Running a great team – Lavinia Iosub – CUAsia’18 Academy

Lavinia Iosub from Livit Spaces graced the Coworking Academy with a session on how to run a great team, at CUAsia’ 18. She completed her Masters in Developing Human Resources. Her thesis topic was on ‘how to best attract and develop talent.’ It has equipped her with ideas on how to operate with your team and what incentives to offer them.

In 2011, Livit Spaces started off as a group of freelancers or SVPs. But, as their vision of helping passionate startup co-founders and startup team members started to take off, they began to consider expansion. They are in the process of building a four-story tech hub which will be launching in three months.

Lavinia proclaimed that Livit Spaces is not a typical coworking space, it is a tech-startup based in Bali. The members they target are highly productive teams. They also offer the full range of business administration services, facilitated by a great team. Their recruits are a result of an in-house recruitment agency, both in Bali and international.

At Livit Spaces, they take care of daily chores (such as cooking, laundry, etc.) for their members; taking cowork to coliving. Their priority is to create an environment where the members can focus solely on their projects. They also host community and team building events. A recent event that has become quite popular is remote work innovative contra services. More teams, especially tech-startups are displaying interest towards learning more about this topic.

When you decide on starting a coworking space, your initial thoughts revolve around the capital, space, members and so on. For Lavinia, the team is fundamental, because she is aware of how much she could achieve on her own. The sky’s the limit when you are working with an engaged team. Lavinia suggested not to regard the team as a resource, but as people who care and want your business to do well. She points out that people operate on a basic principle, which is they work for money. However, there are those who go the extra mile for different reasons, and those reasons are intangibles. Your team will invest extraordinary efforts to achieve something if they identify with your why.“Another reason would be great company culture, people are more inclined to work in an environment that is conducive to personal growth,” said Lavinia.

Motivating Your Team

A traditional approach to motivation is to stimulate it through a system of rewards and punishments. Lavinia opts for a more modern take on motivation, inspired by the book titled Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, written by Daniel. H. Pink. The book comprises of all the recent researches on motivation and reveals three driving forces.

First is autonomy, the desire to direct one’s life. Nowadays, people want control over various aspects of their work. Such as who they work with, how they work, even the where and when. The sudden need to control such elements, facilitated by tools to ease such functions, resulted in a revolution of remote work and digital nomads.

                     The second drive is master; we are motivated by our urge to be better. To restate, “people are more inclined to work in an environment that is conducive to personal growth.” Lavinia makes an unusual comparison to the chicken and egg question.  The question is, should you hire people that are like that, or do you try to make the people you have like that? She stressed the importance of talent and employing people who are self- driven already and want to learn and grow. Although her way of looking at management might be a bit provocative for some, the idea is to find those people, get out of their way and they are going to take your company where it needs to be.

                     The third driving force is the purpose, which is specific to millennial, the most prominent generation in the active workforce in the next couple of years. “The desire to do what we do, in the service of something larger than ourselves, is something that we believe in,” she said.

Livit Spaces – Management Approach

Lavinia shared some of the management techniques applied in Livit Spaces. First and foremost, she points outs that managing people is not her style. She believes in managing herself and coaching others. Micromanage, is one word that is not in her dictionary. They have coaching programs in Livit mentored by internal coaches from the startups or teams they’ve worked with. External coaches are also available for general topics.

At Livit, there won’t be many instances where the boss/supervisor will drop by and check up on you and your work, most of the interactions occur on Skype. The staff is empowered to do what they do, only because they know how to do their job well. It may sound idealistic, but Lavinia assures that this approach works.

They also promote flexible schedules; however, that option is not available for certain job positions. For example, HR personnel, people involved in marketing or social media, are free to choose when and where they work. Livit Spaces grant remote work for up to three days a week, an approach that is being adopted by many companies now.

Another system in place is a tool called OKR’s, which means objectives and key results. It is the goal/objective setting system that Google uses. The idea is to set up goals for an organization or company network. Then allow the departments and supporting teams to set up their own goals, and then you let each to set up personal goals as well. Lavinia pointed out, “This approach allows the people to feel ownership over the objectives and the things they are working on, which is extremely important.”

What else?

To ease the workload for the team and the community, Livit Spaces assign Chief Officers. They are elected from the community (their clients).  They get to work with a group of people whose pro-bono job is to come up with all kinds of activities and exciting opportunities for the community. This system helps the team that is sometimes overwhelmed with day to day management, to come up with fascinating ideas. It makes sense to foster the feeling that they are not the only one working for the space.

                       The Chief Officers roles are to come up with activities and put them on the calendar. He then engages others to participate. Livit Spaces has a budget set aside for the expenses. The chief officer plays the role of a volunteer who enriches what the space stands for. An example of a Chief Officer would be Chief Green, the person elected is usually someone who is very passionate about the environment. He/she would encourage people to recycle and come up with fun ways to promote sustainability. Appointing Chief Officers is a way of improving the community, making it more vibrant by engaging everyone. Lavinia hosts a meetup of chief officers, once a month, where they talk about what’s happening in the company, contribute ideas, etc.

Livit Spaces operates on holacracy. It involves replacing the traditional management hierarchy with an operating system that increases self-management. It allows people to be more motivated to do things since they have the freedom to complete their objective the way they deem fit. Lavinia also recommends result-only work environment, where you focus on the results rather than when, where or how the work was completed. 

End of story

Lastly, Lavinia talks about fair compensation. After all, you can’t focus on autonomy, mass repurpose, or any of the topic covered, if your staff does not have enough money to pay the rent. Therefore, the compensation should be fair regarding the field and the workload. She warns against underestimating cultural differences. “If you have a team that has vastly different cultures, a lot of things can go right or wrong because of that,” she pointed out. Lavinia shared her perspective, that business managers/owners can feel lonely and overwhelmed. Especially when or if they feel like they are the only ones to have ownership. She concluded the session by reassuring others, “If you share ownership and responsibility for your business, you are going to feel less overwhelmed. I can guarantee that,  because I travel, 3-4 times a year, and the place is still standing.”


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