This year, a favorite Michael Jordan quote of mine, “Don’t aspire to be the best on the team—aspire to be the best for the team,” fueled my journey of using simple, practical leadership and team-building tactics to connect our remote and on-site culture at Mercury Mosaics.
When I looked for the gaps, my goal was to understand what systems we needed in place so more people could shine. We place a lot of focus on building a place that creates careers. And last year, we had zero layoffs and actually created jobs. A team approach was driving my focus to sharing leadership responsibilities. I’m always saying many hands make light work.
Forty percent of our team has been working remotely since March 2020.
Sixty percent of our team has been in-studio. Most of them had no access to technology, because our existing methodology was mostly analog.
This created a clear divide and disconnection.
2020 revealed that we had been spoiled by being under the same roof (while having cute dogs running around). I was forced to ask, “How do I keep people feeling connected, empowered, and ensure access to our good vibes?”
Microsoft Teams was an easy setup for us. Additionally, we got everyone a company email address. This made us feel together, and being able to have specific cohorts within Teams created ways for smaller units to collaborate remotely. We started an area for announcements, and soon it became a channel for our production team to share their studio life.
What became incredibly clear to me was how many people were needed to execute various initiatives. Every part of the company, during 2020, was overhauled, as in many other organizations, I’m sure. To make it more of a game, we used Asana. This empowered us to “turn our cannots into can dos,” “dreams into plans,” and on top of it all, “get ‘er done.”
So many projects we had hoped to work on suddenly presented themselves as opportunities. I realized that I needed to strengthen the foundation of Mercury Mosaics, and this was a key tool for doing so.
Shared recurring meeting schedules
I’m a chart aficionado. If you can make a flowchart or something visual, I’m all in. Having a visual chart showing the key groups and when they have recurring meetings made a big difference.
When you don’t see everyone, this chart is comforting because it provides awareness of what is going down in all areas.
Weekly bulletins: One of our Mercury Mosaics traditions was potlucks. These were tough to replace during COVID-19. I’d honestly compare the weekly bulletins we now roll out to some of the good vibes of a potluck (minus the satisfaction of a great meal). Having a spot to connect and share—especially the variety of visuals that roll out from week to week—is the sweetest community builder. I’ve seen people really step up to highlight the positive accomplishments of fellow teammates. The synergy from this is another important layer in our internal community building.
Quarterly meetings: We needed to come up with a way to bring remote and on-site employees together, especially as we planned to open a second manufacturing location. So we kicked off quarterly meetings in June and have had three so far.
In them, we shared shout-outs among the core teams to highlight our values in action, and each division leader shared updates in their sector. I quickly saw that with the size we had grown to, it didn’t feel right for me to be “out there” somewhere; rather, I needed to help coach the smaller teams. This allowed me to get more clarity for my vision for Mercury Mosaics.
With more intentional systems to connect my teams, I started to see magic. At our fourth quarterly meeting, I shared a personal interview between me and one of my mentors, and in 12 minutes my teams understood the “why” of Mercury Mosaics and provided a new layer of meaning to our collective journey of growth.
Strategic planning was the first major thing we did to kick off 2021. The new leadership cohort of eight got to work to incorporate all employees’ input to update our company’s mission, vision, and values. We still have a few weeks to go before we finish the tactical side of the strategic planning. However, the power of simply having clarity around this element is going to help lead us into the future.
We can use these pieces to align, whether we’re all under one roof or expanded and scattered into new locations. These simple tools helped make a very real connection between remote and on-site employees possible. Tackling the dismantling of our life as we knew it in 2020 has allowed us to rebuild a better business—one that fosters our community to be much more cohesive. With this foundation in place, we’re truly able to focus on our mission of enhancing the world one handmade tile at a time.
Mercedes Austin is the founder of Mercury Mosaics.