How to Be Emotionally Available for Your Remote Team with Dov Baron

Dov Baron is one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speaker to hire. He is the leading authority on Authentic Leadership, and Leadership Succession or. as he prefers to call it, — “Full Monty Leadership.” The world’s only Corporate Cultural Momentum Strategist, Dov works with leaders and executive teams to build the bonds that create corporate cultures that become Fiercely Loyal. He is also an independent contributor to multiple many outlets, including CEO World, CNN, Elle Italia, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fox.

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Remote leader

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of DistantJob Podcast. I am your host, Luis, in this podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. Today for you I have an awesome guest. I will have to intake a lot of air before reading you his bio.

Luis:

He is Dov Baron, and let me get to it. He has twice been named to the list of the world’s top 30 global leadership gurus and Inc Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers. He is the founder and host of two podcasts, the Leadership & Loyalty Podcast, which has been rated by Apple Podcast as first number one for Fortune 500 execs and by Inc Magazine as the number one Podcast to make you a better leader.

Luis:

His second podcast is Curiosity Bites, where the most interesting minds come together for real conversations with astronauts, neuroscientists, philosophers, entertainers, and more. Dov is also an independent contributor to multiple many outlets, including CEO World, CNN, Elle Italia, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fox. For over 30 years, he has worked privately with elite level leaders and their organizations, and is also the bestselling author of One Red Thread and Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.

Luis:

As a speaker, he has presented to the United Nations, The World Management Forum in Iran, and The Servant Leadership Institute. He is also the founder of The Authentic Speaker Academy for Leadership, where he and his partner teach high powered leaders how to impact and influence change makers.

Luis:

So, whew! Did I get everything?

Dov Baron:

Thank you, Luis. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this, and I am honored and grateful to be able to be of service.

Luis:

I am honored and grateful to having you here. This is amazing. You’ve led an amazing life and career, but let’s start there, right? You have an awesome story, which I’m sure you’ve told many, many, many times. This is, however, a podcast about remote work and remote leadership. So, I want to jump right into that and ask you let’s begin by what’s your relationship to remote work? When have you first encountered remote work? What was your reaction, your thoughts, and how have you been able to benefit from it in your career?

Dov Baron:

Well, for quite a time, we had a very large remote team working from different parts of the world, running different aspects of the business, but for me, I think that before we even go to that, there’s an important focus, which is to reexamine what it means to be remote. What does remote mean? What does it mean?

Dov Baron:

So, from the point of view of being a leader, remote, the question is, are you remote? Not your workers, you, because if you think about remote, we think about physical distance. Of course, that is the traditional understanding of it, but are you a remote leader? Meaning that you are unavailable, meaning that you’re not accessible. So, there are many remote leaders working in an office with a whole team of people around them. They’re still remote. They’re still at a distance. Actually, what we need to know is that if you want to connect with your people and you want your people to connect with you, you’ve got to be connected to them, and that’s means emotionally available to them.

Dov Baron:

So, whether you are emotionally available to them in the office or emotionally available to them on the other side of the world, that’s what counts. So, the key to distance teams, remote teams, all of those things that we like to put into this new category is that all of it fails miserable without emotional connection to the people you’re working with. That’s what we find. That’s what I’ve been advising organizations on is if you want to be successful at leading remote teams, you’ve got to know how to emotionally connect with the people who are on your team.

Luis:

Okay. So, let’s start there because that’s an awesome insight and a good way to start, right? I’m sure you’ve noticed that remote employees often feel, especially now that we ran this huge experiment starting in 2020 where a lot of people got remote with very little preparation. Those people specifically, a lot of them reports feeling lost, feeling forgotten. In the cases of private offices where some people go to the office and the majority is outside, the people who stick to remote feel passed up for promotion, and there’s a general sense that there’s a lack of transparency in management on their decisions on part of the people who aren’t sticking to the office.

Luis:

So, in such an environment, it’s obvious to me, maybe I’m wrong, and correct me if I am, but it’s obvious to me that being emotional available or at least conveying your emotional availability is a big challenge. So, how have you figured this out? Am I correct in my assumption? What are good examples of people that you see leading well with this?

Dov Baron:

It’s a great question, and your assumption is correct, of course. Many people are feeling passed over, feeling like they’re not included anymore. Of course, as we are recording this, we’re in the second half of 2021, and hybrid version of businesses coming back in that form, but one of the great challenges with it as you said is that people who are still remote are feeling disconnected. So, let’s address that head on.

Dov Baron:

First of all, as I’m guiding these leaders, one of the things that they’re saying, “Oh, yeah. We’ve got this hybrid model and we’re going to do this, and people will be doing that.”

Dov Baron:

I’d say, “Hold on. Just let me ask you one question.”

Dov Baron:

They say, “What?”

Dov Baron:

I say, “Did you ask them?”

Dov Baron:

“What do you mean? We need to get back to normal.”

Dov Baron:

“Normal is over. So, did you ask them what they want?”

Dov Baron:

“Well, yeah. We did a survey.”

Dov Baron:

“No, no. Did you ask them? Did you actually ask them, connect with them and find out?”

Dov Baron:

Because the truth of the matter is in a very larger scale, most people don’t want to go back to the office full-time. Some people do because they’re like, “Oh, my God! Get me away from the kids and the dog and all the other stuff that’s going on at home and all the distractions, and I want to go back to the office,” but most people don’t want to go back to the office full-time, but what most people want in our research is they want flexibility. They want to be able to design their own program of how will their in and out.

Dov Baron:

Now, of course, not 100% in their own hands, but that they are included in the process. Therefore, there’s complete transparency. They know what’s going on. The companies that are doing this very successfully are already understanding something that they got during the pandemic, which is the need for social connection.

Dov Baron:

Many of the people who are going to come back to work in the office are not coming back because they want to be in the office. They’re coming back because their friends are there. They’re coming back because they want the emotional relational connection. People are loyal to that. That’s what makes good employees. This is what many of the best companies in the world understand that this is not a corporate culture as much a corporate community to where people want to be alone.

Dov Baron:

So, the ones who are doing it successfully are building those communities and they’re directly interacting with the people who are remote or hybrid or whatever it is and saying, “Let’s design something together,” and I always guide them to say, “Let’s design something together for the next year.” Just a year, that’s all it is. It’s an experiment. At the end of that year, we might tweak, we might change, we might go to something completely different, but that way, everybody feels included and they feel important in the process.

Luis:

Yeah. So, what are some kinds of designs that you’ve seen? What are some solutions that you’ve seen that people have come up with for this problem and have designed with your help that have impressed you or surprised you the most?

Dov Baron:

Well, as I said, the best ones are all hybrid. They’re all some form of hybrid, but they are designed by the companies. So, the ones who are doing it the best are literally reaching out to their teams and creating anonymous feedback. This is the key. This is what makes the difference, anonymous, because if you give somebody anonymity, they will tell you things that they would not tell you if their name was on the paper.

Dov Baron:

So, they go, “I would like to come in and I would like to work hybrid remote.”

Dov Baron:

“Great. Okay. Fabulous.”

Dov Baron:

Is that the full story? No. Why do you want to come in? Why do you want to work remotely part of the time? What is it? So, what they’re finding is that oftentimes we start to discover problems in the culture that existed before the pandemic that are now beginning to surface. The wonderful thing about this is it’s giving people permission to speak about the things that have bothered them before that they didn’t speak about.

Luis:

So, I have this in my mind about this topic. It’s like a bell curve, right? I assume that people’s wants and needs regarding to the way they work follow something like a normal distribution, like a bell curve, where at the extreme, there’s a small minority of 5%-10% of people that can’t live without the office, that they want to be in the office all the time, that’s their playground. They genuinely love it. It’s not that they feel that they need to be there, it’s that they genuinely love being part of that structure.

Luis:

Then on the other side, there’s the 5%-10% people like me that I went remote some years ago, I’m never looking back. I never want to set foot in an office again for the rest of my life. There will be people like that.

Luis:

Then most of the people, the remaining 80%, let’s say 60% to 80% are going to be somewhere in the middle, where, “I’d like to be in the office most of the time,” “I’d like to be in the office occasionally,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Luis:

The problem is that since the industrial revolution up to now, literally, up to 2020 or 2019, everyone was squished in one side, in the matter of your preference. This was how things were done, and you wanted to get a job, you had to confirm. Now, suddenly, there was this event that made everyone realized, “Hold on. So, I can get …” If the government mandates it, in Portugal it was actually made obligatory, right? If you could work from home you had to and companies were fined if they ask you to come to the office. “If I can do this work from home while it’s mandated, and I can do it as well or maybe even better, then why exactly do I need to accept this thing that everyone accepted before?”

Luis:

So, I don’t think that it’s a situation where a lot of people suddenly fell in love with remote work. I think that it’s a situation where a lot of people just never knew this was a possibility, but that that was their ideal way to operate all along. Does this make sense?

Dov Baron:

Well, yeah. I mean, you have to look at that from both sides. So, first of all, when the 2020, March 2020, companies were told everything has to shut down, blah, blah, blah, companies pretty quickly realized, companies who said, “We will never go remote. We can’t operate remotely,” suddenly realized, “We got to go remote.” People had to turn the ocean liner in 21 days and they did because they had to survive. It was that simple.

Dov Baron:

Now, we have to get into the psychology of this because human beings, we all claim we want change, but the truth of the matter is we want change as long as we don’t have to. So, we want other things to change just not us. Very often, change only takes place under stress and duress.

Dov Baron:

So, here’s the pandemic. We’ve got to go remote or we got to go out of business. We’re not going out of business, so we’re going to go remote and we did, and many companies did it very, very well in a very short period of time. So, they never thought anything else existed.

Dov Baron:

So, let’s start there. It was not part of their framework, and as you said, from the industrial age on, and we don’t live in the industrial age, folks. So, let’s just be clear about that. We are not living in the industrial age. We’re still going to school like it’s the industrial age because the Prussian schooling system was designed for the industrial age at the beginning of the 20th century, and we are in the 21st century. So, we’re not in the industrial age, but we run our businesses like we are, and we’re educated like we are.

Dov Baron:

So, now, what we’ve got is we got an event that said, “Okay. What else is possible?” I think you’re very right, Luis. I mean, I think that people never considered that they could do their work from home, and it’s not that they thought it was ideal or not ideal, it didn’t compute, but now they get it, and they get that that is the possibility.

Dov Baron:

The problem is now, so that’s great, now we got both sides realizing this is possible, but there’s a culture problem. This is the problem with distance. This is the problem with remote working, the culture issues. If your culture wasn’t rock solid before, it will crumble under the weight of distance workers, of remote workers. It will crumble.

Dov Baron:

So, now that companies are scrambling to build cultures was remote workers, and that is why they want to bring everybody back. They’re freaking out and going, “Oh, my God! We’re going to lose our talent.”

Dov Baron:

Now, before the pandemic, talent had all the power. If you want a great talent, you had to fight for them, and then the pandemic happened, and people panicked a little bit, of course, because they thought their jobs and their income and all the rest of it is going to go away. Business owners went, “Wow! This is great. We’re finally getting the power back, and these people are going to want to work. They’re going to be desperate to work,” and guess what they’re finding? No. Actually, no.

Dov Baron:

So, people are leaving and drove from companies that are mandating absolute. They’re going to companies and saying, “No. You want to be in your pajamas while you work all day. You want to work at 2:00 in the morning as opposed to 9:00 in the morning? Great. Go do whatever you need to do. As long as you can do it, we don’t mind.” So, now, the power is even more in the hands of the talent.

Dov Baron:

So, the key factor here is culture. It’s not remote or non-remote. It’s not distant or non-distant. It’s not this exist, this doesn’t exist. The key issue now is culture. How do you build the culture that creates the community that bonds people to you? If that doesn’t happen, you don’t have a team. You have a bunch of freelancers.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s absolutely true. I love that you brought the example of the school because I have a controversial opinions about school and education, right? The podcast is not about that, but I’m going to bring up a small version of it just to make the point. I think that school today serves the teachers first, the parents second, and the kids a distant third, right?

Dov Baron:

See, I would challenge that and push back on that by saying that the schooling system serves the institution first, not the teachers. Many teachers are grossly underpaid and poorly treated.

Luis:

Fair enough. Fair enough. That’s a fair correction.

Dov Baron:

It’s the institutions. I mean, you look at the universities, they are massively, massively, massively wealthy. Many of the teachers are struggling desperately, and genuinely, many of them are there because, I mean, you don’t teach because you’re going to make a lot of money. You teach because you love it. That’s why you’re doing it. So, my hats are off to them, but many of them have been conditioned and socialized and hypnotized into thinking they have to deliver in a certain way, and that is not, that is not co-facilitating where we are in our development as business and as organizations.

Dov Baron:

So, you’re absolutely right in that the last on the list is the student and that is a major problem not for the student. Certainly, it’s for the student, but we have to be bigger than that and step back and go, “This is actually not serving us as business leaders.”

Dov Baron:

We’re pushing our kids into universities to do programs. By the way, let’s just address this one for a second because this is important. We’re asking our kids, “What do you want to be?” when they’re 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, so they can go to a university. Well, what do we know? The majority of people who go to a university and get a degree never work in that field because when I started in the workforce because I’m an old fellow, when I started in the workforce, we were asked, “What do you want to do?” It was a 20 to 40-year question. Careers for millennials are four years, not 40, four. Career. Now, we note here, career not job. Job is 1.2 years. Career is four years.

Dov Baron:

So, if you want to have a business and a culture that works, you’ve got to be offering new opportunities for people to grow, for people to develop, and potentially change careers inside of your organization or else they’re going to go somewhere else even if you’ve got bean bags and cappuccino machines.

Luis:

That’s a good correction. Saying that it serves the teachers first was definitely the best elaboration of the thought. What I mean to say is that I’m certain that even if the idea of remodeling the system completely has come up, has been put on the table by some of the people with the power to do it, I’m sure that’s one of the first questions has been, “Well, we’re going to have a massive unemployment problem in our hands if we only get the teachers we need.”

Luis:

So, that’s what I meant, right? These people, if we radically change the system, I think that the bigger concern is what are we going to do with all those teachers, not questioning that some and maybe even most of those teachers are in it not for the money but for the joy of teaching it, but the fact that they still need to have a job could present a huge problem in changing the structure of the thing.

Dov Baron:

Absolutely. Again, Luis, if we look at the development of anything, anything, there is initially loss of work, initially. So, the Luddites broke the machines that would make fabric and they broke the electric light because it was going to lose work, lose jobs. That is the natural progression of evolution of things get slowed down and then they take another turn. So, people are still working in bloody coal mines, and in 2021, people are working in coal mines. That is disgusting. The people who are working in the coal mines are fighting for their jobs to keep their jobs that are poisoning and killing them. Why are they fighting them? Because there is no other option in their mind.

Dov Baron:

So, it’s the same with the educational system. There’s no other option in their mind. Are there other options? Of course, there are, but this is how human beings are. So, psychologically, like I said, we want change but we don’t want it to be for us. We want things to be better, but we don’t want to do anything about it. We cling to what is familiar. Familiar comes from the Latin familios, meaning family, the thing that we are connected to.

Dov Baron:

So, if we are familiar with it, we’re connected to it, it’s very difficult for us to pull away, and it’s difficult for us to fully get a grasp of what else is there, what are the other options. Your distant workers, your people who are remote now are beginning to see other options. If you don’t offer them the option that matters, they’re going somewhere else. This is widely important.

Luis:

Yeah. Exactly. That’s why I brought the example of the school because I think that it was clearly kids and children didn’t get properly schooled while there was remote work, and that was blamed on remote schooling, where I think that, really, what remote did is it laid bare the fact that the children didn’t really want to be there, so they didn’t engage when they had the chance not to engage. The same happens in companies, right? If people are put in an office, the mentality is, “Well, as long as I’m here, I might as well get to work,” right? Let’s try to make the best of this bad situation.

Luis:

Suddenly, you’re at home, and if you’re not engaged, I’m not even going to say that if you don’t love your job because sometimes some things you have to do at your job stuff that you’re not in love with and you do it because you’re a professional, but you need to be engaged.

Luis:

I think what we’re finding out is that if you’re not engaged with something, you can’t tread along in an office, but you can do it at home. You’re just not going to be productive.

Dov Baron:

So, can we address that, which is engagement because I think that this is one of the pieces that gets missed? So, what is engagement? What does that mean? We all saw the Gallup research on that, the 73% of workers are disengaged, and a portion of them are actively disengaged, which means they’re working against your company. So, this is terrible.

Dov Baron:

By the way, what most people don’t know is that 20 years ago, 20 years before they did the research on that and disengaged workers were in the mid 60s. I can’t remember the exact number, but the mid 60s. So, it’s gotten worse, not better, and companies have been working on it for 20 years to try and get their people more engaged. So, they’ve been trying to do things to get them engaged, and it’s gone down. So, that clearly shows us there’s a major issue here.

Dov Baron:

So, let’s talk about what engagement is. Number one, I will never be engaged with somebody who’s not engaged. Let’s just take a pause and recognize that. I, and when say I, I’m talking about human beings, I will never be engaged with somebody who’s not engaged. I want you to imagine being at a party and feeling like you’re a very friendly person, you’re a very social person, you want to connect with people, and you walk into a party and you start talking to somebody you meet there, and you start talking to them and they are not engaged with you at all. How long do you stay there? How long before you’re looking for somebody else to go talk to?

Dov Baron:

So, we don’t engage with people who are not engaged. Think about that in a work situation. If you want your employees to be engaged, you better be engaged with them. It’s not their responsibility to be engaged. It’s your responsibility to engage them. That’s number one. So, am I engaged? Most leaders are not engaged. Am I engaged with the work? Am I engaged with the mission? Am I engaged with the purpose? Do I even know the purpose?

Dov Baron:

I’m working with a company right now. They want me to help them to engage their people. They’re a multinational company, and they’re talking about how they’re flying to Europe this weekend to do big conferences there with their teams, and they said, “We just got to get our engagement going.”

Dov Baron:

I’m like, “Okay. That’s great.”

Dov Baron:

“Can you help us to have people join the mission?”

Dov Baron:

I said, “Tell me what the mission is.”

Dov Baron:

They tell me. I go, “You don’t know what your mission is. How can they engage with a mission you don’t know what it is?”

Dov Baron:

They said, “Well, it is this,” blah, blah, blah.

Dov Baron:

I go, “What does it mean?”

Dov Baron:

They tell me. “No, that’s not what that means.”

Dov Baron:

“Well, how do you know?”

Dov Baron:

“Do research. I guarantee you none of your workers will think that that’s what it means. You made up crap, and you put it on people. So, they can’t engage with it.”

Dov Baron:

So, this is the challenge at a deepest psychological piece. So, this is not soft skills. This is the hardest line you’ll ever get is if you don’t get emotionally engaged with your people, your people will not get emotionally engaged with you. That’s number one because people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.

Dov Baron:

Number two is now, okay, you’re engaged with the mission, the purpose, the vision of the organization, great. Are you engaged with the work? Are you engaged with the workforce? Because if you want them to be engaged, you better be engaged because leadership is parenting. If you’ve been a parent as you’re listening to this, if you’re a parent, you know your kids don’t listen to what you say. They watch what you do. They repeat that.

Dov Baron:

My stepfather years ago had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and said, “Don’t ever smoke.” Every member of my family became a chain smoke except me because that was the model. That was what we’ve seen. So, if you want to engage your people, you have got to be engaged. You’ve got to be engaged with the work, the vision, the mission, the purpose, and you’ve got to be engaged more than anything with the people, and that’s not, “Hey, Bob. How are you doing?” That’s like, “Who is Bob? What matters to Bob? What does Bob do on the weekend?” If you don’t engage them, they’re not. They’d go somewhere else where they’re engaged.

Dov Baron:

The other piece in understanding this is chronos, time, energy of time. What does that mean? It means part of the distant worker thing, the remote worker thing is it has allowed people to go, “You know what? I’m not a morning person. So, sure, I can show up at the office at 8:30, but I don’t even function till 2:00.” So, you’re not going to engage workers because that’s not inside their clock. So, you’re finding these people and companies are totally shocked with this. Production went up 23% because people are working inside their own chronological energy terms. So, some people go to work at 11:00 at night, and they work till 2:00 in the morning and that’s their best time. Other people their best time is 4:00 in the morning.

Dov Baron:

So, there’s all these factors that are ignored that are so vitally important, and that’s what we do. We come in and we sort that out so you can engage your people whether they’re remote or present.

Luis:

So, what are some of the challenges? Are you finding differences at all in the process that you have to take when you’re helping companies do this regarding if they’re remote or not? On some level, I want to believe that if you have a good culture and you craft a good culture, you can go remote more or less seamless, but I know for a fact that that’s not completely true because the shape of the communication changes. So, what have you found out in this area?

Dov Baron:

Yeah. You’re absolutely right. So, the shape of the communication changes, of course. One of the great challenges in the communication skills that we teach is if you’ve been doing anything, if you’re listening to us and you’ve done anything entrepreneurial online at any point in time, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Content is king.” That’s what we all used to believe. Content is not king. Content is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, and most of it, we’re drowning in it.

Dov Baron:

What is king or if content is king, what’s emperor or empress, is context, not content, context. So, this is one of the things that is the great failing of communication. What is the context of what I’m delivering? So, it’s one thing to craft an email, but how is that read is more important. So, you’re absolutely right, Luis, if we are going to engage people, we need very clear communication that is emotionally present. So, a lot of companies try to be emotionally void and say, “Well, It’s very …” Well, that doesn’t engage people.

Dov Baron:

So, it’s got to be emotionally crafted to connect to the limbic system of that person. You got to connect to the limbic part of the brain of that person, the emotional brain because here’s the thing. We’re all in business. We all like to think we’re very logical and very rational, and we’re all full of it. That’s not actually how it works. Your brain doesn’t work that way.

Dov Baron:

Every one of us is emotional first and rational and logical second. The limbic system is more than 20,000 times faster than the rational brain. So, that part of your brain has already made the decision. Now, you may tell yourself some rational lies, meaning you rationalize your lies in order to justify the emotion, but if you understand that that’s first, you then start working with your people in a way that they get it and go, “Okay. Now I know what this is.” If you can’t do that, like you said, if you can’t adjust that communication because it is different in person that it is over some of the system.

Luis:

So, I want to hear more about what’s your process for making the context more clear or more obvious. I tend to insist people when they’re not communicating on video, especially on Slack, but also by email, to make sure to go over each sentence they write and make sure that every sentence it’s clear what’s the who, the how, the why, and the when because there’s nothing more damaging in conversations by chat like Slack, but even in email, than someone sending me a message like, “Hey, do you have the thing that we discussed ready?” and then just disappearing for two hours. That’s incredibly damaging, and the source of many, many problems in the office.

Luis:

So, I always say make sure that you read what you try to write. Get the who, the how, the why, and the when right at every sentence if you need to, but make sure that it’s never unclear what or who you are referring to. This is a very micro level of context. So, what’s your thoughts about the more macro level of context, context in the cultural sense let’s say?

Dov Baron:

Yeah. So, first and foremost, let me say that that guidance you’ve just given is an excellent guidance, and it takes a little longer, but it saves a lot more time. So, you invest in the front end of making sure that it’s there, but on the back end, you’re not dealing with messages you sent a week ago to somebody who’s like, “I don’t even know what I meant,” because people are so busy that they’re going to get a message that they don’t understand and they just ignore that.

Dov Baron:

You go, “Did you get that stuff to me that I asked you about last week?”

Dov Baron:

“I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. You know what? I’ll deal with that later,” and then other things take over. Now, you’ve got a problem. So, great guidance on that, first and foremost.

Dov Baron:

Here’s the thing. In developing context at a macro level is understanding that all communication must fall in line with the purpose of the organization. Now, you may have read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. I’m not talking about that why. I’m talking about the why of the why, which is much deeper, but let’s just go with that for now, the why of the organization.

Dov Baron:

So, all communication must be in the context of that why, and the immovable, non-negotiable maxims that are aligned with that. These are not values. These are maxims. So, one of the values is integrity. Okay. So, now we do a survey. What does integrity mean? We ask 100 people and guess what we get? At least 50 different answers, at least.

Dov Baron:

So, again, you have to understand, all of us live in our own subjective universe. So, we have to create an agreed upon language pattern, and the great cultures of companies and even nations have been built on a purpose, maxims, and language that is universal in that culture. So, there is language that is used that is not used outside of that culture. When it’s used, we know what it means because we’re part of it. That takes some times. It’s takes some development, but it makes all the difference in the world because it cleans up mess. So then we could say, “Okay.”

Dov Baron:

So, one of the maxims that we teach in the Authentic Leadership Academy, Authentic Speaker Academy for Leadership is I am absolutely responsible for my life, no excuses, right? So, what that means is I’m never ever going to deliver an excuse. I’m only going to deliver my accountability to what I did. I don’t get to have an excuse, and excuses removed.

Dov Baron:

So, I failed to do the project that was supposed to be delivered on Tuesday. I was at my mother’s funeral. Everything was okay. No problem, but anything else becomes like, “Oh, well, you’re trying to get around it.” We’re not trying to get around anything. Get really clear. What is our purpose? What is our maxims? Our maxims are absolutely non-negotiable, and they’re deeply emotionally connected to the company, i.e., the purpose, and to the individuals, and to the teams.

Luis:

That makes absolute sense. To the point about responsibility, I usually like to say that you’re not at fault for stuff that’s outside of your control, right? The universe has the habit of throwing tough stuff to you and if something horrible happens to you or those close to you, you’re never at fault. You’re not to blame, but you do have the responsibility of dealing with you because who else will have it?

Dov Baron:

So, the responsibility side, again, it comes back to what we just sum up. The responsibility is always communication. That’s the responsibility. So, “Of course, I didn’t expect my mom to die, so I didn’t finish the project.”

Dov Baron:

“Fine. Who did you tell? “Well, I was overcome with grief.”

Dov Baron:

“Could you send one text to one person? Could you send one Slack message to one person, “I’m devastated. I just found out my mom died. Please let everybody in the team know”?

Luis:

That’s all it takes.

Dov Baron:

That’s all it take or “Can you get somebody to do that for you? If you’re a blabbering mess, I understand it.” So, it’s not about anything other than the accountability to communication. So, the accountability to do the thing, whatever the thing is, that’s I’m, but what’s more important is the accountability to do the communication. So, here’s a key for everybody. “I am responsible.” Write this down if you’re listening, okay? “I am responsible for all my communication. I am responsible for all my communication.”

Dov Baron:

Let me make clear what that means. I’m responsible for how my communication is received. I know that that’s a mind blow for many people. You go, “It wasn’t my fault they didn’t understand.” Yes, it is because when I communicate, I want to say, “Does that makes sense to you?” because it might not make sense to you not because you don’t get it, but because I’m communicating poorly, “Am I making myself clear? Is there something else you need to know? How can I make this clearer for you?” so that that communication is clear. That is my responsibility always, whether it’s in a marriage, whether it’s with your children, whether it’s with a coworker, whether it’s with a team, whether it’s with an organization.

Luis:

All right. Wow. I have so many notes of where to go next. I want to go back. I want to step back to the engagement thing for a second. I’ve had this in the past life something like 10 years ago. I was playing a lot of online games. I was in one of the top rating guilds in World of Warcraft. It almost cost me a year in college, but at the end I pulled through, but the reality is that 40 people were coordinating online with tools that were stone age compared to what we have now. We coordinated 40 people through live text chat and, occasionally, a very bad voice over IP service, and we managed to solve some of the toughest challenges that that game had. It’s required of us, something like a part-time job, right? We were doing it three times per week, three times per week, four hours each time. So, that’s 12 hours. Then there was a whole mess of preparation, individual preparation before it.

Luis:

I have to say people were more engaged with that activity than they were with their jobs, and that most teams that I’ve known up until today and I try to bring that level of engagement that today is to make my team have the same level of engagement in what we’re doing at DistantJob that my team had back then in that video game. So, why do you think that is? Why do you think that people can so easily get engaged into a video game that we call it the grind for a reason in the game because it definitely is work, and then there’s a massive failure of engagement as reported by Gallup themselves?

Dov Baron:

So, let’s just talk about that in the levels of the understanding of gamification because gamification we do know as engagement. So, when we play a game, what are we doing? We’re developing mastery. This is a basic need of human beings. We want mastery. We want to get better at things. People are not engaged if there’s no level of mastery. There’s no sense that I could get better at this.

Dov Baron:

So, millennials, particularly, and let’s remember that millennials, the oldest millennials are now 41 years old. People think of millennials they’re 20-year-olds. No, no. They’re 41 years old at the oldest.

Luis:

I’m technically millennial. Wow.

Dov Baron:

Yup, you are. So, they want mastery. They want to get better at things. All of us do, but that’s particularly strong inside of millennials. So, they want to get better at things, and the other thing about millennials, oftentimes, GenX-ers or boomers will say they’re lazy. No, they’re not. They want to learn fast. So, they want to learn fast. So, providing a way for them to develop mastery fast is a really great way to engage them. You’ve got to do that.

Dov Baron:

The other thing that they want is, again, as I had mentioned before, they want community. Engagement requires community. What does community mean? Well, if you’re in my generation, you talked a lot about this work-life balance, and I’ve spoken about this for at least 10 years, which is work-life balance is horse crap. It doesn’t work. There’s no such thing. It doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing.

Dov Baron:

One of the things that the remote work situation, what the pandemic did is it awakened people to that realization because work-life isn’t real. What’s real is you don’t change heads to go to work. You have the same head, the same brain, the same heart. So, what it is is it’s work-life blend, not balance. It’s understanding, “How can I take my work into my life and my life into my work?” This is why if you want engagement you have to have community.

Dov Baron:

So, this is one of the things I talk about in my book Fiercely Loyal is you need to stop building businesses and start building communities that have your business inside that. Shopify have done that very, very well. They’ve built a community and they have business inside of it. Brilliantly done. So, that’s another example. Create a community where people want to be, where they can have mastery and they can learn fast. So, in your game, you’re willing to put in the work to be engaged with that work because there was a desire for mastery.

Dov Baron:

Now, the other thing about the game because of gamification is there was a way to recognize, “Oh, I got that. I got that score. I got that through that gate,” whatever it is. So, one of the challenges with traditional business is even if they create an environment that could give them mastery, there’s no way to recognize it.

Luis:

Got it. So, that’s definitely a key thing to solve because it can feel very perfunctory, very performative, right? It’s like recognizing employee of the month, right? That was a thing in some movies I saw. I don’t think it was ever a thing in any place I worked. Maybe we need a modern, less cringey version of something like that, right? Recognition, I find, is important.

Luis:

LinkedIn tries that. I don’t love how LinkedIn does it, right? It sometimes incentivizes you to give, to recognize a coworker. I’ve tried my best step to remedy that, to give people that recognition was I created the Gratitude Channel in Slack, and then I incentivized people to randomly thank. If someone did something good for you, thank them there, but I don’t think showing gratitude is the same thing as recognizing achievements. So, what are your thoughts on that? How do you think it’s a good way to do that in the remote age?

Dov Baron:

So, again, mastery and recognition of master. So, you can’t recognize mastery if you’ve not set parameters for it. So, the gratitude thing, great. It’s wonderful. That’s good. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but there’s no way I know that that’s mastery because there’s no gate to come through, there’s no level to climb over, right?

Dov Baron:

So, the thing about it is that one of the ways that these games are so addictive is because there are levels and gates and all the rest of those things to it, but you can take alternate paths. So, somebody is not trying to get to the same goal you’re trying to get to. It’s not the same goal for everybody playing. So, that’s part of the thing.

Dov Baron:

So, in this particular game, which is called, I don’t know, product design, these are the gates, these are the levels of mastery, right? You get points for assisting other because we want to work together. You get points for assisting others and you get points for your own growth and your own development, and you also get points for things that you’ve done.

Dov Baron:

So, now we’ve got a gamification of a project that includes not turning people into lone wolfs who are competing with each other, but also allows them to gain their own growth by helping somebody else. So, if you help somebody else come up two levels, you get up an extra level as well as a bonus without doing anything else inside of your channel.

Dov Baron:

So, again, recognition is vitally important, but you can’t recognize something randomly, which is, “Oh, John did a good job. Okay.” If the gamification is only done on one level, i.e., Charlie made the most sales, then that pretty quickly disheartens everybody else because not everybody is approaching that way. So, it’s really important to make sure that it’s inside the context of what that person wants rather than a single price that there are multiple ways to reach that level.

Luis:

It gets at its best when you have both things, right? When everyone sees that there’s something that they can work towards as a team and everyone benefits to it like back in the game, right? I wanted to be, when I was playing a role in that game, there were other people in the team playing similar roles to mine and we competed in a friendly competition against each other. What kept the competition friendly is that we knew that our individual competition was part of an overall matic competition to reach a goal together.

Dov Baron:

Right. You got it. That’s exactly it. Again, that is not reliant upon you being in the office 9:00 to 5:00. It’s not reliant on you being remote all the time. So, this is a way to make sure that there is engagement even in a hybrid business world, in a hybrid distant versus residential.

Luis:

Yeah. Absolutely. Well, I think I could go on for another hour, but I do want to be respectful of your time. So, I’d say that we can wind out with a couple of rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be.

Luis:

So, I’d like to ask you just to start, if you could gift one thing to everyone working with you and you can’t offer cash or an equivalent, you need to buy in bulk, let’s say, but you can do whatever you want, app, experience, tools, whatever, what would you give everyone who works with you?

Dov Baron:

So, you’re talking about a book or an app or you’re talking about something?

Luis:

Anything that you can buy in bulk. Could even be an experience.

Dov Baron:

Oh, so it has to be a physical thing you can buy.

Luis:

Could be an experience. You could pay them dinner, let’s say.

Dov Baron:

Okay. What would I give them? That’s a good question. As an experience, I would give everyone the experience of learning to grow a plant. So, a class on growing vegetables or a plant or anything because to learn the fragility of the garden. So, the gardens come in seasons, and there’s a time when it looks like everything is dead, and there’s a time when it looks like everything is coming to life, and there’s a time when thing bear fruit.

Dov Baron:

So, a one year experience of growing something through all of the seasons, which teaches you watch a slow process that becomes massively fruitful and understand that there is always potential for change that can destroy the thing you’re doing, the rain, the wind, a bug, an insect. So, learning to grow something would be the experience I would give everybody.

Luis:

Wow. Wow. That’s fantastic. I can see myself there because I would need that class because all my plants die, but now you can see, I mean, this is an audio-only podcast, but you can see that there’s green everywhere, and really the way I achieved that was I married.

Dov Baron:

You married somebody who doesn’t kill plants.

Luis:

Exactly. Exactly.

Dov Baron:

So, are you banned from touching the plants, Luis?

Luis:

Yeah, kind of.

Dov Baron:

Does your wife say, “Do not go near them”?”

Luis:

Kind of, kind of, yes.

Dov Baron:

The truth of the matter is that you could learn to do that, again, if you chose to. Of course, there’s that choice, but the key in it is understanding this, that we live in a society that is instant gratification. This is why I give that as a gift because it’s not instant gratification. You have to watch this. So, I would take you from growing it from the seed or a tiny cutting into whatever it is because you would have to pay attention to it every day. Maybe you just mist it twice a day or you add a little bit of water, you make sure it got enough light, but you would be able to see that in this instant gratification world, we’re running everything at high speed and we’re all trying to hustle that we forget to slow down.

Dov Baron:

Now, there’s other enormous benefits to it, which is it slows down your mind. It becomes a meditative process, all those things. I spend time in my garden every day for that reason because it allows me to decompress. So, there are many benefits to it, but most of all is to take your mind and allow you to be mindful and present in a hustle-driven world.

Luis:

Well, that was some fantastic insight. So, I can’t wait to hear you answer the next question, which is what about yourself? What was the purchase that you made in that last six months or so that changed or improved your work-life balance merge? What made your life better related to work?

Dov Baron:

Purchase? Can’t think of a damn thing. The reason I tell you that is not for any reason other than I don’t buy much. I don’t buy much at all. I mean, I like pretty clothing, so I like nice shoes, and I like nice shirts, and those kinds of things, but they don’t change my life. They’re more to do with my childhood because I grew up very poor and I didn’t have any shoes.

Dov Baron:

So, having new shoes feels pretty good, but it doesn’t change my life. I don’t really think the purchasing does much of that. I think that there’s a lot of false equivalency between happiness and purchasing. One of the things that we all have to learn is there come a point when you realize that no matter how much money you get, it’s not going to make you any happier. There’s a point where it does, but after that point, it doesn’t.

Dov Baron:

So, at a purchase level, there’s nothing particularly. Maybe in that we just sign for a new place and we’re moving, and so that will be another environment that we’ll be going into. I’m certain that that will cause a lot of change. Some of it will be stressful because change is stressful, and some of it will be exciting because change is exciting.

Luis:

Nice. This is officially one of my favorite answers. Though, I have to say that the number one remains the time a guest answered a dog.

Dov Baron:

Yeah, a dog.

Luis:

That was also great. That was also great.

Dov Baron:

Again, that’s purchasing something that allows you to emotionally connect.

Luis:

Exactly. So, back to gifts, do you give books, and if so, what are your most gifted books?

Dov Baron:

Oh, that’s easy.

Luis:

That are not your own, sorry, and you can answer that.

Dov Baron:

No, no. I understand. That easy because the book I’ve … There are certain books that I’ve given away. I don’t know why I don’t get personal letters from the publisher. So, Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet is one of my bibles. I give that. I’ve not given it away much lately, but I used to give. I’ve probably given hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of copies of that. So, Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet is one of my bibles, and books by Richard Bach I’m a big fan of, but my favorite is Illusions by Richard Bach, Confessions of a Reluctant Messiah. It’s profound. It’s insightful. That would be right up there. Those are two books that I adore and give away. I will often say to people, “These are leadership books that have got nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with leadership.”

Luis:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I tell my friends that there are a lot of good leadership books there. I’ve read them and I loved them, but sometimes the best leadership books are treated as philosophy or sometimes even fiction. So, that definitely resonates with me. I have a shelf back there where I put the books who have most influenced my life. It has fiction, it has self-development, it has philosophy, and Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is definitely there. It’s one of those.

Dov Baron:

Oh, that’s wonderful to hear. That’s wonderful to hear.

Luis:

So, yeah, keep on giving them. Keep on giving them. Okay.

Dov Baron:

I can also tell you the book I would never give anybody if you like.

Luis:

Okay. Please do. This is new. I’m going to start asking that question. What is the book that you would never give everyone?

Dov Baron:

Well, what is the popular book that you would never give because I’m so upset with the philosophy about it and the way it has infiltrated the minds of people, and it really upsets me. By the way, when I say this, you can be sure I will piss off a lot of people who are listening. Are you ready? The book is called Atlas Shrugged. Another book is called Fountainhead. They’re both by Ayn Rand. So, these are massively influential books, hugely influential about individualism. They have really been the curse of capitalism in that they’ve turned capitalism into cronyism and made people very, very, very selfish, and they don’t really understand how to be of service and great leaders are, yeah, I’m a capitalist. I live in a nice place, and I like nice things, but not at the cost of other human beings.

Dov Baron:

So, those two books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand are books I would never give to anybody, and maybe even saying this people are going to go, “Oh, I got to go read it.” By the way, I will tell you, if you-

Luis:

Don’t read that book is a very compelling recommendation.

Dov Baron:

Well, I also have two books that start with Don’t Read This Book of my own that are my titles, right? Don’t Read This Book Your Ego Won’t Like It, Don’t Read This Book Unless You Want More Money, but the reason I say this is because those books are very appealing, and I say this clearly. They were very appealing to me. I was a big fan of them in my 20s and 30s. They’re very appealing to that mentality, but once you get past 40, you suddenly realize you don’t live in an isolated world, and there’s bigger things to be considered, and that’s why. So, there’s a certain level of emotional maturity that is required in order to understand why those books are damaging.

Luis:

I’m not a huge fan of Atlas Shrugged. I’ve never read The Fountainhead, but I can see where you’re coming. I can definitely see where you’re coming. I’m not prepared to heavily criticize the text just because I didn’t prepare for it, but I definitely see a lot of people excusing bad behavior based on that philosophy. Even if the book is not directly to blame, it at least serves as an excuse.

Dov Baron:

I couldn’t agree more. That’s absolutely true.

Luis:

All right. So, the final question now. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner when it’s okay to do dinners, right? Again, hopefully soon, right? You’re hosting a dinner where the top leadership of the biggest tech companies in the world are attending. The topic of the night, the round table is remote work and the future of work. Now, the twist is that you’re hosting in a Chinese restaurant. So, as the host, you get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What is your fortune cookie message to all these people?

Dov Baron:

Oh, that’s a good question, man. That is good. Is that yours? Did you come up with that? Okay. 10 out of 10 for that one. I do about 200 interviews a year, and it’s not often that I get one that I go, “Yeah. That was a dang good one. That was a good one.”

Dov Baron:

So, what goes in the fortune cookie about the future of work or distant work, remote work and these are tech people, so it has to be short. I guess I would put in, “You will never get from people what it is that you want unless you give them what they need.”

Luis:

That sounds like a great fortune cookie message. Congratulations. You’ve passed the test.

Dov Baron:

Thank you, and it simply means understand that people don’t want what you think they want. You have to pay attention to what they need, and what they need has got nothing to do with their mind and everything to do with their heart. Emotion first. If you get that, your people will really stay with you.

Luis:

Look at that. We’re back to the beginning of the interview. That was masterful. That was very good, very good.

Dov Baron:

Thank you, Luis.

Luis:

Congratulations. So, it was an absolute, this conversation. I could do another one hour, but we need to wrap up. It was an absolute pleasure having you here. So, now I would ask you to tell our listeners where they can find you, where they can continue the conversation, where can they learn more about how you can help them reach the next level in their personal jobs, whatever their goals are.

Dov Baron:

Thank you, Luis. I really appreciate you giving me this opportunity. You can find out more about me at dovbaron.com. That’s D-O-V-B-A-R-O-N dot com. You can write to me there. Yes, I do give you my email. It’s [email protected] So, you can write to me. You can find me on my podcast, which are, of course, wherever you listen to podcast from. You’ll find them there. Leadership & Loyalty is one as Luis told you at the beginning and Curiosity Bites is the other one. They both extraordinary show outstanding leaders and outstanding minds communicating on there. You can find me on YouTube. There’s over 1,000 videos in there. I also have an outlet on Medium if you go on the Medium platform. The Dragon’s Den is our publication on there, so you can find us on there as well.

Dov Baron:

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Reach out to me on LinkedIn. Connect with me on LinkedIn. Let us know. I really want to encourage you to not only let me know, but let Luis know what did you get out of this. Here we are, we’re having this conversation, and sharing knowledge with you, and it’s a one-way street. We want to make that much more interactive. So, why don’t you write to Luis, write to me? Tell us what you got out of this show. Tell us what you’re going to do with it, and moreover, and more importantly than that, share it with others. Don’t hoard the information. Share it with other people so that they can get an insight, they can get the gifts, too. It’s really important that he puts in the time to bring you the great guests. Make sure that you share that with other people. Again, you can find me at dovbaron.com or just Google that name and I promise you you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of content.

Luis:

Thank you so much for that. Thank you for finishing in such an elegant way that brings more people to this show. I really appreciate that. I hope that everyone checks your stuff out. I love the podcasts, and I enjoyed the book. So, I definitely recommend those. Please go and look Dov Baron up.

Luis:

So, ladies and gentlemen, this was another episode of the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

So, we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. 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.

Luis:

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 gets to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast. 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.

Luis:

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 talents. 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.

Luis:

With that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of DistantJob Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Being a remote leader doesn’t necessarily mean not being in the same physical space as your team. It means being unavailable or accessible for your team, whether working remotely or non-remotely.

During this podcast episode, Dov Baron shares the importance of supporting and caring for your remote team and how to do it. He also shares his insights and lessons of different leaderships aspects that are fundamental to build solid remote companies, such as engagement and culture.

Highlights:

  • How to be emotionally available for your remote team
  • Tips for building transparency in a hybrid/fully remote environment
  • Culture vs. community: key differences
  • The importance of making decisions with your team and hearing their feedback
  • Why culture becomes more important when having remote teams
  • Insights about employee engagement

 

Book Recommendations:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Monday!