Improving Communication in Remote Teams – Jordan Husney – Parabol
In this episode of The Human Behind the Screen, we have a conversation with Jordan Husney, the co-founder and CEO of Parabol.co.
As a teen during the 1990’s tech boom, CEO and Founder of Parabol, Jordan Husney was fascinated with connecting people through technology. His interests led him to pursue an internship at Minnesota-based IoT company, Digi International where He spent nearly 20 years as an engineer and product manager to help technology serve people.
Later, Jordan joined New York City-based management consultancy Undercurrent as a Director, where he assisted in shaping the futures of Fortune 500 leadership teams at companies such as GE, American Express and Pepsico. He was instrumental in helping businesses identify new markets, acquisitions, and divestitures while establishing improved processes for enhancing work culture, organization, and collaboration for both remote and in-house workers. While working with multinational organizations stretched across time zones, Jordan began prototyping a new platform that would allow team members, and more specifically, agile teams to work together, better. This platform would later be known as Parabol.
Today, Jordan leads multiple facets of Parabol’s growth and success by overseeing new talent acquisition, funding, and product development. He holds several patents in distributed systems and wireless technology and lives with his family in Los Angeles, California.
Improving Communication for Remote teams
This is what Parabol excels at, the software provides a place that breaks a meeting down into short little activities that lead to a goal, Jordan refers to it as “a conference room replacement software”.
The most popular experience is called a retrospective which comes out of the Agile software development culture “The part of our software that improves team culture previously was in the hands of budget holders in companies that could afford so-called team engagement software, and our thing is free” Jordan said. As part of the retrospective process, all the feedbacks are anonymous, which allows leaders to make the hard question, without generating tension within the team.
Parabol has got more visibility among the remote working world and from its begging to this moment it has got around 20.000 users.
Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication
"Async is the way to go, when we go remote, we don't need synchronous communication...Everything is should be done asynchronously. So whether that's through written communication on slack or different documents, or emails, etc." this might be the first thought you have when it comes to remote working, but meaningful decisions take a meaningful amount of time and that's still important bring the team together, especially in those early stages that you connect as people as human beings and build relationships.
However, Jordan believes that synchronous communication can be used in the most premature stages of a new team's coexistence, where a level of trust and intimacy is needed, which is built in the fastest and most effective way with synchronous communication. When the time comes, you can generate a hybrid model, where only synchronous communication is used for certain team activities.
Regarding asynchronous communication, Jordan considers that it is more recommendable when working with people we hire for one-time activities; As freelancers or people, you don't need to build such close ties with.
Preventing Remote Working Isolation
This is an ongoing issue because working remotely it's a new chapter in the way that human beings are working. Jordan thinks that one way to avoid isolation could be designing a culture that provides you some moments of human connection, that you might not have when working remotely “ this is because you can't depend on bumping into each other in the hallway... It can be like, create a Slack channel that is, just for goofing off Or is topical about something that's non-work-related” Jordan said.
He also thinks that leaders should create remote teams that are not so spread out in many different time zones because this can generate house-bounding “You always have to be on because someone is always going to need something from you because it's like 10 am somewhere everywhere” Jordan said.
He suggests that leaders should try and minimize the spread of times zones within the remote team members “loneliness is something that comes up on teams when you are all async, and you don't have any human connection time” Jordan said. According to Jordan, that would help you to generate a rhythm to your day, having time to work effectively, for your family, for your goals and to rest properly. But leaders have to lead by example, as well. if you have a leader that is switched on on Slack, sending messages at all hours, naturally, the team are going to feel like they have to do the same.
The Importance of the Hiring Process
Jordan believes that the trust equation in the world of remote work is inverted since trust should exist by default and is not traditionally cultivated by the interaction between team members. Companies cannot mould their employees into the principles and qualities that they require “you go from hiring someone and like the day before, they were just, somebody on their couch and the next day, they're an employee with all the passwords and clients information” Jordan said.
He also believes that the hiring process is really important since trust exists by default in remote working, but sometimes the people we trust and hire doesn’t have principles that we require from a member of our team. He let us know of a question used by his company in the final stage of the hiring process, which serves to observe the level of empathy and psychological awareness"The question is, tell us a time where you were last upset...we have them tell us the story and we're like, thank you for sharing that... What I want you to do is be in the shoes of the other person, and now just tell us the story from their perspective and it should sound different... If they can't get there, it doesn't mean that they're not empathetic, It's really hard to do on-demand. But if they're able to do it, then we feel a lot more secure in that person's ability to construct a mental model of someone else."