The Positive Impact Test

In the most recent Distributed podcast, Matt chatted with Vanessa Van Edwards of Science of People. I’ve had the episode queued up in Overcast since it came out, and I finally had an opportunity to listen to it yesterday during some yard work.

I thought the conversation was wonderful and provided many tactical tips including how to look and sound better over Zoom calls, which is applicable as many people switch from in-person to forced remote work.

They also talked about our internal definition of API at Automattic—“assume positive intent”. This is particularly important in a distributed workplace where much of the conversation occurs over text and comments can be misconstrued or read in an unintended tone.

The piece that stuck out the most was at the very end when Vanessa mentioned the Positive Impact Test (originally from author Tom Rath)—three questions she asks herself at the end of every day:

  1. In the last 24 hours, have I helped someone?
  2. In the last 24 hours, have I praised someone?
  3. In the last 24 hours have I told someone that I cared about them or appreciated them?

Certainly great questions to keep top of mind!

Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped

My colleague Julia working remotely for Automattic featured on the Wall Street Journal

Automattic and a few of my colleagues were recently featured in an article on the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped”:

“…data indicates that the remote-work trend in the U.S. labor force is inexorable, aided by ever-better tools for getting work done anywhere.”

I’m a huge proponent of remote work, and I do think it’s the future of work in many industries (not just tech). The tools are improving at a lightning pace removing the disparities between in-person and remote collaboration.

One piece of the article I disagreed with is this quote from Steve Price, chief human resources officer at Dell:

“Engineering, leadership, R&D, sales and customer support—those are roles that don’t lend themselves very well to remote work.”

I lead a remote customer support team so I check two of those boxes. I think there are many processes you can put in place to solve the leadership piece for remote work. In no particular order:

  • A consistent approach to one-on-ones that encourage accountability for both parties. I just switched to using Lighthouse for managing these.
  • Weekly all-team hangouts with rotating call lead responsibilities. Longer team calls every quarter to cover goals and reevaluate how we work as a team.
  • A consistent process for tackling feedback including feedback for the manager/lead from the team (I wrote about leadback surveys here).
  • Non-work related hangouts to encourage team bonding and camaraderie. I wrote about how we do this here.

By the way, we’re hiring. Come work with me!

Building Team Camaraderie in a Remote Environment

A picture of Sparta, the team I work on at Automattic

I’m fortunate to work with a bunch of kickass individuals on a team at Automattic called Sparta. It’s semi-mandatory to own traditional Spartan garb; we pass around “This is Sparta” GIFs constantly; and we play the best game of Two Truths and a Lie you’ve ever heard.

We’ve been together in-person a total of two times since the team formed a year and a half ago in July 2015.

When we get together for a meetup, we get along. We laugh with one another. We have inside jokes. It’s hilariously fun.

When it’s time to work, we get stuff done. We share workloads across the team. We cover for one another. We have serious conversations. We agree. We disagree.

A colleague recently asked me how you build this kind of relationship remotely, one where everyone on the team supports one another and rows in the same direction. I don’t have the answer, but I can share how we’ve tried to go about it on Sparta from the start.

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How to Take a Successful Vacation

Confession time: I’m not great at taking time away from work.

In April of this year, my wife and I took a vacation, our honeymoon actually. We spent two weeks in Greece eating whatever we wanted, drinking far too much, and sightseeing whenever we felt like it.

We had an absolutely amazing time, and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, it was hard.

My initial goal was to disconnect 100%. I didn’t bring my laptop. We didn’t have a cellular signal. I turned off email on my phone. Coworkers knew that I was completely out of touch.

That’s how it started at least.

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned From One Year at Automattic

As of a few days ago, I’ve now been working for Automattic, makers of, for just over a year. It’s hard to believe that just a short time ago, I was ending my trial and starting full-time on a product that I both love and believe in.

I’ve written quite a bit about the trial process and what a day in the life of a Happiness Engineer looks like. But, I haven’t written much about insights working for a distributed company or how I now view customer support. In other words, what I’ve learned over the past year working at Automattic. In no particular order, here are the top five items.

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