Preparation is key when leading a remote team
David Picket is the President & Chief Executive Officer of Gotham Organization, a New York City based real estate development company. A lifelong New Yorker and leading member of the Gotham team since 1991, David shared his insight into how deeply COVID-19 has altered the traditional work experience.
Thank you, David, for imparting your expertise on what it is like to engage and lead a team remotely, namely providing a sense of structure and security in uncertain times for both clients, colleagues, and tenants.
The transition to remote work was no surprise to the Gotham team. From watching the news reports, “we saw it coming,” says David. “We spent at least two weeks getting ready, making sure everyone had the right computer setup and access to files.” Picket also told vendors to start sending bills electronically, so that he “could manage everything from home.”
While the organization at large was prepared, parts of Gotham faced hardships in the early weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown. David recalls the accounting and property management teams having the hardest times going remote, because the property management team could no longer meet with third party colleagues in person.
Since Gotham’s development deals involve years of negotiating, David did not feel the long-term timeline was delayed because of COVID. In the short-term, however, Gotham experienced delays “when some of the [New York] City agencies were closed down or operating at minimal capacity.” Fortunately, Gotham’s construction sites only shut down for a couple of weeks. Gotham’s work was deemed essential because of its affordable housing projects.
Picket prefers “going to the office, putting on a suit, and sitting at [his] desk.” During an ideal workday, David enjoys going to job sites and meeting with people for potential deals. “I don’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer screen all day.”
Initially, running the development side of the company was difficult for him to do remotely. “It’s tough to do these Zoom meetings all of the time and not being able to be in front of the people you work with….I like having face to face conversations with people.” On the upside, Picket found Zoom easy to use on his own, even though he’s usually “terrible” with technology. Once he settled into lockdown, David became more comfortable with virtual meetings and found that business could continue remotely.
As CEO, David was impressed by his team. In a recent commemorative video of the team’s efforts, Gotham honored their performance during this difficult time. The majority of the staff “worked harder than they’ve ever worked. But more importantly, the staff at the buildings worked really hard to keep the buildings clean, and the tenants happy, and tried to put on a cheerful face every day…..The world wasn’t coming to an end. And Gotham, after 107 years, wasn’t going anywhere either.”
David still hopes Gotham can return to business as usual, but can’t justify returning to NYC until it’s safe for “third parties coming into the office, like architects, engineers, and consultants.” While being together in person is preferable for seeing plans and designs, the Gotham staff and third parties have been able to communicate effectively virtually. David is confident that his team’s communication skills have only strengthened during this pandemic and that when the group is together again, they will be stronger than ever.