The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

Thriving as a Distributed Business


David Kreiger, CEO of SalesRoads, talks about how OKRs have helped his autonomous teams stay aligned, avoid the meeting trap, and drive results.

You're listening to the OK our podcast, a show for leaders who want to unlock their organizations growth potential by leveraging the okaur technique and other cutting edge strategies. While many recognize the power of objectives and key results, okay ours to accelery outcomes and foster a growth and outcomes culture, there's a dearth of information on how to do them well and reap their full benefit. That's where this podcast comes in. Will help you learn to align and measure results pervasively, manage fast, to grow fast and, most importantly, achieve the powerful objectives you've identified. Here's your host day, dread pack, Not David. Thank you for being our guest today. Excited to have you, a seasoned expert at distributed working and at Ok ours at, share your expertise with us today. Yeah, thanks so much for having me on the show. I'm looking forward to it perfect. Let's just jump right in and start with why is alignment important to you as the organization leader? Yeah, so, as I've experienced over the past thirteen years of running sales roads, you know, I've seen us both be aligned and not aloft. And Really, at the most simple level, it's the difference between making progress as a company, as an organization, and either treading water or even moving backwards. And it's just getting that alignment right, which is really the engine that propels an organization to greatness, right though, or or mediocrity. And I've seen that with us, maybe not the greatness part, but I think that we have great aspects. And you know, for the first several years of running the organization, as many entrepreneurs do, a lot of things were just revolving around me and the only way I got alignment was kind of doing it myself and right, and that's not a very sustainable nor growth oriented strategy. And then, as I grew and hired people, as we didn't have processes or systems to attain that alignment, or I also didn't have the vision, which is also an important part of it, I saw us kind of just treading water and even, you know, moving backwards from where I was just as the person kind of doing everything. And so as I grew as as an entrepreneur, as a leader, and also saw what was was happening to us as an organization, I started realizing, and I don't even know if I put in that terms of alignment but just the idea of ways to make sure that my team was moving down the track in the same direction instead of either in opposite directions or at least varying directions, and that's where, over the past few years, we've started seeing the magic capmin a sales roads. Is when we really gain that alignment across our team. You bring up such an awesome point about growing as a leader and growing the organization and growing as an entrepreneur, where, fundamentally, to drive the vision forward you need to work through your organization as opposed to do it yourself, for sort of use your own force of will to drive progressors, drive impact. You Up to transfer that will and that direction and that force to others, and a percent means they they have to know where you're trying to go right what it is you're expecting from them. It's a topic I hear a lot of entrepreneurs talk about. It an inflection point in their journey where in some cases, I'll say, it's just exhausting to be the person is trying to do it all themselves and the second it's just sort of it's a loss of the Horse Power of your organization if everyone can't really bring their best to the mission right, which is I think we're alignment comes so into play. But it is I think it's just sort of clear inflection in the entrepreneur's journey to recognize I need everybody aligned on this picture, and I so. We're all lifting weight in the same direction. Absolutely, and it's I open, you know, and sometimes it happens, you know, an hour, a hundred and the letter one in, you know, week and whatnot, you just realize that you're just not you know, you're not achieving what you need to achieve. North can you right. And that's why, you know, we build organizations, but, you know, just just bringing people in and not figuring out that the systems and processes to be able to execute together in some ways. And I felt it as my organization, you can move backwards, you know, until you create that that...

...alignment. Yeah, so what is your alignment practice look like now? How do you drive the motion around aligning and maybe even iterating on strategic priors and getting her buddy aligned on them? Yeah, so we have a pretty disciplined approach to setting a strategy over the course of the year and then executing on that strategy and and rating on the strategy and so you know it's some standered best practices. But what I found is I kind of knew these these best practices were out there, until I really started living them and putting them into place and making sure my team bought into them, they just didn't happen. And so it really does start at the beginning of the year, or we usually do at the end of the year, with our yearly meeting, and we really spend two days as an executive team thinking through our strategy, looking at what we did over the past year and where we want to go, and then what are the key things that we need to get done over the next twelve months, and that's one of the most important aspects of that meeting because we all, as people, want to achieve a lot of different things. Can think of so many different things that we want to achieve in so many different projects that we want to execute on, and it's fun coming up with all of them. But then really that process and those two days is figuring out which ones are going to have the most impact and then what part of those projects can we get done in the first quarter. So we have that process over the course of about two days and then what we do is we meet as a team, that executive team, once a week to go over you know, what are the key first of all, we say we set up you know what, what projects can we get done in the first quarter? Sounds like a lot of rigor, both in terms of how you align and how you map execution to the goals you're trying to achieve. I think what you describe as a not only an alignment practice but an accountability practice that goes along with that, and I think that's crucial. And often we're companies don't quite have as much I don't know the word is maturity or discipline, but the the accountability for is our effort, is our execution really mapped to those things we want to achieve, really mapped to those metrics, and then all the metrics moving? It sounds like a very mature process and so let me let me transition there, because what's even more, I think, cool and really smart about your practice is that you're completely distributed organization, and in fact we're born distributed, and so alignment becomes even more important then, and it's not by us most since or by sitting near each other. And so does that accountability mission so maybe tell us a little bit about how you've matured the sort of rhythm around accountability and working a synchronously as a as a distributed organization. Yeah, so I think that that these these processes are even more important in a distributed environment. I think there can be a case even you when you're not disturbed, but even more more so, just as, as you said, you know you're not, you know, running into people getting status updates as you're sort of walking down the hall and talking about a project. It just doesn't happen that way, right. So you have to create a cadence for for communication to make sure that everybody is rowing in the same direction and everybody keeps abreast of what's going on, because that information isn't going to be disseminated unless you create a standard rhythm for that communication. And, to be honest, I actually think that that's more effective, because sometimes you can have these sort of sidebar conversations between two people and a project and some of that gets lost and maybe it wasn't the right time or place to try to solve that problem. So I actually think even if you're in a centralized environment, there's a case to be made to really have a rigorous process by which you really discuss the projects that you're going after solve some of the problems that are coming up in order to move those projects forward, and the best process I've seen is by having this type of meeting rhythm. And then, you know, a software platform that really helps to codify what you're doing and communicate that, a secreency a singerously, as you said. And one thing you know that you just mentioned, which I think is really important. One one thing I've learned over my journey is that I have in the past,... know, before I created all these different processes around these meeting rhythms, I had set yearly goals and I had set different things that I thought that sales roads should achieve over over the course of twelve months. One of the reasons I think we fell down when it was sort of just a yearly process, autonomous process, is meeting on a weekly basis and then meeting a little bit more deeply on each month and then quarterly, I have found really propels the completion of these projects, or rocks as we call them, because even if you have an amazing team, everybody kind of you can start losing that alignment you know, if you don't meet about things, you know less often than a week in a week's period of time, and by having that Keyton to really talking about the projects, in solving places where you're stuck, in going over issues, you keep that alignment fresh and you make sure that you continually marching down the same path together and marching towards that goal and motivated to hit that goal. And the amount that we've really achieved by having this process and having that rhythm is night and day compared to where we were four or five years ago when we weren't following these types of systems and processes. I think that the weekly Focus is where the breakthrough is right and it appreciates the value of time. So if we lose two or three weeks because we got distracted, it's a twenty five percent of the quarter. Yeah, big loss right, and it's with the weekly Focus things that are competing, things that are maybe disruptive to what it is you're trying to achieve, they can be dealt with either incorporated, because it should be, or put back aside and minimize the distraction because it's in fact noise as opposed to signal. You can do that at a much, much higher cadence and then recentering people on what it is we came here to achieve. I find that that weekly Cadence, we actually call it, calibrate on Monday so we can celebrate on Friday, right, and I love that. Very different than saying, where are we on this? Right, it's okay, let's recalibrate on what it is we're trying to accomplish together and do that on Monday. So what I get out of that is where I spend my Tuesday and now really matters. And it's really the opposite of this sort of Friday check in rhythm, like, okay, Friday afternoon, check in. What am I going to do? Change what I do on Saturday? Right. Not Really Love Them. This calibrate, celebrate motion is I agree with you. It's it's like a propelling effect, right. And if you're, I think, leaders off in super sensitive to the quarter cycle, right, and how fast time goes, and particularly people in the sales end of the business, maybe where you and I came up, are even more at tea into that quarterly cadence. But it sounds like you started out on a quarter or starrying to annual goal setting cycle. Have you shifted to quarter resets around that and or is it you reset whenever it's time to reset what your objectives and the goals and metrics are? So for the most part, and I will know we'll get to this with with with most some recent events where we had a little bit of a quicker reset, but it is a quarterly reset and so every you know, we will look at what we want to achieve over the course of the year in that yearly period, you know, for the first quarter, we're setting up what our projects are going to be for the first quarter and then what we do is, in that first quarterly we look at where we were against those rock and then how those rocks supported are overall goals for the year and we reset both of them. And things can change, you know, a bit every quarter. So we do really look, you know, fresh every quarter to confirm that the direction is right and that's really that the thought processes are. We confer, you know, are we going down the the right path given what we've learned over the first the first quarter? But there can be events that will trigger a faster recalibration and in a more significant recalibration than we were open to that. I think there's a real risk for organizations right now is and it's a culture risk where managers, and particular managers in the middle or rising managers, people who've gotten less coaching, less leadership development support over...

...there their manager journey, they will be, I think, less skillful at driving accountability than the current work environment or climate requires. And and by that I mean that if you have a high need to know where people on your team are at in the progress of particular work or activity and you're the high need to know, but you have no other way to know except for asking, you end up in a very weird series of conversations that are corrosive over time, where the majority of the conversations are where are you on this? Where are you on that? Are you done with this other thing? When will you be done with that other thing? And it becomes the dominant element of the dialog between a manager and employee. I think ultimately that's very corrosive. It doesn't include coaching to do your best work. It doesn't include how can I help you? It doesn't include hey, how about we? It doesn't include capturing ideas from either of them. But most managers really can can't be effective as a manager without visibility and transparency on how their teammates or team members are making progress on work, and in particular first level second level managers, where they're still doing a fair share of the work themselves and so they interdependencies are significant. I think this ability to see the answer to where our way without having to ask for it is a really important part of trust and coworking over distance. It's not maybe just managers and team members right, because peers are dependent upon each other to make team progress as well. I think you make some such excellent points. You know, I think you know when when you're just doing chickens, you know, in a oneone or even worse, through flack or a call or just walking over some piece office, it's such a waste of time because, like you said, through tools like work board and you know, we you can know that without asking a wasted question when you could actually be asking questions that are really meaningful and can really propel a project forward, like where are you stuck, you know, or what Bro Roblocks? You know, how can I help you? You know, with with X, Y and Z, or challenging, you know, a decision that they're thinking about making an asking good questions to make sure that they've really thought through something. And those are great, great uses of time where it's just asking somebody, you know, did you complete this? Something that can be you know, can be just looked up. And then, on top of that, it's demotivating and it feels like you're just trying to keep tabs on somebody. And so the best people in the best employees that are working for you, if you manage that way, you're either going to, you know, demotivate them and they're not going to produce their best work or, worse, they might look for another job and you might lose some of that talent by managing that way. Yeah, everybody loses. I think it can't feel good to be the person asking those questions either, right, you always feel like you're starving for the fact base and and I think it's that that zone right. How do we get visibility on interdependent teammates and team members without having that be a dialog? I think that's I think for most organizations to think about digital in the way they're going to work in the forward quarters and years. I think this is a zone where they there's going to be a lot of chains there needs to be. I think a lot of chains are. We lose scale and we start to get bogged down where we can only progress when we all agree that we're going to get together at two a clock tomorrow to talk about something or in our next oneonone. Then I'll get the data I need to move forward when I should be able to get the data for me to move forward now, right when I need it, in the moment that I need to make progress or in the time that I've allocated for that kind of work in a given day. A hundred percent. Absolutely. So let's talk about the platform. You guys have been using workboard for...

...a number of years. Thank you for that. Talk about how you use it. Work Alignment, accountability. What are the what elements of it have you put to work? And then how does it support the practice around moving the rocks forward? Basically, every quarter, when we create these these rocks, we systematize them into workboard, you know, and we put them into the platform. We very clearly define what is a clear measure of success and what is it if we look back at the end of the quarter that we can all not our head and agreement and say if we achieve this job well done and we accomplish something, and that, with the workboard functionality is extremely simple for us to put into place. It's built for that, which is the foundation of creating alignment on those, those rocks, and then what we can do is have those work streams power those rocks so that we know every you know, another important thing that we didn't really touch on at the beginning is, you know, rocks are rocks for you know, are called rocks for a reason. Right. One of the features that is so amazing and workboard for us is the place to really put our agendas for the meeting and then add some of the task from the rock to to something. So somebody wants to talk about one aspect of that rock in a one one, we just put it in there with a click of the button and we know it's on that agenda and I don't we don't have to think about it. You know it's there and then we can put notes against it and we can even solve it and check it off in in that oneonone, which is which is a amazing for alignment and amazing for the meeting rid those, because we've all been in meetings where we talked about certain things you're going to get done, you know forget to write it down or what not, but if you run your meetings as we talked about in workboard, there's no chance of any of that happening, and so that's been really key for both our alignment but also making sure that each of the steps gets completed so that we're marching towards completion of the the rock over the course of the quarterer. I love it. I think one of the things I think of workboard in some ways is a giant note to self. It's as a leader right, I hope, I wish that I would always be focused on the business outcomes that I'm trying to drive, that I would enable people to contribute to those, that I when I show up in a meeting, that I'm driving the right things on the agenda, that are using all our collective time wisely, that my follow through would be impeccable, that before I have a one on one with somebody, I'm thoughtful about what needs to be on that agenda that helps them move forward and then make a meaningful contribution. And before workboard, before my cofounder and I started it, I was not very good at those things. I wasn't anywhere near as good as I wanted to be at all of those things, and yet I was acutely aware just how important they are to my impact as a leader, to my skillfulness as a leader, whether I'm leading the order or whether I'm eating a company or whether I'm just leading a team. And so I this sort of when you, when you talked about the oneonones, heart it just it threw me back to, you know, the years before workboard, of when I would have a one on one with somebody and in very bad end up doing it from the Red Carpet Club instead of my desk and I wouldn't cut the as organized as I needed to be. I wouldn't have done the homework on you know, where is that person on the the impacts they were trying to drive, or know, what are the block race she's we need to talk about. And so I'd have the one on one and maybe I'd have eight or nine of those in a week and I wouldn't use the hour on the stuff that mattered right. And so their week is gone in my week is gone and we each spent all the hours and and it just wasn't as skillful as as a leader, in using our time for a biggest impact and and as you're describing what you do. I think it just it struck me that this sort of giant note to self is holping us all be as skillful as we can be leading teams, whatever size they might... Yeah, in the builder of that, you know, I think it's I definitely uses a note to self and it keeps me organized and it's also, you know, note to to everyone else on the team. And you know, one of the things, you know, I find is, you know, people talk about thinking in powerpoint, but I kind of encourage us to sort of think in work board right as we're having the meetings, because if you get into that discipline of having the one having the things that you want to discuss in work board and then there's so many times when, you know, we've all had one on ones or meetings where we say we're going to do something or somebody else's they're going to do something, and then it gets lost and then you kind of remember the next week or what was it that they we're going to do, when we're going to do it by so we try to close every single meeting reviewing all the things that we all said. Either, you know, if it's a team meeting or if it's one one, the two of us will talk about what are the things that we had agreed on that we're going to get done out of this meeting. That's right. I think that. I think of it as shared memory. Right. That lets us both be more accountable to each other, which is, I think, the essence of agreeing to work together. Right, to use our careers together. But the shared memory and data right not? We have different memories of the meeting we just had or different memories of what we just actioned or decision this. I think that the notion of a shared memory and that that memory is in fact digital as opposed to ephemeral, I think that's so important for the way we're all going to work forward from here, and you and I sort of organizations built around that. But I think it's it's a shift that more organizations will make and need to make it as they think about, well, this is really going to be over on May fifteen. We're not all really going back to you know how great it was in February. Rite it's how are we going to drive resilience forward? And I think that shared memory and digital memory of decisions and of actions and of commitments is going to be a new foundation for for every organization right and and then for organizations like yours it's already a strong foundation which I think gives you a resilience boost that others will have to build first before they get the boost out of that. Absolutely. Thank you for for sharing that. As our last question or sort of topic, character, what is some of the advice you would give companies that are trying to create that resiliency and scale and really to build a thriving team and organization that does not colocate in order to Cowork coworker? Yeah, so, you know, I think it really boils down. So I guess there's a few different things. One I think is during this time, this is a great way for companies to experiment. I've talked to other organizations that said they never go remote and actually, when, when executive I I keep in touch with, I talked to you yesterday, she's like, I never thought I could go remote and then all of a sudden we're remote and we're we're doing just fine. I guess we can do this right. So, yeah, open and learning. You know, sometimes these things push us to do things we didn't think we're possible and, you know, I think everyone, I shouldn't say everyone, that's too strong word, but a lot of organizations are seeing that remote is very possible and there are many benefits to go around from it. So this has been kind of a forced experiment for organizations that I wouldn't waste that because there's so much that you can learn and gain and sort of be able to leverage after you come out of that, from from this remote experiment for for organizations. You know, I think the thing that a lot of organizations that we don't have to think about, but I've been thinking about a lot to see how people deal with this, is do we bring company, you know, our employees back? When do we and then do we allow for a hybrid of remote versus not a remote and that will be interesting to see how companies decide that, because I think in some ways it's easier to create a remote culture when everyone is a...

...remote because we're able to focus on just the needs of our team and create processes and communication systems around a remote workforce. And I think a lot of companies are going to be an interesting situation where they might say, some people are going to be an office and some people are going to be remote, and that's going to be a, you know, a different challenge because you're kind of have to cater to sort of two different constituencies, if you will, and so I'm interested to see how companies solve that challenge and how they react after Covid to wet where they're going to require their company, their employees to be, you know, if it all, you know, if they required at all. But as far as just the Uber Point, you know, is I think that creating a positive remote culture boils down to four basic building blocks and I think it's pretty fundamental, you know, regardless of whether so someone's remote or not, but I think it's even more important in a remote environment. And one is just making sure that your team's wellbeing is okay, right and checking in with people from from time to time, because you don't have the walk buys and you don't have that that nonverbal communication when you see somebody sitting their office and whatnot, and I think if you're not able to check in with people and make sure that that things are going okay and the wellbeing of your employees is a question that you that that building block goes away. So making sure you've got a mechanism and that managers really do check in with their employees. The second is really just focusing on, you know, their morale and making sure that, in a remote environment, that's not being forgotten. You know, people do our social being beings and it's important to facilitate communication, a social communication amongst co workers. You know, I've seen lots of virtual town halls and that are virtual happy hours, and that's great, but also just having a culture that you encourage employees to pick up the phone and call who used to be a cubical worker right right next to let me, just be able to talk about their kids or a soccer game or whatever it might be, and encourage that as an organization so people can be social and create meaningful relationships with with one another. They're building block and we talked to you about this a little bit with you know, just how I thought we should handle our communication with our employees. Is that the type of leadership and being open and honest, because in a remote environment, when you can't see each other, sometimes people can be suspect, and so if you know of what intentions of management in our or the company, and so just making sure you've created a reputation and make sure that managers are always shooting straight with people, being honest and nothing's being hidden and making sure that that everything is open and out there for for employees. And lastly, is just the communication rhythms and the alignment, where we started off the conversation, and making sure that that can you have a communication rhythm, everyone is aligned and if you can get those for building blocks right, you can really maximize, you know, the amazing benefits of creating a remote organization or having in a remote workforce. Wonderful, perfect. Thank you, David, so much for sharing those building blocks, your practices and your insights on leading and growing an organization period and then the deeper insight wisdom on doing that in a distributed world. It was fabulous to talk to you today. It's a huge privilege and pleasure on our card to be able to support your success with work for it over the years and and just delight to have you on the podcast today. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for all you everything you guys have done to make our work possible. Thank you. Have a trific day, David. Thank you. Thank you as well. You've been listening to the OKA our podcast. Subscribe in your favorite player so you never miss a moment. Thanks for listening. Until next time,.

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