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From the inside

Lessons I have learned as a Manager after 1-year all-remote

Posted by Leonard |

Based in Paris, Leonard has been part of Criteo for two years now, meaning half his time at Criteo was spent managing his team from the distance. Here he shares his own Manager’s Guide to Managing Remotely, all coming from his own experience with its ups and downs, testing and learning until it eventually becomes a routine for the whole team. Enjoy!

Lesson 1: Foster a positive environment for all stakeholders

How to set up a successful rhythm for all, for example when dealing with parent’s constraints?

  • Avoid micro-managing and give more trust to ICs, avoid abusing project status checking meetings, and prefer "offline" (slack) sync as much as possible,
  • Understand that we all have a different personal situation: get to know everyone's constraints, be flexible and adapt the rhythm to find the proper balance between effectiveness and anxiety / mental load,
  • Create Sacred Time: preserve time away from meetings, for example, lunch is “sacred time” for me, it might be a nap, a moment in the day for mediation, and so on.

Lesson 2: Keeping your team together, creating unformal moments & staying in touch

  • Create substitutes to replace the elevator/coffee/lunch conversations and be able to socialize, for example, 'coffee time' (could even be 'teatime' !) - and we learned that instead of having a dedicated regular meeting in our calendar, its actually nicer if the invitation is sent at any time by anyone in the team who feels the need to take a break,
  • Use small online games, such as skkribl during these breaks, or when there's some time lift at the end of a more regular meeting,
  • Organize team escape games: we were offered one by Criteo’s Workplace as part of the feelgood initiatives, but lots of solutions are offered online,
  • Take advantage of time out: book some time for small talk before starting a meeting, or when ending it,
  • Use video conference to keep the face-to-face conversations, it's not always possible for everyone to turn the video on, but it's definitely better to be able to see the person we talk to.

Lesson 3: Leading in the distance

  • Take care of each other: it's easy to spot someone who needs help when he's sitting next to you in the office, it's definitely harder with the distance, that's why it's so important that the team knows I'm always available to support them (defining priorities, helping on a tech task, etc.),
  • Initiate personal check-ins: organize check-in meetings with team members than before - start with a slack conversation and try to turn the video on. Again, it's always better to have a face-to-face meeting,
  • Be an active listener: listen for their anxieties and their concerns and react quickly if relevant.

Lesson 4: Encouraging cross-collaboration & nurturing communication

  • Rethink team structure: change the way the team is organized to deal with the workload. Instead of having individuals tackling their own objectives in isolation, promote a new model where each objective is dealt by 2 or 3 people, and try to avoid having always the same pair,
  • Foster an environment of trust: encourage people to ask for help inside or outside the team,
  • Over-communicate: in the past, we used to rely a lot on oral communication in the office; now more than ever it's important that everyone shares the same level of information, so communication should be made early and frequently and information always available (dedicated Slack channels, etc.).

Lesson 5: Finding your own work/life balance

  • Set up a work routine: adopt regular working hours and have a designated work area. For me, it’s important to avoid switching from the sofa to the living room table then to another place...
  • Exercise frequently: before I used the travel time between the office and my place to "clear" my head from work; now I'm using exercise instead of as a way to disconnect,
  • Use zoom virtual background: I guess that some people might be OK to have their children, pets, or even just their bedroom in their back during a meeting, however that's where I would personally put the boundary between work and personal life. On many occasions, the virtual background is a really nice ice breaker to engage the conversation with someone (because it's either fun or a very nice picture that the person actually took).

Hopefully, those tips shared by Leonard can help you in your day-to-day challenges in managing your team remotely or give you some new ideas. Please feel free to share your tips and team success stories on our social media!


Senior SDE Lead, R&D

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