The playbook for managing remote teams is rapidly evolving, and everyone is seeking the right tools to help them succeed. At Pathlight, we want to help every manager achieve their professional best, so we created the Virtual Manager Series.

In this series, we speak with real managers about their insights, tips, and tricks for successful management in this unprecedented time, so you can start implementing their best practices on your team tomorrow.

Introducing Larry Rodman

Larry has been building and leading teams at HubSpot since January 2018. He guides and grows his team members to create high-quality customer support experiences.

In addition to building successful customer support teams at HubSpot, Larry dedicates time to further building the culture and community. He goes beyond his role to ensure that company values like “celebrating diverse perspectives” and “treating employees like people, not line items” are upheld.

Key Insights

Parenthood Informing Remote Management

One of the earliest challenges posed by the pandemic was schools being shut down, thus giving a brand new meaning to finding a healthy work-life balance. Rodman says that having kids himself helped him approach this aspect of remote work with more empathy. He says, “I talked to parents on my team, right at the beginning of working from home, and I said, ‘Hey, I understand you’re used to being in the office and now, all of the sudden you’re at home. You have significant others at home. You have kids at home. I get that.”

“It’s a great job. Absolutely. But family is more important. At the end of the day it’s just a job. Take care of your family and take care of yourself first.”

He let them know they had permission and support if they needed to change how they work in order to adjust. “If you want to switch channels and instead of phone cases move to being on chat then that might be a great opportunity for you because you don’t have to worry about voices in the background,” Rodman says.

He also encouraged them to work different hours than their regular schedule if it could make life easier. Rodman told his employees, “Do what it is you need to do to take care of your family and then focus on your job. It’s a great job. Absolutely. But family is more important. At the end of the day it’s just a job. Take care of your family and take care of yourself first.”

Virtual Onboarding

Ramping up new hires in a virtual world doesn’t have to be an entirely different story. Rodman says, “It’s all about expectation-setting.” He says when someone starts in the role, he always meets with them right away and tells them, “This is a really hard job, that’s why we hire really smart people.”

“When you start, it’s going to be a challenge because really smart people know things, and when you start working at HubSpot, all of the sudden you don’t know things, and that can be incredibly frustrating for a really smart person.” His advice to them is to remember that it’s normal, it’s okay, and everyone goes through it. Rodman also nudges them to grab remote coffees with everyone on the team.

He says the key thing is to encourage new hires to be transparent and clear if they’re struggling. “If things come up — just communicate. That’s all I really need,” Rodman says.

Assume the Best

One of HubSpot’s values that has served Rodman well during COVID-19 is their emphasis on trust. He says, “My assumption is that everyone on my team is doing what they’re supposed to do. My assumption is always that people are doing the right thing.” Rodman believes that, as a manager, when you come across something that seems off you still have to trust that their intentions are good.

“Help them understand the why behind the what.”

He gives an example, “Today I had someone who hadn’t taken any chats, and I noticed they were really focused on the web queue. So I reached out to them and said, ‘Hey I really need you on chat, not on the web. I understand why you want to be on the web because the queue is really large, but if you’re not taking a chat that means someone will put in a web ticket, which then builds that queue. It becomes a cycle.” Rodman says it’s all about getting team members to understand managers’ reasoning. “Help them understand the why behind the what,” he says.

“Consider the perspective that you work for the team instead of them working for you.”

Tips and Tricks

How do you keep your remote team focused on your top priorities?

“I send a newsletter to my team each week. In the newsletter, I include team metrics (and goals), how we did the previous week, and anything that they should know about from ERG events to job opportunities. I also follow up via Slack.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever received on managing a team?

  1. Be a listener. Ask what your team members need.
  2. Consider the perspective that you work for the team instead of them working for you.
  3. Be a leader and not just a manager.

How do you bond with your team in a virtual world?

“We play a lot of Kahoot! And I set up games like sending in pictures of our open refrigerators or our favorite mugs and then everyone has to figure out whose is whose. People also start different Zoom rooms throughout the day to just hang out like you’re in an office.”

What are some strategies you use to inspire and motivate your team during these times?

“I’m open and honest with my team— I share how I’m feeling and what I’m doing. I also have taken a few tickets from the queue so they know that I’m with them and supporting them.”

“Do not micro-manage individuals. You are working with adults. Let them know that you trust them.”

Rapid Fire

One thing you have learned not to do as a manager.

“Do not micro-manage individuals. You are working with adults. Let them know that you trust them.”

What’s a manager’s spirit animal?

“Orangutan — strong, flexible, adaptable and caring.”

What’s one quality that every manager needs to develop?

“Mangers need empathy and compassion. That needs to be balanced with honesty and accountability.”

What is a quote you reference/use to inspire as a manager?

“A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.” — Simon Sinek


Thank you to Larry for sharing his invaluable insights. If you’re looking for ways to manage your team effectively in this new environment, check out the other interviews in our Virtual Manager Series or try the Pathlight platform for free.