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21st Century Work Life and leading remote teams

Brought to you by Virtual not Distant, the 21st Century Work Life podcast looks at leading remote teams, online collaboration and working in distributed organisations.

Join Pilar Orti, guests & co-hosts as they shine the spotlight on the most relevant themes and news relevant to the modern knowledge worker.

For more on our services, check out

Jan 17, 2019

Welcome to our first show of 2019, whenever you are listening to this podcast. And don't forget to check out the full shownotes for this and all our other episodes, at

 Do listen to the end today, for exciting updates about upcoming activities. Meanwhile recent episodes of this podcast generated lots of twitter dialogue which we really enjoyed – thank you so much Dr Gloria Ramsbottom-Lemieux @GRamsbottom on twitter for engaging, it’s also where we met today’s featured interviewee!

And thanks also to Joao Nunes for spotting the glaring typo on our homepage! If you like this kind of attention to detail you might be interested in Joao’s new startup in Portugal, we’d be glad to put you in touch.

06: 15 The Voice Behind the Blog: Markus Wermuth, “4 Things I Learned Becoming A Manager”

Our guest today is Marcus Wermuth, Mobile Lead at Buffer, who wrote an excellent piece about making the transition from being an engineer to being a manager, - and how he uses this experience to help others online with making the leap. (Buffer make a handy social media scheduling and analytics tool, and have a fully distributed global team operating with radical transparency, their blog is at ).

He and Pilar discuss how his job evolved through his advocacy for the mobile team’s role, and this changed the direction of his career – because management and engineering are so different, and this should not be the only route to career progression.  This meant moving on from activities like coding, and having to look at productivity in a different (and sometimes less tangible or immediate) way.

The importance of continual learning and education is also something which Marcus is passionate about, and how you need to own this as a manager - but whatever your role, you have to keep updating yourself, all of the time. This helps him to help his team, and continually remove obstacles in their way.

And whether you’re a Power Rangers fan or not, you’ll appreciate Marcus’ metaphors for creating a diverse support network – his proactive connection with others in similar roles has created a powerful basis for mutual learning and problem-solving. An interesting side-use for LinkedIn, which would be well worth more people exploring.

These activities have helped him to grow as a manager and develop his coaching mindset, enabling his team to grow through solving their own problems, rather than responding as a programmer by immediately fixing things for them –and encouraging them to support one another too. Building that level of trust and connection in the asynchronous space of a truly global team has challenges, but is worth doing.

Marcus is a thoughtful and prolific blogger, and you can read his wisdom on this subject in Fast Company too and also on his own site – he has lots more to share in 2019. And he is a powerful speaker as well, with a track record including Nomad City and others.

39:59 – Recommended tool: Doodle

 An app which has nothing to with doodling, so it’s a bit confusing when you first get invited to use it! Instead, it’s a super-easy tool for scheduling an event involving lots of people – always a challenge, to find consensus on a meeting time.

It does this one thing, easily and well – offering people options in their own timezones, showing others’ responses, and emailing everyone to confirm the final choice. 

So, skip the reply-all-email-thread-from-hell, and try setting up a doodle poll if you’ve got more than 2 people to try and sync up!


42:40 Remote Wellbeing: How are you doing today?

It’s not as easy to tell, when you’re not colocated, exactly what’s going on for the people you’re working with.

And they can’t tell what’s going on for you either – so we need to be a bit more deliberate about communicating this, and conscious of whether we’re sharing the right amount of context to our colleagues. It’s not dumping your entire emotional history on a team meeting, but sometimes having a framework or process for letting people know how you are, in so far as it affects the work or the team dynamic. If you’ve had exciting news or a terrible day, people can make allowances respectively, but only if they know.

It needn’t be a big deal, to have a way to check-in individually at the start of meetings, or simply to nurture a culture where people can share things which are affecting them personally, in a positive or negative way.

Just remember with remote teams, we don’t have the usual cues of body language to support it, so you might need to assume less and share more, to convey the same degree of relevant disclosure.


50.05 Thinking Remote: Inspiration for Leaders of Distributed Teams

Our new book is ready for pre-order, being a collection of Pilar and Maya’s thoughts from the past few years as published in our blog. We’ve curated these into a programme of learning and leadership reflections for each section, to help you relate the material to your own situation and develop a coaching mindset to support your remote colleagues.

It’s one more tool for the knowledge worker considering or enjoying office-optional work, particularly if you lead or manage others, or you aspire to do. We also offer workshops, coaching, in-house training and consulting.

We can’t wait to hear what you think of the book.

And don’t forget about our unique in-house podcasting service! If you enjoy listening to this podcast, why not create your own – either for your organisation, or even for your team, your very own ‘team radio’, a superb tool for learning-out-loud together.

See you next time!