How to Lead a Culturally Diverse Team Remotely with William Dodson

William Dodson currently advises and supports companies looking to implement remote work models, build international distributed teams, create innovative hybrid teams, and expand global collaboration. William is also the author of various publications, interviews, and books on technology and managing international teams, including the upcoming “Virtually International: How Remote Teams Can Harness the Energy, Talent, and Insights of Diverse Cultures”. You can learn more about his work at VirtuallyInternational.com.

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William Dodson

Luis Magalhaes:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host, Luis, and this is your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. With me today, I have my guest, William Dodson. William is based in Seattle, and the managing director at Skeptical Robot Studios, a company that develops content to facilitate technology adoption of software products and services. He served as senior management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, BearingPoint, and the Computer Sciences Corporation. He currently advises and supports companies looking to implement remote work models, build international distributed teams, create innovative hybrid teams, and expand global trading. Finally, William is the author of various publications, interviews, and books on technology and managing international teams, including the upcoming Virtually International: How Remote Teams Can Harness the Energy, Talent and Insights of Diverse Cultures, his third book due this year, in 2021. So, I did that right at the end, because we’ve had some technical difficulties, and there’s a big gap between my notes and when we’re actually recording this podcast. So, I wanted to be sure about the timing of the book. Do you have a more concrete launch date now?

William Dodson:

Yeah, the launch date has been September 15th this year, so we’re very excited. September has always been a good month for me, month of my birthday as well. So, I’m really looking forward to a high energy launch.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice. I do… Full disclosure, right, I’ve had the preview copy of some chapters on the book. I really enjoyed it. I gave you a small endorsement that I hope does you good. And I’m looking forward to reading the final version. Now, of course, as I always disclose this to my listeners, we’ll touch upon some topics from the book in this podcast, but this is by no means an excuse not to read the book. There will be a lot of content that we just can’t get into, nor would it be interesting to get into, because some things are better learned by reading books. So, this podcast is really about your journey acquiring all the knowledge and the insights that took you to write the book, and also, of course, that could be helpful to the listeners of our podcast that’s about building and leading awesome remote teams. So, with that out of the way, right, I would like to ask you, how did you come into this remote working thing? How did remote work get into your life and influence your decisions, influence your career?

William Dodson:

Well, actually, I’d have to say the kickoff was around the year 1996, ’97, when I worked on an intercontinental team. I was working with an international consultancy at the time. And this intercontinental team was made up of about 20 people from, my gosh, at least a dozen countries from four continents. And it was basically an IT team, but that sounds boring. What we did was we flew to, in small teams of two and three people, we would go and help them to understand how to implement, and actually in some instances, implement basically a data warehousing solution for the headquarters of multinationals. And what intrigued me the most about that particular work was the coordination aspect of it. Because in one week, I would be working with two co-workers in a certain country, and then the following week, I’d be in a different country with one or two other co-workers.

And I took on the responsibility of coordinating the mixing and the matching of the teams on the different projects in the different countries through the best technology that we had at the time, which was conference calls at the time, teleconferencing, as well as a knowledge base. And this was something that was really only available at the time to service oriented multinational corporations, which is what I had been working with. In general, the knowledge base was used for the local offices, but we stretched it to address the entire global effort. And that really intrigued me. I wound up writing a paper about a year later. It came out in 1998 for the Project Management Institute. And I named the paper Virtually International. And the subtitle was something like Working on Globalized Teams with Technology, or something like that. And well, actually, I even gave talks on it. And people were polite and said, “That’s really cool. Very interesting.”

I didn’t understand the response to it until, oh, my gosh, 25 years later with the pandemic, when my content management practice, all of it disintegrated, as many practices did at the time, and I was casting about for realignment of the experience, the skills, the resources, the collaborators that I already had been working with. And I decided to Google that paper. And I was just wondering what had ever happened to it. And it was still behind the paywall of the Project Management Institute. I was like, “Wow, that’s interesting.” And then I looked, and there were between 15 and 20 references from academic papers to that paper. And I said, “That’s amazing.” And then there were, I don’t know, between five and 10 books that had also referenced that paper. And I thought, oh, my goodness, isn’t this amazing?

Luis Magalhaes:

It’s worth pointing out for listeners that aren’t aware of the workings of academia, right, I was a dental surgeon before my career shift, and I worked in some studies. We all like to play a part in creating some studies, and writing some papers, and et cetera. And the reality is that, especially in, let’s say, outside the hard sciences, and things like economics, social sciences, in leadership, et cetera, business, most papers don’t get any citations at all, right? None. No reference. Most things are just put out there, and maybe a lot of people read them, but most people don’t see a value in citing a reference. So, the fact that you had all those references is huge.

William Dodson: Yeah, I was quite surprised. And what the pandemic did for me was it brought this focus with the dire warnings that now we’re going remote, and many, many white collar professional service workers had to go home to work. And I just thought, oh, my gosh, well, I’ve been doing that for years. And after my multinational corporations experience of nearly a decade, I established a practice to help European and American companies enter the China market in the 2000s, in the early… Well, I lived in China for more than 10 years. And everything, that’s what me and my colleagues and my drinking buddies, that’s all we ever did, was remote work, quite frankly. And it was just something that was very natural for me and to me, working at the time through Skype. Most especially, in a single day, I’d be calling, for one project, I’d be on the phone to Chicago to one client, and then to London in the same day, calling out of Shanghai, which was… Well, my home was near there for over 10 years.

And I worked on hybrid teams. I worked on teams that were completely remote during that. It was a truly international decade of work. And so, with the pandemic, I just realized, my goodness, what I’m assuming is just remarkable, the content marketing business was about taking European companies and helping them to shape content for the American market in particular. So then, my attention changed from Asia to the West, to the West or America specifically, to a lot of European calling and video conferencing and the like. So, I can easily say that I really have decades of video conferencing experience, developing frameworks, the etiquettes, the conventions, and the like that I brought together into this writing project that will come out in September.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, decades ago, it was the video call. There was hardware that was called the video phone. Do you remember that? You probably used some.

William Dodson:

Actually, yeah, my first real international video call was on a huge screen. And I had… This was after I established my China practice. And it was in Indiana for a corporation, Fortune 500 company. And I remember the meeting was at night, and we had our group, and on the other side was a group of Chinese businessmen from Ningbo near Shanghai in China. And we met and greeted. Some of it was in Chinese, and some of it was in English. And it made a huge difference when we did finally meet face-to-face about, I don’t know, six weeks later. So, you’re right, it was a very expensive effort at the time.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, yeah. Crazy how times have changed, right? So, there’s something very interesting about the subtitle of your book that I want to pick up on, because it’s something that I’ve talked a couple of times in the podcast. And I want to lead with a small personal anecdote, right? So, my wife is an immigrant. I’m from Portugal, I’m originally Portuguese. And I’ve decided after traveling a bit to go back to my roots and to live in Portugal. But my wife, although a natural Portuguese speaker, she’s from Brazil in South America. And she emigrated to Portugal so we could live together, and we married here in Portugal. And as we walk down the streets during, let’s say, lunchtime, or on a holiday, or something like that, she is constantly amazed that the stores are closed. She is amazed that people close the shop for lunch break, right, or close your shop during a holiday. That’s the time where everyone is on the street and wanting to shop, basically.

So, she turns to me and says often, “Portuguese people, they don’t like making money, is that it?” Because in Brazil, they have this culture of putting people… They get enough people so that some people can be working while others are having the day off, or are having lunch, or whatever. So, I want to tie this into something that I’ve said a couple of times, that people come on the show, and they talk about diversity. And I make fun of my American friends, because they talk about how their companies are really diverse. And I’m like, “No, they’re not. You just have Americans of many different colors.” Right. Well, on my team at DistantJob, and I think remote, I have literally people from all around the globe, right, from every hemisphere, from every continent. Literally, I have people on my team from every continent. And I see how that is so different, right? I can notice the diversity and cultures. So, I want you to talk a bit about that, because that’s part of the subtitle, Insights of Diverse Cultures.

William Dodson:

Yeah. And I think you make an amazing point. As an expat outside the United States for more than a decade, whenever I would watch an American show that had black folks and white… And I should probably tell the audience, I’m brown skinned myself. And returning to the United States has been a traumatic experience.

Luis Magalhaes:

You have a lovely skin color. I have to say, I’m a bit envious. I am…

William Dodson:

But it’s-

Luis Magalhaes:

I’m just dark enough to be held at every Austrian and German airport, but I’m not dark enough to be cool.

William Dodson:

Well, Heathrow is my downfall. They always pulled me aside. But I would watch these TV shows that I would go, no matter the skin color, it was all American humor. I said, “They’re all Americans.” I was just… But then, of course, you’d walk out your door, and my colleagues, my co-workers were Danes, they were Germans, they were Dutch, they were Chinese, they were… When I would travel throughout Asia to teach workshops, Indonesia, Singapore, the mix, the rich mix is truly heady. I miss it desperately. But I think, to your point, you’re absolutely right. In America, though, the word… And that’s why I really went back and forth with this, with the publisher about the subtitle for the book. And we settled on diverse cultures, yeah? Harnessing all of that energy and the like of diverse cultures, as opposed to using the word diversity. Because unfortunately, I would say that the American argumentative context has really mangled that word, and really, I would say as well, misused it, quite frankly.

To me, just as to you, diversity really is different cultures, different ways, different means, different languages, different ways of keeping your hair, and just that wonderful synergy that can happen when people really do cooperate with each other, really do keep in touch with each other. So, for instance, with the South African riots of last week, I just hopped on my email with one of my South African colleagues and said, “I hope you’re safe.” He’s in Cape Town. What’s going on? How’s this… And we’re from different cultures, different ethnicities even. And because he’s a white South African, yeah, though not an Afrikaner, per se, but to be able to communicate and to commiserate as well was very, very exciting for me.

Here, within the American context, diversity is really been ground down to really this huge, loud argument about a colonizing group that just refuses to give over power, quite frankly. And realize that not only are there a lot of other cultures that have participated in the development of this country, and sacrificed hugely, but quite frankly, Luis, refuses to recognize the rest of the world. Now, thank goodness, we have an administration that is reaching back out. But it is a very strong strain of Americanism not to recognize that there is an outside world.

Luis Magalhaes:

Oh, yeah. So, I used to have this… I don’t know if I told you this before, but when I was in college, I had this professor that he was a big international authority on immunology. And he went to the US all the time. And we were casually talking about his visit to the US. I hadn’t been yet, and I wanted to go. And we were thinking about the language barrier. And he turned to us, and he tells us, “Oh, no, no problem. Really, the language that you… If you need anything done in the US, you just need to speak Spanish, right? That’s the language of getting things.”

William Dodson:

That’s –

Luis Magalhaes:

Right. That’s the tip that he gave me. If you want to have a casual conversation, that’s what English is for, but when you actually need to have something done, right, you’re good, you’re better off… Now, this was many, many years ago, but it spoke to the fact that there’s this… A country has many layers, right? And the fact that the top layer, let’s say the intelligentsia, the entertainment, et cetera, speaks one language and is of one culture, that very rarely means that that is the same language and culture of the people who actually do the work that keep the country running, right?

William Dodson:

Oh, absolutely. And I can say that as a returning expat, I still don’t get this society right. In fact, my buddy, who will be doing the… He’ll be the host for the book launch, the virtual book launch on September 16th, he spent a good 12 years in China. That’s how we became good friends. And he started a podcast about five, six years ago once he repatriated to the States called Lost in America, where he’s trying to figure out all of the signals, the cultural signals, and the innuendo, and the subtext of American culture, because there’s so many minefields, cultural minefields in this contentious society.

But one thing, Luis, I would like to throw in there about this concept of diversity that I do bring up in the book, and I’m very strong about this, is there are no other books that I know of… There is one cross cultural book, in which I think there’s a chapter devoted to men dealing with women, and their perceptions of women in the workplace. In the 30 years of this sector called cross cultural communications, the top books are written by European men who have worked in or for multinational corporations with other men. And one of the things that I’ve come to understand, and I write extensively about this in the book, is the role as well as the treatment of women in these remote contexts, as well as face-to-face contexts too. Because now, as things open up, there’ll be much more of a hybrid model for work, as well as cultures, people dealing with the minorities of their as well as other societies.

So, I address that in the book in a way that’s never been addressed before, because it really gets my goad about the ways that some of my female collaborators have been treated by clients, the ways that my female assistants, especially in China, have been treated by the local managers or politicians. They don’t politic per se, but government officials there as well. So, that’s a very important part of diversity that hasn’t been brought into the cross cultural discussion yet, and that I’m hoping to push it more into.

Luis Magalhaes:

See, I can’t say I’m terribly familiar with that situation, because pre remote, right, I worked mostly in the… Well, I work mostly in the health industry. And that has been overwhelmingly dominated by women for the past, let’s say, 15 years or so, right? Most doctors I met, most doctors that graduate… It was wonderful. My college class, we were like five men to 45 women. So, that was absolutely astonishing, right? So, I don’t really have… I don’t have the experience of how female employees or partners were treated, right, in the industries outside of health. Definitely in health, they dominated. But now, with remote work, when I’m hiring, I get more female candidates than I get male candidates, which I think is not… It doesn’t happen often. And I tend to hire more female candidates, just because I tend to perceive them, right, as higher quality. I like their work the most, right?

And I have a theory about why this is, right? My theory is that we men are kind of dumb. That’s my theory, right? It’s that it’s very hard to disassociate remote work with balance and flexibility and health. And this is something that we men, idiots that we sometimes are, tend to forget and forego in search of the shiny objects of money and status and wealth and fame, right? And our female counterparts, being much more intelligent that they are, they actually say, “Oh, actually, this remote work seems like it can help me have a career without sacrificing other aspects of my life, so let’s go all in on this.” That’s my feeling.

William Dodson:

Yeah, I would agree with those points. I would add to that, that women are, I think, superior from the point of view of empathy. And in remote work, you need that sixth sense to be able to divine what other people are actually feeling, what they’re trying to express, when they might be exhausted, when they might need a bit of self care, when they might need some listening as opposed to a pounding. So, I-

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a good point. And actually, that’s something that I’ve been congratulated before, just to close that loop about my show, guests go to my show and say, “Oh, I see that you have a really even male to female ratio on your show. Congratulations.” I’m like, it’s really just where the cards fell, right? I don’t take credit for it, because I can’t, because I didn’t try.

William Dodson:

Yeah, yeah. I think it’s also, it’s going to be, and it already is, a double edged sword, of course, for women, and especially for mothers. I’m a single parent of two lovely elementary school aged children. And so, I know. It’s not that I see both sides, I know both sides every single day of the fathering and the mothering, and the amount of flexibility that you really do need in order to support your family, be with them, grow with them, have fun with them, like them. And remote work really does lend itself well. And I’ve been invested in remote work, I could probably say now about 25 years in one fashion or another. And it’s the appeal of the flexibility, as well as the appeal of being able to extend myself into the world, explore these other societies and cultures, make friends in other countries and get stuff done that I couldn’t have done on my own in just the fashion that is just so exciting.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, see, so I want to go a bit more in the specifics of this, right? Because you have experience working with China. And I’ve noticed that if you have a team of South Americans, let’s say, and you leave them alone, they do fine. If you have a team of… I haven’t worked with China, but I’ve worked with the Philippines. And if you have a team of Filipinos, and you leave them alone, they work fine. And the same thing for Indians, and Ukrainians, and et cetera. But once you try to pull them together into a team with a big mix of cultures, that’s a double edged sword, because all kinds of magic can happen, but also all kinds of trouble. So, why don’t you outline, if you can, some of the main challenges that you found when you mixed Chinese culture with Western culture in some of your team?

William Dodson:

Sure. Well, with most Asian cultures, I’m going to broaden this and I’ll use a broad stroke, because… And I’ll add in there the Southeast Asian, there is an Asian culture. A lot of it is based on Confucianism, which did extend from the north of China throughout the rest of Asia. And a lot of it… In the book, actually, I did something that is novel compared to other cross cultural books. And I use game theory to explain cultural interactions. So, Americans in particular, we love our checkers, and some of us love our chess, right? They’re both… Checkers much more so than a chess is a linear game, right? The thinking is linear. You jump me or you want to jump me, I’m going to jump you back. That’s especially the case as far as the anti diplomacy that the Trump administration used during those four years. There was just a lot of tactical movement.

Now in Asia, the dominant game is, the Japanese call it Go, the Chinese call it Weiqi. And it’s a game of encirclement. So, you’re thinking and acting in a completely different way than you are with the American style, and to some extent, the Northern European and Western European approaches as well. So, for instance, the Dutch, the Germans, the Swiss, they’re more chess players, less checkers players as it were. And this is very important to understand, because when it comes to processing information, Asians tend to do it in a more, how shall I say, spherical manner. Not just circular, but spherical. They will expand on the information internally, whereas the Americans will tend to be much more targeted, much more tactical. What can you do for me now? What did you do for me lately? What did you do for me yesterday? Whereas the memories and the ability to absorb information tends to be not only greater in the Asian context, but also more communal or more group oriented. So, you’ll have these long pauses, where you won’t hear anything for a while. As an American, you’ll be talking, talking, talking, the Chinese might be nodding, nodding, nodding, and then at the end of the discussion, they’ll say, “Okay, let’s go for lunch,” they’ll say.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, yeah. So, I’ve noticed this with people from India as well.

William Dodson:

Yeah, I worked in India, and it’s a tough society to get things done. And the people are so energetic, they are just… And they can be so spot on. They tend to be less circular, I’ll say, than their Eastern Asian counterparts. I’ve worked with a lot of Indian nationals in IT. And they’re really, really smart. They’re very, very-

Luis Magalhaes:

They are. Instead of rushing to be… It’s like, instead of rushing to be the first kid in the class to put their hand up and answer the question, right, they’re very deliberate about it. It’s like you said, it’s, “Okay, let’s go out for lunch.” Again, it’s a matter of understanding a different culture. If you don’t understand their culture, you’ll think that person didn’t care for what you just spent 20 minutes explaining, right? But their minds are working on it while they’re on lunch, and when they go back home, and when they’re sleeping, and then on the next day, they’re like, “Hey, Luis, remember about what you told me yesterday? Here’s an idea.” And it’s often going to be a high quality idea if you’re dealing with a high quality professional, of course.

William Dodson:

Yeah, and of course the way of developing business relationships can be quite different as well. So, for instance, once an American businessman asked me, “I need you to give me some cues about how to do business with the Chinese.” And I said, “Well, first, the way that actually works is first you make the relationship with the Chinese, and then you can do the business.” Now, this is different from just ordering stuff off Alibaba, right, where you’re dealing with manufacturers, and you’re putting in an order for a product or something. But if you’re trying to pound out a joint venture, or a wholly owned, foreign owned enterprise, then really developing those relationships with government officials, as well as with local business people is very, very important. And a lot of that revolves around food. But it’s not just Chinese. It’s throughout pretty much any place outside the United States, where everything begins with the meal, and the community, and the sense of communality, just working together, being together. Is this a person I can rely on when things get tough? Can we just sit and have a couple beers and talk things out, et cetera, et cetera.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, so I have this fascination about… It’s one of my quirky fascinations. I have this fascination about Japanese game development in the ’90s and early 2000s, right? Because the way their culture is set up, it’s really hard for them to be interviewed in English. Because if an American or British or even Portuguese reporter goes there, and tries to interview a Japanese game developer, they’ll mostly only get either marketing or platitudes, right? It’s really hard. Unless you’re someone that’s embedded in the Japanese culture, it’s really hard to get authentic stuff out of them. So, I really try as much as I can to get my hands on quality translated material, because I can’t read nor speak Japanese. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that most risky, original video games were greenlit by someone going with their boss to drinks, for sushi and some drinks. And after four or five hours of bingeing on food, and drinking, and having a merry time, they then have a 10 minute conversation about the project, and that’s how they get the go-ahead, right? So, it’s 90% socializing, and 10% actual business.

William Dodson:

Which is true. Asia is a very male dominated cultures, actually, because it’s so, so many different cultures. And that then implies then an exclusion of women in so many sectors. That’s where remote work gets really cool, right? Where women then, you have to develop different ways, then, of socializing, of brainstorming, of just chilling together or separately, that then will permit women’s input, whether it’s just by way of socializing, or with a more formal design process. So, that’s where things really can and do open up. The surveys here in the United States have shown that women overwhelmingly prefer remote work. Part of that is the flexibility that we have just agreed about. Part of it has to do with if they’ve got children, they’ve had heaped upon them greater responsibility for taking care of the children than the fathers. Minorities overwhelmingly prefer remote work as well. And a lot of that has to do with they’ve traditionally felt marginalized within the office space, shoved aside, ignored. Now, remote work actually balances out. It creates a greater sense of parity then with the team members, no matter what their ethnicity is, and as well as vertically, so no matter if they’re a manager, or perhaps even a CEO, there’s just a greater sense of accessibility with remote work.

Luis Magalhaes:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I can see that in my own businesses, right? People just feel more confident, they feel they can bring their whole selves to the work, right? They don’t feel they have to conform to this particular stereotype or culture. They can be there as a representative of their culture, but especially as themselves, right, as their own person.

William Dodson:

Exactly. And I think one of the… Most of the… Or many, I know this sounds so nerdy to say. Many of the most fulfilling initial meetings I’ve had physically is with people that I’ve met remotely first. And then to actually put them in a physical context, and especially in a socializing environment can be so fulfilling, because it’s like you’ve known this person for weeks, maybe months, but it’s only in a two dimensional context. And then boom, they’re there in front of you. And you can just continue and expand on the relationship. It’s very exciting to me. I very much enjoy that experience.

Luis Magalhaes:

For sure. All right, so we’re running up against our deadline, and I want to be respectful of your time. So, I want to do a couple of general interest questions, right? I’m going to go through them quickly, but please feel free to expand as much as you’d like, okay? So, as a remote worker, what does your virtual office look like? When you open your browser in the morning, what are the tabs that are there by default? What’s your stack of apps and tools for remote work?

William Dodson:

Well, my first is BBC News. Yeah, that’s the first one I open up too. Because I have collaborators around the world, I genuinely want to know what’s going on in their countries. So, for instance, with my South African collaborator, I had just enough information from that morning’s BBC News feed to know that there was something really serious happening in his city in particular. And that… You ask about building the teams, the international teams, I think that level of simpatico, frankly, is very important. And I think that’s something that frankly, a lot of male American managers have a tough time with, because it’s American corporations tend to command and control, albeit, they are more or less vertical than Asian business structures, for instance. But just the sense of caring about the people that you work with, that you spend time with, just define it as a matter of time, that’s really important.

So, honestly, BBC News is really important. I try to avoid my email until at least mid morning, quite frankly. And when I’m working on time zones, that works out just fine in many instances. But I tend to use the Google Workspace, for lack of a better word. So, I’ll use their suite. I use the Google Docs. And when I’m working with team members in other countries, of course, I’ll throw things over the wall at the end of the day to them, and then look forward to any sort of responses. If our time zones are overlapping, we will both use the Zoom as well as the Google Docs at the same time simultaneously. That helps with the exchange of information in lieu of the face-to-face, which is, of course, the fastest when you just need a quick response to something.

I use Slack pretty much only in the mornings, because my collaborators tend to be in Europe, although I do have some in East Asia. But if I’ve received Slack messages during the night, which the notifications are off, quite frankly, but first thing in the morning, after the BBC News, I found out that there’s questions or there’s something, then that will be attended to, even before I turn on the computer, because that’s on my smartphone as well.

Luis Magalhaes:

Got it. Got it. So, that’s a very comprehensive look at your tool stack. Thank you so much. So, now, a more open ended question, I guess. Let’s say that you arrive at the scene of a company that has 100 to 1,000 employees. And you get to spend $100 with each person in the company. They’re fully remote, of course, right? They’re fully remote, and you get to pick something, right, worth roughly $100. But of course, because there are so many of those people, you can’t go person to person and ask them what would be good for them, you have to buy in bulk. So, not being able to give them money or a gift card, because that would be cheating, what would you buy for them? Could be an app, could be an experience, could be something else, whatever you can buy with 100 bucks approximately.

William Dodson:

Oh, I think probably three or four hardcover books, something that they would be able to take with them. Now, hardcover, because those things are so expensive. Now, if they want to do softcover, that’s fine as well. But I guess books that have been meaningful for me. Books have always been the most influential in my life. I was officially a nerd as a kid, and just absorb every bit of information. I still, I read. I have my day book and my night book. My day books are typically more fact based, whereas my night books tend to be more fiction based. So-

Luis Magalhaes:

I’m sorry, I’m laughing. It’s because I have my day book, and I have my night book, and then I have my toilet book, right, which sounds very nasty, but there it is, right? And then I have my coffee table book. And I just, my wife is constantly complaining that I’m a mess, that I leave books all around the house. But I’m reading all of them.

William Dodson:

Yeah, that tends to be… The rest of that reading times for The Economist magazine, which I never seem to catch up on.

Luis Magalhaes:

Nice.

William Dodson:

So, I’ve got copies laying around.

Luis Magalhaes:

A good magazine, though. It’s a good magazine.

William Dodson:

But I appreciate the toilet book. I can relate.

Luis Magalhaes:

This does not reflect on the… The setting does not reflect on the quality of the book, right?

William Dodson:

That’s right, exactly.

Luis Magalhaes:

I’ve read… It’s a great place to read biographies.

William Dodson:

I did not know that.

Luis Magalhaes:

Right. So, anyway, what was that? Let’s jump to the next question that makes the most sense. What would those four books be that you had gifted to them?

William Dodson:

The ones that really helped me to form the idea and get the confidence to write this third book, the Virtually International book that’s coming out in September, they tend to be… They’re not productivity, or… I’m not even sure if they’re self help books, per se. But they helped me to gain a perspective as a mature adult now, that has helped me to move forward creatively. One of them is, it’s called Range. Yeah, R-A-N-G-E, Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. And it’s by a fellow named David Epstein. And it’s basically the idea of, what is that, jack of all trades, master of none, is better than a master of none, basically. So, it’s that idea of actually your most creative and your most even brilliant people are the ones who are able to range beyond the confines of social thinking, of training, of the formal trainings that they’ve received, and the ability to synthesize information and experience from a lot of different experiences and those of other people as well. So, I found that really, really helpful.

It connects well with another book that helped to influence me a lot, and I read these a couple years ago, is called Late Bloomers. That’s bloomers is B-L-O-O-M-E-R-S, by Rich Karlgaard. And he is, I believe, the managing editor of, is it Fortune Magazine or Forbes. I think it’s Fortune. And the subtitle is The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.

Luis Magalhaes:

Now, I’m nearing 40. So I’m crossing my fingers that I’m one of those.

William Dodson:

Yeah.

Luis Magalhaes:

Right?

William Dodson:

Basically, if you’re –

Luis Magalhaes:

Because the time for early achievement, if early achievement is the measurement, I’m done.

William Dodson:

Well, that’s it exactly, is you’ve got all these accolades for achievement under the age of 30, or even in academia, they say you’re washed up if you haven’t hit your big idea by the time you’re 30. You’re blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah, I’m not ashamed to say that my biggest achievement by the age of 30 was to hit the Pac-Man scoreboards on Xbox Live Arcade, to hit top 100, right? I would say that that’s the most accurate.

William Dodson:

The fellow who wrote, the economist who wrote the Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman, I read an interview with him a few days ago on the Financial Times, where he talked about one of the reasons he really enjoyed writing that book was number one, it was a collaboration. But number two, he was able to incubate the ideas for literally decades. It’s a huge bestseller still. It came out what, 10 years ago, I think. So, that’s really the point. And that’s-

Luis Magalhaes:

Well, all the old people bought it.

William Dodson:

Euqal opportunity bestseller. But I think that that’s really true. And I still have ideas that I incubated in my 20s. Some of those ideas are in Virtually International. It just was time to hatch it, hatch the idea of this book. So, I’m really, really excited because it really says a lot of what I’ve been thinking and wanting to say for at least 30 years. And then the last book would be, it’s called Rest, R-E-S-T, Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. And it’s by a fellow named Alex Pang, P-A-N-G. And he basically does a lot of case studies of the greatest minds, intellectual and creative, as well as, I’d have to say, political too over the last several hundred years, and looks at their rhythms of daily life, and how they actually used rest to leverage their inspiration. And how they created these rhythms for themselves that allowed insights to come in as opposed to blocking them out with just busyness. So, those are the kinds of books I’d love to give to people. I wish I would know the 10 to 100 people. Then I could say, “Oh, then you would really love this book, or you would really love that book.” But that’s the quality of book that I’d love to give, is the sort of book that just helps you to sit back and go, “Whoa, all right. That’s very cool.”

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. All right. So, in your remote work life, what purchase has made it easier or more productive or more balanced in the past year, let’s say?

William Dodson:

More balanced, I like the word more balanced. One of the things that I came to understand about rest was that you can still work, but it can be through a different medium and a different mode. And so, I went out and I got myself a large screen iPad, so that in the afternoons, it’s all loaded up with my work applications and the like. I can just sit on the sofa cross legged, or in the big comfy chair, or even at the dining table and just do my work, use my eyes in a different way, recline in a different way. And that has really helped a lot. And it’s opened up, I think, new ways of thinking for me, because then my mind feels more relaxed. Because I’m holding this thing as I would hold a book or a magazine.

Luis Magalhaes:                Yeah, that makes absolute sense. Okay, so final question. Let me praise this… Well, let’s say that the pandemic is completely over, there are no more lockdowns, you can gather a very big amount of people for dinner without any concerns of breaking any local laws. So, let’s say that you do that in a Chinese restaurant, and you’re inviting people, the movers and shakers from tech companies from all around the world for a dinner round table about remote work and the future of work. Because this is a Chinese restaurant, and you are the host, you get to cheat and choose the message that goes inside the fortune cookies. So, what will these people be reading from their fortune cookies?

William Dodson:

The best is yet to come.

Luis Magalhaes:

All right, the best is yet to come. I feel that I’ve heard this in a movie before.

William Dodson:

Is it?

Luis Magalhaes:

I don’t know. Looks like a way to end a movie trailer for me. But who knows? But tell me a bit, please. Tell me a bit more.

William Dodson:

Well, it’s the sense that I have. I think with the attention to youth, youthfulness, that society has placed, that it really has curtailed and aborted a great deal of creativity, imagination, energy. And what I’m discovering every day is that there are just the coolest things coming out, coming up. And I’m talking ideas. I’m an ideas man. I use technology only to the extent that it helps me create what needs to be created, and also, what’s sprouting out of my own head and heart as well. And it just… Like this book, this was inconceivable a year ago, not just to pull it together, but there’s all kinds of aha moments that I had, personally. This is my material. I didn’t know that before. Or isn’t that exciting that now I want to share and build on for future projects as well?

So, I do. And I’ve got two small children. They are my biological children, and they are just so funny. And the way they use words, and how they put materials together, how they use their own computers, my son makes an… He’s only 11, he makes and uploads his own YouTube videos, has his own channel, does his own video editing. And I’m like, this is amazing.

Luis Magalhaes:

Yeah. What were we doing? Well, what were we doing at 10 years old? I was probably trying not to suffocate on Legos.

William Dodson:

I know. I have this vision or remembrance of my eight year old daughter giving programming advice to my son, who’s standing at her shoulder, looking at the computer, of something he didn’t know how to do. And so, they’re… They’re not sharing Legos, they’re sharing programming code. And so, that sort of thing just makes me think that every day, just something new is going to happen, and the best really is to come. And I’m certainly not finished. That’s one of the things that’s keeping me going.

Luis Magalhaes:

Awesome. Well, William, this is a lovely place to end. This was an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Please tell our listeners, where can they find you? Where can they find out more about what you’re up to? And of course, how can they pre order the book?

William Dodson:

Yeah, all of that can be found on the website, virtuallyinternational.com, all one word. As the talks and the like start to open up, I’ll be opening up an events menu. Yeah, and they can pre order on that page, on the homepage. They can follow the blog. The blog has not only things that I’m currently writing, but also outtakes from the book as well, so that they can see what else they might be able to take advantage of.

Luis Magalhaes:

Lovely. I highly recommend our listeners do so. And that was… Thank you for an awesome episode. Thank you for an awesome conversation, William. It was a pleasure.

William Dodson:

Well, that was delightful, Luis. Thank you very much.

Luis Magalhaes:

And thank you, all who are listening, for being listeners of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host, Luis, in this podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners, and 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 distantjob.com/blog/podcasts, 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 episodes 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. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com 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 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

More ways to listen:

One of the main benefits remote work brings to the table is that it enables companies to build highly diverse teams. However, leading culturally diverse teams can be challenging because of the different perspectives and backgrounds.

During this episode, William Dodson shares the main lessons he learned about leading culturally diverse remote teams for over 30 years. He shares how embracing individuality and different backgrounds make team members feel comfortable and give their best.

 

Highlights:

  • How the term ‘’diversity’’ is often misused
  • Tips for managing a diverse team in a remote environment
  • Challenges when working with diverse cultures and how to address them
  • Insights on the mindset of different cultures
  • Why having culturally diverse teams benefits companies

 

Book Recommendations:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!