Turn Habits into Culture

Build a supportive environment with deliberate, constant practice.

Every day has a rhythm to it. We make the heartbeat of who we are at Torre.

Execution of a plan often comes down to a routine. There is work that has to be done, and staying productive and focused is how a company can advance towards its strategic roadmap and goals.

Good habits turn virtues into reality. They are how we do things without having to think, plan and discuss every little detail. They are automatic and reliable for the whole team, organizing how we move towards our goals to get the work done.

A habit is personal, but once they become part of the culture, they define the team.

There are several key habits that we have internalized at Torre, turning them into what defines us and our products. Here are some important examples of habits that are useful for remote team management.

Personal Routine

It’s 6:10 a.m. in San Francisco, Saturday morning. My roommates were working until 3 or 4 a.m. last night on their demo day pitch. I wake up, put my game face on, submit my own written daily and join our daily stand-up call.

From 6:30 to 6:45 all Torrex (that’s what we call ourselves) are gathered in a video-call, silently reading our colleagues' dailies and using Slack’s reactions to acknowledge that we’ve read them.

The exact questions we ask ourselves change from time to time, as we identify missing questions, or if there’s one we should remove.

To be honest, as the marketing guy on the team, I don’t fully understand the details of how our engineers are coming up with creative ways to put our AI algorithms to good use. I’ve had to explain to every new engineer that to me, PR stands for Public Relationships, not Pull Request. But we almost always understand the context of what our team is working on, and use this space to ask for changes in our colleagues' priorities or question our roadmap.

From 6:45 to 7:00 we do a roundtable of team-wide topics (topics that are meant for just one person are reserved for the threads section in Slack).

As the team leader, Alex, our CEO, usually has the most topics. 

Our written dailies include relevant questions to quickly get aligned:

“Reminder: Please answer:

*What goals did you accomplish yesterday?*

*What goals did you miss and why?*

*What top achievements are you planning for today?*

*What top achievements are you planning for the next seven days?*

*What could make you faster?*

*Do you feel you may be blocking another Torrex? Who and how?*

*Did you have conversations yesterday that other Torrex should be aware of? If so, list names and topics.*”

Personal Note: We’re nerds, we do nerdy stuff too. Like our war cry.

At the end of our calls, one of us volunteers to do our war cry. I’ve had to personally coach all new team members in the structure: “Team, to [accomplish X goal], are we ready?” to which, all mics on, the entire team responds, “Born ready!”

I’ve felt weird screaming “Born ready!” while holding my fist up, sitting in the last row of an airplane that's about to take off, or when I don’t feel like going outside my home and end up waking up my roommates. It almost always makes us laugh, and strengthens our bond as a team.

My favorite was Santiago’s war cry: “Team, to allow all our talent seekers to move their cards like -swish, swish- (Santi swipes his fingers across the screen, left to right), are we ready?” Santi had just finished a challenging feature for our ATS: allowing people to drag and drop candidates like Trello allows for cards to be moved around.

Fancy joining one of our dailies? We’ll be happy to host you, just sign up here and we’ll get in touch.

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Every Monday, each one of us has 1 minute to show off what we've been working on in the past week. 

This means that in less than 15 minutes, we’re able to achieve a high-level sense of what everyone is working on.

We also applaud. At the end of every demo, we take a couple of seconds to acknowledge our colleague’s highlights. It feels like you're the star of the show and everyone is cheering you on.

Personal Note

I’ve personally found our architect (David Montaño)'s demos fascinating. He doesn't show anything for a couple of weeks while he’s working on it, but when he finishes some crazy algorithms or builds a new structure for our databases to communicate with each other, he finds a clever way to show it to us.

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1-ON-1S WITH OUR LEADER HAPPEN EVERY THREE WEEKS

I can not stress this enough. Your colleagues will suffer from anxiety if they don’t know their standing with you as a leader and with the company.

One-on-ones are a tremendously valuable leadership tool, and we have them scheduled for every three weeks.

Some of our values include honesty and transparency. For this reason, our one-on-ones is a safe space to discuss the most sensitive aspects of our working relationships.

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First Meeting of the Quarter

Feedback Session
(see the link below).

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Second Meeting of the Quarter

Open chat. Bring your own topics, if any.

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Third Meeting of the Quarter

We'll review your ToD (tour of duty) and professional development plan, if any, and take actions as necessary.

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Fourth (and Potentially Fifth) Meeting of the Quarter

Open chat. Bring your own topics, if any.

In These Sessions, We Go Through a Defined Set of Topics:

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Mistakes
we think we might
be making.

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Our
fears.

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Areas where our
leader should
get more or
less involved.

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Where we believe our
leader is doing well,
and what s/he
can improve.

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Feedback from our leader
on our work, our opinions
and an action plan.

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Standings
and trust
types.

1 on 1 Agenda (Cheatsheet)

There’s a famous Steve Jobs quote on leadership that comes up as an Instagram post from #entrepreneurs:

“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

I’ve seen friends in the start-up industry ignore this advice countless times. As an entrepreneur and once CEO myself, I have empathy for the rush of the day-to-day, and how easy it is for one to forget the importance of sharing the plans, strategies, and tactics with the entire team.

In our weekly roadmap alignments, our CEO shares with us the most relevant updates on the strategy we’re following, the projects we’ll be working on and how they reflect on each one of us.

It’s an important alignment meeting not just to understand what each one of us has to contribute to the overall strategy, but also to critique it.

Encouraging all team members to have a say on the roadmap allows for brilliant perspectives and ideas to come up.

Even though it’s not our engineers' responsibility to define our marketing plans, I’ve been questioned by them on the reasoning behind our strategy and found value in assessing if there are any blind spots I've missed.

It becomes particularly valuable to work with the best of the best at their craft, especially considering that at Torre, we like to hire entrepreneurs. Many of us have had to wear the CEO hat (and many other hats) before.

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RESOURCES TO HELP YOU ENGAGE YOUR REMOTE TEAM

Best practices and tools we use to build our remote team culture.

GRAB ALL THE RESOURCES!
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