Once in a while I come across a technology tool designed to help leaders of remote teams excel. I’m always intrigued by what drives this innovation. Today, I’m interviewing Abhinav Chugh from Peoplebox.ai. Their stated vision is to build an AI Coach, which is personalized and readily available for every manager to help his/her team grow and succeed.
Why do leaders struggle to connect to remote employees?
The most important factors for any leader to connect with his/her employees are Trust and Care. Both are born out of meaningful interactions and follow-up actions, that tend to happen less when the employees are remote.
Leaders don’t get as many different opportunities to catch up with their remote employees as they get with in-office team during lunches, snack & smoke breaks, water-cooler chats, etc. This lack of interaction simply affects a leader’s ability to build a stronger bond as well as take actions on challenges blocking their progress.
What are the most common poor choices or behaviors they make?
One of the most common mistakes we see managers making with remote employees is not trying to build a meaningful connection. That’s why One-on-Ones with remote employees are one of the most powerful opportunities for leaders. It’s a critical activity they should never miss and ensure they do it in the right way.
The second mistake is not making extra efforts with remote employees. We always suggest that if you are a manager who does fortnightly 1-on-1s with your team in office, you should do a weekly one with your remote employees. A week is a long time at work to exchange feedback, thoughts, concerns and new ideas. It’s your only chance as a manager to hear from your remote employees candidly.
Most managers end up talking about status updates and work progress. It’s something they can simply check on Slack or through email. Great leaders make the best out of this opportunity to understand their employees’ motivation, collect feedback & concerns, at the same time provide feedback, coach them and build a stronger relationship.
What does your product actually aim to do?
Like I mentioned, our vision is to build a technology, in the form of an AI Coach, that is personalized and readily available for new-age managers to help build high performing teams. We empower a manager to simply sign-up on our website and start using our tool without waiting for HR or leadership to roll it out in the whole company. Our tool is also free for managers.
From a product perspective, there are three main things that our product aims to do:
- Create a seamless flow of feedback between managers and direct reports
- Help managers build better relationship with their teams
- Close the feedback loop by helping managers take actions, especially the ones that matter.
What do you say to people who find AI intrusive or creepy?
To be very honest with you, there are a lot of times when I myself feel the same. But I believe, whether AI is helpful or creepy, depends on its application and usage. For example, if we see Amazon Echo or Google Home as our assistant to answer our questions or follow our comments, we find it very helpful; but if we were to find out that these devices listen to each and every conversation happening in our living rooms and can make it available for others to listen, it’s intrusive and scary.
How does your product address this?
Peoplebox makes it easy for managers to exchange feedback and take critical actions by compiling all action items at one place, intelligently prioritizing them, and using nudges to close the feedback loop. Below are 4 ways how it helps managers build great managers and engaged teams:
- Empower employees to drive 1-on-1s through suggested talking points and warm-up questions (asked before the 1-on-1).
- Capture all notes and follow-up items from all 1-on-1s.
- Summarize all actions items at one place and help the manager close them faster through regular & intelligent nudges and prioritization.
- Track continuous performance and motivation of employee at each 1-on-1 interval
Give us a practical example of how someone might use it in the course of their work.
Let’s take the example of Brian, an engineering manager with a large tech company. He has six direct reports, four of which are remote. Brian does a one hour weekly stand-up team meeting with his team every Monday, uses Slack for any communication and does 30 minutes weekly one-on-one with every member of his team.
Though he understands the power of 1-on-1s, he’s not sure if he is doing it correctly. There are a couple of team members who are not very expressive, and he struggles in getting them to open up about any challenges, blockers or concerns. At the same time, he feels he doesn’t have a mechanism to check if people are motivated and what’s causing disengagement in the team.
Peoplebox simply integrates with Brian’s calendars and identifies all the 1-on-1s. Before every 1-on-1, Brian’s reports receive some contextual warm-up questions on email/ Slack, that provide the feedback and an objective for the upcoming meeting. Both Brian and his reports also get suggested talking points to make their 1-on-1s more meaningful and actionable. Brian can also track the motivation and performance of each of his team members through continuous performance check-in, that is only private to him. Later, this is all compiled into a list of action items.
At Peoplebox, as we‘re on a mission to build a technology that can act as a coach for every manager by understanding his/her team, their concerns and offering different support systems, data privacy becomes an utmost priority for us. That’s why all the data that is captured is completely owned by the users (either manager or direct reports) and is not shared with anyone without the users’ knowledge and consent. We strongly believe that’s the only way to build a great culture of trust and a win-win situation for all.
If you want to lean more about Peoplebox, check out this brief video.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.