Have a few key, clear shared priorities for the organization. This will enable your people to focus on what matters most vs. trying to do it all. If done with transparency, this builds trust, decreases stress and provides a framework for thriving.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janeen Gelbart.

Janeen is the CEO and co-founder of Indiggo, a company that has been dedicated to creating Return On Leadership for over 15 years. Indiggo has reinvented strategy execution for leaders through an AI driven tech platform and a fresh approach to leading successfully in today’s world. She spearheaded Indiggo’s transformation from a premier boutique consultancy to a highly innovative tech company that continues to drive leaders and their organizations to excellence. Never satisfied with the status quo, Janeen relentlessly engages herself and others in being the best they can.

Thank you for joining us Janeen. What is your “backstory”?

I was an entrepreneur from birth. Always looking for opportunity and challenging the status quo and any arbitrary structures or rules. Always been passionate about going to the core of an issue, person or challenge; seeing patterns, reading signals and creating focused, fresh, action-based solutions. I started my first company in Paris, when I was fresh out of college, where we achieved significant growth. It was not easy against all odds as a female entrepreneur in France during that time. I sold that company prior to moving to the United States, where I co-founded Indiggo. The company was founded with intention and purpose; knowing how hard we work and wanting to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives vs. just doing business. There are great ripple effects we can create through impacting leaders who in turn impact others. The paradox is that, despite having worked in strategy for many years, I actually have more of an organic approach to life. I thrive on seeing opportunities, seizing them with a clear vision of success, and then figuring the journey out dynamically along the way. My driving forces have always been a big bias for clarity, action vs. theory, directness/truth, not settling for less than excellence and always truly caring about those around me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

In a general sense, I think your career is more about what you make happen than what happens to you. As a young, inexperienced entrepreneur in Paris running an unknown company, I decided very early on to approach the largest relevant customer in Europe. They ended up becoming our customer and changing the trajectory and growth of our company significantly. I learned early that, despite the nerves, doubts and odds, it is often easier to go straight to interacting with leaders at the top where often these leaders are there because they are less fearful of taking risks to improve their business. This approach can make things happen much faster.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

I tend to make funny mistakes in general, so that can’t really be isolated to when I started my career. I have many stories, but one is when I forgot my microphone was on when I was off stage…unfortunately I noticed because I heard my voice seemingly come out of the guy who was then on stage in front of a large room of execs! Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? Keep your sense of humor and leverage perspective so as not to sweat the small stuff!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Have a few key, clear shared priorities for the organization. This will enable your people to focus on what matters most vs. trying to do it all. If done with transparency, this builds trust, decreases stress and provides a framework for thriving.

Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team, while others have just started, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve had to collaborate closely and drive results with remote stakeholders from the onset of my career.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team?

Many of these are challenges that already exist in non-remote teams. Lack of alignment, lack of shared clarity, lack of focus, misunderstanding or misinterpreting information, missed goals, and lack of the human side of interaction. I think that we were already flying blind before the massive shift to remote work and that these have just been accentuated by remote work.

Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Don’t do this in writing until you have had a conversation. Provide specific examples to ensure shared understanding. Brainstorm together on how to improve the issue, but also be ready with a few concrete suggestions in mind. Acknowledge what they are doing well to begin with (the recommended ratio is three positive aspects to each area of improvement). Give context to explain why this improvement matters. Ask them what they think, where disconnects may have been created and how to put in place structures to succeed better moving ahead. Agree on specific next steps with clear ownership. Always follow up in writing.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Don’t do it.

Can you share any suggestions on effective leadership styles/actions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Don’t schedule too many meetings to compensate for being remote. Find a happy medium by having regular, brief scheduled video huddles to keep the human connection and see how they’re doing. Regularly align on the few vital areas of focus to ensure you’re not overloading them with too many demands. Strategically include time proactively to brainstorm and have conversations that may have happened more organically before.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

One of the most important roles of a leader is to create regular ongoing clarity on the few areas of focus that will create the greatest results for the organization. It’s then up to each business unit to do the same. We live in a world where strategy can no longer be static and organizations need to be agile and redirect resources quickly and efficiently. Part of the alignment needed to do this is to also agree to what to say no to in order to have the capacity to redirect resources. Mechanisms must be put in place to have full transparency on focus and capacity throughout the organization. This empowers people at every level to be able to make ongoing choices and decisions that support their success and the organizations success.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Living with clarity on, and in alignment with core purpose — if every individual was clear on the most inspiring purpose for their lives, and every group of people/organization remained clear on their ultimate most inspiring collective purpose, the choices and ensuing actions could only result in life and the world becoming a much better place for all.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Anything is possible!

Janeen Gelbart of Indiggo: Five Things You Need To Successfully Manage A Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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