Thibaut De Lataillade of GetApp: How To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space

Feedback is also very important when communicating with remote teams. By not being in the same physical space, it can be hard to get a sense of how the teams react to what you tell them. To address this, I always want to include time for questions and feedback and to make sure that everyone is contributing to the discussion. We also started to use polls to anonymously gather feedback and insights regularly from the teams, because even remote, it’s essential we hear from them. We hire people, of course, for their technical skills, but also for everything they have to bring as a person. And so getting that value is really important even in this remote environment.

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 Thibaut De LatailladeGetApp GVP, who has more than 25 years of experience in business management, sales, and marketing under his belt. He has a proven track record in cloud, mobility, digital marketing, CRM, marketing, sales, and growth strategies. Thibaut has held managerial and executive positions at large tech companies such as Cegedim and SAP.

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?

Ihave quite a long career behind me as I started working in the early 90s and had a lot of different work experiences. But the key moment in my career was moving to Arthur D Little, a strategic consulting firm: it gave me an opportunity to cover a lot of C-level issues and learn how to address them. Strategic Consulting is a career accelerator!

I spent almost seven years in consulting and then, in 2000, I co-founded a website for healthcare professionals and sold the company to a group specialised in healthcare solutions a few years later. I joined that group, Cegedim, and spent another seven years working with them in many different areas including product development, sales, marketing, and communications.

Another big change in my life came when I moved to Spain to become GM of our Spanish affiliates. Moving to Spain was the best decision ever! I’m still in Barcelona after 13 years, and I’ll be here for a while.

So I’ve been in tech companies since 2000 — Roambi a SaaS vendor in data visualization, Cegedim, a mid-size CRM vendor for life sciences, and SAP, a giant in tech. But I eventually met the founder of GetApp while sailing catamarans in Barcelona, and started a new journey with this company which now belongs to Gartner.

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

Well, I think the most challenging part of my career was creating and then selling a company, as it requires a huge amount of energy to first develop the idea, design your products, convince venture capitalists and recruit a team with a single PowerPoint. We reached $1,000,000 revenue in the first year, which was a great success. We had some finance issues in the third year, so we had to find a partner to continue that story. What I really learned from this experience is being agile and ready to adapt your offering and business model to the market feedback, without diverging too much from your core concept.

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

So that’s what I would call the “Wahooo-to-Sweat” ratio. So how much effort (sweat) do you invest in the project to delight (wahooo) your customers? It came at a time when I was a Senior Consultant, working 12 hours a day, six days a week and traveling all over the world.

At one point, one of my children did not recognize me one day when I came home! So I knew I had something to change in my life. I went to see one of the partners of my consulting company, and he gave me this very wise advice: “Thibaut, you need to optimize your Wahooo-to-Sweat ratio”

And since then I think I’ve been able to really weigh the amount of effort needed to delight your customer (or your boss) without burning yourself out.

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 have tons of examples, but one of the most important influencers for me has been the founder of that data-visualization company called Roambi. Santiago Becerra was a very wise man, able to think strategically and execute with attention to details. He helped me grow a lot, understanding the importance of a perfect User Interface, the product market fit, how to create a viable business model and at the same time have fun! We had our HQ in Solana Beach, near San Diego, and he was the first to ask the team to stop working and go surfing whenever the swell was good!

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?

Nothing can replace being together. You create better connections when you are in the same room or the same office at every stage — of course for recruiting, onboarding people, but also for brainstorming with your team.

Then you have what that’s called the coffee machine chats or impromptu discussions, which can have a lot of value. I loved when I was working in the office, jumping into a room with someone and starting a crazy sketch on the whiteboard, something which is much more difficult to do when you are not with your team.

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?

Getting the pulse of the team’s morale is much more difficult. As a manager, it’s difficult when you don’t see the body language of your team, evaluating the team dynamics, evaluating how people feel. And again, how people interact together is much more complex to understand.

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.)

First of all, I think communication is essential, especially when teams are remote. Communication also means repetition. It’s important to over-communicate on a few different things: on mission, on vision, on values.

To communicate effectively, we must also listen. For example, I am often holding informal chats where I meet with people at all levels in the company, outside of my direct reports: they help me gauge how the teams are doing, and get feedback on the support they need. I think it’s important to listen to your teams and address their concerns if they manifest as anxieties. For instance, our employees were worried about returning to the office, which is why we decided to proactively communicate our ‘back to office’ plan to ease their worries as early as possible.

Feedback is also very important when communicating with remote teams. By not being in the same physical space, it can be hard to get a sense of how the teams react to what you tell them. To address this, I always want to include time for questions and feedback and to make sure that everyone is contributing to the discussion. We also started to use polls to anonymously gather feedback and insights regularly from the teams, because even remote, it’s essential we hear from them. We hire people, of course, for their technical skills, but also for everything they have to bring as a person. And so getting that value is really important even in this remote environment.

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 using effective business communication platforms like chats, calls, video conferencing, document sharing and so on. So it has not been a real issue in terms of technical communication. Of course, some associates are better communicators face-to-face than they are over a screen, but we’ve been hiring people who are able to work remotely since the beginning, as we were already allowing work from home before the pandemic, with some limitations.

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?

Obviously, the most important tools for us now are these business communication platforms. We are using several — like Slack, Teams, many of the popular ones — and that makes up the core for our communication today. We also find a lot of value in project management systems that track important milestones and ensure we deliver on projects even if we’re not in the same physical space.

The other very important tool that we’re using is an online collaborative whiteboarding system that brings teams together anytime, anywhere for brainstorming and mapping out ideas. These are all important tools to maintain that personal interaction even when we’re working from home.

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

Augmented Reality or why not holograms! I think any way to better understand the body language and interactions of meeting participants would be really good. Video Conferencing solutions are great but you’re just seeing a third of the person! I’d love to test augmented reality meetings where you recreate the meeting room’s experience.

On the flipside, there are also times where you get just completely fed up with being on video eight or 10 hours a day. You have to pay attention to…are you looking good? Is the camera framing me right?

It can be really boring and frustrating and tiring for people. So live avatars are very interesting as a concept. I have seen some examples of companies that are providing these dynamic avatars that track your movement. That will really be very interesting for general meetings.

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?

Yeah, absolutely. Unified communication tools that include instant messaging or chat, voice, video, document sharing, mobile features, desktop sharing are all really key for us to operate effectively today.

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?

We mentioned the technology I was referring to like live avatars for video, which is mixed-reality technology. It moves as you move and I think that’s providing great value for communications. Virtual or augmented reality in our business can become more and more important if we continue working remote.

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

A concern related to VR or AR can be the deepfakes. That’s more of an issue for society than us at the moment but that, for me, is a big unknown. How would we be able to spot deepfakes?

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?

We are a global business. We are operating in more than 100 countries and we have customers all around the world. So we have always been interacting 100% remote with our customers. The exception being for some of our strategic customers that we used to visit once or twice a year, but the pandemic, travel restrictions and social distancing made that’s impossible. But to be honest it didn’t really change the quality of the relationship that we have with our customers.

As long as you behave as a partner, that you share your vision and your plans, and you’re able to listen to your customers, being in the same room or behind a screen doesn’t make any difference. I only miss the social part of meeting customers, which means a nice lunch or dinner together.

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?

Being remote or in the same office doesn’t make a difference: we give ongoing feedback and try to solve issues as soon as we identify them. If you don’t manage the issue immediately it worsens and becomes a bigger problem. In our company, we ask managers to do weekly or biweekly one-on-one with each of their team members and of course organise ad hoc discussions when required.

If you go straight to the point and make sure that your associate understands and proposes an action plan to solve the issue, then 80% of the job is done. Again, if you are doing that regularly, weekly or biweekly, it’s much easier to see a reaction and to monitor how the associate is progressing or not.

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

We’ve implemented a lot of remote social events during the pandemic, starting trivia or virtual movie nights or virtual beer o’clock. And that worked quite well in the beginning. Now, we are also trying to get regular what I would call icebreaker ideas at the beginning of some meetings.

We like to play with virtual backgrounds. So we may ask people for the best picture of their birth country as the background, or maybe where they want to go after COVID. Or even all of us dressing up based on a theme. So all of those are opportunities to reinforce cohesion and to have fun together.

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 think being conscious of, and helping people be conscious of, the luck that we all have to be working, to be in a safe environment, in a developed country, and understanding that there are a lot of less fortunate people around us that we can help.

And so, we’ve been involved for the last four years helping associations that take care of the homeless in Barcelona. I think that’s part of our responsibility as leaders to make sure that everyone can think about the potential contribution and their impact on society.

When there are issues like poverty just around the corner, it’s important to make sure that everyone understands how they can contribute with just little things to make a change.

It’s something we’ve tried to instill at our Barcelona office with some good success, with many people involved who are now more sensitive to these issues.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on LinkedIn and my Twitter. And you can find all of our research and insights at GetApp.

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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