Dobroslawa Gogloza is an animal rights activist based in Poland.
I first met Dobroslawa in Warsaw when we sat down to talk about how they use Toggl Plan and ended up talking about so much more. Dobroslawa is inspiring, quick-witted and determined, she knows what she wants and aspires for. In just 5 years, she has created one of the largest and most influential animal rights organisations in Eastern Europe and seems to know everything about leadership and remote work. We talk about leadership, running campaigns and remote work.
We started in Poland in 2012. At that moment we were just a group of friends. We had some experience in some grassroots groups, sometimes not really connected to animal protection. But everything connected to professional activism we had to learn from scratch. We just had a lot of good ideas and a lot of energy, so we decided to start an organization.
We wanted to have an organization focused only on farmed animals because the amount of suffering. Also the scale of the industry is much bigger than with other types of animal use.
Additionally, we wanted to have an organization that’s based on science. We always use the correct data, not something that makes our cause look more important. truth is quite a powerful tool and credibility is something we always want to be associated with.
We don’t have a lot of resources that the animal industries have. And it’s not easy to fundraise in Poland. So, we had to be extremely efficient with the way we work. Also, very early on we started learning a lot about how to work better as a group, how to run campaigns without wasting a lot of resources.
I feel that in the five years of working as a leader of my organization, I didn’t really read a lot of books about animals, but I’ve read hundreds of books about management, running campaigns and communication. I think this is why we are where we are right now.
So three years, that’s quite a long time to be working in one place.
When we started the organization we were already based in three cities.
I also feel that a lot of it is about talent. In Poland when we had to start an association, we needed 15 people. It was very easy to find 15 great people in a couple of cities, but it’s not always easy to find all of them located in one place. Even nowadays, when we start hiring people, I see how remote work gives you an edge because you’re able to look for talent basically anywhere in the world.
—It was very easy to find 15 great people in a couple of cities, but it’s not always easy to find all of them located in one place.—
Looking at Poland, if I wanted to hire a great communication person, I can either look among the population of two million in Warsaw, which is already pretty big, or I can look at the whole population of Poland of 48 million. So ,it’s easy to see which option serves us better.
I think remote work also helps us to reach the media. It’s easy for us to have someone give a short interview almost anywhere in the country. If we want to meet a big donor, there’s always someone who can meet them or at least wouldn’t need to travel far to participate in such a meeting. It makes it easier for us to do lobbying, to meet politicians. There’s always someone around.
It also saves time. Sometimes those meetings are really hard to schedule, or something changes in the last minute. And if you travel to another part of the country to meet with either a journalist or a politician, and then they call you and tell, “I have some important thing and I just cannot meet.” Then basically you just wasted two days.
It also makes it easier for us to communicate with the public. We can participate in a lot of local events and smaller meetings, to which sending someone from another city wouldn’t make much sense. Even though creating a connection between people while talking to a smaller group is easier.
At this moment I’m also a true believer of remote work. It has so many advantages. For me it’s also really good for health, because it’s so much easier to schedule training during the time when the gym is almost empty. It just saves a lot of time: I can just go to the gym, do my thing and then go back home instead of going in the evening and then spending half of my time waiting for the equipment to be free.
One thing that is probably a surprise for a lot of people is that working remotely makes you much better organized, as you end up with an office that’s in the cloud. Now it’s much easier for people to get information because you’re forced to introduce systems and new ways of storing information that will make it easily accessible for everyone.
—Working remotely makes you much better organized.—
It’s harder in the beginning, because you don’t have this option of just asking someone, but you end up with good storage of information, procedures and there are a lot of tools for doing it. You see how good it is when someone quits or goes for holidays. We never have to call people when they’re on holiday, asking for something because they just left all the data in the right place. They know this is what working remotely requires..
By using the right online tools, for me, as the CEO, it’s much easier to have an overview of what the employees are doing than if I were actually sitting with them in one office. When people work in an office, they just have this illusion of knowing what people do.
At this moment, especially when we are in an international team, it’s really easy for me to see who is the least busy person and know who I can ask to do one extra thing. It’s not something that we thought would be a great benefit, but now we think it really is.
Working remotely forced us to communicate better in writing and made us better in planning. We also tested a couple of ways of using Toggl Plan and we ended up with having a system where different projects are actually different priorities.
We have something like organizational milestones, which is like the top priority, but those are also things that never feel urgent. But then by giving them the top priority, you understand that you should work on it even if it’s not due tomorrow.
Since everybody is using online tools, it also creates a good culture of transparency inside the organization. Because sometimes a lot of control over workers is very top-down, so the managers or the CEOs, they want to know what the employees are doing, but no one feels empowered to actually ask them, “But what’s your job in this organization actually?” Here, everybody knows everything. Just like I know what the newest employee is working on; the newest employee also knows what are my projects. I think this also brings a lot of trust.
—Just like I know what the newest employee is working on; the newest employee also knows what are my projects. I think this also brings a lot of trust.—
Remote work or the culture requires a certain type of people. What do you look for when you hire?
When we started the organization we were already based in three cities.
That’s a very good question, especially because we have just been hiring. We had a lot of time to reflect on it.
You definitely need to be an independent person. If you are the sort of person that always needs to ask about everything, you’re not going to thrive in such an environment. But at the same time, are such people really thriving in the office?
No matter if it’s remote or not, I think you have to be independent and trust yourself. Overall I would say that remote work is a lot about trust: I have to trust people that they do what they do, and they also need to trust themselves and their own ideas, intuition.
Getting organized is a constant struggle. Our Neanderthal brains are not prepared for organized work. I don’t even think there really is something like an organized person, but what you probably need is to be kind of self-reflecting person. I think you have to be able to observe what you do wrong because you don’t have another person watching you all the time, so you have to be able to spot your own mistakes and look for how to improve.
Remote work has one drawback – people start moving less.
—Remote work has one drawback – people start moving less.—
I think if you switch from office work to remote work, you should have a plan on how to increase the amount of exercise you do. It doesn’t have to be sports, it can be just taking your dog for longer walks.
Otherwise it will probably hit you like after a couple of months with signs of depression. So it’s really good to understand that this will happen. Plan for this because if it’s too late, it’s actually much harder also to do anything about this.
Nowadays we also talk about this with our new employees. Of course, we cannot force anybody to be active, but we are trying to really encourage them. And make them understand that if you don’t do it you will suffer in the end. Even if you didn’t like sports, I’m sure there is something you will enjoy.
Now that you’re running an international organization, have you encountered any cultural differences? And if you have, how do you cope with them or what’s your process of dealing with them?
It’s hard to really say I think because it’s still a quite new situation for us. I also feel that it’s sometimes hard to see because, for example, if I work with just three people from another country, then it’s sometimes hard to really judge if it’s the cultural difference or if it’s just like normal human to human difference. Of course, we differ between cultures, but at the same time every individual is also quite different.
I think our general approach is to try to have a flat organization. We feel that the final version should be based on our experience but they understand the local culture, local problems, and local situation. I think for us what works for us is actually giving a lot of freedom to the local groups. We never have something like copy paste campaigns. We understand that countries are different. And while creating another style of visuals will maybe take 10 hours, forcing a uniform campaign to a country that would need another approach or even another design actually wastes a lot of resource in the long run.
A good example is Estonia. For us the fur campaign is very important. It’s also very important in Lithuania. But Kristina, our CEO from Estonia, she decided that since there are already two organizations working on fur, it doesn’t really make sense to be the third one in such a small country.
In five years, what’s been your biggest lesson that’s made you a better leader?
Can I have two?
Yes, of course.
One thing was understanding that I don’t know better than the rest and now I see my work mostly as someone whose job is to find the best people that are out there and make them have enough freedom and the right tools to use their intelligence, ideas, and skills the best way they can.
I always feel very uncomfortable when I’m in such a situation where someone with experience tells me, “Oh, do you want to check my work?” I’m like, “Why? You’re so much better at doing this than I ever was. Why would my opinion would really matter here?”
I think this is also where not only NGOs but probably a lot of companies also misuse a lot of talent they already have by making leaders to make all decisions instead of someone in a lower position.
—A lot of companies also misuse a lot of talent they already have by making leaders to make all decisions instead of someone in a lower position.—
Also because when people understand that it’s their decision to make, I think they care more about their work. For example, if I am to write a blog post and I know someone will be checking for typos, I don’t really bother. But if I know that I’m writing and posting it myself, I will really read it two or three times before posting.
Sometimes the less hierarchy you have in the organization, the better people work, because they know that if they succeed, it’s their success, but if they fail, it’s totally their fault so they have to think twice to take the responsibility. People are just as responsible as you expect them to be. If you check on all your employees as if they were five-year-olds, they will end up behaving like ones.
Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s sometimes really hard to be a female leader. This is something that I’ve heard from a lot of women. Even in animal protection movement, which is basically 80% female, it’s still hard for women that have the ambition or have the skills to be in leadership positions.
But I feel that even though it’s harder, this is something that we just have to do because the more women leaders we have, the easier will it be for all the future generations and for our daughters, friends or other people. This is also something that we kind of have to do for the world, even if we feel like we are getting a lot of unfair criticism or unfair attacks. We are in this position to make a change by staying in this position and not giving up. I hope to see more of it.
It’s also about using talent, again. In animal protection movement, if we have 80% of women and 20% of men, and then the leadership comes mostly from men – and you see this in a lot of organizations - it means that you have chosen your leaders from only 20% of the talent pool. It really makes sense even for your cost to also start using this 80% of talent pool that’s out there.
—If we have 80% of women and 20% of men, and then the leadership comes mostly from men – and you see this in a lot of organizations - it means that you have chosen your leaders from only 20% of the talent pool.—