. So for example, you see a problem. And rather than just going out and saying what the problem is or how to fix it or make it better just use questions. And that way, I think, I think that’s a really good way to do it. I did want to talk to you or dig more into the first point that you made. And so you said that, like sometimes when coming into a role, you thought that you know, a role should be a certain way or someone should do a certain thing, but then you found later on that you should take into account the person’s strengths or weaknesses, or what kind of things that they do want to work on. So very tactically speaking, what if there is something that just needs to be done? And there is something that just needs to happen? And what if you don’t have, you know, an infinitely large team that you could just redirect things to other places? Like practically speaking, how does that all play out? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  09:11

Yeah, there’s a couple of different lenses that I would take to that. The first is that if it’s something that no one has the skill set in, no one wants to do? I will do it, which is maybe not the best answer. Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that. Does that mean that you just end up doing a lot of things? I was sometimes yes. I think one of the lessons that I’ve learned, I think you might have heard this thing that like bad stuff rolls downhill because no one wants to take it on. So the person at the bottom ends up with all this stuff, I think a company with great managers, that kind of stuff goes uphill and sells the things that no one wants to take on. The manager takes that on and kind of leads by example, there and so I do find myself doing that work often, which is fine. I think that’s part of my management philosophy. I think the other lens that I would take to it is, you know if it fits within someone’s scope of reality accountabilities, I, I would communicate that this is kind of an expectation for them to cover this night, you know, I recognize it’s not the easiest thing or the most favourite thing, but it needs to be done. Typically, then the conversation pivots to what kind of resources can we give you to support you in this as it’s something we can outsource and you can manage, you know, a contractor in that sense, and something we can solve with the tool? Is it something we can just automate or make it easier for you? So that’s one piece. The other angle then is, you know, here’s something that no one owns on the team, but needs to get done. The way that I might phrase that is, to my team is like, here’s an opportunity for you, to show leadership in a way of picking up something that isn’t in your core area, something that is important to the team. And treat it as like a positive rather than treat it as oh, here’s something else to add to my list. And typically, I found that people are very people who are at the point where they’re interested in like that next career step, they’re always eager for those types of opportunities to expand their influence and to grow and to develop. And so framing it in that way, tends to lead to some good outcomes there. So I can think of like, an oyster, for instance, we have, we had all these articles to update in Zendesk, because we switched from intercom to Zendesk is like this, this help center platform, and it doesn’t fall into anyone’s purview to do that, like, it just works that needs to be done. So the opportunity, then oyster is, you know, here are 50 articles that need to be updated. Who wants to help with this, and I can take that then to the people who report to me and say, you know, here’s an opportunity to show some leadership or to show some collaboration and teamwork and jump in, I need to lead by example, I’d, I would take on a few of those articles, as well as to show like, you know, we’re not special just because we manage people or have a certain type of like, it’s got to do the work that needs to be done. So I think that kind of different framing is often helped in those situations.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:55

 Yeah, I like it in terms of, you know, phrasing it as an opportunity, but also showing just the leadership traits. And, and you’re right, that if you put it out there people will rise to the occasion. So on that note, one of the things that that we have you saying is that if your teammates feel like they’re significant to your team, then they will thrive? What does that mean for people to feel that they’re significant to your team?

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  12:25

It is one of my favourite quotes, not that I set it, the quote, in general, like, I think I stole it from someone, it’s like that idea of significance. It comes out of the parenting world, which I’m, I’m not ashamed to admit, a lot of my management style comes from parenting, which is maybe a strange thing to admit. But I think there’s a lot of beauty in some of the parenting philosophies out there. That translates well to work situations and business. And so in our family significance, and belonging is two of the most important things that we can do. And so as you translate that into the work environment, significance along with belonging, like you want your team to feel like, if they did not show up to work, or if they were not part of this team, they would be missed. Like they, they are not just a cog in the machine, they’re a meaningful part of your organization. And some of the ways to do that. We have this philosophy at Oyster have individual contributors are kind of viewed equally as people, managers that we want there to be, like leadership can happen from either modality, opportunity happens either way. So when you think about your significance on a team, do you have equal access to opportunities to impact leadership? And so yes, that’s like, philosophically true, you can just say that that’s the case. But then I think you have to back that up by showing it. So, for example, when we do our OKR setting, we will have marketing team OKRs, that individual people on the team will Oh, and those individual owners can be truly anyone on the team, like anyone who wants to raise their hand and say, you know, I accept this responsibility, I want to take this on. We have these, what we call lightning strike moments that happen every couple of quarters or so, which is we do this kind of major activities that are on the marketing calendar that are cross-functional and collaborative. And we need someone to own those projects. And they’re significant for the company. And rather than say, this falls into our brand section, and this falls into our amplification section here, this falls under this person, we just say, who wants to lead this? Who wants to arrange this manager for us unless someone raised their hand there? So I think, yes, it’s great to say significance and belonging are important than to say like, these are the ways that we use the things we believe but I think it’s it’s just as important to back that up with like, some mechanics of how you incorporate that into the team. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:47

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Even if it’s a see more junior member of the team, you still allow them to take on the ownership for that key results, for example, and so they might orchestrate or be the ones who do a lot of following up. And that can give them a sense of ownership. That’s interesting. And so how do you then reinforce that? Or how do you then through encouragement or public appreciation continue to hammer that point? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  15:18

Yeah, I think those points are great on encouragement, public appreciation, I think, recognizing those career conversations unless you’re progressing, like making sure that you’re capturing those moments. One of the things that I would like to be a lot better at that I’m not good at is documenting wins for each teammate within the team like we have win documents for the folks that I work with, but I always forget to add stuff to them. So that’s maybe a takeaway for me from this chat is like, that’s a good reminder that that is important like to have these things objectives, you can look back objectively and say, these are all the great things I’ve done over the last month, the quarter, etc. So that remembrance is important, I think the recognition is important, as well, it’s recognition, not just that you did this thing, but the way that you did the thing, I think is important to consider. And so rather than, let’s say someone, we had a key result, this quarter of someone let it was there was doubling our traffic and impressions quarter over quarter. And so rather than the celebration being liquid doubled impressions, quarter over quarter as far like, Yes, we did this, thanks to your great efforts in, you know, seeing this project to completion and your thoughtfulness and putting together a strategy that makes you know, this, this progress possible for us. And so being specific in the praise, I think it’s just as important as the praise itself because it shows someone that, oh, they’re noticing all the work and the specific things that I’m putting into it. So I think that’s probably the different, slightly different spin, we take on the recognition that I think makes a big difference. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:55

Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And so for managers out there, I mean, we’ve all heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, like what takeaway would you want? Would you advise all other leaders to take from that from Maslow?

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  17:11

Yeah, I think a lot about safety, when I think about the hierarchy of needs. And oftentimes, safety is maybe not the number one consideration when you’re managing people is maybe just given. But I think in a management context, that in psychological safety of creating a space where either one to one, your direct report feels like they can come to you with anything, I think that’s super important. And I think in a broader context, like the team that you’re creating, you want to create that psychological safety so that people feel like they are significant that they belong, that there’s trust and respect there that they can participate as equals with the folks on their team. So I think, you know, oftentimes as a manager, I’m tempted to jump into some of these bigger, bigger topics around career development or growth, their team, organizations and stuff, but I think there’s that base foundation layer of creating safety within the team first, then you kind of build everything from there. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:09

If there is that safety, then people will have more trust. So try more things they’ll be willing to, I guess, put themselves out there to own one of those key results. And so and if you encourage them when they do that, then I can see how this can be a virtuous loop. So that is awesome. So in terms of culture, one of the things that I know is that you have described your previous workplace buffer as you describe their culture there as a tentpole, I just thought that that was a very interesting word to use. And I’m curious if you could tell us more about what that means. 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  18:48

Yeah, I probably used it interchangeably in multiple contexts. So I think in one context, tentpole is almost like a marketing angle for us like we have at Buffer we were known for doing. We were known for certain things known for social media expertise, but also known for the type of culture that we created, known for things like transparency. And so it’s a tentpole of the brand, in one way. So that’s one way that we think about it, the other angle, and more from a management perspective, I think of it as a tent pole, just from the perspective that we care, we care a lot about it and everything that we do, and the way that we hire and the way that we communicate with each other and the way that we interact together is kind of an unmistakable part of our team. And I think it feels more and more like a tentpole in the way that we had operationalized it to, to the degree that, you know, people everyone knew our values, everyone could see a value, positive value contribution. It’s very evident. And if you were to take that, tentpole resonates in that sense, because if you take that away from our team, everything just kind of collapses. And so that’s kind of the framing that we had for it the way that we kind of manifested within our team is some of the rituals and behaviours that we incorporate on a day to day basis. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:07

So when you say tentpole, it’s almost like it’s a pillar. So everything kind of rests on it when it comes to culture. So do you refer to it mostly as like, a temple internally to continue to get people to function the way that they do? Or is it also about just how it’s externally viewed to the rest of the world? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  20:29

Yeah, I can see the case for both. I think for us, it was more of an internal thing. And so we thought of tent poles, as you know, there are so many different things you can say are important to you within a company and the marketing strategy. And so one way to focus that is to identify two to three to 410 polls and say, These are the things that mattered to us. And so that was probably the most effective use of that terminology, just to say like, this is what we’re saying yes to and that everything else is great, but not the thing that we’re known for. [AD BEGINS] Hey they’re 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 a single-spaced font, you know, lots of text. 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. [AD BREAK ENDS] Yeah, that focus certainly goes a long way and probably goes also a long way in decision making. This brings me to our next topic. Turns out that you are also a fan of principles by Ray Dalio, I enjoyed the book, Love pretty much almost everything that Ray produces. And he has another book that’s coming out, which is I guess, like a bunch of things that he’s recently posted on LinkedIn. And it’s going to make its way into a full book format, which I’m looking forward to. But let’s talk about decision-making and strategic thinking. What did you What was your biggest takeaway from that book? And how does it influence your decision-making? Yeah, I think I loved the approach to having principles for decision making like I always thought of decision making as it’s just a skill that you have, I didn’t think it was anything you could have a perspective on, necessarily or an opinion on. And so that book opened my eyes to oh, there are, there are ways in which we operate, that are unique to us individually, there are things that matter to us like that. That was obvious, I probably shouldn’t know that going into it. But kind of crystallizing those things into principles and recognizing that these are true, these can be true in every decision that you make was powerful. Sometimes I would think I had this big decision to make, it’s time for me to just start thinking about what’s best to do rather than relying on all these, like coping mechanisms and things that I’ve used to make successful decisions in the past. I feel like every decision before we in this book, every decision was a total blank slate, I was just starting over every time and I think but this book helped me realize was, oh no, I can bring a toolbox into every decision and feel a bit more capable and confident from the start rather than have to figure out everything all over again. Each time a decision comes up yet. Is there an example that you can think of whether it’s like work or personal, where you had to almost remember, principles that you had used in previous decisions? And like how that kind of guide you to, I guess not start from scratch? Yeah, I hope I, I wish I have more examples than I do, just because I kind of, it’s more often the case that I forget to bring those principles to decisions. Probably the one that stands out for me, some of the principles that I use for decision-making are around family. Some of them are around optimizing for the things that mattered to me, which is just kindness, which is giving back. And so when I have when I’m presented with an opportunity, for instance, you know, as you mentioned, a chance to be ahead of marketing and a couple of different spots. When it came time to leave those spots go somewhere. I knew that those are major decisions. For me the way that I went about those decisions, I was able to apply a framework of, you know, I believe that I need to make decisions to optimize for the type of person that I am when I’m at home with my family. And so, you know, in choosing To go from buffer to poly, that was one of the considerations and choose from Poly Lister, that was one of the considerations. I think the other aspect of I want is to make decisions that allow me to give back in some way to the people who’ve helped me get to where I am. I think that was important, especially in the decision to leave from Polly to Oyster because I felt like the purpose and mission of oyster were aligned with the type of work I wanted to do and the type of person I wanted it to be. Just in general. And so, you know, that was helpful to make what was ultimately like a really difficult and hard decision. Knowing that I could rely on that principle, gave me a lot of confidence.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  25:41

 Yeah. And I guess like, you know, one of the things I remember from the book as well as, I think, did he say pain, plus reflection equals progress or something, it was something like that. It’s very interesting. And like, very often, you’ll make a decision. And you know, it won’t turn out that great and just retroactively going back and saying, like, well, what can I learn? And like, if I had, what principle could I have had that would have made that go better? You know, I’ll share a tip that it’s very, very, I had had this coach that shared this with me, and I thought it was very interesting because you talked about this, you know, sometimes I’ll have the principles, but then I’ll forget to bring them into decision-making scenarios. And I identify with that. So one thing he suggested to me was, write these things down, and then just read them and record yourself reading them. And now and then, like, play them back to yourself. And so I have this set that I’ve created. And so sometimes when I go on a run, I will just like, like replay that, and then it’ll just force me to remember those things so that they don’t get forgotten. And I found that that it’s been pretty helpful. 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  26:55

Amazing, good for you. I can’t imagine going to those links. I feel like, I should take a page from your book there. I have it on my list to make, like writing down the principles still. So you’re like next level to take it all the way there? 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:08

Yes, it’s a combination of that. But it’s also I don’t know if you also feel from time to time that you end up relearning some of the same lessons. And so I’ve I’m like, I need to stop relearning the same lesson. So how do I keep reminding myself to, you know, invoke this knowledge and just remember it? So I found that, that to be helpful, 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  27:32

Absolutely. One of the lessons I keep forgetting is just the danger and saying yes to everything right away. And so one of the principles that I, I haven’t put in practice is to give myself time to make decisions. And so I’ve started to redo that one where, you know, some will ask me, Do you want to participate in this thing? Rather than say, Yes, right away, I’ll wait two days and see if I’m still as excited. Two days later, but and so I think that, unfortunately, that’s caused me some time in the past, but hopefully, it’ll save me some time. Yeah, that I can relate to that as well. Everything sounds so good. When you first hear about it, I’m definitely like that as well. So this is interesting. I love this. I love decision-making and talking about it. You also employ other frameworks to help your teams make decisions. So RACI and DACI, being you know, some of those frameworks, is there a kind of like a rule of thumb that you use to figure out what kind of a decision-making framework you should put into place, within teams or certain meetings. If I were to have anything in mind, it would be that it’s like, either use a framework or don’t use a framework is typically how I find myself deciding, I think, whenever possible, I try to go with the lighter weight approach or just not having a framework. And so what that might mean is just choosing someone who is the decider, in that case, like a dry directly responsible individual and just making that clear, and then you could reduce the need for having to go through this matrix of decisions. So I think that’s my, my biggest, the biggest component of it is just thinking strategically around is this worth us putting together a whole framework for deciding it? Or can we go lightweight, just choose someone to make a call when there is a need for a framework is typically in situations that are cross-functional, collaborative, and major projects that last you know, more than a week or so. And I think in those situations, that’s when a framework like the RACI do become a lot more important where you have, you have to think about all the multiple stakeholders and what role they play. Within that decision. I think the more stakeholders you have, the more helpful some of these frameworks are. And so for me, I’m actively there trying to reduce stakeholders, or is this simplified and say this is one person making the call. I think the temptation is to add frameworks, but they don’t need to be I think it gives a lot of friction sometimes in that process. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:04

Yeah, I think that’s super helpful. I do agree like the better approaches? Like, do we even need a framework? And I love that phrase that you use, which is, I’m always trying to reduce the number of stakeholders. I mean, there’s just a lot of wisdom and hearing you say that. 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  30:18

Thank you. I think it goes back to like trust and respect for me. Like if you’re building a team, with those foundations, ideally, you need fewer stakeholders, or some fewer people feel like they need to be stakeholders, maybe that’s a better way of phrasing it. And so if you get those things, right, like those foundations of trust and respect, hopefully, everything moves a bit faster. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:37

Yeah. And if you have, you know, if you have fewer stakeholders, I guess one of the things that you may be good at is making sure that information is disseminated to all the right places, you use this term called Ghost knowledge. And I like that term. It sounds intriguing. So this, of course, refers to information that is useful information for the organization, but maybe exists in private channels, maybe in like private Slack channels, maybe in your head. This is something that most or even every organization deals with. And I feel like it’s, it’s even maybe more important in a remote and hybrid world. I’d love to learn about some of the things that you’ve done. I know that buffer was remote, or both Oyster and Polly, were they also remote organizations, too. Yes, I’ve been remote for a while now. Yeah. Awesome. So I’m curious to learn about, you know, some of the strategies that you have used to eliminate ghost knowledge.

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  31:42

Yeah, I should give credit to Sari Azou who came up with the term ghost knowledge too, because she’s, she’s fantastic. And it resonated when I saw it. Also, I think it resonated both on the internal side, but also the external side, like there’s so much that we all know individually, that is in our heads or within our words that could be helpful to share as well. So I was fortunate, but I learned a lot, a lot of great stuff about transparency, and the value of documentation, knowledge and all this stuff. And I’ve tried to bring that to other places that I’ve worked. And I think the way that I, the framing that I have for this is this idea of push and pull, where there are situations where it makes sense to push information out to people and push information to your team. I think the more scalable solution there is pulling where I can go and find information to pull it into me when I need it. I think if you relied too much on pushing it up with just this firehose of content information that just slows everything down and makes it kind of stressful to work. I think when it’s available to pull, I think that’s a much, much better way to work. And so what that looks like then is do you have tools for like project management. So we use Asana at Oyster, so I can go into any project that I want and see the status of it, see what tickets are underway or where things might be blocked. think another way to pull information is having some sort of asynchronous tool that you use to communicate within your team. I tend to think of it like this is my ideal stack is that slack is for like chatter just like hang out chat, that Google Docs or Dropbox Paper. That’s going to be more for your asynchronous collaboration, like real-time collaboration within the docs. And then you need to identify a notion in third toolsets like your wiki. So it’s like your evergreen content articles. And then fourth, and this is the one that most teams either forget or that it comes a bit later in the journey for companies is that you have someplace to share asynchronous updates, asynchronous requests for feedback. And so for us, a buffer is a tool called threads before threads, we use a tool called discourse. I think WordPress uses one of the WordPress themes called P two. But I think what that does is it enables almost like this inbox view of what’s happening in a company, you can, you know, dip in and out of it when you need to and see what else other teams are working on. So you kind of have these different tools for different purposes. I think it’s dangerous to have one tool do multiple jobs just because it kind of muddies the water a little bit but you have one tool doing each of these distinct jobs, then you know kind of where to go to pull that information back to you then maybe you push information on more of like a monthly or weekly cadence in terms of like overall updates to the team

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:21

Got it. So the key is by eliminating or kind of reversing the push motion and turning it into a pull motion and then on a weekly or monthly basis then focusing on pushing the most important information to bodied people. I did want to also talk to you about oysters so you as a company are helping with the global talent gap. You know now that people have learned that remote is possible obviously at like some of the companies that you’ve been at you have long discovered this but now that people know that they can hire people anywhere That’s one of the things that you help organizations do at oyster. I’d love to talk about diverse teams, and how you, as a company are helping organizations do a better job at form, creating those diverse teams. 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  35:17

Yeah, I think diversity has a lot of different flavours to it. And so one of the flavours that we think enables a lot of other flavours to happen is when you think about geographic diversity for your team, so if you’re hiring people from around the world, the hope is that you’re bringing in a lot of different perspectives to your team, which is one of the great things about diverse teams. And so our software enables that to happen that we enable you to hire from anywhere around the world. I think for us as a company, we are hoping to set the example of what it looks like to be a great distributed team. And so our product enables it from a software perspective, we also try to instill some opinion, into the software, some opinion to the different tools or resources that we provide, so that you can understand the benefits of being fully distributed at being like diverse in that geographic sense. And so we’ll share our best practices about how we manage our fully remote distributed team. We also have resources for remote workers to get additional training on how to be a great remote worker in terms of tools and communication style, and things like that. So it’s kind of enabling from both different lenses. It’s enabling from a software perspective, and also from a tools resources marketing perspective. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:32

Let’s dig into that a little bit. So you are being opinionated, a little bit about how people should I guess manage those diverse teams. I’m curious to get your thoughts on, you know, what you do for meetings, and specifically for your, for distributed meetings, I know that at a bunch of companies that you’ve worked for, you know, people have also been in different time zones. So how many of your meetings in general, I assume a lot of them are asynchronous? You know, how do you manage that? How do you decide what meetings should be asynchronous and which ones should not be? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  37:10

Yeah, we do have a mix. So we have a bi-weekly marketing stand-up. And bi-weekly is every two weeks, not twice a week, every two weeks, we get together synchronously over a one-hour zoom. And that is our only team ritual that happens on like that, that type of cadence. Everything else is asynchronous. Every Monday we do asynchronous stand-ups or catch-ups, in which is each team shares a loom on what they were up to over the week before. And what they have going on next week is like three or four minutes each. And then we also do all of our planning and strategizing just in Google Docs together. And so that happens whenever the need arises. I’ve only been at least here for about three months now, which has been fantastic to get to kind of understand the rhythms of the team, I think one of the things we might put in place is a bit of a ritual around the end of a quarter startup record are kind of a time to celebrate together, to share learnings to then to look ahead and plan for the coming quarters, that might be the other synchronous time that we have. But more and more, we’re trying to reduce as much synchronous as possible. So focused on that, that biweekly meeting, and then maybe another quarterly meeting just to get everyone together. And we are spread across the world today. So there’s not a time that’s convenient for us all to be on a zoom together. And so we have to be intentional about being asynchronous first, and then bring in these synchronous moments when we can and then, of course, record the synchronous moments in case people can’t or aren’t able to make it. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:37

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And what about one on ones? Oh, one on ones? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  38:41

Well, I do a one-hour one-to-one every week with the people who report to me. And I’m fortunate that everyone has times on overlap with me today. When I was at Buffer, I had a couple of teammates in Singapore and Sydney. So I would stay up late to have those to ones with them. I think something else we’ve tried in the past is kind of alternate week after week, where one person stays up late in their timezone one week, the other person the other week. So I think either way works, I think my perspective as a manager like it’s oftentimes there’s like one time I don’t want to reach and that might be underrepresented across the rest of the company. And so they are used to just adjusting their schedule to join a company-wide all hands and all these other things. So whenever possible, like either manager should sacrifice my time so that they have a normal time to meet with me like when are they at their best? I can meet them there. So that was kind of my approach for folks. Were outside my immediate time zone. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  39:44

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Kevan, you know from all the answers that you’ve had too many questions. It’s evident that you take servant leadership to heart, you know, going on their timezone staying up late, but also Picking up the things that nobody else wants to do and sharing leadership. First, I think the people on your team are very lucky to have you as a manager. He talks about a lot today we talked about decision-making culture as a temple, ghost knowledge, and even psychology and we even touched on Maslow. So it’s been a very wide-ranging discussion, so many takeaways, one thing that we did we do like to end with is, you know, for all the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, or tricks or words of wisdom that you’d like to leave them with? 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  40:36

Oh, I mean, there are so many that get shared on this podcast all the time, I might take a slightly different angle and say, like, I have benefited from all the parenting knowledge that I picked up over the years. And so if you’re looking for like a little secret advantage in the manager space, like, maybe check out a parenting book or like, talk to some great parents that you know about some of the things they have learned about raising great kids, and maybe some of that could translate into some unique things to try for management ankle. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:02

Okay, I’ll bite what is a great parenting book that I should check out. And, you know, subtly use some of those things for managing my team. 

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  41:12

I mean, I shouldn’t be prescriptive about parenting philosophies. Another somebody out there. The one that has worked best for our family is a book called positive discipline. That’s where some of the phrasings around belonging and significance come in is based on Alfred Adler’s psychological perspective. And so that’d be the one that I would highly recommend this work well for us.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:34

I’ll have to check it out. And that you are right. That is, that is different, a different angle of advice. But I like it. And I think it’s something that everybody should try. And with that said, Kevan, this has been awesome. And thank you so much for doing it.

Kevan Lee (Oyster)  41:57

Thank you so much. Great chatting with you.

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