5 strategies to become a great remote CEO


5 strategies to become a great remote CEO

How Sebastian works virtually and drives up productivity, while being dad of two.

When our team fully started kicking off together, within an eye blink Sebastian Ekstam was heading to his paternity leave (= parental leave for dads). Still being there for us a quarter of his time, we quickly shifted to working virtually.

So here we are, three ninja turtles located at Drivhuset Malmö and one full time daddy with early morning hours to work with us. In between rocking the children into their deepest sleep, we manage to have team calls every second day. Nevertheless, remote teams are criticised to be less productive, creating little transparency and long communication queues. But none of that is the case for Drivhuset Malmö.

Here are some strategies we use to work more effectively while being in multiple locations.

© Facebook: Sebastian Ekstam

When we all started as the new team, we had a great chance to spend some time together to create a foundation of trust. We’ve been working co-located at Niagara’s first floor for a while to get used to the new environment. Creating trust and a corporate team culture is a valuable foundation to any future work. And if both is supported by the CEO, things can only go smooth.

Here is what Sebastian does.

1 // Quiet time is appreciated.

“Effective remote CEOs understand how quality work happens: People need quiet, uninterrupted time to get things done. That’s how people get into a state of a flow which is crucial to thinking creatively or building something from scratch.” Claire Lew

Particularly when working with a variety of stakeholders, it is crucial to give enough time and space to focus. Our team has an open-door policy, so entrepreneurs can walk in at any time. Still, our team figured that we work best if each of us has a block of hours only dedicated to crunching. Crunching numbers, e-mails or documents. Crunch time to us is the focus and dedication needed in oder to get more complex things done and work on our personal To Do lists. Sebastian gives us enough flexibility and freedom to work on these tasks. Which brings us to the next point.

2 // Hire self-directed and structured people.

An effective leader could never give away control to the team when the individuals are chaotic, impulsive and little structured. Teddy, Josefin and myself have been in the entrepreneurial scene for some time now and know how to structure ourselves and others mutually.

When working in virtual teams, people tend to align with structures. Communication often times happens in front of the computer. To Dos are saved on Trello. Calendars are guiding your day. And entrepreneurs inbetween make surewe get those creative juices flowing.

3 // Trust your employees, for real.

One of the moments I remember when having my first onboarding meetings was my constant hestitation to believe what Sebastian was saying. “Is he for real?”, I thought when he introduced me to the first rule at Drivhuset Malmö. Do first, ask later. And that’s what he meant. If you’re passionate about something, then do it. If you’re convinced this is the right approach, then do it. By letting go of power, the team is able to keep up an entrepreneurial mind-set on a daily basis. We have the freedom to do what we believe ist best. Sebastian is a truely good virtual CEO by providing the freedom and trust. We’re little bound to bureaucracy how one would imagine it to be, co-located at Malmö university.

4 // Making sure everyone takes care of themselves.

Work life balance is the key to our operations. We cherish every morning with a 30 min routine. Drivhuset calls is creative burst in which do everything except for working. We read (amazing books like the one by Brené Brown on vulnerability), scribble into our notebooks or listen to pod casts. A conscious start into the day before we tackle our to dos. Time needed to simply do what we love. I personally use the time to read and write a diary, while having a cup of tea. Cheesy but very much needed when you’re an entrepreneur with multiple projects. Another great example of well-being in our Drivhuset team is the rule of 3. Each week, we are invited to spend 3 hours on physical activity. Sebastian wants us to take care of our well-being in the long run and wants us to invest into our health. Physically, mentally and work-wise. And we’re helping each other to take care. Because that’s what a team is for. One unity that has to function as a whole. That is watching each other carefully.

5 // He keeps consistency.

“I have figured out my new schedule now. And I will be working in the afternoons. So expect me to answer mails around that time. And that’s the slot I will be available for to answer immediate questions as well. Or 24 h later then.” Sebastian Ekstam

Nothing is more important when working virtually than providing guidance for daily work. Develop a habit of consistently doing something. It doesn’t matter what it is, how small or how big it is. Sebastian sets regularly occurring online meetings. We as team know that he will be sitting in front of his screen exactly those times. That provide an unconscious feeling of security. We know he will be back on track the next day. It is also about routines that enables the rest of the team to schedule tasks around it. This week it happened for the first time that we skipped a Wednesday meeting and all of us noticed. It felt stranged and incredibly wrong. Why? Simply because we were used to the time to be dedicated to the meeting.


So what makes Sebastian a good virtual CEO? The combination of structure and creativity. The rule to make sure we have a hell of fun time. The stories he shares about bringing up his two sons. And the rule that we are open about feelings, thoughts, fears, insecurities.

You are a virtual CEO as well? What’s your most important rule?


Editor: Kim Gerlach

Interview props and copyright go to Kim Gerlach. Fempreneur herself, she is working at Drivhuset to support the start-up ecosystem and share her previous experiences with other entrepreneurs. She blogs about sustainability and fashion and is always up for some fun collaborations.

Source: Medium:Remote Working
5 strategies to become a great remote CEO

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