Melissa Rey of drvn: How To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space

ENFORCE A SENSE OF “TEAM” IN “TEAMWORK”- As John Donne wrote and Jon Bon Jovi sang, “no man is an island”. This holds maybe truer in business than it does in literature and music. To successfully run a business, it takes a whole team. As we shift towards remote work, it is a primary challenge to keep a team both integrated and empowered. Management must take full responsibility for enabling both. Having a sense of belonging and unity allows our team members to perform better and take pride in their work. This is crucial while working remotely, because teamwork encourages focus and productivity where individual focus and commitment can drift off in terms productivity and performance.

Weare living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Rey.

Melissa (who goes by “Rey”), was born in Miami and is a first generation American, of Guatemalan descent. With a lifelong passion for the visual and performing arts, and a background in nonprofit and retail marketing, she now works as a social media manager at, where she also works on special projects, such as ISO 9001 and quality management, sustainability, and corporate responsibility.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My“start” was a combination of luck and hustle. What was instrumental in getting me started was having a solid educational foundation coupled with mentors along the way. Though my formative background was in the arts and marketing, I worked almost exclusively in luxury retail. My entree into the transportation sector, with Moveo, was initiated by a chance encounter with our CEO (Mario Medina) and Managing Director (Ted Moffly). There was synergy from that first meeting and together, we had a remarkable understanding of the corporate culture we wanted to foster. They recognized my skills and potential and have been respectful stewards of my growth. And they continue to give me the support I need to accomplish the goals we set, and I set for myself.

I had to hit the ground running — grinding away and chomping at some fairly large and ambitious projects. It’s been a non-stop marathon ever since!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One week into my employment at Moveo, whispers of COVID-19 had begun to circulate within our industry. Our CEO and Managing Director called a company-wide meeting and although I had expected it to feel like the War Room, our top management laid out and presented a full action plan to batten down the hatches, giving each of our team members (including me — the new kid) a list of tasks and projects that would help ensure the survival of our company and move us forward post-pandemic. They have been proactive in all their decisions and their strong example of leadership helped guide the rest of us towards belief in our mission and enthusiasm for our new projects. This one meeting set the tone for our collective attitude during the pandemic, and sustained us from quarantine — which was enacted only a few short weeks later — till now.

The sense of enthusiasm and optimism (and care, truly) that went into that first meeting got us to where we are today as a company. Not one of our team members was let go or laid off, and in fact, we have even added to our herd. Although meetings are often seen as mindless and perhaps a bit uneventful, the modern professional seems to have forgotten the sense of community, collaboration, and leadership, meetings ought to provide. As that initial meeting started, I remember the tension that filled the room. It seemed our whole team was worried about our future as a company, and as individuals. For me, I remember thinking it could very well be my last day. Instead, almost a year later, it stands out as a clear inflection point in our mission, and has been a real point of learning, and has instilled gratitude for our organization’s leadership.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“This too shall pass” is a big one — actually considered getting it tattooed (still haven’t yet)! Using this ‘mantra’ as a management tool helps remind me that in the thick of things, nothing lasts forever — the bad times, or the good. That ‘everything has its season’ is useful for smoothing intraday (and intra-life) highs and lows. This slant helps key-in managing the downside as a primary focus,which in turn provides the freedom to enjoy the upside wave when it comes. Knowing that creates a proactive and ideal space to plan accordingly, and has been instrumental in helping me make the most out of the present. In business, you learn quickly that there are just not enough hours in the day — not sweating what can’t be done helps me prioritize effectively.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe so much of my success to my mother. She emigrated to the United States in the 1980’s, as a teenager. She came all by herself, with almost no money and no understanding of the English language. She began working as a nanny, and now serves as a manager for a large design firm. All of my work ethic and sense of “hustle” comes from her. She always worked overtime and still cut my PB&J’s with a heart shaped cookie cutter for school, braided my hair, and watched movies with me at night.

My mother always treated me like an adult and was never afraid to be honest and authentic with me. The way she interacted with me taught me that my opinion was valuable, and that just because I was young, or female, or Latina, did not, could not, and would not, deter me. She shared her concerns, gave me advice, and, of course, criticisms (which I still struggle to appreciate) that stick with me to this day. She took me to work with her growing up when we couldn’t afford childcare and I saw first hand the fruit and challenge of her work ethic. I understood what it meant to be a professional working woman and a mother- her work and sacrifice put me through college, and her kindness and maternal instincts support me to this day.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

Having a team physically together facilitates collaboration simply because proximity presses for collective engagement. Participants chime in and play off of each other in a way that is faster and more natural than via Zoom. Also lacking a “mute” button ‘real life’ interaction has less formality. Physical presence helps foster authenticity and honesty. It doesn’t allow those participating to hide body language behind a screen.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

Well as I stated, and implied above, efficient communication can be challenging for a remote team because it is hard to see body language and facial expressions. Most experts agree that as much as 90%% of communication is nonverbal — all of that is lost on a conference call or on a video call where everyone has their cameras off.

Being able to communicate with significant inter-personal limitation makes it harder to rally enthusiasm, deliver, receive, or redirect feedback, or for meaningful discussions. The limited capacity of remote communication demands a high level of trust, focus, and discipline between coworkers. It demands that all participants be forthright in their communication as there is little room for error. Sarcasm accompanied with an eyeroll is simply not readable via conference call.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

TRUST- Developing a deeper level of trust amongst a team starts with understanding that all communication is ultimately for the betterment of the organization. That everything communicated comes from a place of improvement, and everything received is an opportunity for improvement- this is fundamental to, and for, unity. At a ‘company-wide’ level, trust is a function of the corporate culture, where the leadership models communication that is professional, polite, and kind. Then as a team, anything less than that can be addressed together.

ACCOUNTABILITY- With remote work, accountability is essential. All team members must know what is expected of them in all circumstances and at all times. This militates for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. Anything less will not cut it. Management at every level from the top down, needs to be actively engaged in this conversation- as well as use their communication to check accountability, and investigate when performance is on track and when it is not.

ACKNOWLEDGING DIFFERENCES- No two people in an organization act or communicate in the same way. Managing that, whether in an office or on Zoom, requires sensitivity to differences- and from that perspective, you simply cannot manage all employees with the same approach. While leaders should, of course, always be fair and impartial, the fact remains that employee’s with their range of needs must have direction and interaction that enables them to perform at their best. This is essential when a large segment of a work force is not in the same place.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR YOUR STAFF AND BUSINESS- As a 24-hour business, our communication needs to be accessible 24 hours a day, meaning for today’s world that it needs to be available on everyone’s phone, such as an app. We use a combination of Slack, Monday, G-Suite, and our own internal platform called FUSE. Each one allows us to communicate in group channels, send individual messages, and track performance throughout the day- as well as monitor our services in real time, while simultaneously creating logs and records for future reference. Utilizing these tools correctly allows our team members to collaborate when needed, or take their portion and work independently while ensuring that everyone has access to help and support.

ENFORCE A SENSE OF “TEAM” IN “TEAMWORK”- As John Donne wrote and Jon Bon Jovi sang, “no man is an island”. This holds maybe truer in business than it does in literature and music. To successfully run a business, it takes a whole team. As we shift towards remote work, it is a primary challenge to keep a team both integrated and empowered. Management must take full responsibility for enabling both. Having a sense of belonging and unity allows our team members to perform better and take pride in their work. This is crucial while working remotely, because teamwork encourages focus and productivity where individual focus and commitment can drift off in terms productivity and performance.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

We are a 24-hour business, and having our team work remotely essentially means that there can be better availability for 24 hour coverage. We’ve had to come up with schedules and systems that ensure only those team members responsible or on duty are receiving calls and alerts. Not only for personal development and work life balance, but if everyone receives the same phone call, there is a sense that “someone else will pick up”. If no one does because someone believed someone else will get it, that can cost us an account. And that’s just not good business. The obvious solution was to create a schedule that accounted for remote work hour flexibility with task responsibility to provide the coverage we needed. Problem solved.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

We love Slack, Monday, and G-Suite (Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Calendar and so on). But G-Suite also gives us Google Meet and Google Hangouts, which provides integrated collaboration on the spur of the moment. Slack, with its calling, screensharing, and messaging features, allows us to collaborate and communicate to one another directly in much the same way as a visit to a cubicle would be. To avoid unnecessary meetings for status updates or project planning, we track on Monday and/or use G-Suite’s Version History for project updates and status changes.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

It would have to be something that allowed for direct messages as well as group chats. And it would have to be integrated with our proprietary internal platform, and also our group email domains, social media channels, and live chat feature from our website. At the end of the day, we have a lot of communication points internally, as well as externally. And as a business that delivers services on a global scale, we always look to ensure that every communication point gets attended to in a timely manner, regardless of where it comes from. I don’t want to have to check four or five different communication vehicles to respond to a customer inquiry.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

As a technology company in the ground transportation space, COVID-19 and it’s shutdowns required our company to react quickly- testing our agility and the ability to recover in order to function as close to normal as possible. With the continuation of the pandemic and the uncertainty of a vaccine, we resorted to focus on unified communications solutions in order to manage costs. It was up to our management team to consider what our team needed to successfully work from a remote location so that business could continue as usual.

Streamlining communication complexity is key to improving remote collaboration and enhancing productivity. As we discussed earlier, we currently use Slack, G-Suite, and Monday to help with these tasks, but we do also incorporate our proprietary platform called FUSE, which serves as an operations hub, offering increased control and seamless visibility of all our operations through a single platform. This, along with the incorporation of a VoIP telecommunication solution, allows us to manage one integrated and secure platform with global PBX services in over 40 countries, from just about anywhere.

Embedded in our overall management strategy, we will continue to include cloud enabled services and unified communications in order to minimize future business disruptions and support remote collaboration for the long term.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

Mixed reality is something we’re definitely going to be keeping an eye on. Conducting business all over the world, with employees from so many different countries, eliminating a language barrier and creating a collaborative environment regardless of time zones could be quite an asset to the way we run our company and even how we do business. I am really curious to see if a ‘Slack-like’ platform will arise to address the placement of mixed reality tools in a unified communications environment.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

My biggest concern with simulated environments, is the possibility (probability?) they would nudge out the need for ‘authentic’, in person interaction. As AR/VR/MR simulations increase in quality, they might encourage isolation as they replicate situations which make people uncomfortable. The issue being that rather than using that discomfort as an opportunity to grow or learn, people can opt for the easy way out. Take for example, those who struggle with public speaking. There is an energy that comes from business meetings (especially when the stakes are high). If people no longer have to face the energy, resistance, and fear of speaking, and instead just sit in a dark room and essentially speak to the wall, they’ll never grow past that fear and never learn to be comfortable speaking in front of others. Not a good look for their success or their self esteem.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

By increasing our online presence (which was started on our own, with COVID-19 encouraging us to go further, faster), we are reaching a wider audience, both demographically and geographically, than before. But, for our existing customers, it has had little impact. As a global service business, almost all of our customer interaction takes place virtually anyway. Still, we do miss our in-person business meetings and our in-person customer visits. However like many things in life, you often trade one thing for another.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

This goes back to your earlier questions on the challenges of remote work, and again, it comes down to trust and honesty, and knowing your team. If you are working with someone who is analytical and formal, you’ll want to give constructive criticism in a more ‘structured’ logical way. For those more acute to sarcasm or who are easily overwhelmed, it is better to tread lightly and soft-pedal the criticism using optimism. It really depends on the person on the receiving end of the constructive criticism- what will make the most sense for them and how they will get the most out of it. As a general rule, I always provide supporting data with goals in writing to analyze and review. These become yardsticks as reference and measuring points for constructive criticism.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

We have meetings every Monday where our entire team gets together to share wins from the past week, and opportunities for the upcoming week. We use this time to ask for opinions from everyone and get input from all perspectives when making decisions as a business. During this time, top management opens the floor for discussion and all opinions are welcome, acknowledged and appreciated. It may seem time consuming, but it is a way to ensure each member of our team that they are seen, and valued for their individual contributions. And we can see that reflected in the quality of their work. If a team member feels more engaged, their work will be more engaging.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would encourage everyone to evaluate their contribution to pollution, climate change and consumption, and to begin a journey towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. I know it often feels like I am just one person and my modified behavioral patterns will not make a difference, but even one person’s waste is far-reaching and impactful. One’s exemplary behavior will inspire others to begin their own journeys toward sustainability. Purchasing behaviours and social habits are now changing the tide and helping foster changes in legislation and policy. For some reason we forget that our planet is everyone’s home. So it would follow that everyone should be involved in its maintenance and contribute in a way that works.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can check out to see our blogs and any news or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.


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