Becoming a Remarkable Leader with Sabina Nawaz | DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency

Becoming a Remarkable Leader with Sabina Nawaz


Sabina Nawaz is a CEO coach, keynote speaker and leadership writer. She’s been Founder and CEO of Nawaz Consulting for 14 years. She’s an expert giving 1-on-1 executive coaching in the areas of leadership systems, career planning, and leadership training. She has been advising CEOs and leadership teams all around the world.  

Sabina previously worked as the Director of Human Resources for Microsoft. She spent the first half of her career running software teams on Microsoft before she decided to switch from computer geek to leader development geek. She’s been featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Inc.

Read the transcript

Luis Magalhaes: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob podcast. Wow, it’s been a while. Not for you of course because you’ve been at these every week, but I just came off from vacation. So, forgive me if I don’t get … If it takes me some time to get back into script. I am your host, as usual, Luis. Today with me I have Sabina Nawaz, is the president, founder, and everything. She works on one-on-one executive coaching in the areas of leadership, systems, career planning, and leadership training, among other things. She has previously worked as the director of human resources at Microsoft. That’s quite an impact that you’re making in leadership, Sabina. Would you like to tell our listeners a bit more about you and what you do?

Sabina Nawaz: A one-sentence bio on me is I moved from being a computer geek to a leadership geek. My undergraduate and graduate educations are in computer science, electronics, computer systems, engineering. I spent the first part of my career running software teams at Microsoft and then switched into leadership development, executive development, employee development, and so on. Part of my second career now, one of the things I’m tremendously enjoying, speaking about various aspects of leadership to people like you, or when I write my articles on leadership at Harvard Business Review or Forbes.

Luis Magalhaes: So, obviously this is a podcast all about remote and building remote teams who win. A big part of that is leadership, but I really wanted to start by asking you what’s the thing that most excites you right now when it comes to remote work and the future of work and why.

Sabina Nawaz: Great question, Luis. What excites me most about that is tapping into the power of truly diverse perspectives. I’ve lived in three different countries, and each time it opens my eyes in a way that had never been opened before. You get to have a little bit of that experience of living in different countries when you work with people who are truly living in different countries. You get perspectives. You get opinions that would never have occurred to you. Or you learn more about communication or about yourself or what your customers might need in ways that are hard to replicate when you have a remote workforce.

Luis Magalhaes: It really helps. You know, we can talk about diversity, all that in the workplace, all that you like, but there’s no bigger cultural diversity when you’re coming from a different country with a different cultural background. That definitely is a bit like have the whole world in your virtual office. So, I wonder what has been your experience like in the last two to three years with people working remotely. If anything, have you changed your mind about anything regarding the remote work during those last few years?

Sabina Nawaz: As I work with CEOs and executive leadership teams more and more, there are remote people. They’re people from across the globe that comprise those leadership teams. Now you have the very stewards of an organization that are located in different places. They’re not always co-located. I think initially it presents as a pain in the behind for people who are used to having headquarters and everything be the center of the world from the headquarters.

What I’ve noticed is that it’s a very humbling experience for those executives who are open to it, because they learn very quickly that they’re not communicating as clearly as they thought they were, that they don’t really have agreement when they thought they had agreement because “Yes” doesn’t mean “Yes,” or “Yes” might mean “I don’t agree with you, but you’re my boss, so I’m going to say yes,” or “Yes” might mean “Yes, yes, let’s move on, and then we’ll come back to it.” Or it might be a committed yes.

So, it’s all these little things. It’s the details that show up when people are working remotely where communication becomes such an important piece, and I’ve noticed the humbling and the educational impact of working with remote teams globally.

It’s also a great microcosm of how we cut across cultures and work across cultures. Most large organizations or decent sized organizations will say “We want to appeal to people across the globe. We’re a global company.” Yet, are they truly a global company until they’ve gone through the pains of working through and the rewards inside their own houses with remote teams?

Luis Magalhaes: That’s a great question. I want to pick up on what you said about communication. It really is very interesting your point about different words. Actually the same word can have the same meaning in many different cultures, but the context can be different. Even if the literal meaning is the same, the meaning of the person that is saying it isn’t necessarily the meaning that the person that is hearing attributes to it. So, for starters, how would you advise someone that is struggling with those challenges in communication? How would you advise leaders that are distributed to make sure that they are on the same page with each other?

Sabina Nawaz: Wow. That’s a big question, Luis. It’s a range of things. First, there’s the basics. How are you setting up your communication forums? A simple thing like video, like you and I are talking right now. There’s an organization that I work with quite a bit that’s global where they use a video-based technology but don’t turn on their videos. The first time I was talking to them, somebody texted me, private texted me and said … Or chatted me and said, “Are you aware that your video is on?” I said, “Yes, that would be the point of using this technology, isn’t?” But just culturally they were used to not having video on so they could of course, as we all know, do exactly what they needed to do and not be fully present in the conversation. It’s so important to pick up all the different cues we can, especially when we’re remote. So, it sounds totally basic, but turn on the video.

The more advanced step to turning on the video is making sure that your hands are visible at all times on that video, because for those of us who have gotten on video for a while we’ve gotten very used to, expert at, smiling, nodding, looking like we’re fully present, but underneath the screen line we might have our phones in our hand typing out our text.

Luis Magalhaes: Oh, yeah. We’re just doing everything we can, multi-tasking as much as possible.

Sabina Nawaz: Yeah. Exactly. I learned this from a client of mine where we used to have a six-person meeting plus me, so I guess a seven-person meeting, where we met every other week. He decided that he was going to have his hands visible, both hands visible, at all times. Once in a while, he would take out his phone and need to send out a text because something urgent, someone from home contacted him or whatever, but it was fully transparent. We knew what was going on. It made a tremendous difference.

I have worked over four and a half years with many of those groups, those six-person groups. This group got a lot more out of their interactions with each other than most other groups, and I think some of it is attributed to the guy who decided to put both his hands up, because very soon everybody started doing that. It’s contagious.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. Also, it’s exercise, you know?

Sabina Nawaz: [inaudible 00:08:24]

Luis Magalhaes: You’re having your hands up, so you would have better posture. It feels a bit combative though, you know? As we are right now, my camera is quite close to me, so I have to put my hands up to talk to you. It looks like I’m in a street fight. [inaudible 00:08:40]

Sabina Nawaz: I hope not, Luis, but yes, exactly. You do have to figure out your camera angle and all of that, but it’s great. That’s a really nice addition that you’re saying. We sit at our desk so much it’s great when we have to be accountable for our posture on the camera for larger than just the neck up. So, I am more conscious of how I’m sitting and how I’m placing my body. So, that’s just from the very tactical quote/unquote small way that makes a huge difference. I think there’s many other things you can do to continue to build on that.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. That’s a great point. It’s very helpful, also, if you’re a hand-speaker. So, Sharon, the president of DistantJob, he speaks a lot with his hands. Me, I’m more of a hand-fiddler. When I’m talking, I have a pen in my hand, and I’m making notes or stuff like that. So, I kind of need to have the panoramic camera for people to see me take notes. But, yeah, it definitely helps a lot. That’s part of the deal of the camera, right? Body language is important.

Sabina Nawaz: Body language is super important. As you’re talking, it actually, Luis, gives me an idea for perhaps an article I might write on different persona types, so what we read from body language as we see in your hands. Maybe there’s the hand-speaker. There’s the hand-fiddler. There might be the hand-clasper, and we might make interpretations about why they’re clasping their hands.

Luis Magalhaes: Well, I’m like Mr. Burns in The Simpsons. Excellent.

Sabina Nawaz: Oh, yes. There is the whole steepled hands.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, exactly.

Sabina Nawaz: Of course. Yes. So, hands can say a lot. In remote situations, hands visible can say “I am fully here. I am here to join you. I am listening to you. I respect your time, and I hope you will respect mine.”

Luis Magalhaes: For sure.

Sabina Nawaz: And it reduces the amount of miscommunications we have because I wasn’t really listening to you, I was texting on my phone.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, that’s no good, definitely. It feels super disrespectful. And it doesn’t help engender trust, of course.

Speaking about your articles, you’re very prolific. I mean, we are going to link to the places where people can find your articles once the podcast is published, but you’ve written several articles for Entrepreneur, for Forbes, and other places. Your LinkedIn feed is also super rife with stuff that you write. I always try to go through a decent amount of my guests’ body of work, and I went through several of your articles. One thing that I noticed, and maybe that’s just a pattern from the articles that I had to the luck to get to, is that you seem to place importance, a lot of importance, on one-on-ones, for several situations, for giving feedback, for asking for feedback, for discussing career opportunities and progression opportunities, et cetera.

I wonder how do you translate this into remote. Besides the body language thing that we just talked about, how do the dynamics of one-on-one meetings change in remote? I remember an example that you gave in an article that I was reading yesterday where you were talking about the CEO that just had added a lot of new people to her team. They felt like a valid part of the team, but realistically she couldn’t spend all of her day in meetings. So, when she could have dedicated one-on-ones, she invited them to walk or to take the stairs instead of the elevator, join her on visits or et cetera. This is not necessarily as easy to do when you’re working remotely. So, how do the dynamics change there?

Sabina Nawaz: Yeah. That’s a great question, again. Thank you for researching so thoroughly. Yes. In that particular case where you might be able to kill two birds with one stone, as they say in North America, when you’re having one-on-ones with somebody nearby, it might be very difficult to do that remotely. I think you have to get creative. It’s still possible. I know somebody who has a treadmill as a walking desk. So, they’re talking and walking in their one-on-ones. They’re still getting some exercise and great chemicals flooding their brains as they’re having that one-on-one conversation.

But also I think that we have a fallacy that we need to have really long meetings in order to make true connection. I think you have to be really present in order to make true connection, and you can get a lot more done in a relatively short period of time if you’re fully present. So, back to being fully present in those one-on-ones.

More importantly, I think for me … One of my articles is about how to talk to an employee who isn’t meeting their goals on Harvard Business Review. In that one, it starts with simply asking them before telling them. Particularly when people are remote, we cannot presume to know what it’s like in their part of the world. It’s our time to be curious. So, simply by asking them, “How do you see this situation? What do you think is going on? How do you think you’re doing?”, you will get some information.

Whether or not that information is aligned to your point of view or not is beside the point. If it’s aligned, more than half of your work is done. You don’t need to spend that time explaining things to them. You’re on the same page. If it’s not aligned, it gives you the reason to say, “Gosh, we are on different pages. You’re seeing this, and I’m seeing the opposite of this. How are we going to get on the same page and reconcile our views?”

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That’s definitely something interesting. Again, it’s something that differs from culture to culture, you know? It’s part of the communication. I wonder if you have some example. You’ve worked with people from all around the world. If you have some examples of culture clash and how to see them solved.

Sabina Nawaz: Well, Luis, I can speak to my experience working in your part of the world, in Portugal. The first time I went to Lisbon and worked with my clients there, we had a two-day working session to prepare for a major event that I was going to come back to in a couple of months. We spent the most of the first day hitting our stride, at least what I thought, in terms of a strict agenda, thinking we need to cover X number of things in day one so that we can cover Y number of things on day two, and that would be success.

Luis Magalhaes: Of course not. I mean, it’s Portugal. The first two days, you eat and drink.

Sabina Nawaz: Yes. Yes.

Luis Magalhaes: This is what we do.

Sabina Nawaz: Yes. Exactly. Our first lunch was four hours long, and we were not talking about work during those four hours. We were talking about football and the latest scores and all sorts of things. My brain, being used to working mostly in North America, was going, “When are we going to get to the agenda? How are we going to get everything done, because my flight leaves at 9:00 PM tomorrow, and I cannot delay my flight?” I was very worried as I went to bed that night, even though I knew … I had read up on all this. I had talked to people who had worked with folks in Portugal. But it’s one thing to read and the other thing to experience. So, I think the clash happens more … We all nod our heads, and we smile, we make jokes, when we read about things. The clash happens more when we actually do the work.

So, first thing is to get out there and do the work with people across different cultures in different surroundings. Of course what happened is that first day was a hugely efficient use of time, because we were all using that to build context and to get to know each other and to develop a rhythm. And guess what? The next day, we did get down to work, and we got everything done and more. Actually there was a working lunch with sandwiches the next day by that point, much to my disappointment. So, first thing was the clash even around how do you handle mealtimes if you’re working in person when you’re getting together in person.

I think the other clash I find quite often is that about context, high-context cultures and low-context cultures. High-context cultures, and I’m sure you’re familiar with a lot literature on culture, are cultures where they’re not so overt. You just look at somebody and with the twitch of the eyebrow you’ve communicated a volume. Whereas low-context cultures you’re spelling things out, and you’re speaking to things, and you’re very direct. You’re overt about things.

So, what are you missing in those … If you’re coming from a low-context culture and going to be speaking to someone in a high-context culture, you’re not going to get a lot overtly, but there’s a lot happening behind the scenes that you’re not picking up. So, how do you increase your context awareness in those cases? How brief something is or how quickly you get to the point is part and parcel of that as well.

Luis Magalhaes: For sure. I guess that the way I would do that … Try to make sure what kind of culture is the culture of the people, the person that I’m interacting and adapting my response as a manager. It’s kind of like speaking different languages. I’m fluent in a couple of languages, and what I find out is that, when I think in Portuguese, I get to different conclusions if this makes sense than when I think in English. You know? Sometimes for some problems it’s better to think in English. Other times for other problems it’s better to think in Portuguese. I guess that language is tied to culture, and culture is tied to problem-solving in a way that’s worth notice.

Sabina Nawaz: That’s beautiful, Luis. I hadn’t even thought about that. I speak many different languages as well. I’m going to give that a test run as I’m thinking about things that I write on or speak on. How might my keynote sound different, or what might the primary point be, if I think about it in one language versus another language? That’s a great point.

You know, as you’re talking, there is the obvious one that also clashes a lot is around time where there are cultures where things go according to clockwork. I heard this joke, and you can verify this for me more than most people, that in Europe the further south you get the slower the trains run. The more behind schedule they run, right?

So, in the work context, what does it mean when someone is saying they’re going to get to something tomorrow? In some cultures, that means you will get it by 5:00 PM tomorrow, local time, or whichever, GMT minus so-and-so. And some other cultures, it’s just a suggestion. It means it’s not today. Tomorrow could mean next month. It’s just whose way of saying “I’ve got it. I’ll work on it at some point.”

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. We have a running joke that in Portugal 15 minutes late is considered on time on the clock.

Sabina Nawaz: Exactly.

Luis Magalhaes: But this is true. This is true. I’ve been to Sweden. I’ve been to the UK. I’ve been to Germany. And I can definitely see the closer you get to the middle of the hemisphere, that definitely has an influence.

Sabina Nawaz: Yes. I was in Zurich, and people were very upset on the train platform I was standing on because the train was running two minutes behind.

Luis Magalhaes: Oh yes. This is unthinkable in Zurich. I don’t know how they survived that. But oh well. It’s the way things go. And, yeah, you definitely need to make allowances for that and understand that, get everyone on the same page when you’re managing your remote team.

Another thing that is common in remote teams … The remote employees tend to be not seen and not heard. You talk about … You wrote some articles about how employees can showcase their efforts, so how they can make sure their contributions are noticed so when it comes time for a promotion they are considered. I would like to turn that around on you and ask you, what would you advise remote leaders to do in order to better identify which employees are performing the best?

Sabina Nawaz: This is really, really important because, one, they’re out of sight, out of mind in some way. Two, they may not speak to their accomplishments in the same way you’re used to hearing it. Three, of course, you’re not hearing from them as often or in your timezone when you’re awake.

So, often I ask people to block 15 minutes on their calendar on Friday afternoons. In the US, as you know, in North America, we work on Fridays. So, whatever your end-of-week day is. In Saudi Arabia, it might be on Thursdays. But wherever it is, block 15 minutes at the end of your week to reflect and say, “What have people accomplished this week?” Notice who you’re noticing and who’s missing from that. Then ask yourself, “Why are they missing from that? Is that because I’m not happy with what they’re doing, or is it simply because I haven’t figured out how to understand what they’re doing and appreciate what they’re doing?” But if it’s the latter, then have another one-on-one. As you know, I’m partial to those conversations.

Ask them, “How recognized do you feel for your efforts? How can I better understand what you’re working on?” Knowing that some people are going to feel uncomfortable talking about things they’re proud of, how do you draw that out of them? Perhaps you need to talk about what their teams have done versus what the individual has done, because we also know culturally some of us will talk more individual, some of us will talk more collective. So, find out the language in which you want to talk.

One of the best books I have read on working across culture is by a professor at INSEAD, Erin Meyer, and it is called The Culture Map. She takes some very common cultural dimensions that we study and talk about when working across different cultures, and she maps that across various countries, various cultures. So, create a culture map to say, okay, I’ve got people from these five regions. How do they deal with conflict? How direct are they? What is their relationship with hierarchy? Are they irreverent or ultra-reverent? What is their relationship with timeliness? And so on. So, you take all these components, and you map them to see where are you similar and where are you really far apart.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. That’s a really cool idea. Would you make this like a company document, or is it just for the leaders’ private use? Because I can see the interest in everyone in the company having information about the cultures of all of their colleagues, but at the same times sometimes it can feel a bit personal, I guess.

Sabina Nawaz: Yeah. So, the answer like most things would be it depends on the organization and what people want to do there. Certainly when you’re working as a team, as a close team, it might be helpful to do that with each other to say “Where are we on this?” and “When I’m saying tomorrow, this is what it means” or “When I’m not getting you something by 5:00 PM, it doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything or that I’m careless. I’m just running with a certain set of assumptions that are not transparent to you yet.”

Luis Magalhaes: Hey there. It’s Luis. Welcome to the intermission of the DistantJob podcast. If you’re listening to this podcast, there’s a very big chance that you’re interested in building a great remote team. To build a great remote team, you need great remote employees. That’s where DistantJob comes in. So, here’s how it works. You tell us the kind of position that you need to fill. We talk to you. We try to figure out not only what are the exact requirements that that person should have, but also we try to figure out who would be a perfect fit for your company culture, because we really believe that that matters.

Then, once we have an exact picture of what we are looking for, we’re off to the races. Our recruits tap into their global network, and we filter people very well so that you don’t waste your time interviewing people that are never going to be of interest to you. We make sure, because we are techies and our recruiters are techies as well, so when people get to you, they are already pre-selected. You just have to decide between the cream of the crop. Once you make your selection, we handle all the paperwork. We handle HR for you. We handle payments. And you get a full-time remote employee that’s among the best in the world and managed entirely by you, by your processes and following your culture.

If this sounds good, visit us at And without further ado, let’s get back with the show. Thank you for listening.

So, when someone is looking to lead from a distance, to be a leader in their company, in their business, they want to have or they want to build a global company with employees everywhere, what do you think would be some top skills for them to nurture?

Sabina Nawaz: Well, the top three for the person themselves would be curiosity, curiosity, and curiosity. Often a trap that the higher up we go, we start thinking we know more or we know the answer. In many cases, we do, because we have experience. We’ve learned from mistakes. We’re put in bigger and bigger seats. When it comes to working with remote teams and truly building a global environment, there’s so little that we know. The very things that have made us successful, quick to assumptions, quick to conclusions, quick to decisions, are going to bounce back. We’re going to find ourselves in meetings where we’re trying to have the same conversation over and over again, or worse discover bad news six months later because we had the same word, different meanings. So, I think it’s firstly about curiosity and not taking things for granted. That would be a key skill to build.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. Curiosity is always one of the best things to have and replicate. What about in their employees? What skills should they nurture in their employees?

Sabina Nawaz: I guess it’s a two-way skill, which is around communication but more around how you have the communication. I find that having certain structures or rituals that are repeatable and consistent help bring more clarity when there is so much ambiguity or potential for so much ambiguity.

So, for example, can people, if they’re all on video, have a norm where people raise their hand when they need to say something? We all see that somebody’s waiting to speak, and we don’t speak over them if we’re from a more rapid-speaking, interrupt each other kind of culture. Can we have a norm where we summarize decisions that are closed or summarize the key points what our understanding is so we’re all leaving with the same understanding, or agreements that we may have made? Are there some repeatable ways in which we communicate? It’s not just the content of the communication but the skill of the process of the communication and how do you facilitate that is an important skill to have as remote employees.

Luis Magalhaes: Well, that sounds like great advice, actually. Let me ask you a bit more about your personal trajectory and to finish things up. You’ve been doing this for a long time now, helping people become better leaders. Tell me the story of a lesson that you learned the hard way.

Sabina Nawaz: In my own career or in helping other people?

Luis Magalhaes: Well, what you feel most relevant.

Sabina Nawaz: When I was managing a fairly large group of people who were quite diverse. Now, most of them were not remote, but the lesson I learned that I then applied to remote teams as well is back to body language, the phrase that you used at the top of our call, that my body language had huge ripple effects. I generally tend to smile a lot. One day, I wasn’t smiling as much. The next day, I had three one-on-ones. One person asked me whether there was going to be a reorganization. Another person asked me if I had any feedback for them. And the third person asked me if everything was okay. Of course, after the first … I was really puzzled by this, and then I realized, oh, it was because I was different from my usual smiling self, and of course-

Luis Magalhaes: People are in trouble if the boss isn’t smiling.

Sabina Nawaz: Yeah. Yeah. Because people personalize that, and it had nothing to do with the truth. So, I wasn’t smiling because I was in physical pain but people made up all these stories. It’s realizing that every single thing I’m transmitting non-verbally is being made into these stories, and how much energy and time is that wasting? For the three people who came, there were probably 30 people who were having similar experiences. How many of them were spending time talking to each other, going “What do you think is happening?” or “Should I be polishing up my resume?” or whatever else.

So, that was a very big lesson for me to be mindful that it’s not about me. It’s about the people I serve and making sure I can be as clear as possible. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect but making sure I can be as clear as possible.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. Yeah. That’s definitely very good advice for anyone. That’s only in remote, even though I think is especially important in remote because your body language is so … If people are paying attention, and hopefully they are, they seize a lot on your body language, because there’s just so much less of it that every bit is precious, right? That’s part of what we discussed a lot at the top of the conversation.

Okay. So, when working with the remote team, if you had, let’s say, $100 to spend with each person working in that team, what would you buy for them?

Sabina Nawaz: If I’m to follow my own advice, I would ask them what would be most meaningful for them. What comes up for me also is not just the money spend but … I don’t know if you’re familiar with the five love languages body of work which basically talks about how people like to be acknowledged and seen. Different people have different ways. So, one are gifts, which would be where my $100 would go around gifts, but other love languages are words of acknowledgement. I may not get the terminology exactly right, but sitting down-

Luis Magalhaes: That’s fine. I don’t know it so I’m not correcting you.

Sabina Nawaz: Yeah, exactly, but sitting down and writing a very thought-out note of appreciation might be the right love language for that person, or acts of service. What can I do for that person to show them that I appreciate them? And so on. So, I would really think about what works for each person before making a decision on how to spend that $100 and asking them how they like to be appreciated.

I had made a mistake, by the way. I was actually about to make a mistake with one of the teams where I was going to recognize somebody who I thought did phenomenal work at an all-hands meeting. So, I had a big meeting that people joined virtually and in person. I was going to surprise this guy with it, but for some reason I thought I should ask him. He said, “Sabina, that would be the complete opposite of a positive for me. Even though I like to be up there on stage and give big speeches and talks, I hate getting recognized publicly. If you’re going to do something for me, give me that $100 for when I’d like to go have a nice dinner at a restaurant. But do not under any condition recognize me in a public forum.”

Luis Magalhaes: So, what about yourself? What purchase have you made let’s say in the past week that’s improved your work life?

Sabina Nawaz: I don’t think I made a purchase in the last week.

Luis Magalhaes: Wow. You need to treat yourself.

Sabina Nawaz: I guess. I guess. I don’t go out enough. Or is it that I need to spend more time in my office to figure out what I need to purchase to improve my work life?

Luis Magalhaes: Might be. Okay. Well, you know, if it’s nothing, it’s nothing. Let’s talk about books. You have a lot of books. This is an audio podcast. People won’t see it, but I noticed that you have a lot of books behind you in your office. I actually changed my … When I moved apartments, I gave like 80% of my books away to my old school. So, I’m slowly rebuilding my library, but I love myself a good book. What book or books have you gifted the most?

Sabina Nawaz: Well, I talk about The Culture Map a lot, particularly with people who have remote teams, the book that I mentioned by Erin Meyer.

Another one of my favorite books on the business side is Leadership on the Line by two Harvard professors, Heifetz and Linsky. It is a body of work called adaptive leadership that I have been practicing and teaching and bringing to teams across the globe. In fact, I was in Portugal in January this year teaching adaptive leadership. So, it’s a body of work that this encapsulates, which is about how do you lead in uncertain times where it’s unprecedented. There isn’t a formula. We don’t know how to succeed. We don’t know if we will succeed, and the stakes are super high. So, that’s another great book.

A third one I would say is Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. As an executive coach, I work a lot on behavior and behavior modification. I loved his approach to changing habit. He pulls on a lot of great research, and he’s a journalist so he reports on it in a way that I can relate to it and do something concrete with it.

Luis Magalhaes: Wow. Sounds like great suggestions. I actually have the Power of Habit somewhere around here in my reading pile, my to-read pile. But I’m definitely going to check out the others for sure as well.

Sabina Nawaz: I’d love to hear from you when you read them and see what you think.

Luis Magalhaes: Oh, I will for sure. I usually like to publish my reading notes in my blog, so [inaudible 00:37:58]

Sabina Nawaz: Awesome.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay. Before we close this, I need to ask my usual question, the Chinese fortune cookie question. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner at a Chinese restaurant where there’s going to be a round table with the top execs in technology companies about the future of work and specifically the part that remote work will play in the next few years. At the end of the dinner, they’re getting fortune cookies. What is the message inside the fortune cookies?

Sabina Nawaz: I think the fortune cookie is going to say, “Look around the corner.” What I mean by that is a lot of executives will say their superpower is to look around the corner because their job is to anticipate, not just do what they’re doing right now. But I would mean look around the corner as in look around the corner from your part of the world to the other corner of the globe. Look around the corner, because the future of work is where we’re all working on it together across the globe.

Luis Magalhaes: Wow. That’s a beautiful suggestions. Thank you. Makes a lot of sense. Sabina, thank you so much for your time. This was a lovely conversation. Please tell our listeners, if they want to continue the conversation with you, or if they want to engage with your consulting business, how can they find you? How can they continue the conversation? How can they get to you?

Sabina Nawaz: Fantastic. Firstly, Luis, [Portuguese 00:39:38].

Luis Magalhaes: [Portuguese 00:39:38].

Sabina Nawaz: Thank you. To contact me, you can … Well, you can just search for me on the web. You’ll find all sorts of things. You can email me. [email protected], S-A-B-I-N-A, N-A-W-A-Z or zed, as you might say. You can also follow me on Twitter @sabinanawaz, connect with my on LinkedIn. Check out my TEDx Talk on YouTube if you just search on my name or search for my name on Harvard Business Review, Forbes, or Ink, and you’ll read some of my articles with practical tools on acts of uncommon leadership.

Luis Magalhaes: Sounds great. We’ll have links for all of that in the show notes. Again, Sabina, thank you so much for being here. It was a pleasure. Let me know the next time you’re in Portugal. Things are on me.

Sabina Nawaz: All right. Or a four-hour lunch.

Luis Magalhaes: Yes. A four-hour lunch, of course. Is there any other kind of lunch? Have a great day.

Sabina Nawaz: It was great talking with you, Luis. Thank you.

Luis Magalhaes: So, we close another episode of the DistantJob podcast. If you enjoyed the podcast, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners. The more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well.

You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to Click on your favorite episode, any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

And, of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world, because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. To help you with that, again, is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you need, and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate, 20% faster than the industry standard. With that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode.

For further inquiries regarding podcasts, eBooks, blog posts, or general information about remote recruitment don’t hesitate to send us an email at [email protected]  


A big part of building a successful remote team relies on effective leadership management. In this episode, Luis talks to Sabina Nawaz about one of the many benefits of working remotely. She mentions how managing a remote team really broadens your perspective and helps you become a more comprehensive leader. Having a diverse team helps you have a global point of view in your virtual office.

Sabina shares leadership tips for CEOs looking to boost their business. Some of them include having active 1-on-1 sessions with employees and showcasing their achievements properly.

Listen to Sabina’s TEDx talk:

Book Recommendations:

  • The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer. Find it on Amazon

Articles where Sabina has been featured

  • Meetings would go faster if people took the time to listen – HBR blog
  • 5 Common empathy mistakes CEOs make and how to avoid them – Forbes
  • 5 Smart Ways to land a promotion – Forbes
  • How to talk to an employee who isn’t meeting their goals – HBR blog

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