How Buffer Works Smarter, Not Harder

Buffer stands out among startups not just for its success in building a great social media sharing tool but in fashioning a company culture focused on making work fulfilling, impactful, and enjoyable. What’s fascinating is that they do this as a completely distributed team, spread across multiple countries and time-zones.

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Treat People in the Best Way

Co-founders Joel Gasciogne and Leo Widrich set the foundation for Buffer’s culture according to the tenets of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carolyn Kopprasch, Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer translates what that means for Buffer’s modus operandi: “We want to treat people in the absolute best way we can, and that includes co-workers, vendors, and customers.”

It also includes how the Buffer employees treat themselves. With a unique self-improvement program, they share their progress on anything from time management to healthy eating with their teammates, spurring conversations about different lifehacks and routines. Michelle Sun, Buffer’s growth and analytics expert, tracks fitness routines and getting up early while Leo has been making strides with learning how to code.

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Co-workers become a collective accountability partner for future plans like blogging or exercising, and more importantly, they become an incredible support system. Instead of looking askance when you’re doing work to do something to take care of yourself, you receive encouragement. “If you’re trying to work on your health or your fitness or your happiness level, that affects work a lot too,” Carolyn explains.

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How Pipedrive Designed a Company Habit Hack

While it’s tough enough to get into good personal habits, how do you get your employees to adopt good company habits?

Changing your behavior starts with an intention, and when you’re herding multiple human intentions, that transformation process can become tricky.

Pipedrive, a startup that makes a simple CRM that people actually like to use, is one of our oldest team customers. As the company grew rapidly, from six to twenty people within a year, overall iDoneThis usage flagged because new people weren’t getting on board. Pipedrive found a way to turn that behavior around, hacking the iDoneThis company habit with great success.

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3 Reasons to Shut Up and Listen Well

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The way you listen is telling, a compass that points to the true focus of your attention. For good listeners, that needle points to the person talking. For bad listeners, that needle points to themselves.

The thing is that it’s really obvious. Great listening requires you to show that it’s happening, and that it’s happening sincerely. Much of that sincere communication comes down to lighting up to show “message received”. Instead, some people fall into a bad habit of putting on a show of listening, mumbling sounds of non-contextual agreement, or interrupting with “yes, but —”, or pretending to be attentive but mishearing everything.

Listening isn’t simply waiting for your turn to say something or show off your brilliance but engaging with what’s being said, building on it, reacting with thoughts and emotions, and showing that you understand or want to know more.

While the art of listening is touted in business, it’s rarely practiced. Bad listening is bad business, and here’s why:

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Stop Repeating the Same Mistakes

We make a lot of mistakes in life, and a lot of those mistakes take place at work. Elaine Wherry, founder of Meebo, even made a mistake diary to remember and review her mistakes, such as time management and perfectionism issues. “I wanted to be able to reflect on them later,” she explains, “so I wouldn’t beat myself up during the week … It was a way to get more sleep.” As she saw her employees make many of the same mistakes she did, the diary developed into a manual to share what she learned with others.

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Luc Levesque, founder of TravelPod and General Manager at TripAdvisor, decided to guide his employees with a boss blueprint. Luc shares his particular values, dislikes, and quirks to prime new employees for great performance in short order. With swift, effective communication rather than protracted information asymmetry, employees — and the company as a whole — are able to sidestep a period of trial and error, as well as lots of trials, tribulations, and stress.

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Marc Andreessen’s Surprising Antidote to Procrastination

It’s almost inconceivable that somebody as productive as Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware, Ning, and Andreessen Horowitz, needs a way to deal with procrastination. But it turns out he’s just like the majority of humankind.

His solution of structured procrastination is rather devious. Instead of fighting procrastination, go with the flow and put that task on hold. Meanwhile, work on something else. He explains:

The gist of Structured Procrastination is that you should never fight the tendency to procrastinate — instead, you should use it to your advantage in order to get other things done.

Generally in the course of a day, there is something you have to do that you are not doing because you are procrastinating.

While you’re procrastinating, just do lots of other stuff instead.

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Photo: Dick Jensen

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Dare to Say “Yes, And”

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The skills cultivated in improvisation — communication, creativity, teamwork, taking risks, and resilience — are ones you’d want to see on a résumé. Business schools are taking note and even teaching improv. Robert Kulhan, adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business explains, that at its core, “Improvisation isn’t about comedy, it’s about reacting — being focused and present in the moment at a very high level.”

One of the most fundamental principles of improv which produces that mindful reacting is “Yes, and”. You accept and agree with what someone has said, and you’re not done until you build upon it, which requires listening, understanding, and insight.

That “and” generates possibility, and as Tina Fey writes in Bossypants, responsibility. For her, “Yes, and” means, “[D]on’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.”

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Busyness is Not a Virtue

People who often say they’re “too busy” or “crazy busy” sound like buzzing busy signals. And when you start sounding like an appliance, it makes it hard to connect with you. My reaction to your busy signal is much like that of Mindy Kaling, who sees stress as non-conversation:

No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, “Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.”

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Likewise, going on about how busy you are isn’t conversation and doesn’t lead anywhere — except making your conversation partner bored, or worse, peeved. People who act super busy send the same message, making time spent with them never feel quite whole. Interestingly, I find that most people who are legitimately occupied — with their work, or family, or art, or what-have-you — rarely play the “too busy” card, or go out of their way to make time for meaningful connection exactly because they’ve been busy.

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What Goldilocks Can Teach You About Management

Running a classroom and running a business have interesting parallels for what works best to cultivate intrinsic motivation, effective productivity, and successful performance. Whether we’re students or employees, we need supportive conditions to achieve know-how and expertise.

On the education front, Dr. MaryEllen Vogt has examined the effect of how teachers’ perception of their students’ aptitude influenced their classroom approach. She found that when students were perceived as high performers, teachers:

  • talked less and encouraged more interactions among students,
  • allowed for more creative and generative approaches to learning,
  • offered opportunities for independent work,
  • had warmer and more personal relationships with students, and
  • spent little time on behavior or classroom management issues.

When teachers saw their students as low performers, they:

  • prepared more structured lessons,
  • allowed fewer opportunities for student creativity,
  • covered less content,
  • rewarded students for “trying hard” rather than for “good thinking,”
  • spent a significant amount of time on behavior and management issues, and
  • had less congenial relationships with students due to their heavy emphasis on discipline.Source: Karen Tankersley, Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12

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How the Power-Happiness Connection Matters at Work

People who feel powerful are happier, according to a recent study published in Psychological Science.

Researchers found that authenticity is what connects that relationship between power and “subjective well-being” (happiness, basically). When you have power, your behavior can align more closely with your desires and values so that you are free to be more authentic. And when you can go about your day being more true to yourself, you feel happier.

“[B]y leading people to be true to their desires and inclinations — to be authentic — power leads individuals to experience greater happiness,” the study authors note. What’s especially interesting is that dispositional power, or your sense of power, is a strong predictor of happiness, so your perception matters.

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7 Invaluable Collaboration and Communication Tools for Remote Teams

Recently, an internal memo from Yahoo announcing a ban on working from home has sparked a feisty debate about the merits of working remotely. The explanation given for the policy change comes down to one sentence in the memo: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”

As a distributed team ourselves, serving many great companies with flexible work arrangements, we don’t think people’s physical presence in one place is necessary to create the best workplace or the best work. Where we do agree with Yahoo is how vital communication and collaboration are to a company’s success.

The nature of remote work actually compels companies to grapple with and figure out how people communicate and collaborate best. Fortunately, connection and communication are what technology and the web have made so much easier. Finding the right communication tools becomes even more pressing for distributed companies since that toolbox helps create our shared space.

As a follow-up to our ode to distributed companies, we thought we’d share what tools we use to stay connected, creative, and collaborative together. These tools are great not just for managing remote workers but for any teams, since no matter the physical working arrangement, strong team connection and communication are key to accountability, productivity, and innovation and great customer service.

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