As lockdowns ease in various parts of the world, many organizations are calling their staff back to the office. But the employees have had enough.
Experts believe that the lockdowns and work-from-home schedules gave people the time to reflect upon their overall well-being. So, when organizations called for a return to “normalcy,” many employees refused outrightly and quit.
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The “butts-in-seats” mentality will no longer get you the world’s brightest minds. Without offering a fully remote environment, you will always be a step behind in the race for talent.
At Modus Create, we’ve been remote since our inception in 2011. But going remote was never our goal. Instead, it was simply an offshoot of a more profound set of values that I refer to as the open-source ethos.
Open-source is all about contributing to something greater than the whole. Thousands of people in all corners of the world work together to generate ideas and create tools that benefit the open-source community, their companies’ customers, and the world at large.
In this post, I’ll discuss seven leadership principles inspired by the open-source community. These principles hold the key to successfully leading distributed teams.
1. Use Knowledge to Empower People
Knowledge is indeed power. But only if you use it to empower people, not against them.
Traditionally, businesses believed that developing a competitive edge required trade secrets, proprietary knowledge, and black-box operating models. These values also pervaded organizational cultures, where people hoarded knowledge to further their careers.
The open-source revolution has turned this approach on its head, and leaders must adapt fast. Today, successful organizations often have leaders who encourage knowledge sharing and despise silos. They never allow a team member to fail by purposely withholding information. Taking a leaf from software engineers who share their best practices on tools like GitHub, many leaders share their experiences, including failures on professional networks.
Hoarding knowledge isn’t a sustainable strategy anymore. Instead, leaders must foster a culture in their teams where curiosity thrives and information is accessible.
2. Adopt Transparent Workflows
Collaboration is critical for the success of any business, as more efficient workflows directly affect a company’s bottom line.
At Modus Create, we operate the company as a scrum of scrums. And just like open source communities, our working boards are visible to the entire organization. This provides visibility and lets people contribute to any task that piques their interest.
For example, a software engineer can access the existing tasks of the marketing department, learn how Youtube videos are produced, and even make recommendations to improve. Such transparency has created a culture at Modus Create where engineers frequently make videos for our Youtube channel and share knowledge with the broader community.
As a leader, encourage transparency in workflows across the organization. It will not just remove blockers at work but also set the stage for improvements. Additionally, transparent workflows also assist with asynchronous collaboration by reducing frequent status-update meetings and back-and-forth communication.
3. Keep a Global Outlook
The world of open source has thrived because it allows the best talent from around the world to collaborate and contribute to the development of the very software that powers our world today.
A global outlook helps leaders unleash the most significant advantage of remote work – access to talent. The world’s leading minds are distributed all over the world. By bringing them under one virtual roof, you’ll be in a much better position to solve your customers’ toughest problems by scaling operations at an unprecedented pace.
A global, diverse team also helps you target international markets, expanding the scope of your business. According to a Fundera report, diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets.
4. Encourage Incremental Improvements
Working iteratively has been part of software development circles for many decades. Leaders should extend this facet throughout the organization.
Why? As your company grows, you’ll realize that what has worked so far may not be enough to get you to the next level. Your internal processes are always ripe for disruption, no matter how efficient they appear today.
Therefore, as a leader, encourage your team to try new things and share suggestions. This ever-improving operational model is a win-win scenario for everyone. Even when new ideas don’t work, people will learn from them and get priceless insights.
5. Prioritize Equal Opportunity
With over 400 employees from 50+ countries, Modus Create has one of the most diverse workforces among the companies of its size.
However, for us, diversity isn’t a vanity metric, quota, or even a goal.
Humans have exceptional talent across countries, genders, and cultures. So, diversity is simply what happens when you level the playfield. Rather than being a keyboard warrior on social media, we focus on creating opportunities for all people to grow and experience new things.
Encourage people in your team to go outside of their comfort zone by giving them opportunities to contribute. Top performers from all over the world will shine at a place that rewards taking initiatives.
6. Encourage Shared Accountability
There is an age-old saying — when everyone is accountable, no one’s accountable. Sometimes, this statement is used as an argument against the concept of shared accountability.
However, shared accountability doesn’t mean passing the buck after failure. Instead, when people take ownership of their work, it inspires their teammates to do the same. It also encourages continuous and real-time feedback.
As everyone in the team feels responsible not just for their success but also for their peers, shared accountability also helps you groom the next generation of leaders in your team.
7. Foster a Culture of Trust
Trust is the key attribute to any operational model. However, it is even more important in remote distributed environments.
Publicly appreciating and recognizing good work motivates people. This also makes them more receptive to critical feedback. And trust is contagious — the more people feel trusted, the more they trust others.
Trusting someone doesn’t mean that they are solely responsible. It means that you believe in your team’s ability to take complete ownership of their work. If they don’t have the answers, they’ll take it upon themselves to seek help and make progress.
Open-source leadership doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It simply embraces the philosophy that knowledge work is creative work. And creativity flourishes in an environment that encourages the exchange of ideas. Instilling open source values in your leadership team will help you create an organization that not only adapts well to change but gets energized by it.
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