Creating a Culture of Collaboration: Q&A with Jason Fried

By Dawn Reiss, April 4, 2014

What’s your biggest concern when it comes to remote workers?

Contrary to what some people think, it’s not that they slack off. It’s that remote workers work too much, because they often work out of their homes. It’s very easy for them to get back to work, because their work and their life are on the computer. So you have to remind them not to work too much. That’s actually your job as a manager to check in on them—not to see what they’re doing, because you know they are doing good work—but to make sure they aren’t doing too much work. We’ve had to tell people to take a week off because they are overworked. If a person gets burned out, you’ve lost them, and it’s really hard to recover from burnout. And it affects everyone on the team.

What kind of language do you use as a manager to promote collaboration?

I’m still learning to do this, but it comes down to asking a lot of questions instead of telling someone what to do. Telling someone what to do is the easy way out, and people don’t want to hear that. You want to help people come to their own conclusions, maybe the same one or maybe a different conclusion. But help them get there themselves so they have more ownership and don’t feel like they’re just implementers, but thinkers and part of the process, too. I’m reading a good book, “Turn the Ship Around” [by David Marquet], about this guy who ran a nuclear sub in the Navy. He was given a modern sub that had the worst crew and the worst morale. The military is very much a command-and-control philosophy. When you are telling people to do things, they aren’t thinking, they are just doing. So the captain said, ‘There are 900 people on the ship; why is there only one brain working? That doesn’t make sense. My brain isn’t better than everyone else’s brain is together.’ So he turned it around and didn’t give orders anymore. He said, ‘I want people to come to me and tell me what they intend to do, and then I’ll I say do it, or think about that.’ Instead of telling people what to do, he would confirm their intention. It’s a very different way of thinking, and the ship totally turned around in a year or two and became the best ship in the Navy. People know when they are being implementers instead of thinkers, and it’s hard to get fired up about that.

Photo credit: Marc Garret

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