Release year: 2022

Author: Gustavo Razzetti

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Link to my handwritten notes


The 2020 pandemic has shaken the business world like seemingly never before. It seems evident to me that we are currently observing a massive shift from an office-first mentality to a more and more hybrid and remote-first reality. This new world feels alien to most leaders.

This book offers many suggestions on how to conduct a remote-first company without having to compromise on building a strong company culture. Indeed, as I am now deeply convinced, culture is of the utmost importance when running a company and should be designed as intently as a flagship product.

The book gave me a reality check with these two quotes: “The office is the new offsite” (p. 43) and “The people who are more supportive of fully returning to the physical office are those who were successful in that environment” (p. 196). That was a hard pill to swallow for me, as a firm believer of the potential an office provides for building culture.

The truth is, what works for me might not work for others. If I’m part of a minority of people who can reach their peak productivity at the office, I have to accept it and be willing to better understand what allows my peers to be productive from home. This is a big shift for leaders because it forces them to choose between the old habits that gave them their current success, and embracing a new uncomfortable reality that in theory will get them to the next level. Which one would you choose? As the author brilliantly puts it, “Are you open to maximizing the benefits of a remote environment even if it means your role feels less important?”

If you’re interested in new ideas for leadership, you’ll find plenty in this book. The six work modes for distributed teams (p. 201), the pros and cons of synchronous vs asynchronous communication (p. 212) and the seven decision-making methods (p. 269) in particular seem to have a lot of potential for impact.

In summary, if you’re leading a remotely distributed team, you’ll probably find it useful to compare your current strategies with what other players of the industry are doing. If you’re leading an office-first team, this book will give you a glimpse of the inescapable future we all seem to be headed towards.

Félix rating:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. 39) When fearful CEOs talk about workplace culture, they’re really talking about workplace control.
  2. (p. 43) “Are you open to maximizing the benefits of a remote environment even if it means your role feels less important, for example by letting team members co-create the new culture rather than dictating the terms yourself?”
  3. (p. 43) The office is the new offsite.
  4. (p. 44) The new office should include:
    • The library, a quiet space for deep work and research
    • The plaza, a kitchen and lunchroom to socialize with colleagues
    • The avenue, a transitional space for passing with the potential for casual collaboration
  5. (p. 69) A crisis is a spotlight. It’s a moment to demonstrate your values and lead by example.
  6. (p. 81) Your culture is the behavior you reward and punish.
  7. (p. 86) What you ignore, disregard, turn a blind eye to, or sweep under a carpet becomes the things you implicitly endorse.
  8. (p. 87) Your culture is determined by what people perceive to be the behaviors you reward and punish. Not what you actually reward and punish. Not what you say you reward and punish.
  9. (p. 88) Culture is how people behave when no one is looking.
  10. (p. 88) Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons doesn’t work. People can tell the difference.
  11. (p. 91) When an organization says “yes” to everything, they are saying “no” to what really matters.
  12. (p. 95) Your culture is defined by what you say yes and no to.
  13. (p. 100) Subcultures are not silos but specific manifestations that feed off each other.
  14. (p. 105) Feeling rejected by our social system feels a lot like dying.
  15. (p. 107) Avoid copy-pasting past practices into a new reality.Leaders need to recreate “How did X activity help the teams [in the old reality]” rather than the activity itself.
  16. (p. 109) Trust is built between two people. Psychological safety is created by the team.
  17. (p. 119) Break the Golden Rule: don’t treat people how you want to be treated; instead, follow their “washing instructions.”
  18. (p. 128) Rather than assuming that people agree when they stay silent, infer that they don’t.
  19. (p. 130) Reframe “bad news” as data.
  20. (p. 132) Mistakes are stepping stones, not disasters.
  21. (p. 136) A prompt that gives people permission to come up with wild ideas: “Ideas that could get you fired.”
  22. (p. 140) The research is clear: Telling others what they should improve actually hinders learning.
  23. (p. 146) Use feedback to jump into the future rather than being stuck in the past. Replace “feedback” with feedforward.
  24. (p. 148) Assume confusion over conspiracies.
  25. (p. 151) Sometimes, the best help you can offer is your silence. Don’t rush to provide a solution. Just listen.
  26. (p. 174) Mistakes are goldmines.
  27. (p. 194) If you’re always in work mode, the time you’re supposed to use to unwind ends up contributing to more burnout.
  28. (p. 196) The people who are more supportive of fully returning to the physical office – & watercooler conversations – are those who were successful in that environment. There’s zero academic evidence about the effectiveness of watercooler conversations.
  29. (p. 201) The six work modes for distributed teams:
    • Focus
    • Deep collaboration
    • Regular collaboration
    • Learning
    • Unplug
    • Casual collaboration
  30. (p. 211) Deep work should be the majority of a knowledge worker’s work.
  31. (p. 218) Any gathering that requires more than 50 minutes should be treated as a workshop, not a meeting.
  32. (p. 222) All status meetings should become asynchronous.
  33. (p. 247) Treat people the way you want them to behave (like adults)
  34. (p. 249) Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. They concentrate the mind.
  35. (p. 254) Assume miscommunication over malice.
  36. (p. 269) The 7 decision-making methods:
    • Autocratic (“I will decide alone.")
      • Works well for decisions that need to happen fast.
    • Delegation (“I fully delegate.")
      • Transfers temporary authority to someone who might be better informed to decide, and it’s a good opportunity to train people to make decisions.
    • Democratic (“The majority decides.")
      • You might consider a weighted system, e.g. the person ultimately responsible for the work or decisions gets triple voting power, those affected by the decision get double power, etc.
    • Consensus (“We all agree together.")
      • Is hard to implement in large groups.
    • Avoidance (“I won’t decide yet.")
      • Works well when there’s a lot of ambiguity or when postponing a decision won’t create a negative consequence. Sometimes, the best decision is not to make one.
    • Consent (“No one objects.")
      • Is not the same as consensus: it means that no one opposes the idea even if they don’t agree.
    • Consultative (“I will consult before deciding.")
      • Requires being clear about why you are asking for input. Some people confuse being consulted with a Democratic method, but there’s a difference between providing input and voting.
  37. (p. 272) No decision method is perfect; they all have pros and cons.
  38. (p. 272) When a decision will impact people’s work or them personally, you should get their input.
  39. (p. 276) We don’t need heroic leaders. We need human beings who take care of people.
  40. (p. 278) As a leader, you can’t be both a player and a coach. Trying to be both is bound to fail.
  41. (p. 289) Transparency is not about sharing everything but about not hiding what people need to know.
  42. (p. 296) The biggest mistake companies make is defining their hybrid work model based on the pains, not the gains, of remote work.