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Expert Interview

How Rhonda Leads with a "Human-First" Philosophy at

June 17, 2021
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4 min

This week we spoke to Rhonda, Manager of Customer Support at Greenhouse. She discusses her six years of management experience, the need to build connections on a remote team, and the myth of a one-size-fits-all manager.

Corine Tan
This week we spoke to Rhonda, Manager of Customer Support at Greenhouse. She discusses her six years of management experience, the need to build connections on a remote team, and the myth of a one-size-fits-all manager.

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We’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best and brightest remote managers in the world. These leaders not only move their company forward in leaps and strides, but they also live by values of empathy and radical candor. Every Thursday, we share their learnings and stories.

This week we spoke to Rhonda, Senior Manager of Customer Support at Greenhouse. Greenhouse is a software for applicant tracking and recruitment.  Rhonda and her team help more than 4,000 companies on their journey to become great at hiring. Beyond an expert customer support manager, Rhonda is a fantastic remote manager for her team of eight. We spoke to her to learn about how she leads her team.

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Hi Rhonda! Let’s start with the basics. What’s your typical day look like? Got any favorite tools? 

I start my day by looking at my Google Calendar and assessing what I need to get done. I’ll usually have a combination of meetings, 1:1 sessions, and work split into “this should get done today” and “this should get done by this week”. 

I’m a big fan of time blocking and like having my time accounted for to feel most productive. Slack and Zoom have been the most helpful tools for me while working remotely. Kona has also been a great addition to my workday since it’s been really easy to check in with my team and see how everyone is doing.

When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?

I enjoy working out and doing yoga (this allows me to feel better about eating an unhealthy amount of whatever I want). My husband and I try to have jam sessions once a week where I’ll play the piano and he plays the guitar. I also have a passion for art and enjoy acrylic and oil painting. 

You’ve been a manager for almost six years now! What’s the biggest lesson you learned while managing remote teams?

I always say “We’re humans first.” A big part of managing remote teams is understanding that everyone has different needs and will cope with things differently. So much of your personal life can affect your professional life and it’s difficult to draw that separation when you’re in the same space for 24 hours. At the end of the day, we need to take care of our well being first so that we can bring our best selves to work.

Has your remote workflow changed during the pandemic? If so, how?

It definitely has! It has been a journey to find a good workflow as I’m sure it has for many people. I was the type of person who rarely worked from home and looked forward to going into the office everyday to see my colleagues. 

Initially, I had set up daily meetings for my team to fill that void but after a few weeks, we were all feeling the fatigue of back to back Zoom meetings.  It was a constant struggle to feel connected while also not burdening people to attend yet another meeting. We now have bi-weekly stand-ups, daily Kona check-ins, and our entire department has held optional Kumo space working sessions, so there’s different options for folks to find connections but also feel productive.

What are you trying to improve about your leadership?

I want to be the best leader for my team at all times. This means that there’s constant learning to be done, as there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” manager. Every individual is different- they will have different needs and communication styles. Each time I interact with someone on my team, I’m learning something new and finding a better way to lead. My goal is to create an environment where everyone on my team can trust me, speak with me candidly, and feel motivated in their career. I also love learning from other leaders and seeing their takeaways on how they’ve handled certain situations. 

How do you create work-life harmony/wellness while remote?

I take walks and try to make sure I step away from the computer whenever I can. If a meeting ends early and I have 10 minutes before my next one, I’ll try to walk around the neighborhood instead of trying to get something half-done in that time. I also try to log off completely at the end of the work day, meaning not checking Slack or emails on my phone, no matter how tempting it is, and putting my laptop away.

Tips for folks struggling with remote management/feeling disconnected from their team?

Be flexible and create the space for your team to tell you what they need/want. Some of the best ideas come directly from them! Since most of my team is based in San Francisco, it was hard to connect with team members from other offices, such as our New York and Dublin team. Someone on my team suggested inviting them to our morning stand up and it was an easy way to get some face time and learn more about them. We also have Kona check-ins every morning and afternoon now (as opposed to just once a day) since the team felt like they wanted more connection throughout the day.

Amazing. And finally, any recommendations for readings, blogs, or podcasts?

Yes! Here's my list:

Meet the Author

Corine Tan

Corine is co-founder of Kona. They write regularly on emotional intelligence and people-first leadership. Their work has been featured by Fortune, Yahoo, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur, Harvard Business School, Forbes, and more. They've spoken at remote work conferences like GitLab Commit 2021 and advised Fortune 10 companies on remote strategy.

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