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5 Things 2020 Taught Me About Remote Leadership

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Only one year ago, I shared how the trend was moving to remote work. According to a survey from CloudApp, more than 50% of younger generations were working from home at least part of the week, new startups were launching remote, and companies like GitLab were carrying the torch of possibility.

Little did I know how much that would be accelerated due to a global pandemic. In March, we were thrust into the unknown, and “2 years of digital transformation talks were crammed into 2 weeks,� said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. The tech world moved remotely. Here is what I have learned over the year leading a marketing org and company that previously was not remote.

1. Find your comfort zone

I started like most of you. Unsure of what to do and how to make it work. My first day was spent in my basement on an IKEA kids chair and laptop on my lap.

Day 1 of remote work.

Some remote setups are better than others.

I was literally and physically out of my comfort zone with my nice desk, big monitors, and complete quiet. It has taken time to adjust, to find a groove. I still haven’t quite figured it out and may not ever figure it out until we return to the “old normal.�

What I have learned is that it’s important to adapt and find peace with a new situation. At the very beginning, my team and I did 10-minute standup chats every morning. It was a chance to replace the familiar morning conversations that happen casually at the start of work. Those have gradually faded to a normal weekly cadence, but was a helpful way to stay connected.

I take productivity breaks at home, make sure to play with my kids during that time, so they aren’t desperate for my attention during an important meeting. I also try to separate work and home as much as possible, but I have definitely had a toddler join me on plenty of Zoom calls. These things have helped me to find some sort of comfort zone with change.

Once you find a new normal spot, you will be able to lead better. You can find ways to help others when you have taken care of yourself.

2. Capture the moment

Remote Startups
Be nimble as a remote leader.

Leading marketing at CloudApp, in which screen recorder and screenshot for mac and PC products help remote workers stay connected, I saw a unique moment to capture an audience and help them along the way with some remote work tips and tricks. We put out dozens of content pieces, including podcasts, webinars, blog posts, and guides. The content exploded and had over 100k views directly tied to it over a 45-day span.

Obviously, this moment was a chance for our company to lead and help in the situation. In my 15 years, I have found there are constantly opportunities like this for companies to step up and help their community. It’s important to be flexible and build in time for campaigns that capture a cultural moment in time.

These campaigns generally run hot for a few months and then peter out, but provide a good opportunity to build global awareness of your brand and strengthen ties with your community. Going through this exercise of trend content will also help you to learn how nimble your team is and how you can try and create success with similar campaigns in the future.

3. Over-communicate

remote team video conference
Meet often with your remote team. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

It’s amazing the amount of side, informal conversations you have on a daily basis when you are side by side with your team. In remote work, those meetings are gone. How can they be replaced? I’ve taken a combination of technology and virtual meetings to do so.

Slack or Microsoft Teams can compensate for some conversations; just make sure to use them wisely. It’s important to block off time for yourself to not be available on these channels.

1:1s and team meetings can provide opportunities to give pass downs from other teams and stay connected as a team. It’s important to protect these on your calendar and not continually reschedule or cancel.

4. Project Management

All projects and campaigns should have a process to ensure they are launched on time and have good results.

Kick-off call – this can be a great time to identify the expected outcomes and timeline for a project or campaign. Everyone who is involved in cross-functionally should be invited to the kick-off call. I also love to use this time to introduce how we will track success along the way.

Project Management software – Having a place to track updates and make assignments is key to scaling, especially with multiple projects running simultaneously. Asana and Jira are both great options for project management.

The key is clear outcomes and milestones along the way. It is also helpful to have a lead for the overall project to help coordinate and ensure updates are put into the project management software.

Quick updates – these can be done with a CloudApp screen recording, a 15 min stand up meeting, or just over email/slack, whatever your company preference is. The key is to have some sort of check-in on measurement to ensure progress and accountability.

Post mortem – sometimes these can be too fluffy. Including things that went massively wrong along with the wins can be helpful in refining the process and making it smoother the next time around.

5. Have fun and celebrate

last minute gift ideas
Don’t forget to celebrate.

I still do a terrible job at this. I am a much more fun leader in person than I am remote. What I have learned, though, is that there needs to be time to celebrate. The best thing we do at CloudApp is a Cloud9 channel in Slack. This is a place that every organization can celebrate small and big wins.

Finding time to celebrate asynchronously and also in team meetings really creates a culture that wants to continue winning and connects to a leader who can help to continue that focus.

Image Credit: rebrand cities; pexels

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I’m Sick of 2020! Start Reading My 2021 List to Feel Better

start reading to feel better

As business leaders, successfully navigating during normal times can be challenging enough. During times of crisis like we find ourselves in today, maneuvering business can be downright daunting. We are all sick of 2020. Start your reading list, and feel better before 2021.

What do your leadership skills look like right now?

There is no better time than now to work on yourself as a leader, and there is no greater way to do so than by standing on the shoulders of giants.  As such, here are my picks for the Top 6 Inspirational Leadership Books to begin your reading for 2021 — to inspire and grow your leadership abilities to handle the challenges of today.

1. Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business by John Mackey

As a follow-up to Conscious Capitalism, best-selling author, and visionary Whole Foods leader John Mackey and his co-authors present a powerful argument for why conscious leaders are more needed today than ever before. They lay out what conscious leadership actually is, and how one can become a conscious leader.

This highly anticipated release features a renowned executive sharing the principles, vision, and mindset for how leaders today can drive positive change in society through intentional conscious leadership.

book conscious leadership

2. You Don’t Have to Be Ruthless to Win: The Art of Badass Selfless Service by Jonathan Keyser

Topping the charts at #1 on the WSJ Bestseller list, this brave and raw new book takes you inside the ferocious world of commercial real estate brokerage, where you see the author transition from a ruthless, money-hungry broker to a selfless leader at the helm of a rapidly growing, industry-disrupting brokerage firm.

But this book isn’t really about Jonathan Keyser—it’s about how you as the reader can adopt this same counterintuitive strategy to create extraordinary, long-term success in your own business.

reading list 2021

3. Friday Forward: Inspiration & Motivation to End Your Week Stronger Than It Started by Robert Glazer

Leadership depends on your ability to connect with and inspire others. This book from Entrepreneur and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author Robert Glazer offers actionable advice on how to do just that. Friday Forward takes the 52 most impactful stories from Glazer’s inspirational newsletter of the same name, which reaches more than 100,000 readers in more than 60 countries.

From stories of struggling entrepreneurs who turned things around to new hires rising to the occasion, Glazer’s latest book can give you the push you need to make an impact in your own network.

book friday forward

4. Life Gives to the Giver: Musings on Wellness, Success, Marketing and Being an Entrepreneur by Joe Polish

Joe Polish has been called the “world’s best connector,” and for good reason. The once ponytailed, dead-broke, drug-addicted carpet cleaner became a millionaire by the age of 30 and then went on to establish the world’s two highest-level marketing groups.

From advice on marketing and selling to thoughts on wellness and recovery, Life Gives to the Giver: Musings on Wellness, Success, Marketing and Being an Entrepreneur is packed with both wisdom and witticism, providing those who wish to succeed in business-and-life, a treasure trove that can help guide them exactly where they want to go.

book life gives to the giver

5. Leading Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration

Keith Ferrazzi, entrepreneur, coach, and author of the game-changing book Never Eat Alone, presents a daring, research-backed model of collaborative work. Ferrazzi details a new principle, co-elevation, that enables employees at all levels of an organization to connect with colleagues, collaborate freely, and inspir5 their shared growth.

Leaders can learn how to use co-elevation in their own organizations to help their teams build trust, manage stress, and improve performance across the entire company.

book leading without authority

6. Giftology: The Art & Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Client Retention by John Ruhlin

Radical generosity is the against-the-grain secret weapon of real influencers, and it will allow you to boost referrals, retention rates, and ROI like few other strategies. Through poignant personal stories and data-backed evidence, author and successful entrepreneur John Ruhlin breaks down how anyone can master the magic of Giftology and reap the rewards of an expanding business and fruitful relationships, professional and personal alike.

book gift ology


2020 has brought many unexpected challenges, and it certainly has not been easy for businesses and business leaders. 202o has made me wonder what I had to complain about before? I am certainly more grateful for the good things that happen.

Reading has always been an escape for me — and doubly so now. More than ever before we want to learn more, rapidly,  and apply that learning to survive in this economy.

But, 2020 has also provided extraordinary opportunities for committed leaders to self-reinvent and become better versions of themselves.

Don’t miss out on these game-changing books that will enhance and improve your leadership skills — even before 2021.

Top Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels

The post I’m Sick of 2020! Start Reading My 2021 List to Feel Better appeared first on ReadWrite.

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10 Innovative Business Leaders to Follow in 2021

10 Innovative Business Leaders

2020 has thrown a wrench into almost everyone’s plans. It’s been hard to gain momentum in a year full of so many concerns and setbacks. The new year will be a welcome restart after 12 tumultuous months.

If you’re trying to regain your footing, or want to set some ambitious goals for 2021, take your cue from the world’s most innovative CEOs and business minds. These dynamic leaders are poised for a great year, and you can join them for the ride.

How We Found These Innovative Leaders

Innovative leaders don’t just announce themselves. Many of them work quietly, building next-generation companies and products without a lot of media attention.

So how did we find them? In a few ways:

  • Word of mouth

When people do extraordinary things, word gets around. We checked in with members of our networks to find out: Who’s innovating like nobody else? Who’s going above and beyond creatively, technically, or financially?

  • Digital content

Innovators get written about. We took a look around online to see what our favorite publications had to say. In sites like Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Inc., these leaders are getting a lot of attention.

  • Online communities

Social media is the new town square. We pored over Twitter trends, Facebook groups, and Instagram galleries to get the skinny on which business leaders are making a real difference.

  • Market data

Metrics like CAGR and market capitalization speak volumes about a business leader’s acumen. More innovative leaders grow companies faster, larger, and more sustainably than their peers.

To be sure, we spotted a lot of innovative leaders. But to us, the following 10 stood out.

Innovative Leaders Overview 

From Fortune 500 CEOs to up-and-comers, there are 10 industry leaders I’m keeping an eye on. These individuals are constantly looking for ways to improve their companies, their communities, and the people around them:

1. Jeff Wong

A technology aficionado who is shaking up professional services 

2. Stephen Dalby

A concerned — and creative — father who saw a huge parental problem and solved it

3. Tracy Grace

A second-generation entrepreneur and diversity champion who heads a fast-growing IT consulting firm

4. Brent Shafer

An innovative business modeler who is working to transform the American healthcare industry

5. Ritch Wood

An innovative mind in customer service and beauty products

6. William Richards

A web-based systems guru who created the world’s leading URL redirection service

7. Safra Catz

An acquisitions master who is leading Oracle into its next decade

8. Zach Ferres

A tech entrepreneur who helps companies achieve digital transformation

9. Mary Barra

A trailblazer in the male-dominated automotive industry

10. Asheesh Mani Jain

A marketing mastermind whose creativity is matched only by his generosity

What You Can Learn From Them

What can these innovation leaders teach you? Let’s take a look:

1. Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief of Innovation

The “Big Four� refers to the largest professional services companies on earth. This is a very exclusive group, captained by only the best of the best. 

One of these companies is Ernst & Young, which employs Jeff Wong as its global chief of innovation. This former eBay executive has forged a successful career in Silicon Valley, but his insights on modern technology in business are valued by C-suite executives in every corner of the world. He’s certainly one of the most innovative leaders in professional services. 

2. Stephen Dalby, Founder and CEO of Gabb Wireless

Stephen Dalby is a father of eight children, so he’s well aware of the issues that come with parenting in the 21st century. When looking at options for his son’s first phone, he noticed that every smartphone was expensive and unnecessarily high-tech, so he created a cellular network for kids in Gabb Wireless. 

While Stephen is pro-technology, he realizes that kids don’t need unlimited — and potentially dangerous — features at a young and impressionable age. He founded Gabb Wireless to help other parents solve this problem with a safety-focused phone for kids.

3. Tracey Grace, President and CEO of IBEX

Tracey speaks passionately about diversity in the tech industry. As a black female entrepreneur in IT, she wants to pave the way for minorities to have opportunities in STEM fields. Along the way, she has built IBEX into a thriving tech company, proving herself a strategic leader in her industry. Her experience shines in the consistently high quality of her work. 

4. Brent Shafer, CEO of Cerner 

Brent has a long track record of creating value-based business models that yield big returns. After successful stints at other major corporations, such as Hewlett-Packard and Philips, he is currently applying his innovative approach at Cerner. 

As part of the Healthcare Leadership Council, Brent’s new mission is to transform American healthcare as we know it. It takes a fearless and brilliant mind to tackle such an undertaking. 

5. Ritch Wood, CEO of Nu Skin 

Few organizations are as innovative as Nu Skin. You can thank CEO Ritch Wood for that. His mindset is one of constant progression and improvement. “Innovation is the lifeblood of any company and determines long-term success,� he says. “We all know of companies who have failed because they did not innovate.� 

Ritch’s recipe for innovation includes identifying actual customer needs and using industry-leading technology to solve them. This approach led Nu Skin to be named the world’s No. 1 at-home beauty device system brand in 2018.

6. William Richards, Founder and CEO of EasyRedir

William’s two decades in the tech industry led to the founding of EasyRedir, now the world’s leading URL redirection service, in 2014. His experience building web-based technology systems and launching tech companies provide a powerful résumé for one of the most innovative minds in the tech industry. Building and growing EasyRedir is the cherry on top, providing a needed service to companies at a world-class level.

7. Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle

Founded in 1977, Oracle has long been a leader in software development and implementation. Much of its success is thanks to the innovative mind of Safra Catz, who has been a part of the organization since 1999. She is also a director of the Walt Disney Company, further showcasing her ability to think outside the box. She is credited with over 100 acquisitions since joining Oracle, a bold strategy that has paid off tremendously. 

8. Zach Ferres, CEO of Coplex

Corporate transformation is the name of the game, and Zach is the master. In 2012, he was named CEO of Coplex, which aids businesses in their digital transformations. By purchasing the company in 2016, Zach doubled down on his work. In the modern world, businesses cannot thrive without an active and effective digital presence, an innovation that Zach is spearheading with his own company.

9. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Company

Mary joined GM when she was 18, and she is now the first female CEO of an auto manufacturing company. With GM diving into more electric cars and competing on innovation with companies like Tesla, it will be interesting to see what the leader of GM comes up with. 

10. Asheesh Mani Jain, Business Head of Relevance

Asheesh is one of the smartest marketing minds that I know. Many of the people on this list are those who have built or run massive companies. Asheesh is one of those smart people who consistently brings creative strategies to different forms of marketing. He’s also one of the world’s kindest people — always trying to bring innovative ideas to people who need help.

What Makes an Innovative Business Leader

Innovative business leaders are not one-size-fits-all. Different leaders made this list for different reasons. Let’s look at a few notable ones:

  • Standout products

Some leaders shine in the products they develop. Nu Skin’s Rich Woods, for instance, is behind many of the latest skincare innovations on the market. Mary Barra of GM is building trendy, affordable electric cars and SUVs.

  • Smart processes

Many of the quietest innovations are also the most important. Tracy Grace, CEO of IBEX, has her high-diversity hiring system down pat. And while Coplex doesn’t build physical products, it’s the best in the business when it comes to digital transformation.

  • Results relative to experience

When you were 18, what were you doing with your life? Mary was climbing to an executive-level post at one of the world’s most valuable auto companies. Leaders who do incredible things for their age are undoubtedly innovative.

  • Growth, mergers, and acquisitions

Massive growth, whether achieved organically or through corporate acquisitions, is impressive. CEO Safra Catz couldn’t have integrated 100 businesses into Oracle without some serious innovation chops.

Whatever the future holds, it’s a good bet these innovation leaders will be there to meet it. They’re setting the example not just for their companies and industries, but for all of us in business. 

Image credit: Matheus Bertelli; Pexels

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