Last week, on Tuesday, 7th June – 30 minutes after our monthly all-hands meeting here at Growmotely had ended – our Founder and CEO, Sarah Hawley, jumped on a webinar. It was called ‘Conscious Culture…and the thriving teams of the future‘, and she was the main attraction, so to speak. Our Events Manager, Andreea Gătin, had – naturally – orchestrated the event.
What ensued over the next 90 minutes was a lively and candid sharing of what Sarah has learned over the last eight years, as a leader, since she turned her companies remote in 2014. In her words, she went from being a very average leader, to (my – and others’ – words) being a visionary, exceptional leader, and she was showing up for a group of entrepreneurs and leaders who had tuned in from across the globe to hear about her journey. During this interactive online gathering, we listened, learned, asked questions, and showed up in authentic (and sometimes vulnerable) ways. I think it’s safe to say that we all walked away energized and wanting more.
Conscious Culture…and the thriving teams of the future.
Sarah teaches us that Conscious Culture is all about bringing our inner world – and the work we do in our inner world – into the workplace. It’s a culture that sits in stark contrast to the traditional ideas around how we should and how we do show up at work. Although both the depth and breadth of what was covered in the webinar makes it difficult to showcase all of the content in this piece, I will do my best to bring you some of the thought-provoking and scintillating highlights to give you a taste of what was covered, and to whet your appetite for future webinars…
→ Go remote! Sarah has found that she actually gets to know her teammates better in remote-first companies.
Interesting! And somewhat paradoxical, n’est-ce pas ? Sarah has found that the fact that we can ‘come to work’ from different rooms in our homes, or from our car, or from our parents’ homes, or from a café in our neighborhood means that we see people more in their element (and their natural environment), and there isn’t this pervasive ‘two separate people’ phenomenon that often rears its head in the world of in-person work. What’s the ‘so, what?‘ here? Getting to know your teammates more authentically, we have found, leads to greater fulfillment, collaboration and mutual respect.
→ Sarah advocates for asynchronous work – uncoupling ‘hours worked’ from outcomes achieved
Sarah shared her own personal experience relating to her discovery of the working hours that felt best to her. At one point in her remote working journey, she started to understand that her most effective work period in the day was early in the morning, and as she learned to respect this fact, and let her body lead on this front, she saw some of her best work flow out of her in these early hours. On the flip side, she has had – and currently has – many members on her team who are night owls. The thought now of making a group of people who have different body clocks and different preferences all come to an office at the same time and ask them to work at that time seems ludicrous. By doing this, “we are potentially depriving our people of their most productive hours.” Never again. She does acknowledge, however, that if you haven’t given your people (not to mention yourself) this freedom before, it can require a leap of faith. (Are you ready to take the leap?)
→ Go remote – reason #2 of 1,000! Remote work is an incredible tool to ween oneself of any undesirable tendencies to micromanage and / or make (unfair) judgements about other people
When Sarah was an “in-person CEO” she said that she had a hard time keeping her eyes off of everyone’s stuff. And she couldn’t help but make judgements about what she was seeing. Now, as the leader of a remote company, she doesn’t see the things that she couldn’t help but see before (everyone’s unique personal hygiene preferences for example!), and she has freed herself from any potentially unfair assumptions that she used to make regarding her team’s workspace habits. Case in point for Sarah: can someone be a high performer and have a messy desk? The lens through which she saw the world suggested that it wasn’t possible! Now – she has no idea who on her team has a messy desk and who has a tidy desk, and she likes it that way. (Heck – here in the world of remote work, some of us don’t even have a desk at all!)
→ Sarah has found that focusing on alignment – when it comes to the people you bring into your company – is an incredibly effective tool for building and maintaining a thriving team.
When Sarah talks about focusing on alignment she is referring in part to a practice that we call culture-first hiring here at Growmotely, which basically means that we want the people who come into our company to be authentically attracted to – and excited by – what the company’s values are. For example, our five company values at Growmotely are (1) Stay curious, stay open; (2) Constant innovation; (3) Passionately committed; (4) Transparency and candour; and (5) Empowerment and ownership. We put a premium on – first and foremost – finding people who come alive in an environment where these values reign. And in that sense, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ potential team member – there is only someone who is aligned or who isn’t aligned. And it cuts both ways. Do the person’s values and the company’s values align? Or not?
It is also important that the person is excited by – and completely on board with – the company’s purpose and vision. At Growmotely, for example, our purpose is as follows: We exist to support the evolution of conscious culture. To create equality, growth, fulfilment, freedom and empowerment for all. Our vision? To become the leading global remote work platform, placing experienced professionals into long-term positions (with benefits) at companies they love. When team members are in complete alignment with the values, purpose and vision of the company, Sarah has found that any sort of issue related to ‘performance’ can be more meaningfully navigated by having conversations around alignment. If the alignment isn’t there, the individual in question can be freed to go work on the thing that he or she really cares about, and to do so in an environment that is more aligned. There’s less judgement; it’s simply about – on both sides – finding the right fit.
→ Sarah maintains that it is crucial for us, as conscious leaders, to own – and apologize for, if necessary – any bad behavior that we inadvertently, on occasion, bring to the table.
We all get triggered. We all act out. Instead of trying to be a superhuman, let’s admit that this can happen every once in awhile, and arm ourselves with strategies to effectively deal with – and clean up after, when appropriate – ourselves when this happens. Here are some of Sarah’s recommendations on this front:
- Notice when you’re triggered. (Easier said than done!) Notice when what’s happening in your body changes; recognize it for what it is.
- Take a break! Once we have noticed that we’re having a reaction, we don’t have to continue down the path we are on. If we do continue whilst we’re having a reaction, there’s a strong possibility that we won’t be coming from a grounded or centered place.
- Set a time to circle back. Circling back after reflection – and a cooling-off of the nervous system – can make a huge difference in our perspective and how any conversation in question ends up playing out.
- Dive into the experience. Here are some prompts that Sarah recommends engaging with: Can you think of other times when you have experienced this feeling? If yes – what has triggered you on those occasions? What is the root fear at play? Prepare to share your experience, and ask the other person about his or her experience. Have boundaries been broken here? If yes, are they your personal boundaries? Or are they boundaries that relate to company culture? Sarah suggests keeping the conversation as open as possible whilst navigating through it.
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So. Has your interest been piqued by chance? Hopefully. The suggestions shared in this article are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we can all learn from Sarah Hawley and her journey as a CEO and leader. And lucky for us, she is generous with the sharing of her experience and wisdom.
If you’re keen to learn more, and to continue on this journey with us – so we can continue to all learn from each other – we invite you to check out the Events page on our website, follow us on LinkedIn, and / or subscribe to our newsletter for companies – called Thrive (if you don’t already that is). We’re in the process of planning more webinars for you, and these are a few of the channels through which we will be communicating to you about these upcoming events.
Sarah Hawley’s vision – and our collective vision here at Growmotely – for the Future of Work is ambitious, bold and full of vitality and authenticity, and we would love for you to join us in building this incredible future…one conscious leader, and one conscious company at a time. 💫