BEAT BUHLMANN is the General Manager for EMEA at Evernote. He has also written books about virtual team management, digital transformation, and his latest book is about personal development. It’s called “Become the CEO of Your Own Life!“. In this interview, he explains his technique for creating your own work life balance and shares experiences and tips for hiring and managing remote teams.
His tips on working remotely:
- Create a team charter with your team.
- Visualize your personal development plan (using the Swiss PDP approach).
- Think holistically, not in silos.
- When hiring remote colleagues, use a variety of mediums during the interview process. Specifically check for listening competencies.
- As virtual team managers, be transparent and authentic.
- Trust is earned, not forced.
Lisette: Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Hello, everybody, and welcome to episode 163. Today I’m featuring an interview with Beat Buhlmann who is the general manager at Evernote for EMEA, which is Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. And a special thanks to Pier-Emanuel from Evernote for suggesting Beat because when I looked at Beat’s profile, I saw that he has written books about virtual team management. He even did his doctoral thesis on this and also digital transformation. And his latest book is about personal development. It’s called Become the CEO of Your Own Life! Combining private and business life in a meaningful and fruitful way, clearly a great fit for this podcast.
But before we get into the interview, I want to give you guys this week’s one-minute tip. This week’s tip has been a tip before, but it’s been over a year, so I thought it was okay to reuse it again. And it came up in the interview. And all over the world, wherever I go, very few companies have this. And the tip is have a team agreement. If you’re working on a remote team, even if you’re working in person, it’s just not so necessary in person. But if you’re working on a remote team, then what Beat calls it is a team charter, sort of a code of conduct of how you’re going to behave. And he has different kinds of categories than I did. So he has like hygiene categories. So you have a calendar hygiene, email hygiene, Slack hygiene, meeting hygiene, home office hygiene, very interesting, very interesting. So before I give the entire interview away, just remember the tip: Create a Team Agreement. If you want to learn my way for doing it, go all the way back to episode 42. I have a whole episode on how to create a team agreement.
Okay, but now on with the interview. Like I said before, I’m speaking with Beat Buhlmann who is the general manager at Evernote for EMEA. He’s written books about virtual team management and digital transformation. And his latest book is about combining private and business life called Become the CEO of Your Own Life. In it he introduces the Swiss PDP Approach. That stands for personal development plan, which helps you visualize how to successfully and sustainably manage your own life. So this interview will also satisfy all you productivity nuts out there.
Before we start, my advice is grab a pen and paper or get ready to take notes because this interview is chock-full of really great tips. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And now sit back and enjoy my interview with Beat Buhlmann.
Let’s start with the first question, which is what does your virtual office look like. What do you need to get your work done?
Beat: I have many different offices. I have the official office here in the [inaudible – 03:15]. But I have my train of my [inaudible – 03:18] in the morning when I commute to the office or in the evening when I go home. Sometimes I [inaudible – 03:25] from home. If I need a quiet moment to think, I go to the lake of Zurich and just do a thinking session there. And sometimes I need a strong coffee and [inaudible – 03:36] from Starbucks here [inaudible – 03:36].
Lisette: So you have many different offices. What kind of equipment do you take with you? Do you need headphones? Or is it just your laptop and a Wi-Fi connection?
Beat: It’s my laptop. It’s my cell phone, which is also my mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and a headset.
Lisette: Okay. Now I’m guessing that because you’re working in Evernote, this is something that other people at Evernote are also allowed to do. Tell us a little bit about what you do at Evernote and then what it’s like to work remotely if you guys do.
Beat: Evernote, in a nutshell, is a productivity company. You make people or companies more productive. We use a software called Evernote. It has a lot of artificial intelligence and machine learning features [inaudible – 04:24] to get the most out of your brain. It compensates for the weaknesses of your brain and [inaudible – 04:29] most out of the strength of your brain. And this is kind of what we do. So we reach out to companies who know us already and have maybe 5 or 10 licenses. But there are many other people in this company working and they don’t even know about it. So we have them promote Evernote [inaudible – 04:48] within the company. We work with business [inaudible], business association. I [inaudible] business in the U.K., [inaudible] directors, CPI, concentration of business industries, all those associations to tell them the good things about how we could work in a more productive way without spending a lot of money.
Lisette: Right, super important. And I’ve got to say, I don’t know what I would do without Evernote myself. My whole brain is in Evernote. So yes, thank you all for your awesome product [laughs]. I’m a big fan myself. We were talking a little bit before we got the recording started that at Evernote, in general, the default is to work at the headquarters. But if you wanted to work somewhere else, you can. And how does that work there?
Beat: Yeah. One of the first things I did when I started is I [inaudible – 05:39] to a room, give them a pen for the whiteboard, and said, “Please write on the whiteboard all the things [inaudible – 05:46].” It could be communication rights, product rights, rules, processes, [inaudible] all about things people don’t like. Then after 10-15 minutes, we had a long list. And then we spent the rest of the meeting [inaudible – 06:01]. The outcome is so-called team charter over a team Code of Conduct. So it’s not that I [inaudible] and said, “This is how we do it.” I listened to the problems, took them on the [inaudible] of fixing this issue with me together. And we agreed jointly on a code of conduct. From this code of conduct we have things like calendar hygiene, email hygiene, Slack hygiene, which is our chat program [inaudible – 06:30] meeting hygiene and home office hygiene, just a few bullet points. For instance, [inaudible] to read emails at 10:00 in the evening [inaudible] somebody talked about it. Nobody knows. Expectations are not clear. People felt on the pressure, “Oh, there’s an email coming in from your [inaudible – 06:49]. If I don’t reply, I might have a problem.” All this distrust kind of thing, you have to fix in the very beginning. So we agree which channel is used for what type of communication.
For instance, if your house is burning, are you going to send an email to the firefighters?
Beat: No, right?
Beat: You don’t do it. I don’t know anyone who sends an email to the firefighter while the house is burning. [inaudible – 07:13] because every channel has pros and cons. But we don’t learn that [inaudible] nor in companies. So this is the first thing I do to set the foundation of the basics of [inaudible – 07:25] communication [inaudible]. So we [inaudible] email can never be [inaudible] wrong channel. Email can contain important stuff but not urgent. Urgent is phone or text message, for instance. So we just have to set off rules. And if you want, we can share our code of conduct, and you can share it with your [inaudible – 07:48]. That’s totally fine. This is not a secret. So you can see all the rules [inaudible]. Also like calendar [inaudible]. If someone wants to do home office, that’s fine. But I need to [inaudible]. If nobody is in the office at 11:00, I’m getting worried. If something happens, [inaudible]. Do I need to [inaudible] the police and start the search. So we agree that if you are not in the office, [inaudible – 08:13]. You also [inaudible]. If I fly to the U.S., I have to [inaudible]. If not, people might [inaudible] meetings. And then I say, “Oh, I cannot do it because I’m in airplane.” Then other person says, “Well, how should I know it?” Right? Three calendars and openly shared calendar are very important. You can still mark a couple of items private if you want, but the default is [inaudible – 08:36]. It allows you to have clear and clean calendars that allows you to have meeting [inaudible].
Lisette: Right. And what about your home office hygiene? What are a couple of the things that are on that list?
Beat: Yeah. Also here, it’s something like I don’t [inaudible – 08:54] all the time in the evening or over the weekend, right? Because [inaudible] is very dangerous. People sometimes don’t realize how many hours they work and they cannot relax enough. Then they get sick and then it [inaudible – 09:10] for the company. So I want to make sure people have time to relax. We say we play hard and we work hard. Both has to be possible. So home office is [inaudible] if someone says, “I want to go home at 4:00 because I have to pick up my kid at school and I want to bring him [inaudible – 09:28] license.” But then I’m happy to have a call [inaudible – 09:31] at 9:00 in the evening because then it’s in kind of [inaudible] at the headquarter. If you want to do that and it fits your work-life balance and it fits your family thing, that’s totally fine. I don’t tell them they have to do it but they can do it.
Lisette: Right. And has this always been the culture at Evernote to work this way? Or is this a newer thing?
Beat: [inaudible – 09:54]. I deduce this, but I’ve heard before. People somehow did it, but nobody really knew like this is okay. Is it too much? Is it not enough? How do I inform people that I’m not here? That’s why number one thing for everyone wants to have productive, well-functioning virtual team, jointly defined jointly defined [inaudible – 10:17] code of conduct.
Lisette: Totally agree, I totally agree. In fact, it’s part of the Work Together Anywhere workshop. It’s the first section of the workshop. [inaudible – 10:25] all the basic misunderstandings out of the way. There’s going to be enough misunderstandings without the basic stuff [inaudible].
Beat: And it’s like building a house. You cannot start with the roof. Where do you want to put the roof? First you have the foundation, then the wall, then the roof. So don’t start with the roof. It doesn’t make sense.
Lisette: Yeah. I was going to bring this up later in the conversation, but you’ve touched on the always-on aspect of being working remotely. And it’s true. We get emails at 10:00. And I found myself I was up until 10:30 answering random emails. And I thought, “No, no, no, no, no. Now it’s time for Star Trek and cognac. And it’s time to relax [inaudible – 11:02].”
Beat: [inaudible – 11:04].
Lisette: Yeah. You’ve written some other books we’re going to get into. Your latest book is about personal development called Become the CEO of Your Own Life. In this book you talk about combining private in business. So let’s start with tell us a little bit about what this book is about and why you wrote it. And then let’s go into the 24/7, always-on culture.
Beat: Yeah. The reason why I wrote this is when I became a people manager for the first time about 30-40 years ago, I really looked forward to having career conversation with my managers because officially, at that time, I was at Hewlett Packard, and then I wrote for Dell Computers. That was part of our culture, but then nobody did it. My managers never did it with me, so I said, “The moment I become a people manager, I’m going to do a better job and help people grow and develop, not just in the current role, also that x+1 or x+2, next step kind of thing,” because this is what I have always missed but what I would have appreciate. So I then said, “Okay, what kind of framework do I use?” And I googled a bit, and some company have frameworks, but they are super complicated. Answer 250 questions, then you get a seven-dimensional diagram and [inaudible – 12:23]. And at the end, there is always this, “So what?” And never understood, “So what? What’s next?” And [inaudible – 12:29] not visualized enough. So I said, “I need to create my own approach because what I need or I think what would be good for my team members doesn’t exist, or at least they haven’t found it.” So I created a framework which addresses two main issues of career development. The first one is the term career development already itself. It doesn’t make sense. The term career development doesn’t make sense as much as the term work-life balance doesn’t make any sense at all because work-life balance means you have work, which is bad, and life, which is good. And they are fighting against each other. It doesn’t make any sense because work is part of your life much as sleeping is part of your life [inaudible – 13:13].
So it’s not good to have one item fighting against the other. You should have holistic view. So let’s just call it life balance. One part of it is [inaudible – 13:24]. So the main issue is don’t think in silos. Think holistically. And the other thing is a lot of people start with the second step. They start with what could I do next. And what most managers do is they say, “Oh, here’s a list of trainings. Choose one and then [inaudible – 13:45].” And what most people do is [inaudible] time management course or [inaudible] course or whatever. [inaudible] just for the sake of, “Okay, check the books. I have [inaudible].” But actually, it is the second step. The first step is who are you? What are your values? What are the things that you do not want to experience in your life and why? Do you have any [inaudible – 14:12] no way, they’re not going to do that, [inaudible]. I have people saying, “I will never work for an oil company because they are bad for the environment.” Okay, that already helps, [inaudible – 14:24]. Never work for an oil company. So whenever this person needs a new job, she never needs to apply for an oil company, very simple. So these kinds of things are very important. It’s like again building a house. Don’t start with the roof. Start with the foundation. The foundation [inaudible – 14:39]. So my approach differs from others that I don’t talk about career development and help you out of this [inaudible – 14:47] MBA. [inaudible]. I take also the private [inaudible]. You start with a double mind map on a large sheet of paper, not the normal letter size, the [inaudible – 14:59] people always run out of space. So [inaudible] double mind map, one is private, one is professional. Then it just starts exploring without really thinking, brainstorming style, what are the things that you aspire, that you like, that you don’t like, things that you are good at or not yet good at, but you would love to be able to have. It’s just an unstructured, chaotic way of visualizing private cloud kind of thing and the business cloud on one sheet [inaudible – 15:25]. The reason I have to [inaudible] sheet of paper [inaudible] moment because once you have everything on one sheet of paper, you can use your fingers—super-important tool, your fingers, your index—and point at something in private life and something in your corporate life or career life and say, “Well, this doesn’t have to fit together,” right? If you want to have a healthy life, a lot of family time, five kids—and at the same time you want to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company like [inaudible – 15:55]—it’s probably not going to work. And we both use [inaudible] of one page, it’s a sanity check for you, for your own expectation towards yourself because what people do is [inaudible – 16:08]. They daydream [inaudible]. The next day [inaudible] see the Ferrari [inaudible] family. They go back-and-forth and never make progress.
So once you have this double mind map, you check yourself a bit. Does this actually make sense? But then you choose two to three challenges. People you trust [inaudible – 16:30] people who know you from different background. It could be your mother, it could be your neighbor, [inaudible – 16:37], one from the box club. But they were right. We choose people that couldn’t give you feedback. And you explain to them the whole framework and use them as a challenger. You explain everything that [inaudible – 16:47] mind map. They should either challenge you or confirm you, things like, “Oh, you right here, you are very good at this to be honest. You are not even average.” It’s [inaudible – 16:58] check. Or some [inaudible], “Hey, you are very good at writing [inaudible – 17:03].” Life is not here. Oh, we have total support, right? So after the three sessions, if you have [inaudible – 17:10] not with all of them together, you have version four of your life map. [inaudible – 17:17]. It’s your life now [inaudible] and private life together. And that is a very good, solid [inaudible – 17:23] of yourself, of your expectation, of your strength and weakness. It doesn’t tell you what you should do now and what you should do later, but you need to start somewhere.
Beat: Second step is [inaudible – 17:34] transform this double mind map into a life cycle model which is on another sheet of paper where you have short-term, medium-term, and long-term. And I ask people then to put what they have on those double mind maps into this life cycle model. Most things are in the current life cycle. People want to do everything at the same time. Now the good thing about this process is visualization. [inaudible – 17:57] with visualized items, not text or numbers. People, when they see their own life cycle model, they say, “Oh, in the first life cycle, it’s crowded. It’s so full. Like I want to do this, this, and that.” And then you see yourself without me telling him, “Hey, [inaudible – 18:15] crowded here. Why not moving a couple of items to the next life cycle?” They’re realizing themselves. Then they stop dreaming and become real. For instance, if the company offers you an evening MBA for two years—three times in the evening and Saturday, full day—that makes perfect [inaudible – 18:35] maybe from a career point of view. But at the moment, maybe we have [inaudible]. Guess what, it’s not good work. We either get [inaudible] or we don’t get your MBA degree, part-time [inaudible – 18:46] right thing but the wrong moment. [inaudible] move. Like you cannot really move [inaudible] to the next life cycle. So you [inaudible] if you already have them. But then you move [inaudible – 18:58] maybe to two or three years or whatever [inaudible] it’s appropriate. And that frees up time. The more you move to the next life cycle, the current life cycle [inaudible – 19:07] and you have focus on the few items that remain there, and you get them done.
Lisette: Yeah. It sounds brilliant. I really love your approach. The one question that I have is do people have any sort of a resistance to combining their personal and work lives. I know that for me, it’s a total mesh, and that’s how I’ve always wanted it to be. But I know a lot of people want to leave the job at home at the end of the day and they still have that like, “No, no, no, no, no, totally I want to keep it separate.” Do you have that also? Or are people more open to it?
Beat: Absolutely. And they don’t have to share the PDP, the [inaudible – 19:47] development plan like the [inaudible] with me if they don’t want to. If they want me to be one of their three challenges, I’m happy to do that. I get to know the person more and then also I can help more with my network, my [inaudible – 20:00]. But some people may say [inaudible – 20:03] want to have maybe [inaudible] also kind of a trust thing. Some people take more time to build trust. You don’t have to share this with me. But the outcome [inaudible – 20:11]. When you talk to me [inaudible] what could I do next and I know that you’re going through this process, it’s [inaudible – 20:18]. It’s not just [inaudible] something else. It’s well-rooted. It’s stable. And [inaudible] process [inaudible] what you want, what you don’t want. And if they want to share it with me, I offer this as a free service. But I don’t take it personally if they don’t.
Important is to have a proper and solid foundation about yourself, the clarity that you cannot do everything right now, and build kind of a little plan. I give you a little insight into my PDP. When I started my own PDP, my uncle got fired at the age of 52, and he couldn’t find a job anymore because he in Switzerland, if you lose your job after 50, it’s almost impossible to find a new job. It has something to do with the salary course and the pension plan course. They go up over time, the older, the more expensive. So he never found a new job [inaudible – 21:12]. And then he had the lower salary or a lower pension because of [inaudible – 21:17] all the time. [inaudible] what if that happens to me? So I [inaudible] plan B, and I say, “Okay, what do I do now to make sure that should I be fired after 50, that I can say, ‘Thank you. [inaudible – 21:36] and leave with a smile.’” That’s, “Okay, what do I love doing. What are the things that I’m really good at and passionate about?” Then I think it out after all those sessions like coaching, teaching, helping people move on, making teams more productive [inaudible – 21:52], “Okay, maybe [inaudible] teaching and consulting.” So I tried to get a teaching at the University of Zurich. Took me a moment. But they gave me a chance. I had good grades and ratings from students. Since 2007 I have a teaching assignment at University of Zurich. And thanks to that one, I go [inaudible – 22:11] University of [inaudible] and then [inaudible] and then [inaudible] business school in London and he keeps going. So I’m building as a side chore my teaching and consulting career because I love it. I have maybe 15 teaching days a year, so it’s not too much [inaudible – 22:27] hobby. But over maybe 15 or 20 years, I have a lot of experience, meet a lot of people and school [inaudible – 22:35] to grow my network. If they find me tomorrow, I just turn the switch [inaudible – 22:41] teaching and consulting.
Lisette: Yeah, very smart.
Beat: [inaudible – 22:44] get fired at 54. We haven’t done anything. Nobody thinks that you are a good teacher and consultant because you haven’t [inaudible – 22:52]. [inaudible] the plan B early and then do that. This is one of the things that I offer my PDP. And that also told me to be able to teach something. That’s why I did a part-time doctorate, the virtual team management thing. I thought [inaudible – 23:08] that’s going to be important. So I worked in my Ph.D. part-time so I could earn money and study. Then I had this Ph.D. and wrote this book. And that was my entry ticket to teach because any professor who can teach virtual team management [inaudible – 23:24] with practical experience from Dell, HP, and Google. So that’s [inaudible – 23:30] try to find an entry ticket that allows you to start. And once you start [inaudible] on [inaudible] spread the work. People ask you maybe even more than you can actually go for [inaudible].
Lisette: So let’s then dive into this virtual team management because you did write this entire doctoral thesis on it. So you said that the doctoral thesis was like 600 pages, but it’s been condensed. Don’t worry, people. It’s been condensed into a book that is more easily digested.
Beat: [inaudible – 24:03] 120 pages. And I always write the book in a way. If you don’t have time to read the whole book, read chapter five. Chapter five tells you, “Do this. Do that. Do this. Do that.” It doesn’t tell you why. Just do it. But if you want to understand why, then read the whole book.
Lisette: Right. So it’s got a little bit for both. If you want to just dive in, you can read chapter five. If you want to know all the theory and the whys, then you can dive in.
Beat: Absolutely, [inaudible – 24:27].
Lisette: So virtual team management gets a bad rap because many, many managers don’t like their teams going virtual because they don’t trust them. And then leading a virtual team, managing a virtual team, is totally different than managing a co-located team. So I want to talk a little bit about that, the trust and then what are the differences in terms of managing a virtual team.
Beat: Yeah, there are several items. One is [inaudible – 24:54] trust. But if you cannot trust your people, you need to change them because you also need to trust people [inaudible – 25:01]. If you think that people [inaudible] company sitting next to you, that doesn’t work either, right? But what a lot of managers don’t understand, you cannot force trust. You have to earn trust as a manager. You have to do good things constantly over a certain period of time. Then people see he’s not just [inaudible – 25:18] in me now because [inaudible] survey and the employee satisfaction survey. But he doesn’t even before or after the satisfaction survey the same way. Just [inaudible – 25:31]. Just be yourself. Live up to your own standards. Be very transparent. Here at Evernote, every Monday morning at 11:00, we are in front of a whiteboard. Everyone has to write before 11:00 [inaudible – 25:44] he or she wants to do by the end of the week, just on a whiteboard [inaudible – 25:47]. Everyone writes in his books what he or she wants to do. Then we talk each other [inaudible – 25:52] through. And then we have total transparency. Everyone knows who is working on what. You can even prevent duplication of work [inaudible – 25:59] I want to do this and then someone else in my team says, “Oh, well, two years ago we already did something. I’m going to send you [inaudible – 26:06]. I don’t know that because it was [inaudible] years ago.”
So we have interaction, prevent duplication of [inaudible – 26:13], have total transparency, all these kinds of things together with the code of conduct, take usually three to six months to build a level of trust [inaudible – 26:22].
Lisette: Right. So then what are the different styles? What do you do differently for your virtual team than you do for your co-located teams? The code of conduct, number one, I would totally agree with you on that. That’s a huge thing. What are some of the other things that you use?
Beat: Code of conduct is also important for the local team. We also use email. We also use different communication channels. Even there you wouldn’t send an email to the firefighter, right? Even they talk about which channel is for which kind of message. Even then you have to read emails after 8:00 in the evening or not. So [inaudible – 27:00] any kind of team. It starts with hiring. You have a different hiring when you hire a virtual team member because as we already mentioned, there is a virtual team [inaudible – 27:10]. If you hire a virtual team member the classic way, you only check the classic things like [inaudible – 27:17] the team and the culture of the road. Does he live up to the job expectation [inaudible]. An accountant has to [inaudible]. A programmer needs to be able to program. But most companies don’t check the virtual teamness or the virtual team ability. So because you can be a very good engineer and totally fail in a virtual team, or you can be super successful. But you have the same knowledge of coding. In my book I came up with a couple of virtual teams [inaudible – 27:46] need to check. That’s why you need to change [inaudible – 27:50]. Of course, you check whether he can code or [inaudible – 27:52]. But then it doesn’t stop. [inaudible] conference, no face-to-face. That allows me to check the verbal expression. In a virtual team you have a lot of verbal expression. Not always [inaudible – 28:08]. Not always you have [inaudible] conference. There are a lot of phone calls or conference calls. And I want to see [inaudible – 28:17].
The second thing, which is the most important one, at the end of the first phone interview, I give homework. That’s two questions. I repeat the questions three times. So everyone can clearly write it down. There’s no stress test. And I ask them, “Please, repeat the question in an email and answer it with not more than five sentences.” Also, this I say at least twice. Why do I do that? A lot of people nowadays have problem listening. Listening skills are more important than talking skills. But nobody checks them in an interview. So then you have hired someone who can now listen. So you have to tell him 20 times the same thing makes everyone unproductive. I give them a very simple task of repeat the question in not more than five sentences. More than 65% of the people don’t get this. They send me an email either with [inaudible – 29:15]. Or they don’t repeat the question first. If I sent it to other people to review whether this makes sense, if you only have the answer, you don’t know about the questions. It’s a very simple test. [inaudible – 29:31] really listen simple things [inaudible] because if not, you can have problem every single day. “Oh, I misunderstood this. Oh, oh, oh. It’s going to drive you nuts [inaudible – 29:42].” So this is [inaudible] first part of the [inaudible] email [inaudible] not more than five sentences. That way you already will use about two-third of the candidates. It doesn’t matter how old, by the way. Whether young or old, it doesn’t make a difference, I figured out.
Beat: And I do a videoconferencing session to check [inaudible – 30:03] with videoconferencing [inaudible] share screen because screen-sharing is very important. You can talk for an hour to figure out that you actually talked about something different. If you have to share the screens [inaudible – 30:15], “Oh, you talk about this project. Thanks for showing because I actually talk about another project.” Again, the [inaudible – 30:22] visual. Visualize as much as you can. People sometimes make jokes here in the office about me because I often say, “Guys, visualize, visualize, visualize.” [inaudible – 30:33]. It’s so important. And then I see how that goes. And then if that goes well, then you have a face-to-face interview. If it doesn’t make sense because you are [inaudible – 30:45]. But I have several steps [inaudible] can he listen? Most importantly, can he react correctly? Can he use modern tools like Skype, Hangout, whatever? Because this is the [inaudible – 31:02] virtual team.
Lisette: Man, it’s solid-gold information right there. I really like that you use very different methods to test the different skills. And I’m kind of amazed at how many people fall out after the verbal and listening competencies tests, amazed.
Beat: I’m amazed too, but I make really a decision. I [inaudible – 31:25] who cannot listen because it’s bad for me, it’s bad for the team, it’s bad for the client, it’s bad for everyone.
Lisette: Right, or follow instructions.
Beat: Oh, my God! [inaudible – 31:36]. If I have to tell someone five times the same thing, then I already start searching a replacement because it’s not good for anyone.
Lisette: Right, super important.
Beat: Yeah, it’s very important. That’s why I think checking the virtual teams [inaudible – 31:50]. And virtual team is not white or black. It’s a continuum. It can have a little bit of virtualness [inaudible – 31:57] first floor [inaudible] second. [inaudible] more, I mean longer than you are [inaudible]. Or I’m [inaudible] somebody is in Tokyo or someone is in Iran and has to pray at a certain time and someone is in New York and [inaudible – 32:10] time difference. You really have to look at the degree of virtualness of your team. And depending on the degree, like a little bit, medium, or [inaudible – 32:19], you need to have different setups.
Lisette: I have two more questions for you before we end. The first one is what do you like so much about the virtual teams. You did a doctoral thesis on this. So what is it that you’re so passionate about with this?
Beat: I figured out that they teach me the flexibility to do other things. If I have to be 8:30 to 6:30 all the time [inaudible – 32:45] to a table, [inaudible] a lot of flexibility. I have some teaching assignments. Like today at 11:00 I left the office because I had a teaching assignment just like [inaudible – 32:57] 11:00 to 12:00, which has nothing to do with my company [inaudible – 33:00]. Of course, I put in a little bit of [inaudible] for my company a little bit. Officially, this is my private things, so I can do that because I work in a company [inaudible – 33:11] don’t say you have to be here from that time to that time. I can get my work done more or less [inaudible – 33:17]. Of course, I have other team members and I have [inaudible] on [inaudible] basis or [inaudible]. I have some things that I have to do [inaudible] clients. But this virtualness gives me a chance to actually do more things in a smarter way. I have all my information in Evernote, all my teaching assignments, the material, the first book, the second book. Actually, the second book I almost 95% wrote in Evernote because when I did the first book, there was no Evernote, before Evernote was founded. And this allows me to do the family thing. Like I have all the information about the glasses of my son, about my car rituals. I have everything in Evernote. And [inaudible – 34:05] somewhere, cell phone or laptop or tablet, I have everything in my [inaudible], and that can work in Starbucks, at the lake, at home, in the train, in the office, on the top of a nice mountain, you choose.
Lisette: Right, you’re in Switzerland, so you have the ability to go to the top of a nice mountain anytime you want [laughs].
Lisette: So I love that. What I really like about Evernote allowing that is that it allows for more well-rounded people. And a lot of managers are scared to let people have that flexibility because they think, “Oh, they’re just going to be lazy. They just want to lay on the couch.” But I think you’re a perfect example. You’re using your extra time, your flexibility, to teach in a university and of course spread the Evernote brand. Not that it needs to be spread, everybody loves Evernote. But it allows for more well-rounded person. And I think what everybody would want on their team is diversity and well-rounded and more perspectives and people who are bettering themselves.
Beat: Yeah. However, there’s one important thing. Not every person can do that. There are some people who meet daily or [inaudible – 35:12]. It’s not because they are good or bad people. They are just different. Some people [inaudible – 35:18] self-esteem and maybe things that happen in the history, in the past. But not everyone can deal with the full flexibility. A lot of people will be lost. And oh, now I do this. I think we go shopping, and I do this. And at the end of the day, oh, it’s 9:00 in the evening. [inaudible – 35:33] anything. Then [inaudible]. Not everyone can do that. It’s like passing a driver’s license. You need to pass the basics. And some people who need strong guidance on an hourly basis or who need a manager [inaudible – 35:47] the [inaudible], “Hey, well done. Now do this.” [inaudible] done. I’ll do something else. Those people cannot work with this [inaudible]. You have the right people with the right mindset, also the right skill set to do that.
Lisette: Right. And a lot of people actually like going into the office and being there. That should also be great, yeah.
Beat: Look at Apple. They spend several billions of having the most advanced [office – 36:13] in Silicon Valley because everyone works [inaudible] home? No. Working from home makes people feel lonely. When I come here, [inaudible – 36:21] very nice office. Once you come here [inaudible], we have elephants all over the place, [inaudible], big windows. It’s nice [inaudible] to be here [inaudible] morning [inaudible] people in the team [inaudible]. And this is important [inaudible] social interactions. But sometimes I just need to do two hours of [inaudible]. Then I need to go either in a meeting room or I go [inaudible] Starbucks or [inaudible] stay at home.
Lisette: Did you just say elephants?
Lisette: [laughs] What does that mean?
Beat: [inaudible – 36:55] is an elephant. We have a lot of [inaudible], medium-sized elephants, elephant pictures, just the [inaudible] look. You can see.
Lisette: I love it. I love it. I just had to clarify. I just had to clarify. What is your advice for people who are just starting out? What would you tell them?
Beat: First of all, think about to yourself whether you are capable of virtual team management. Do you as a manager have the skill set and the mindset? Because if not, it’s never going to work. So be honest with yourself. If you are a micromanagement kind of a person, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. Find another job where you don’t need to have virtual teams. Sounds easy and harsh, but it’s just the way it is. The other thing is when you start, there are two cases. Either you build your virtual team and you hire everyone going through the process. I have talked about [inaudible – 37:53]. Or you inherit the team. Two different cases. You can build your own team. You can [inaudible – 38:00] people that [inaudible] perfectly well. You do the virtual teams [inaudible] all going to be nice. [inaudible] inherit the team, you have to figure out who can do it and who can not. [inaudible – 38:10] I also already have the case several times [inaudible]. It’s not a bad person. It just doesn’t fit. So I help this person find something else in my network. But it doesn’t fit that purpose of this team here. So [inaudible – 38:27] cannot do it, not don’t want to do it, who cannot do it, help them find something else, and bring in people who can do it. Or of course in most cases, like would be the best, you already have people that you inherit and they already think that way. I was lucky here at Evernote that most people had this open mindset [inaudible – 38:48] progress [inaudible]. So that is great. But this is something that you have to figure out. You have [inaudible – 38:54] the right people with the right mindset for this setup of your team. And then just do this [inaudible] exercise. That’s the very first thing.
Lisette: Yeah. I really like that you say that because I think a lot of managers and teams hang on to people that aren’t a good fit, and that really brings the team down. So it’s not that it’s a bad person. I like that you say that it’s simply not a good fit for whatever the reason that it might be and to make sure that you don’t have those people on your team. You really need to have people who are a good fit.
Beat: Yeah. [inaudible – 39:24] of arts in London. I’m terrible in arts. I don’t even know which building has which kind of style. Which is the Victorian style? I don’t know that. I’m the worst guy.
Lisette: Right. You’re not going to teach classes on that.
Beat: [inaudible – 39:40].
Lisette: [inaudible]. Yeah, I know nothing about cars. So when people show me their new car, I think that’s a nice, red car [laughs] and that it ends there.
Beat: [inaudible – 39:49].
Lisette: Yeah, it has wheels. Yeah, exactly. So last question, easy one, which is if people want to find out more, if they want to read your books and they want to get in touch, what’s the best way to do that?
Beat: I have built a homepage. Just go to swiss-pdp-approach.com. And then you see the book. You can see the table of contents already. You get a couple of pages you can read. You can see testimonials. I have some [inaudible – 40:22] one-page [inaudible] look at how to process [inaudible] actually work from a high-level point of view. So all this is already for free. On the website you have a video that you can watch and see to kind of get a feeling what this PDP approach is all about. And then from there you can book either paperback, e-book, or you can send an email if you want to just [inaudible – 40:46] PDF version.
Lisette: Great. And I also put the website in the show notes. swiss-pdp-approach.com. And you know it’s good because it’s Swiss.
Beat: [inaudible – 40:55] test it for more than 10 years.
Lisette: [inaudible] indeed. There’s a whole experience behind it, of course.
Beat: [inaudible – 41:03] testimonials on the page, and then you would see.
All right, everybody, thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed that interview. If you want to hear more interviews and more, short podcasts about productivity and remote-working tips, then go to collaborationsuperpowers.com. And if you want to get all the interviews and tips delivered straight to the inbox of wherever you are, then sign up on our newsletter. Every other week we send out all the best stuff for remote teams. That’s collaborationsuperpowers.com/newsletter.
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