Ways to Encourage Employee Engagement in Your Remote Team with Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute, author or co-author of 14 books, including The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. And his latest, The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected Working Anywhere, which he co-authored with Kevin Eikenberry.

Follow our guest on their social media:

Remote business leader and writer

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of The DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host Luis, and my guest today is Wayne Turmel. Wayne is the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute author or co-author of 14 books, including The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. And his latest, The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected Working Anywhere, which he co-authored with Kevin Eikenberry. Wayne, welcome to the show.

Wayne Turmel:

Thank you for asking me, man. I’m excited to be here.

Luis:

It’s an absolute pleasure having you. I went through most of your book, and I’m looking forward to finishing it, but I’ve been loving it so far. And yeah, I guess what I want to start by asking you so that you can tell our listeners about remote work. How did it start your engagement with remote work? And how has it made what do you do today possible?

Wayne Turmel:

My very first management job, I had team members who lived elsewhere. I was working for a small company that had contractors, and people scattered around the Western United States. And so even though I was in an office, a number of my team weren’t. And so from the very beginning, and this is 26, 27 years ago, I’ve always had remote team members. And then for the last 15 or 16 years, I’ve worked remotely myself from a home office. And so this has always been part of my life. And one thing for both Kevin and myself when we wrote Long-Distance Leader and Long-Distance Teammate is we’ve lived this, and we’ve made every mistake that you can possibly make.

Wayne Turmel:

We come from this with very real experience. And for the last 15 years, my focus personally has been on communicating virtually. When we do things like this, when we’re on webcam, how do we make this as powerful and as useful as it is when we’re sitting down having a cup of coffee chatting?

Luis:

Tell me the story of when did you realize that, because you’ve been working remotely for a long time as you put it. But a lot of people haven’t realize that myself included, I started working remotely when I was 18 years old. I inherited a blog of sorts, it was the first professional video game blog in Portugal. There was a bigger media company bought out most of the team, and I was left as editor with a handful of people that from all around the country never met face-to-face. I started working like that, and I built a career as an online editor. Editing online news, magazines, blogs, et cetera, from that.

Luis:

And up until I joined my current employer DistantJob five years ago, I never really thought that I needed to make this better. So far, emailing back and forth and using chat rooms just worked and I quite enjoyed it. I managed something like four or five different editorial teams, and I really never felt the need to go past the text. So how did that come to you? Tell me the story of when you had that realization.

Wayne Turmel:

There were two moments, I think. One was about 16, 17 years ago. I was working for a company that taught presentation skills. How do you stand at the front of the room? Traditional public speaking kind of things. And somebody said to me, “You know, Wayne, this is all great. But I only talk to real people like twice a year.” Most of the time I’m on this new thing called WebEx. And I realized that we were fundamentally changing the way people worked, and nobody was helping them, giving them the skills to leverage that tool. It was like so much in the software world. Here’s your Microsoft Teams licensed, try not to hurt somebody.

Luis:

I liked how they said that they were not working with real people most of the time.

Wayne Turmel:

Well, that’s the thing is that when we interact with people mediated by technology, how our brains work, how we connect with people fundamentally changes. I’ll give you an example, and you are far too young to understand the momentum of this. And I’m not being condescending, it’s literally a fact.

Luis:

I like that. Play the age card. Go.

Wayne Turmel:

No, it’s literally a fact because my first job, my first management job, one of my jobs was to roll out email to our company. Email did not exist in companies of our size in the industry. And so my job was to roll it out. So I worked pre email and since. One of the huge things that have changed is that now if you’re working from home, over 70% of your communication takes place in writing. That has never happened in the history of the human species, and it changes the way we operate. When we send an email, we lack the context and the tone and the nuances of you and I having a chat. Now you and I speaking one-on-one with a cup of coffee, we’re getting all kinds of verbal and nonverbal and visual cues.

Wayne Turmel:

And our brains are literally responding differently than they do to pictures on a screen, which respond differently than to words on a screen. And the way that we communicate, has taken millions of years of evolution and 30 years of real time to fundamentally change the way we communicate. And human beings have not caught up to that. And so there are lots of challenges in working remotely. Now for people like you, who’ve always lived in a largely text-based world who work in an industry that is largely text-based with a lot of individual contributors that’s a different mindset than for people who’ve always worked in a traditional office environment.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, that’s for sure. I’ve said this a couple of times on the show already, but I feel that nothing prepared me so well for the future of work as playing video games online. Collaborative games I mean, because the kind of coordination, synchronization, communication that was needed to beat some of the harder challenges in the game, sometimes coordinating with groups from five to 40 people. That just came naturally because it was a game, and you wanted to figure it out because that was part of the fun.

Wayne Turmel:

But it was also part of the environment. It was just the way it was. I’ll give you a really quick story. When my daughter, who’s now 28, was in high school, she was a cheerleader and the girls got invited to a cheerleading competition. And they had to develop a dance routine very quickly. And so they met in our house. And if you’ve ever tried to work with 10 teenage girls in the house, it’s not going to happen.

Luis:

I have never had that experience.

Wayne Turmel:

I’m watching them interact. And one of them, my daughter, because she’s got leadership skills, which is a nice way of saying she always needs to be the boss, is designing the dance. And somebody else is on the computer finding music. And then when they do the routine, not everybody could make the rehearsal. So somebody took their phone and recorded the dance moves, and then posted it to a private YouTube channel for the girls who couldn’t make the rehearsal so that they could see what was happening. And these were 14, 15 year old girls. And I’m a grown man who has been working for a very long time, and my jaw is open. I’m just watching them flawlessly use this technology with stuff on their phone to solve problems that if anybody in my company had said, “Okay, we need to create a dance routine and get the thing out to everybody.” It would have taken two weeks just to try to set up the meeting.

Luis:

Interesting.

Wayne Turmel:

And so when I look at people who grew up in that environment, there are huge advantages to having grown up in that virtual. There are also some disadvantages. My daughter, who I love dearly, I have to keep reminding her that the telephone also transmits voice. She wants to text everything. And I’m like, “No, I’m not spraining my thumbs for 20 minutes. You’re going to pick up the phone, and you’re going to call me. And this is going to be over in two minutes.”

Luis:

Interesting. Why do you think is that? I mean I definitely feel like when I’m working remotely with my team, et cetera, I definitely privilege written interaction, because well mostly not just because it’s asynchronous, but it does seem to have a smaller drain on my attention. And I also feel that when you’re forced to write something down, you need to clarify in a way, you need to craft your message in a way that’s a bit stricter than just talking.

Wayne Turmel:

Yeah. There’s a three beer conversation about the pros and cons of tools like email and texting.

Luis:

Okay. I’ll pay to have those beers.

Wayne Turmel:

But our brains react differently to those situations. Email is wonderful for transactional, quick, low attention type of communication. But the problem is that it also creates other problems. Most of us, not all of us, but most of us are wired when an email comes in, we feel the pressure to respond right away. So that email and text and messages tend to overrun our lives because we have this Pavlovian response when a message comes in, we have to respond. And rather than taking the message, thinking about it, thinking about what other questions might be involved, how do we maximize this, we respond yes. And then somebody else responds with the next question, and we have to stop what we’re doing and answer that.

Wayne Turmel:

And our brains won’t let messages sit there unanswered, because we think we’re being rude or bad teammates or whatever. And so we are not giving our attention to what we need to give our attention to in the guise of being a good teammate or being responsive, even though our responses generally aren’t nearly as good as they could or should be. And it’s because we are wired for my job, if I’m communicating with you is to make you happy. I want to please you, I want to connect with you. I want to give you the answers that you need. I want to be seen as valuable. I want you to like me. And so my default is to respond as quickly as possible.

Luis:

Well, I like you, Wayne. You’re very likable.

Wayne Turmel:

And yet, if I didn’t answer your email right away, you’d still get mad at me.

Luis:

Yeah, well I didn’t think so. But I appreciate the intention. But yeah, that absolutely makes sense. And look, just the fact that I didn’t email you a series of questions, I wanted to record an interview. So obviously there are different kinds of communication styles that are better for some things than others. This is a purpose of being educational. It’s a podcast about remote work and remote leadership. But if people are bored, if we are bored, no one is going to get educated. There needs to be a spark of entertainment in order to get to engagement. And I didn’t choose this word engagement at random. I’ve been thinking about engagement since reading your book, the last book that you wrote where you actually placed a premium.

Luis:

You and your co-author placed at premium on the ability of someone to be engaged with the work. Now as someone that’s been doing marketing for several years now, when I think about engagement I think about some very specific metrics. But you actually expand the concept for a way that the person is present at their work, and then their team and comes to their desks that I found very interesting. So if you could elaborate a bit on that, I’d love to hear it.

Wayne Turmel:

Engagement in marketing is if I send you this email, do you click this button?

Luis:

Yeah, exactly or do you forward it?

Wayne Turmel:

The definition. When we’re thinking about employee engagement, however, and that’s a very HR centric term, and people get all soft and mushy about it. But the really simple definition of engagement is, do I care? Do I care enough to give you discretionary effort? Do I care enough to help my teammate? Do I care enough to ask that question that needs to be asked? Or do I just sit there and go, “It’s not my job so I just…” We chose the word teammate very specifically for the Long-Distance Teammate book, because anybody can be a team member. If you’re my project leader or my team leader, and you’ve got five people under you, all five of those are members of the team. But a teammate implies a psychological social connection that goes beyond merely I work for you, and I’m going to do just enough to get a paycheck.

Wayne Turmel:

Do I enjoy the people I work with? Do I build good human relationships? Do we have fun? Do we like each other? Am I willing to put out the effort? And that happens at an emotional level. And I think organizations make a little bit of a mistake when it comes to engagement, because they do all these things designed to engage their employees. And you can’t engage somebody else. They choose whether or not to engage with you. And I’ll give you a really simple example. If I’m in a relationship with someone, I can buy them flowers, I can remember their birthday. I can give them gifts. I can ask them to marry me, I can get down on one knee. But she is not engaged until she says yes.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a good example.

Wayne Turmel:

Literally, you are not engaged until you say, “Yes, I will marry you.”

Luis:

Yeah. Hopefully leaders today, people listening to this that manage, lead their teams, they don’t need to go far as buying flowers, chocolates and getting on their knees to engage their teammates and their employees. There’s another perspective shift that I thought was very interesting when I was reading the book, which is the perspectives shift from considering yourself a leader to realizing that when you’re a leader, you’re actually a teammate to two different groups. You’re a teammate to the people that you’re leading, and you’re also teammates to the other leaders in your business. So that was a very interesting perspective shift, because we usually do this separation about okay, here is the leaders and here are the employees.

Luis:

And there are the resources to help the employees thrive, and there are the resources to help the leaders thrive. And we see some connections, but we don’t see a lot of overlaps between them. But the point of the book that I find very obvious yet very, very often glazed over is that me as a leader, I am still someone’s employee. I’m still someone’s teammates. There’s no such thing as one lonely figure at the top. Or if there is one lonely figure at the top, there’s only one of them. So there’s a clear minority.

Wayne Turmel:

If you own the company, if you own a small company, maybe that’s the case. But for most of us, if I lead a finance team there are probably other finance managers in the organization and those are my teammates. And I need to interact with them. And I need to respond to my boss. And all the while I’m also being the leader to the team that’s been assigned to me. But one of the really interesting things about this last year in the pandemic, Luis, is that especially for senior leaders, most of them have developed as in the office employees. That’s what they know. They might have assumptions about what work can be done remotely or how people would work remotely, and they manage their teams.

Wayne Turmel:

If they’ve got some people in the office and some people working remotely, there are biases and things that they might not be aware of. Well, now that everybody has had to work from home, there’s been this opening of the eyes for a lot of managers that work can be done productively from home. That people who work from home have unique challenges that maybe they haven’t been aware of before. And so this notion of thinking of yourself as both the member of a team and as the leader of a team and being able to wear both hats is powerful. And I think the fact that so many people have gone through it this past year is going to change the way we think about remote teams, and hybrid teams going forward. I think it’s going to make a big difference.

Luis:

So I actually want to talk about something like that, related to that. And it has to do also with engagement. I don’t know if you read, it came out one week or two weeks max ago. Microsoft’s workplace trends analytics report. And one of the things that was, I mean it was all over the news. But because it hinted that if companies didn’t offer remote options, a lot of the workforce was going to go work everywhere. But that’s not … I mean when I see something that catches headlines, I usually like to read the report to see what the headlines didn’t catch. And the thing that I caught that impressed me the most is that there’s a disparity of almost 25% between the leaders perceiving that they’re thriving and the employees.

Luis:

Meaning 23% more of leaders believe they are thriving than employees. And I’m sitting here and I’m thinking, “Well, first of all how are 23% of leaders believing they’re thriving in such a global chaotic situation? And then how disconnected are they from their employees?” I feel like the leaders in the report, those 23% are like, “Yes, remote work is great. This is so cool. I’m enjoying it so much. The company is great.” And then the employees are exhausted. So what are these people missing?

Wayne Turmel:

Okay. So a couple of things. Number one is the fact that the leaders might believe something that isn’t entirely true about their employees should surprise no one.

Luis:

Well, yes but-

Wayne Turmel:

It’s always been the case. Leaders have always either imagined the worst case scenario, or they think everything is fine until it’s not. So that’s always been an issue.

Luis:

Sure, but almost a-

Wayne Turmel:

When we work remotely, it’s worse. And here’s why I think that disparity happens. It’s how we measure thriving. Is thriving hey, you know what? They’re still getting their work done. And if that’s your metric, yes. It’s easy to see that people are fine, because they are getting their work done. They’re getting their work done for positive reasons. There isn’t the daily interruptions. You don’t have people stopping by their desk. You’re in most cases able to concentrate and get your work done. They are also however, getting their work done because they’re working way longer hours. They check email before they’re out of bed in the morning. And they’re still answering email at 10 o’clock at night.

Wayne Turmel:

And if the manager’s job is, Luis had these things to do and by golly they got done, it’s all good. What we don’t see is the hours that people are putting in, the stress. The even though I’m home, I’m not eating with my family because I’m on a conference call with Singapore. Those types of things are … it’s the old analogy of the duck on the water. You see the duck up top and he’s very cute and adorable, and underneath he’s paddling like crazy and you don’t see that. So I think that’s part of the reason is that if I walk through the office, if I walk through the cubicle firm and you’re banging your head on your monitor in frustration, I can walk by and say, “Is something wrong?” And we can address it. I can’t see you bang your head on the monitor.

Luis:

Yes, that monitor is company property, will you please stop.

Wayne Turmel:

And if I ask you, if we work apart and I say to you, “Is everything fine?” And you go, “Yeah, everything is okay.” I go, “Great, everything is okay.”

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a good point because a lot of times we lie. So that’s-

Wayne Turmel:

And why do we lie? We lie because I don’t want you to think I’m not competent. We lie because everybody else seems to be okay. I don’t want to be the weak wink. We lie because these are really uncertain times and if I don’t look like I know what I’m doing, I’m going to lose my job. We lie for all … I don’t want to make my manager feel bad. I mean there’s all kinds of reasons why we don’t always communicate 100% honestly. And some of them are valid, and some of them are not. But when we’re in close physical proximity, we can get those cues. If you say, “So how’s everything going on that project?” “Fine.” Well, you and I know nothing is fine. When you say to your wife, “How is your day, honey?” And she goes, “Fine.” Are you stupid enough to think it was fine?

Luis:

That’s not a good strategy.

Wayne Turmel:

Yeah, of course you don’t? But when we’re working remotely and we’re distracted by 37 things, and we ask the question and somebody says, “I’m fine.” You go, “Great, he’s fine. Next question.”

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. Though it is important to find some tactics to get over that. To me the main solution is building trust, but the flip side of that is that the trust is something that you need to build over time. You can’t just onboard someone and open up the magic here comes trust package. And suddenly from one day to the other, there’s a bond of trust between you. I think that the leader needs to develop some competencies that go a bit beyond trust, and be able to have the pulse on the organization in other ways. Now there are some tools for that. I mean there are some polling tools. There are some artificial intelligence tools that analyze how conversations go, et cetera. There’s a lot of tools that you can use to apply to that, but-

Wayne Turmel:

Yeah, and most of them are creepy. They are mildly creepy.

Luis:

Exactly. Exactly. As long as it’s anonymous I tend to find it’s okay. But yeah, I don’t look forward to the day where I need to work with my robot overlords overseeing. That’s not-

Wayne Turmel:

Here’s the thing. We’ve always had remote teams. Genghis Khan ruled half the world and never held a WebEx meeting.

Luis:

For sure.

Wayne Turmel:

So it can be done.

Luis:

Yeah, we can go back to pigeons.

Wayne Turmel:

But to get to your point about trust, trust is evidence-based. I can have faith in you. I can say, “Okay, I’m going to choose to act like I trust you.” But if I don’t get some evidence to show that that’s happening, that trust is pretty fragile. And that’s why one of the things we found during the pandemic is teams that had worked together and already had relationships have maintained pretty good relationships, because I’ve already got plenty of evidence that Luis is good at his job. And lo and behold, he keeps doing stuff that shows me he’s good at his job so I trust him.

Wayne Turmel:

But if there’s a new person, and the new person I don’t have that database to draw from. I don’t have that history. All I know is the new person just screwed up. Therefore, the new person can’t be trusted. I’m willing to cut this person much more slack, because I know them and we have history. They’ve done 27 things right and made one mistake, versus the new guy.

Luis:

And sadly, the new guy is much more liable to fail because they’re new.

Wayne Turmel:

Of course, but it’s this vicious cycle of, so then if I have a question am I going to go to the person I know or am I going to go to the new guy? Which of course displays a lack of trust, which means the other person doesn’t trust you. And it gets all complicated and weird.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. So that’s where we got. So how do you get out?

Wayne Turmel:

Well, if we’re talking about being a leader, there are a few things. One is you need to be really clear about the expectations. What are the expectations of people on your team? If the goal is we have a meeting, did you show up? And that’s all I care about. I look on the attendee list, yeah Luis showed up. Great. But you don’t say anything, you don’t contribute-

Luis:

Late. I might that I showed up late for this conversation.

Wayne Turmel:

But you put your phone on mute and go answer your email. But you’re there, and the only thing my boss cares about is that I’m there. That’s very different than you know what? We’ve had two or three meetings now and Luis hasn’t said at word. What’s going on? Do I make the effort of reaching out to you and saying, “Hey, what’s going on?” When we’re not meeting, you couldn’t shut up about this. And now there’s a meeting and you’re not saying anything, what’s going on is an important conversation. The expectations if you’re a member of this team, you will participate. You will share information. You will serve as a resource to your teammates.

Wayne Turmel:

Is that an expectation, or are you perfectly happy just putting your head down and taking care of you? And as long as you get your work done, that’s very different. And that’s the difference between team member and a teammate. A teammate understands that your job is to get your tasks done, but there is context for the team. The team has a job that needs to be completed, and are you helping the team achieved their goals?

Luis:

Yeah, for sure. And I do believe that part of the goal is also to move when they want to move, of course, but to help people move from team members to teammates. I find that increasing that engagement as you put in your book. I love it when books give me words to describe things that I-

Wayne Turmel:

You mean when it’s actually useful? Yeah, okay.

Luis:

Yes, exactly. When books are useful, that’s my expectation. Books should be useful. But yeah, I find that when I’m trying to give people what they need to be interested and engaged in their work, I find that some people that started as team members they start working as teammates. And it’s a slow process. I found that it’s a very slow process, but it is usually also very rewarding personally and also in terms of productivity.

Wayne Turmel:

Well, this is the other thing that when managers say they’re thriving. Work can get done but over the long haul, are we getting what we need? If you look at traditional measurements of engagement, one of the big questions is do you have a best friend at work? Because we engage, we work harder, we try harder, we give extra effort to people we know, like and trust. If I work with people and I have no personal connection to them. If I don’t know what football team they support, and I don’t know do they have kids? And what’s the dog up to? And is everybody in the house healthy? If I don’t know those things, work becomes extremely transactional. And over time, you don’t care?

Luis:

But let me dive in. Let’s go a bit deeper into this conversation, and maybe it’s a five-year conversation. I don’t know, but I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately. The situation about having friends at work. Right now it’s actually very beneficial because it’s hard to be with people outside of work. We’re all locked down in our places, but in general I tend to have a bit of an adverse reaction to the idea that our social circle and our work circle needs to have significant overlap.

Luis:

I really see … I mean it’s hard for me to argue in favor of having my best friend at work, let’s say. I think that it’s perfectly acceptable for a person to have their social circle outside of work, and then just be a professional. Come in to work, obviously be cordial. Obviously treat other people with respect and care, and attention. But at the end of the day, they end their work day and that’s it. That’s it for the people at work.

Wayne Turmel:

But you are a unique person. Since 18 years old, you have not worked in an office environment. You have not been trained as most humans in the Western world have, where we spend most of our work day away from our families, our friends, whatever. We go somewhere and spend eight hours a day with a group of people. In Western Europe, North America, we get over two thirds of our social interaction for the week through the workplace. Not only do we go to work and we work with people, we hang out with them after, we date somebody’s sister, we go for a beer. And ultimately, for the last 120 years basically, we have been conditioned to leave our social nest and go and be part of this new social nest.

Wayne Turmel:

And one of the most horrific things that has happened during this lockdown is people who don’t already have those strong social connections are really struggling. When the pandemic first hit, the big concern was what are we going to do about those people who now have to work from home and their spouse and their kids and the dog and everybody is all together? Nobody asked that question about the person who lives by themself, or lives by themself with an aging parent. And suddenly doesn’t have eight hours a day of contact with other people. So what you’re talking about, can we set up a world where we don’t rely on the people we work with for our social well being in our interaction? The answer is, of course we can.

Wayne Turmel:

The question is, can we do it right now because we’ve had it socialized out of us. And as you say, we don’t have the alternative of going somewhere else, because right now we can go somewhere else. So this is one of the big fundamental shifts that is going to happen once the pandemic starts to recede a little bit, is people are going to realize hey, wait a minute, there is a life outside of the office. And those dynamics are going to change, and nobody can really say how or how much because this is uncharted territory.

Luis:

Yeah. So I consider that because there’s an interesting statistic. I have a lot of dentist friends, and what tends to happen is that my dentist friends tend to marry either other dentists or dental assistants. Now I sit and wonder what are the odds that the perfect person for this person was actually … that their soulmate actually picked the same profession, or is this a work life deformation?

Wayne Turmel:

It depended on work life, because if you look at most industries back in the ’80s and ’90s, 30% of long term relationships started in the workplace. You either dated somebody at work, or you met somebody through work, or somebody had a sister that you met at a party. But because that’s where you spend the majority of your social life, that’s where you’re most likely to meet people. The same is true in almost every industry. If you are a nurse, you are very statistically likely to marry either a doctor, a fireman or a police person because that’s who you meet. And you socialize with other people in your work circle.

Wayne Turmel:

One of the big fundamental changes that we are going to be facing is how much of our life now is going to be dependent on the people we work with? And what is the correct balance? I don’t want to live in a world where I’m working with people and is purely transactional. I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know who they are. We don’t have pleasant conversations. We don’t joke. That is a hellish existence to me.

Luis:

Sure. But here’s where I’m coming from. It has to do with what you mentioned before, and what I’ve been calling the right to disconnect. You pointed out accurately that many people find it very hard to disconnect. I think that you if we create our social circle with people from our work life cycle, we are priming ourselves to be constantly connected, because if two people … if my best friend is from work, when I’m hanging out with my best friend how likely is it that we’re going to drift to talk about work?

Wayne Turmel:

You are absolutely right. And that is not a switch you can flip tomorrow. That is going to take time. It takes time especially as a grown up. If you don’t have a kid or a dog, how does a grown up meet other people?

Luis:

Yeah, well playing online video games is my-

Wayne Turmel:

But you have an out life. You have a way of doing that.

Luis:

Exactly. I was being fictitious. Of course, I know that most people meet other people at work.

Wayne Turmel:

Well, but that’s the thing. We are asking people to make a fundamental generational shift in how we create the social structure that helps us. And by the way, still helps us do good work. And we don’t know what that’s going to look like yet. We only know that if we don’t intentionally build relationships with the people we work with, it’s really easy to disengage and for work to become transactional. We share less information, we don’t collaborate and brainstorm the way we should. We are wired to work better with people we know, like and trust.

Luis:

Okay, but I guess what I’m trying to get at and I may be wrong, but it just keeps … I like to talk about stuff that keeps bugging me. I think that all of that can exist, and there can still be a barrier between work and non-work.

Wayne Turmel:

There can be, but-

Luis:

It’s like I can have my friends at my soccer team, and then once I leave soccer practice I’m not interacting with those people anymore. They’re still my friends, but they’re my friends inside that very specific location.

Wayne Turmel:

But the people in your soccer team aren’t sending you messages at 6:30 in the morning and 10 o’clock at night. What you’re saying is absolutely correct. We need to create these boundaries, we need to do this. And we are currently most people unequipped to do so, because for the last 120 years we have been trained to behave in certain ways. And until we figure out how to navigate that, it’s going to be choppy and weird and uncomfortable. And that’s where we are at the moment.

Luis:

Right. Well, good thing people are figuring these things out for us and writing tons of books as you have, sir. So I do want to be respectful of your time, I have a couple of rapid fire questions that I’d like to ask to help unwind from the conversation.

Wayne Turmel:

Bring it.

Luis:

So the questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be. So for starters, when you open your computer in the morning or whenever you choose to start your workday, what browser tabs do you have opened right away? What is your beginning of work toolkit?

Wayne Turmel:

My beginning of work toolkit, and because I work in a very different time zone than most of my company, I start work very early in the morning. So I check my outlook and then I check Slack. And then I check my personal stuff. I check Facebook and Twitter, and a boxing site called Ring TV because I want to know what happened. And then I have breakfast, and I walk away from the computer. And then when I come back, I start my day.

Luis:

Okay. Nice. So if you had $100 to spend with each person working for you, each person in your team, what would you give them? And the caveat is that you can’t give them cash, give an individual gift to anyone or give them the cash equivalent like a gift card. You need to buy in bulk, so to say.

Wayne Turmel:

$100 to give to everybody on my team. I would make sure just because I know my team, I would make sure that everybody got a really nice bottle of wine.

Luis:

Nice.

Wayne Turmel:

And the reason I say that is first of all, I work with a bunch of party animals, but more important they all believe really strongly in the power of their families. They’re all very connected to their families. And the notion of sitting down, relaxing, having a nice bottle of wine with the people that they want to share that with is very important to them. And I think that would be a lovely thing to do.

Luis:

Any particular brand.

Wayne Turmel:

No, I don’t know … I’m Canadian, man. If it’s made from grapes, I’m happy.

Luis:

Okay. Red, white or green. So my friend from Canada actually a friend from work got me this lovely, lovely sweet wine from Canada. It’s made from ice grapes. Ice grape wine. I love that thing. And I live in a country that produces wine, but I love that thing.

Wayne Turmel:

Do you really?

Luis:

I do.

Wayne Turmel:

My thing is that, since I’ve moved to the U.S. is I actually much prefer drier wines than sweeter ones. And so I grew up with German grapes, that variety of stuff and ice wine and it’s just too sweet. It’s like give me a beer.

Luis:

Yeah, sure but the thing is that in Portugal apart from some very specific kinds like Porto or Moscato, most wines are very dry. So it was nice to get something different.

Wayne Turmel:

See, we all want something different than what we have. It is the fundamental paradox of the human condition.

Luis:

Exactly. So what about yourself, what purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year?

Wayne Turmel:

What has made my life more productive? Wow. What I’ve done to be more productive is actually not technological in nature. What I’ve done to be more productive is just changed the way I manage my time. And that hasn’t been a purchase. That’s been how I organize my day, so that I am not constantly interrupted by email. And I have time to focus on things that require focus. And I wish there was some app or some cool technology that I could tell you. But the truth of the matter is other than upgrading my Zoom account to professional so that I don’t have to worry about the length of meetings, it’s been an internal decision that has made the biggest difference for me.

Luis:

Did you come up with this, or did you read somewhere? Whatever way you organized, you’re managing your time right now, where did you find the guidance to do it so to say?

Wayne Turmel:

There are a number of things out there. There’s a book called A World Without Email by Cal Newport, which is really dense and academic. And I don’t agree with everything he says, but he does talk about how you need to pay attention capital to certain things. And you can’t do the job when you’re constantly distracted. There’s a ton of research that I read all the time on what interruptions do to your ability to focus and do quality work.

Luis:

Yeah, not good. Spoiler alert. It’s not-

Wayne Turmel:

Spoiler alert, it ain’t helpful. And we think we’re doing … this is the thing, it goes back to what I said earlier about you want to be responsive, and you want to be a good teammate, and you want to look like you’re working, and all of those things. And ultimately, it’s counterproductive because the quality of the work, the quality of the answers you give, the attention you give to other people is so dramatically reduced.

Luis:

Of course, for work specifically. So for example, when I’m recording the podcast, the most useful button on my Mac or other Apple devices is the Do Not Disturb button. Whenever I’m doing any work that doesn’t entail communication, that is my most pressed button.

Wayne Turmel:

And it costs you nothing. It’s there. It’s been there all along. What it costs is the ability to say no, when I am on Do Not Disturb and I get that message from Louise, I am going to ignore that message from Luis until I’m finished doing what I’m doing.

Luis:

Well the great thing about the Do Not Disturb button is that you don’t get the message. So you’re not allowed. So you don’t get the temptation. Unless you are super neurotic as I sometimes I am, I admit of what am I missing, because then do not disturb is on. I better check it out. But that’s a self discipline thing. So now I would like to ask you, excluding your own, what book or books have you gifted the most? Or if you don’t gift books, what books have influenced the most? But I’m willing to bet, sir, that you gift books.

Wayne Turmel:

I do on occasion, although most of them are fiction. I write fiction as well as nonfiction, and that’s a big important part of my life.

Luis:

I’ll accept fiction. I’m a big believer that fiction is actually sometimes more helpful for you to learn things than technical.

Wayne Turmel:

It can be. I have given several copies of The Three Musketeers to people over the years.

Luis:

I love that.

Wayne Turmel:

It’s my favorite book, has been since I was a kid. And I like to give that. In terms of business books, I remember giving my daughter a couple of the classics. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, being one of them. That book, I think it was given to me when I started my professional career by my first boss actually, who said, “Here, thou shalt read this.” And that’s been something I did to my daughter when she went out into the world. And those types of things.

Luis:

Interesting, The Seven Habits by Stephen Covey, right?

Wayne Turmel:

Yeah.

Luis:

Yeah, Seven Habits of Highly productive-

Wayne Turmel:

Which I always call the world’s most successful collection of stuff my dad taught me when I was 10, but didn’t pay attention to. There’s nothing in it that’s particularly groundbreaking or new.

Luis:

But it’s nice … I mean these kinds of books, I would put that into self improvement or personal development. I guess you can talk about it in a way it’s professional development. But I find that these kinds of books, they work like taking a bath. It’s not like you take one bath and you’re done for life. You need to keep it up throughout your life. So I do think that even though it’s nothing particularly new, it’s always beneficial to revisit.

Wayne Turmel:

The way that I look at books like that, and I look at books like ours is a business book is only successful if there are three things. The first is, is the information accurate? Is it good, factual, decent information? And it usually is. The second thing is does it address a problem that I have right now? Because if it’s not a problem I have, I don’t care. It’s not going to stick with me. Being the best excelled person in the world might be a great book, but it’s going to mean nothing to me, because I don’t care. So is it decent information? Does it address a problem I have? And then does it tell me something in such a way that it slows me down enough to pay attention?

Wayne Turmel:

Almost all business books, if you’ve made a career of learning and caring about being a good manager and that’s that, you’re going to know 90% of the things in that book. It’s either going to be things you already know, that will reinforce what you’re doing well. There’ll be things that you know that you’re, “Yeah I really should be doing that, shouldn’t I? I’m not really doing enough of that.” And then there will be a little bit of new stuff that you’ll go, “Wow, that’s great. I should try that.” Very few business books contain 100% brand new information.

Luis:

Except that when you’re reading them, sometimes you’ll pick up on something because of the way that it’s written. Sometimes you’ll pick up on something that you’ve already seen 10 times, but never caught your attention.

Wayne Turmel:

Exactly right. I’ll give you an example. If you look in our book, both Long-Distance Leader and Long-Distance Teammate, we use Bettina Buechel’s research about richness versus scope. And why do I use one tool versus another? Pick up the phone, when do I use my webcam, when will an email suffice? It’s nothing except a very simple matrix that says for this job, speed of the communication is more important than richness. So many people have found that in credibly helpful. 20 years ago, when I found that research, it was something that I always knew, but I couldn’t put into words and I couldn’t quantify.

Wayne Turmel:

And the minute I saw that I went, “Aha, that makes sense to me.” And that’s what a good business book does, is it helps you clarify your thinking and helps put the spotlight on things where you go, “You know that thing that you felt, but you didn’t quite know how to explain it, or how to do it? That’s what that is.”

Luis:

Yeah. Absolutely. Well, so we went a bit away from the gifted books. But I have to say, since we’re talking about teammates and teams, I do rather also like the recommendation of The Three Musketeers. That’s a great book on that end as well.

Wayne Turmel:

Well, thank you. I mean we try.

Luis:

Yeah. So well, final question. This one is a bit more of a setup. But I’ll try to be brief. So let’s imagine a time where we can gather again for dinner. Let’s say also that you are hosting a dinner, and in attendance there’s going to be the CEOs, the decision makers, the hiring managers at tech companies from all around the globe. Now the twist is that you are hosting the dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and the round table during the dinner is going to be about remote work. So because you are the host and the restaurant is Chinese, there are fortune cookies involved. And you get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What is the message?

Wayne Turmel:

Long-Distance Leader is broken down into rules. And rule number one is think leadership first, location second.

Luis:

Nice, I’d put that-

Wayne Turmel:

Rule number 19 is when all else fails, remember rule number one. And that lends itself to a fortune cookie quite nicely because if you think about as a leader, as a human being, as a member of a team and as a leader, what should happen here? If you think about that first and then think about the constraints, time, money, all of that good stuff, you can come up with a pretty good solution. What happens is we tend to respond to the constraints first. And so think leadership first location second is I think an excellent fortune cookie.

Luis:

I agree. Thank you so much for the message. And thank you for being here. Now when our listeners would like to continue the conversation with you, reach out, learn more about the Remote Leadership Institute and your books, where should we direct them to? Where should they go?

Wayne Turmel:

In terms of ROI, remoteleadershipinstitute.com. That’s our blog, it’s our website. It lists all the ways that we work with companies around the world to help demystify remote work. You can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. I love connecting with people on LinkedIn. That’s probably the easiest way.

Luis:

Okay. I’ll include links to all of that in the show notes, of course. Wayne, I had a blast. Thank you so much for being on the show. It was an absolute pleasure having you.

Wayne Turmel:

Thank you, my friend. Lovely to meet you, too.

Luis:

It was great. Ladies and gentlemen, this was Wayne Turmel, the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute. And this podcast, The DistantJob Podcast, the podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

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.

Luis:

Now another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast click on your favorite episode, and any episode really and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up, and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form. And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just to hire locally. Not just not to hire in your country. Look around the whole world, because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent.

Luis:

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’s standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of The DistantJob Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Many statistics, research, studies demonstrate how employee engagement impacts the way teams and overall companies perform. And engagement directly relates to how relationships are cultivated in the workplace. But what happens when the workplace is not a physical place but a virtual one? How can leaders encourage employee engagement remotely?

Wayne Turmel has been working remotely for more than 25 years. During this podcast episode, he shares a deep insight into why engagement is not about sending a flower bouquet or a chocolate box. Employee engagement goes further than those details; it’s also into how you care and worry about your employees. He also mentions why in a remote setting is fundamental that leaders focus on communication and setting clear expectations.

 

Highlights:

  • How to encourage employee engagement remotely.
  • Redefining the meaning of thriving.
  • How to improve your leadership skills when managing a remote team.
  • Tips for building trust in the workplace.
  • The importance of establishing expectations.
  • How to create boundaries when working from home.

 

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!