Minter Dialogue with Zoltan Vass

In the latest episode of our podcast, we had the pleasure of hosting Zoltan Vass, a transformation director with a focus on technology, processes, and people. Zoltan’s journey from Yugoslavia to the UK is not just a tale of geographical relocation but a profound narrative of resilience, adaptability, and the relentless pursuit of creating collaborative environments.

A Background Steeped in Diversity

Zoltan’s early years were marked by the complexities of growing up in Yugoslavia, a country that later fragmented into several nations due to war. Born Hungarian in a predominantly Serbian environment, Zoltan often felt like a minority, even when he visited Hungary. This sense of being an outsider everywhere he went shaped his determination to succeed and fostered a unique perspective on diversity and inclusion.

The Impact of War

The war years, from when Zoltan was nine until he turned nineteen, were a period of significant hardship. He recalls the lockdowns, embargoes, and the constant threat of violence. Yet, even in such dire circumstances, Zoltan and his peers found ways to make light of their situation, turning moments of adversity into opportunities for play and camaraderie. This resilience and ability to find joy amidst chaos have profoundly influenced his approach to life and work.

Navigating the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Zoltan’s past experiences with lockdowns came to the fore. Having been made redundant just before the pandemic, he faced uncertainty with a strategic mindset. He stocked up on essentials and focused on finding a new job, demonstrating the same resilience that saw him through the war years. His ability to adapt and remain productive in isolation is a testament to his enduring spirit.

Building Communities in a New Land

Upon moving to the UK, Zoltan deliberately avoided Hungarian and Serbian communities to immerse himself fully in the local culture and language. This decision, he believes, was pivotal in his successful integration and professional growth. Today, he considers the UK his home, having built a life and career from scratch over the past twelve years.

The Role of Trust in Remote Work

A significant portion of our discussion revolved around the future of work, particularly in the context of remote and flexible working environments. Zoltan emphasised the importance of trust, ownership, and creating a safe environment where employees feel valued and supported. He advocates for a 100% flexible work model, where employees can choose their work environment, be it the office, home, or a coffee shop, based on what suits them best.

The Future of Work: Human-Centric and Technology-Driven

Looking ahead, Zoltan envisions a future of work that is location-agnostic, diverse, and human-centric, underpinned by technology. He stresses the need to keep humans at the centre of technological advancements to ensure that we do not lose our essence in the process. The goal is to create a work environment that fosters meaningful connections and leverages technology to enhance, rather than replace, human interactions.

The Four-Day Work Week

Zoltan is also a proponent of the four-day work week, arguing that it can lead to increased productivity and better work-life balance. He suggests that companies can implement shift patterns to ensure continuous coverage while allowing employees to enjoy longer weekends, thus boosting morale and efficiency.

Integrating Wellness into Work Culture

On a more philosophical note, Zoltan believes that companies should integrate aspects of wellness, such as sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness, into their work culture. By caring for employees’ holistic well-being, companies can foster a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce.


Zoltan Vass’s journey from a war-torn country to becoming a thought leader in the future of work is a powerful reminder of the human spirit’s resilience and adaptability. His insights into remote work, trust, and the integration of wellness into work culture offer valuable lessons for leaders and organisations navigating the evolving landscape of work.

Stay tuned for more inspiring conversations and insights on our podcast. Until next time, keep embracing transformation and fostering meaningful connections in your professional journey.

Please send me your questions — as an audio file if you’d like — to Otherwise, below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to rate it here.

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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).

Full transcript via

Minter Dial: My friend Zoltan Vass. You know, we’ve known each other for quite a few years now. I’ve always enjoyed every conversation I had and thought it would be useful to have one that we put a record button in between us and have some fun talking about shit that matters. So, Zoltan, in your own words, who are you?

Zoltan Vass: Well, first, thanks for hosting me, Minter, and I’m delighted to be here. So, my name is Zoltan Vass. Originally, I’m from Yugoslavia, but I’m Hungarian. It can be confusing for people. I’m delivering transformation director with focus on tech processes people, and really into creating global collaborative environments all around tech processes and people.

Minter Dial: Basically, in a nutshell, tech, process and people. I like that. Well, let’s just circle back on your background. Yugoslavia before it broke up, and then Hungarian. Hungarian, pre Indo-European language. So, let’s just say that there’s a lot of diversity already in those two particular thoughts. Yugoslavia, Yugo, many Slavs, and then Hungarian, not even attached to any other language, not even Basque or Finnish. So, how do you think that background, what things shaped you in your experience, having grown up in that part of the world in the time that you grew up?

Zoltan Vass: Well, this is a really interesting question and the points that you raised, I never thought about this when it comes to Yugoslavia and diversity and stuff, which is actually, it’s really true how that shaped me, I think, because I’m Hungarian and I was again, like, I was born and raised in Yugoslavia, which then became Serbia, thanks to the war. I always feel that, you know, minority anywhere I go, even it could. It might sound, you know, a bit weird, but even if I go to Hungary, people can crack that I’m not from Hungary because of my accent and mentality and behavior. So, like, even if I go to Hungary, I feel that, you know, I’m sort of, like, not foreigner, but, you know, it’s not my home in Serbia again, you know, that’s my hometown, but, you know, it’s. It’s made, you know, like Serbians around. And in the UK, you know, it’s pretty much the same, right? So, I’m an immigrant, so it’s a minority. So, I think how that shaped me, it’s really all around finding my way to succeed and find my way out of different situations to push through and fight for myself and for my friends and family, basically, because, yeah, it’s tough, it’s not easy, I think, you know, like that. That definitely had quite a big, you know, like, impact on me, especially, like, the ten years you know, like, of the war as well. So, it’s because that’s when everything, you know, like, became, like, a lot more sharper when you are minority in a country where everyone is, you know, like, Serbian. So, there is, you know, things come to the surface quite fast there 

Minter Dial: So, yeah, so talk us through that, because I feel like most of us in the western world have lived this life of privilege, of not having to worry about a bomb coming over our head or being stabbed by some unfriendly neighbor. These are topics that are rarely spoken about on my podcast, for sure. And in light of the existing wars that are now on the news more frequently. So, closer to us, but still very far from our reality, what was it like? And tell us about when you were there, what ages you were, and how did you experience that?

 Zoltan Vass: So, I was nine years old when the war started, and I was 19 when it finished, so it was ten years. I finished the primary school during that period and my GCSE as well. Again, like, I was young at that time. Right. So, I remember that, you know, when it comes to, for example, these COVID lockdowns, we had that multiple times when you just can’t leave the house, for example, and we were under embargo, so we couldn’t leave the country either. So, it was really a logged environment for ten years. And so we had, for example, periods when we had. Where we were receiving vouchers from the government, and we had to queue to get bread and milk and cigarettes for our parents. So, you know, all these things, I guess, you know, like, at that point, because when we were kids, we found it. It was, like, fun, so we made fun out of it. I’m pretty sure that, you know, like, it impacted one or one way or another, you know, like, all of us, you know, like, as kids, we just were not aware of all this. I’m not sure, you know, like, I mean, like, when it comes to our parents, that was different. Okay. So, yeah, I’m sometimes I’m trying to, you know, figure things out how that, you know, like, impacted me, why I’m doing things now, because I like to take and just to make sure that, you know, I come. I’m the best version of myself all the time. So, I go back to that period sometimes to understand why things are happening, because I believe that there is a relation to our childhood and how we have been raised, what we learned. So, the education process from early age is just so important.

 Minter Dial: So, I’m wondering in my head, probably haven’t really discussed this with you. But if you’ve experienced those type of lockdowns, what happened to you in the one that we had to live through in London, where you were with me at the time?

 Zoltan Vass: So, when the pandemic started in January, I mean, like, it didn’t start. I just saw that something is happening in China. I was like, okay, what will happen if it will suddenly, if it becomes suddenly, like, a global pandemic? I was like, okay, like, people will be in their homes, and whoever can work from home, they will work from home. That’s when it comes to the remote working angle. And so, actually, when it kicked off in January, I didn’t have a job because I’m being made redundant in November 2019. That’s when I left my job. And then things started picking up in January 2020. And then sort of around February, we started seeing that things are here, right? And then at that time, because I did not have any income in any job, I was like, I didn’t know what’s happening. The only thing that I knew that I can’t allow to become sick. So, basically what I did, I bought food and stuff that I needed, and I basically locked myself down to my two-bedroom flat in London for 23 days. I didn’t leave the flat just because I didn’t want to get sick. I wanted to put my head down and focus on finding a paid job, and that’s what I was doing. So, it’s just, I just shut my mind down and then just, you know, like, focused on finding something.

 Minter Dial: And it didn’t trigger any memories of the lockdowns that you suffered through when you were in Serbia? Is that. Is that. Or it just you. It didn’t make you more habituated or anything or it was just a completely different experience for you?

 Zoltan Vass: It was a different experience, but I didn’t really know, like, trigger anything. I had a few memories. So, when we were kids, even when we had these lockdowns, for example, I know that, like, some when we were not allowed to leave the house and when it was dark, we just sneak to our neighbors and we played, you know, like, around, you know, like, in their houses indoors. And when we didn’t have electricity, we had candle lights and, you know, all these fancy stuff. So, these memories came back when we had these lockdowns. And this is more about, you know, when I remember these. I mean, like, lockdowns during the war, because we were kids, we made some fun out of it. So, I think that’s how we handled the situation, and it didn’t really trigger anything negative so I was trying to, I guess, you know, like to build on this.

 Minter Dial: In listening to you, it makes me think that being kids about these types of topics could also be of interest for us as adults.

Zoltan Vass: You mean which topics?

Minter Dial: Well, the idea of playing and then sneaking out somehow the idea of play, the idea of risk. I feel like we live in a society where even though we’re not surrounded by war, we’re completely intolerant of risk. And if you’ve been through war, you have a different scale, I think, of, I imagine, anyway, of what is risk.

Zoltan Vass: Yeah, that’s an interesting point that you raised because. So, let me give you an example. So, where, where my, you know, where I lived in our house, there was a radio tower. I think it was like 100 meters far from our house. And so when all these, you know, like bombarding and stuff started, we got news that it could happen that they will bombard that, you know, like radio tower. I mean, like, that was concerning because, you know, like, it’s hundred meters, it’s not, not a lot, you know, like, if you are, if they’re dropping a bomb from an airplane, 100 meters is nothing, you know? So. And we lived like that for quite a while. And I don’t know, like, somehow it was interesting because I remember sometimes, you know, like when I was passing by the radio tower, I was like, I need to be fast. So, I have these memories. And then I think at some point we just adjusted because we weren’t, we couldn’t, we didn’t know, like, what to do or where to move. Right. You know, like, you’re just in this situation and just have to deal with it somehow, which I don’t think it was healthy anyway, but, you know, like, that’s a different topic. So, when it comes to your point to intolerance, it’s. Yeah, that’s definitely like an interesting one.

Minter Dial: So, you arrived in England and you position yourself in this project, management, transformation, everything. You also said that you have a sortof an apatried, a sense of not being at home anywhere, whether it’s back in Serbia or in Hungary. And then you arrive here. To what extent do you find yourself in any communities that are hungarian or Serbian or London, or have you resisted that temptation? How do you find community in London?

Zoltan Vass: Wow, I love the question. Um, so this, this, like, people ask me, you know, like, where is your home? And stuff like that. So, things definitely changed a lot since I lost my mom because she was really close to me. And, uh, so my brother lives in Budapest. I’m here my dad is back in my hometown. I have friends, like, in Hungary, a few of them, you know, like, still in my hometown. My home is here in the UK. I moved here twelve years ago, and I built my life here from scratch. So, when I moved here, I avoided Serbian or Hungarian communities on purpose because I wanted to learn the language, I wanted to pick up the culture. I just wanted. I didn’t know anything about, you know, like, cultural differences, for example, when I arrived. So, I just wanted to immerse myself into. Into the language and into London. And it was the best decision I ever made, to be honest. And since I moved to St. Albans and I’m enjoying myself here, it’s just the mindset of the people, and it’s just different. And I’m not chasing any Hungarian or Serbian communities and stuff like that. So, it’s more about, you know, the people and their mindset, the values, ethics, morals they bring to the table, that what’s really important to me.

Minter Dial: All right, so I’m going to just jump into a little bit of a political hot potato topic, which is immigrants and immigration. When I look at you, Zoltan, I see a perfect immigrant, imperfectly perfect, if you will, because no one’s perfect, but a lovely, desirable immigrant. And then there’s a lot of topics. And by the way, I’m an immigrant, too, but not quite as distant in that way. But we talk about how immigrants look at other immigrants, and sometimes it’s with disdain at some other immigrants. So, I was wondering to what extent the position of being an immigrant was Serbian-Hungarian? Serbo Hungarian, I should say, as opposed to Austro Hungarian, which is what usually comes off the lips. Right. Serbo-Hungarian. Um, immigrant in England has with regard to its culture and. And the view on immigration as it stands today, because it is obviously a hot topic.

Zoltan Vass: Um, so you’re asking basically, like, what’s my view on immigration? Right?

Minter Dial: Yeah. As an immigrant in the UK, you know, you’ve gone through the process of. Of integrating into the UK. You can have a position as a British citizen or have a position more as an immigrant. And in that case, you can either be even more accepting of immigrants, or you can be looking at immigrants in a different way because they’re not doing it your way.

Zoltan Vass: I think for me, when it comes to immigration is the most important element is whoever is changing a country, moving into different countries, accepting the culture, learning the language, it’s just these fundamental things, and that’s it for me. That’s the bottom line, you know? So anyone who is, you know, like emigrating into different countries. It’s should be no, like basics really, because you move into a different country, it’s different culture, different people, different mindset, you know, that’s, you know, that country, you know, like, they welcomed you. The country welcomed you, right? So they gave you the opportunity to come in, to integrate into you, to learn. So, you know, you should be really grateful for that opportunity. And that’s, that’s my approach. That’s what I have been, you know, always learning from my parents as well how to be grateful and, you know, like thankful. And that’s how I look at everyone, to be honest. Andrew.

Minter Dial: Well, we should spread that kind of a viewpoint. And I wonder to what extent, you know, I was just listening to a podcaster with regard to the Hungarian politics. Do you stay in touch with Hungarian politics? Because obviously the latest events in Hungary where Orban didn’t do as well and Magyar, the Pyotr Magyar is in power, Magyar being Hungarian, I guess. Do you stay in touch with politics back home or do you just sort of clean the slate and stick with the UK?

Zoltan Vass: No, no, I’m not following politics at all because I lived there 30 years, which means that, you know, politics was involved in my day-to-day life everywhere. And so when I moved out, I was like, I just don’t even want to, I’m not interested. And it just doesn’t affect me. And it’s politics. So, you know, it’s a delicate topic, different topic. And it’s just what I learned, that it’s just, it’s politics indeed.

Minter Dial: Well, I’m with you on that. Yet do I enjoy looking at how society views it? And I think it’s interesting to understand how people get triggered by, get excited by or get appetite emotional. So, it is somewhat political, but greater tech advocates, the Global Tech Advocates and the London tech advocates with Russ Shaw. How did you get involved in that? And then found this group, which I’m very happy to be a part of, with the remote work and future of work?

Zoltan Vass: Well, this is a, it’s a really good one because this changed a lot of things in my life. And I’m really proud that, you know, we kicked off this group and we grew and we have such a fantastic people, you know, like around ourselves, and we build this community from scratch. So, I mentioned earlier, when the pandemic started in January, I was thinking, what’s going to happen? So my thought was, whoever can work from home, they will work from home. We just need laptop and Internet and we can carry on working. And this is exactly what happened. So, I, my friend Jen, Meg, secondly, I spoke with her and she introduced me to Russ, and I saw what Russ, the whole deal and GTA community is into. And so I told him that I would like to create the TLA remote working group. And he was like, okay. He was really open and welcoming. And so we organized the first call. There were like 50 people, and he was surprised that there were so many people turned up. And it was, I think it was in March, something like that. And then we agreed that let’s kick off the group. And that’s when I invited my co founder, Louisa Steensma. And then the rest is history. So, now we have more than 600 advocates from across the globe. So, it has been a fantastic experience, excellent learning curve. And that’s the most important things, actually, as well, like the learning. So, when it comes to Russ and like the learning. So, I have been learning a lot from Russ. He’s a role model for me, including Ben Brabyn, Simon Halberstam and yourself. And I have a coach, Esther, Ivan, Louisa Steensma, Louise, Jen and Kylie, who are the core team of the Global Tech Advocates Future of Work now and the learning element, the people around me. And it’s just fantastic and I really enjoy it. So, of course, we have ups and downs, but it’s great that we have managed to pull something meaningful together, pull all these people together as well. Right.

Minter Dial: Well, tell us a little bit more about the mission of the GTA Future of Work. What are you trying to do with this group, including me?

Zoltan Vass: So, with the group, we are really trying to shape the future of work, which means we want to bring together all the people who are interested around future of work, whether they are visionaries or they just want to learn about Breckinridge best practices processes, or they just want to contribute in shaping the future of work from the AI perspective or from the soft skills perspective. So, we are, it’s really, you know, like a community around bringing together like minded and open-minded people who are trying to shape the future of work and make sure that, you know, we, our voice is heard. So, we are organizing different events. Recently, we organized a really good event with Lloyd’s banking group. So, we are really trying to help people and support and make useful introductions and that knowledge sharing is really important and make sure that, you know, like, we still try and help and connect people as much as we can.

 Minter Dial: Well, which makes you a perfect person to talk about remote work as it stands today, because during the pandemic, it was enforced, except for a few industries, of course. You’ve also had your experience working at Coderdog and in person at the Dorchester. And in certain jobs, being remote is possible, in fact, probably desirable if you’re trying to work with coders around the world. That would make sense. Yet, are there things which need to be in presence? Or at least most likely need to be in presence? Like. Well, well, like proper relationships? Yes, I think you can do virtual relationships, but just like work. I wonder what your view is as companies try to handle hybrid and remote work. How should companies be going about this idea of cost cutting, getting rid of offices, paying people less because they don’t have to pay for commuting? Maybe there’s so many wild topics within it. How do you approach this question?

 Zoltan Vass: So, I guess, again, as you mentioned, it really depends. There is no silver bullet. And so fundamentally it will come down to the leader, to the chief exec, how they want to run the company. That’s fundamental. So, what’s important for them? And there are a lot of challenges and issues with companies. Do they want to work 100% remotely flexibly hybrid? It’s just a lot of topics and angles there. So, there are a lot of challenges around what technology to use are the processes on place. What about soft skills? How to lead and manage remotely through a screen? It’s just a different skill set. How to approach this. It’s really understanding the company culture and the people and the profile of the business. What can be done remotely and what can’t be done remotely. Fostering the culture within the company. You don’t have to be in the office. Because what I’m always saying is that if you go back to the pre pandemic world when we spent 8 hours per day in the office, I’m always saying it’s like maintaining a relationship. So, let’s say you have a wife, you have a partner, you spend a lot of time together. So, it means that if you are in the office for 8 hours a day, sometimes you just don’t want to talk to people. Maybe you are tired, maybe you had something else, or you’re just maybe an introvert, you can’t focus. And then, you know, maintaining relationships 8 hours a day in the office with strangers, it’s challenging, it’s demanding, right? And then it distracts us, so the productivity drops as well. And so that’s why I’m more around talking about creating a hundred percent flexible environment where actually people can decide, do they want to go to the office? Do they want to work from home? Do they want to work from a coffee shop? And of course, you know, like we have the tangle when people actually understand that, okay, we need to have, I don’t know, we agree that we have an innovation workshop in the office or we need to meet the client on site. We just go and get it done. But there is no enforcement that we have to go and be present because the idea is that for three days per week we have to, you know, make, maintain the culture in the office. It doesn’t work from my perspective, just because we are people. There is a psychological element to this.

 Minter Dial: Well, I get that for sure. Many companies have terrible cultures and therefore it doesn’t prone for having people in the office because that doesn’t mean that you have a better culture. Yet is it difficult to create a culture when you don’t have in person moments? There’s an element of trust that I think is integral to establishing a healthy culture. And I wonder how through remote, what are some tips that you have about at least fostering trust and, and creating some kind of culture? What are the angles that you think that a CEO or any leadership team should be focusing on when they want to try to create a better culture?

 Zoltan Vass: I think, you know, like you hit the nail on the head when it comes to the trust element because most of the problems are coming from the, from this trust issue that there is no trust. Like how do I know that if you are at home that you’re working? And so one thing there is like focusing on the outcomes and the other thing is how I work is I always trust people because, so I have been, you know, like in various different companies managing, I have been, you know, managing large matrix distributed teams. It’s not possible for me to, you know, control like 102, 300 people. Even if you’re in the office, it’s not possible, right? So, like, it’s the trust element, you know, like needs to be there. So, you know, if you agree that you will get it done and then there is of course, you know how you hold people accountable. You have the right systems, tools and processes in place and you trust that person that they will get the job done. You can’t stress on that. So, if they won’t get the job done, that’s where you can start questioning. I have this because in software delivery and transformation we have these problems where issues are coming up. The whole delivery and transformation is their own problem solving. So, when I see that the project or something is not moving in the right pace, then I question it. So, I just have a one to one and ask, like, what’s the problem? Is it, you know, like, you don’t have the right knowledge, you don’t have the tools, you’re distracted. You do, you have some personal or private reasons just really understanding what’s holding that back, why they are not delivering, why I’m not seeing the outcomes. And most of the time when you have these conversations, the people really open up and they really value this type of conversation. And that’s how you can start building trust. Because if it’s a personal reason, then you understand that, you know, like, they are distracted, you know, like whether, you know, they happen something with the family health issues, something. So, they just can’t focus, right? So you can mitigate this risk if it’s a professional, let’s say, you know, like they don’t have the knowledge or the skills. So, like, okay, let’s find, like, let’s find someone who can mentor you, can, you know, like help you to, you know, overcome this challenge. You can learn and then we can move forward. So, that this is absolutely not critical for me when it comes to, you know, building the trust. And for me, like every leader should, their first step should be like, I trust my employees, my colleagues, everyone around me. And then if they are not delivering, if I’m not seeing the outcomes, then we need to sit down and discuss why. Because we all make mistakes. We don’t know everything. As you mentioned in the beginning, we are not perfect and we will never be perfect. So, it’s really that the soft side of things, the soft skills, the empathy, it’s really important to build, you know, like distrust and foster. And then this is how you can start, you know, like building and fostering that culture where people start, you know, trusting each other, trust their leaders and they will really go above and beyond to get things done. And then you can rely on your team and that’s really powerful.

 Minter Dial: So, what I hear, what you’re saying, Sultan, is you need to have on the one hand some kind of traceability or trackability of the delivery so that you know whether or not the delivery will happen in the do manner, time and style of output. And the second of all is to have it to create the time for a more personal conversation or let’s say a more ad hoc type of conversation. Unless maybe you would recommend typically having systematically only a daily or a weekly meeting of half an hour and you check in with somebody. I suppose that’s good because in the other system, when you’re at the office. While it doesn’t mean you have culture, what you do have is a full body view in random moments. And so as opposed to I have a call with Zoltan at my check in weekly check in at 09:00 on Thursday morning and I’m going to get my makeup on or I’m going to get my whatever on so that I look good for that half hour with my boss. And then afterwards, you don’t even know. But I’m not wearing trousers, right. I’m in my underwear, whatever. And so be it. Yet there’s a sort of an artifice that can happen when you’re in a specific time zone. When you walk, you don’t see anything else around me. You don’t see that my house is burning, my cat is over here. I don’t have a cat. The house isn’t burning. But, and then when you walk by somebody, you see the body language. You might observe other types of emotions that are much more in those soft cells, in the empathy that you’re talking about. And so is it about trying to create online moments that are less transactional, in other words, not about a specific agenda? And you can have these other ways of learning and feeling into people.

 Zoltan Vass: Yeah. The key here is that you need to create a safe environment where people can open up and they know that they won’t be thrown under the bus. And that’s the key because that’s when they will start sharing because and then again, like when I don’t see my team members on the screen, I’m not worried. We know, you know, what we agreed what needs to be done, and they just need to communicate if there are any problems, any issues, something. And because, you know, like we are working towards a timeline or a, you know, a deadline or go live, you know, so it’s really order on that safe environment to create a safe environment. And people will, you know, open up when they see that they can actually trust their leaders and they won’t be stabbed in a bag because that’s also really important. So, it’s really important.

 Minter Dial: So, I was reading on your website, dot, you write that your mission is to enable people to work remotely, create long lasting relationships between humans and unlock people’s potential. So, basically a lot of humanity in all that. And at some level, the idea of remote and technology is often not so human. And so how do you go about unlocking people’s potential and creating these long-term relationships? You do it with me, that’s for sure. But in a remote capacity. What are some of the things that leaders should be thinking about as they try to encourage or not anyway remote work in their company.

 Zoltan Vass: From my perspective, you really just need to be direct and open and you need to be able to enable and empower your employees, colleagues to get their job done. So, you as a leader, you need to be there to support your team so they can carry on and get the job done. And that’s absolutely crucial for me.

 Minter Dial: So, if I take the example of a group meeting, many companies might have a scrum on a Monday morning and get set and everyone but old Jim over there, he isn’t showing up, at least he’s showed up, but he’s not actually on time. And so performance issue and at 09:00 Jim says, oh, I didn’t do it again. Managing performance issues in a way that’s effective and efficient. Do you make a stab at correcting him right away and saying this is the second time, Jim, you should be, we told you now you’re going to hurt the team? Or do you say you let that go and show the team that you’re willing to let that go, which can say oh, everybody should let it go, he’s letting Jim go. Then you call Jim afterwards and then you berate him and you take care of him afterwards. Is there a problem? But you’ve just let the opportunity slide as to how to stem the bleeding and set the example of I don’t tolerate things. So, let’s talk about, let’s say adjusting performance in a remote world.

 Zoltan Vass: Yeah, I mean like this is a good example actually, like what you mentioned because, and I can give you a recent example when there was a tech lead, like it would be funny that, you know, like if you will listen to this podcast that he wasn’t turning up on client meetings and he missed two, which was really important because we just kick off the, kicked off the project, right. And we really needed his input. And in a second meeting I felt, I didn’t feel good and the team didn’t feel good because really needed his input. So, then I had to, you know, have a one to one with him and explain that this is just no go. It’s just, it just doesn’t work. You know, like he lets the teams down, let the team down, the client, he puts us in an awkward situation, nothing is moving and we just need his input. So, we just had a direct conversation. He understood and that was it. I told him that, you know, like if he has any issues that he doesn’t have a capacity, maybe, you know, like he’s over allocated, he’s working on other projects I need to know, because I need to know, like, what’s happening?

 Minter Dial: Well, it makes me think of the situation where you kind of need to set down the law ahead of time a little bit in order to eventually do it in public, because the ideal for me is to create a common law where we all understand and actually have inputs on how we’re going to function together as a team. And if that happens, then you also could slide in. Well, if no one, if someone doesn’t show up in the way we have suggested as a group, then permission is granted to call you out on that in public. So, that we, because we establish that together, if oftentimes the boss does it in a sort of a submarine fashion, or at least kind of in their own unilateral way, which I see more often happening in public, the humiliation and all that, then you’re certainly going to create car crash.

 Zoltan Vass: Yes, that’s correct. It needs. Because you don’t know what’s behind this. It’s generally this example. It was bad for everyone and I didn’t know why he didn’t turn up. So, this had to be addressed because we are not performing, things are not moving to the right direction. So, this had to be addressed. And if you just step back. When it comes to the remote and flexible working, there is one key element here is ownership. Again, I understand that, you know, for example, remote working or flexible working is not for everyone. Maybe someone has kids at home or distraction flatmates. It’s just, you know, different ownership in remote working is so important. So, let’s say again, if you are looking for a job and if you join 100% remote working company, you know, you need to be aware that it’s 100% remote mode. You know, maybe they have other setups that you can work from. Coffee shop or an office or something like that. But if you are a person who needs to be five days in the office, then you need to apply for, you know, like for that kind of job. So, again, it’s managing our own expectations as well, you know, before we apply for a job too.

 Minter Dial: Yeah, well, I was just reflecting that in this situation you were talking about, the guy didn’t even show up. See, there wasn’t a time for public shaming. Not that I’m suggesting that’s the right solution, but in certain contexts it could be. So, this idea of flexible and hybrid, I wonder what your position is with regard to the idea that people who want to work from remote might or should get paid less than people who want to come into the office, commute, and spend that time getting into the office, because there is. There are two schools of thought on this.

 Zoltan Vass: Yeah, I think, you know, like, there is definitely, you know, like, an argument around this everywhere. And for me, it always comes down to the value that the person brings to the table. That’s. That. That’s one thing I also understand the argument when you. Where you live, I don’t know, like, somewhere else where it’s. The rent is a lot cheaper, but I’m not too convinced that that’s how we should pay our people. So, it’s definitely, you know, not an easy, easy one to crack, to be honest, but, like. But for me, it’s really what the value that the person brings to the table that should be, you know, that should be valued really well.

 Minter Dial: There is another school of thought that is, well, since I don’t have to pay for office space, I’ll share the profits with you.

 Zoltan Vass: Yes.

 Minter Dial: Good luck with getting that to pass. So, let’s say in the pandemic, it was somewhat easier because, I mean, somewhat only because it was mandated you had to work at remote. We all figured it out, cats and all right. And we have Wi Fi, and there is indulgences because you didn’t have the room and then your computer was too slow. Whatever. We had different things that we accepted in the ability to impose 100% remote. Now, hybrid, where you have the option, some people always want to come in. Some people always want to work remotely or not. How do you go about crafting a hybrid strategy where choice is now crept in? And it’s not a mandate.

 Zoltan Vass: So, this is what I was talking about. So, this is not about hybrid. It’s about 100% flexible environment, because that’s when you give the person to the person, the option. You can be in the office five days if you want. You can be three days in the office if you want, or you can work from home whenever you want, or five days from home. So, that’s the flexibility angle. And rather than saying you have to be three days in the office, like Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So, this is my view on this. So, it’s really around creating that flexibility rather than trying to put people into boxes and they can make their choice.

 Minter Dial: All right, so I want to push back a second and say that some another way of looking at it might be around the customer. And if you can supply the customer the experience, then that’s all that matters. Let’s say, just focus on that person as opposed to the flexibility with regard to the employee.

 Zoltan Vass: So, how do you mean? Like focusing on the customer.

 Minter Dial: So, in order to provide the prescribed customer experience that we all agreed we want to provide, what do we need to do? And so that might mean, for example, having a store, a physical store on the street, which means it can’t be hybrid. I mean, unless you want to have robots running around your store. But we’ll talk about the future work next. But there are things which, in order to provide the experience that we wish to give our customers, being in person might be the better way. And I’ll give an example that is hybrid. But I used to run a company, and we’d have a regular week talking about production cycles, the production of all the marketing materials, for example, and the delivery of products and such things. We always had people who were remote at the factory, at the warehouse, at the agency, and they were all on the spider phone at the time. So, there was a remote aspect. It wasn’t usually visual. However, what I noticed was that it was typically much more effective for us to be in the room because side conversations would happen. We pass notes to one another, and you can do that in the chat. But there’s an element of seeing people engaged, where you see full body off the screen, whereas when you have a screen full of 20 images, it’s really hard with just the top of your body available to really capture things. And in my opinion, while it sometimes was a little longer, because, well, we allowed for more organic elements, you got a better feel of efficiency through, or effectiveness, I should say, rather than efficiency, because it was longer through in person. So, we would mandate the hybrid more in person, if we could. We would prefer in person for that meeting around production cycles and very much projects and finishing all that in person, because it was more. We were more intense, more committed, more available for each other, and therefore providing a better experience for our customers.

 Zoltan Vass: Well, again, I’m sharing my experience and what I’m seeing and what I have been experiencing. So, I think here is this social element of the work environment and the work, right. That sort of, you know, like being mixed up, right? So, for example, what’s happening now? Because what’s happening now with me, it’s 100% remote working company. We still have an office in London. We occasionally go in, but when I go, we go in in the office. We agree that we go in, but that day is not productive. We are mainly socializing. We are talking about each other in like and this and that. So, it’s. This is the social, you know, element. And I also noticed and realized that we a lot more appreciate each other’s presence when we meet less so because there is more depth. So, for example, I didn’t meet you for quite a while, right? So. But when we meet, there is this some. Something that comes from inside that, oh, I really want to meet minter. You know, like, just have a good chat and have some. Maybe a good food, just a good laugh. And we appreciate, we are really present in that moment. But if we were to do that on a weekly basis, that would be a bit like, it just becomes like a commodity. And that’s where I see that if people, if you work this, create this remote, flexible environment, and let’s say you get together in every once a month or in every three months, the people will appreciate those moments and they will really immerse themselves into those conversations. And that’s how you can really foster proper culture, because nothing is, you know, forced because people want to be there. Because I work remotely, but I love to meet people, to be honest. And sometimes, like, I don’t want to meet people because when I work, I’m a lot more productive by myself and I’m not distracted. Like, the deep focus angle, I can do a lot more, but I also like to socialize. So, it’s really having that social element when we are socializing and when we are working, it’s just separated. And. Yeah, that’s my experience as well.

 Minter Dial: Well, what I like about that is being intentional about the moments of socializing and therefore sort of plotting it in and giving it the time. Because a 15-minute catch up is not a catch up. It’s, you’re going to be transactional. Oh, listen, do you have the paper for me? Did you sign it or whatever? Whereas if you give it a social time, maybe even within work hours, it reminds me of a meeting we used to hold at Redken where we had a thing called, I think it was called talk on the street or something like that. And we would do all the birthday celebrations, so very personal. We would have birthday, we’d have somebody talk about some kind of success factor, and then we would have drinks afterwards, but not during the daytime. In other words, giving time out of the workspace time to socialize, because we always recognize that people had families and wanted to get back. But that was, quote unquote, wasted time getting to know each other. So, good examples. Let’s talk the last bit, Zoltan, about the future of work. So, we’ve been talking a lot about your past. We’ve been talking about things that have been happening now and if you were to say future of work and not mention AI, I’d be saying, whoa, but please, what is your version of the future of work? And let’s say in ten years’ time, are we all working with AI? Are we all remote? Are we all out of a job? What do you think is the future of work?

 Zoltan Vass: Okay, so for me it’s bright, vast and blue. It will be nice, you know, so, but besides that, it will be location agnostic thanks to the space technology, diverse and human centric with more mindful people. And everything will be underpinned by technology because technology is just driving everything. So, we really need to pay attention on making sure that humans stay in the middle of this transformation because we have to stay in control and we need to make sure that we stay humans and we don’t dispose each other. And that’s really important, that we make sure that we focus on that. And technology can surround us and underpin everything, but we need to make sure that we as people, we just go back to our roots and start connecting with each other in a different and more meaningful way, rather than just becoming transactional, because that’s not what we need to do.

 Minter Dial: So, what about the four-day week? There are certain organizations that have moved to the four-day week and have had quite good financial success as well as kind of a motivation factor within the employees compared to other companies. Do you think a four-day week is something that is in the cards for companies or is that just a pipe dream for most?

 Zoltan Vass: Oh, it’s definitely on the agenda. And this is something that I would like to pick up with the global tech tickets future of our group as well. Because I mean, if you just look at our example, if you work by Friday, like, you’re exhausted, like, the productivity drops, like significantly. What we are doing on Friday is just, it’s not really a work. So, we can do a lot more, like from Monday to like, let’s say, you know, like four day a week, and we really don’t need that fifth day. And then if you give people to take the time off, whether, you know, like they are learning, spend time with friends, family, just go outdoors, just do something that really increase the productivity. And again, people are asking how you can create. Because again, like, if you have, if you work four days, if you work with clients, how do you align yourself? You can also create, for example, something like shift patterns. Let’s say from one month, minter works from Monday to Thursday, Monday to Friday, and then the next month minter will work from Thursday to Friday. Yes, so, like, sorry. Yes, one week you will be off on Monday. Like in one month, you will be off on Monday. And then the second one, you will be off Friday. Right. So, you can create this and basically how you build your organization, the operations around four-day work week. And, yeah, I don’t see that, you know, the productivity drops and that’s it rather, you know, increases because people will be grateful that they have a longer weekend. So, they will be delivering a lot more during that four-day workweek and that’s where they will be focusing on. So, 100%, that’s four day workweek. Yeah.

 Minter Dial: All right, cool. All right. And let’s talk about the last sort of more almost philosophical element, which is things like sleep, food, spirituality, purpose. Do you think there is, do you think? I think a company that wants to be successful must integrate those types of questions into the worksite workforce and work cycle? Or is that just for a certain type of culture and the rest just will have to live as they are and will be able to survive.

 Zoltan Vass: Wow. I mean, like, this is a good question. And this goes back to the question that you asked earlier, how you create and foster a culture. So, for example, if you start caring about your people around, you know, like what they are eating, that, how they are asleep, their purpose, it’s really the soft side of things. Right. And that this is how you start creating and fostering a meaningful culture because people will see that actually you care and you want to retain them. Right. So, if you understand their personal circumstances, you know, if they work remotely, you can support them with, you know, various, you know, I don’t know, food vouchers or when it comes to mindfulness, body and mind. If they have, for example, if they are not productive, it can happen that they are not sleeping well. So, it’s really the soft side of things. And this is where you create culture. And you don’t need to be in the office to have these conversations. It’s really just paying more attention to your people who are in the company. And this is how you will be able to engage and retain your employees because they will be grateful that you are actually, like, you care about them rather than just transactional employee and employer relationship. And that’s really powerful.

 Minter Dial: Well, I recall in my time at Redken, I had this amazing woman working with us called Anne Mincey to name her. I called her unofficially the director of love within our company. And she would do things like meditation and breathing exercises. And at the time, and we’re talking back in the year 2000, we were doing this, it seemed very woo woo. Yet I’m trying to reconcile the challenge between being spiritual and lovely and performance. And there’s a pragmatism that needs to happen. So, sometimes you just got to do shit and you have to work 20 hours in a row. So, having that ability to compromise your desired situation. And it brings up this topic of resilience where sometimes you just got to do shit.

 Zoltan Vass: Yeah, exactly. I mean, yes, that’s correct. So, I can give you another example. It was a year and a half ago and we were delivering large transformation project, and the client was in the US, we had around 80 people on the UAT, and I had a team in eastern Europe, and we had to stay up until 203:00 in the morning, like two and three days in a row. And I discussed this with the client and I discussed this with the team as well, which we set boundaries. We said, we’re not going to do this forever, but within these few days we have to, we agreed and we just got the job done. And there was, of course, the reward element after this because we needed that and the rest because you need to bounce back. Right. So, that’s, that’s really important. But yeah, so there are, there is this element when you can, you know, when you are exploring, you have the softer side of things, but at the same time there are, you know, periods when we just, we just have to get the things done. And that’s, and if you can explain this to people and if they understand, it’s simple. It’s really simple. You just need to be, you know, always honest with them and explain it, it. And that’s about it, really.

 Minter Dial: Well, what I like about what you said here is this notion of setting boundaries, sort of setting some kind of limit on the torture, if you will, so that we have an explanation that we’re going to work for three days straight, tell everybody, all your close friends you’re not, but then afterwards I’m going to give you two days off. So, the reward and rest is sort of baked into the torture. And the second thing is explaining why, and in the why, why we have to do this. We have to do this because we agreed, hopefully as a team on a certain goal. And if we can tie things back to either at least a project goal or better yet, a purpose that unites us and is commonly understood and agreed to, if you will, then it makes that why more powerful, more integrated, more, to use your word, owned, the ownership becomes more effective. And instead of complaining, oh, Zoltan told me I have to work for three days. Its more like, well this is my problem, my project, I own it. And on top of that, I know that in three days time I’m going to be able to have the boundaries that allows me to rest.

 Zoltan Vass: Yeah, I mean like the key here is it’s team. It’s all about team. It’s not one person telling that, you know, like now you have to do this, it’s a team agreement because, and that’s absolutely fundamental. The team needs to buy in and they need to understand why we are doing this and they need to understand the boundaries. They need to sign up for it. The other key element was here that we had fun during these three days because we knew that there was like a lot of pressure, really long hours. We still had to have like short breaks. So, there were times when we sent, you know, other colleagues off for a break, just go out, go for a walk, take a nap, something and we will cover you. Right. So, we had this element as well. It’s really the team spirit and having fun and we had laughs and you know, we were cracking jokes and stuff like that. And that helped us to, you know, to push through, you know, these, these times because it is tough, you know, when you have a large team and you need to work, you know, like until two, three am in the morning and you need to be productive, you need to, you know, generate outcomes and you know, it’s tough. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s tough. But that’s again, you know, if the team, the cohesion, if it’s there, it’s, it’s really powerful.

 Minter Dial: Well, it goes back to the very beginning of our conversations, Zoltan, when we talked about as children you played to get through the lockdown. And it reminds me of a post that I wrote recently and citing work by Jordan Peterson who talks about the importance of inserting play as adults into our lives and he argues as well into work. And so on this happy note, let us play. Zoltan, how can someone come play with you or get your services? Read about what you’re up to? Know more about the GTA Future of Work. Thanks.

 Zoltan Vass: So, they can visit my website, www.Futureofwork.UK and they can find all the information there. My phone number, my email address and a link to Global Tech Advocates Future of Work if they want to join the community because it’s free, every, anyone can join and we are all volunteers and we are welcoming anyone like from across the globe. So, you’re welcome to join.

 Minter Dial: Good Sultan. Always fun. To chat with you. Thank you for coming on my friend and look forward to hanging out for our regular hopefully meetup.

 Zoltan Vass: Thank you so much. Minter.

Minter Dial

Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Transformation. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last twelve years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He’s author of four award-winning books, including Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence (2nd edition) (2023); You Lead, How Being Yourself Makes You A Better Leader (Kogan Page 2021); co-author of Futureproof, How To Get Your Business Ready For The Next Disruption (Pearson 2017); and author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim.

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