Keys for Successful Remote Leadership with Scott Dawson

Scott Dawson is a UX and front-end developer, and the creator and moderator of the online community at theartofworkingremotely.com. He’s a prolific writer about the remote work topic and moderates the #RemoteChat, a weekly Twitter chat about remote work.

Follow our guest on their social media:

scott dawson

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to The DistantJob podcast. I am Luis, your host in this podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote themes. My guest today is Scott Dawson. Scott is a UX and front-end developer, but for the purposes of this conversation, I’d say the most important thing is that he is the creator and moderator of the online community at theartofworkingremotely.com. And author of a book with the same name. He’s a prolific writer about the remote work topic and moderates the #RemoteChat, a weekly Twitter chat about remote work. So, Scott, thank you for being on the show. Pleasure having you.

Scott Dawson:

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Luis:

So, you were first brought to my attention due to your Twitter chat, right? As a marketer, I’m really interested in Twitter chats and hashtag thoughts. And yeah, the #RemoteChat was something that people brought to my attention. But before we dive into that, I really want to ask you about the remote work thing. Right? How has remote work made your business possible or made it better? Right?

Scott Dawson:

So, I’m an accidental remote worker. Back in 1998, I was about to get married. And my wife and I were looking at different places to live. And I didn’t want to have to move jobs, but I also didn’t want to live where my job was. And I was openly candid with my boss at the time. And he suggested the word in vogue then was telecommuting. He suggested telecommuting on a trial basis. I’d never heard of it, never thought of it. But I took him up on the offer.

Scott Dawson:

And I ended up working 15 of 17 years at that first company remotely. So, since then, I’ve had 22 years of working remotely under my belt. So, it will be fair to say that I’ve known little else as far as the culture of work than being distributed from the rest of the people you’re working with. I think for business, we can get into all the positives on a business front, but the more meaningful impact for me has been on my personal life. So, I have a wife, I have two kids, I have a rabbit here in the office.

Luis:

So I’m told.

Scott Dawson:

So you’re told. I have to hold her up and see if we can catch her. Rabbit

Luis:

Well, this is an audio podcast. I’m just saying I need to be fully transparent with my listeners. I have not seen said rabbit.

Scott Dawson:

All right. We’ll try to produce some evidence here. Yeah, but I mean, we’re here remotely. Everything that comes with it, reduced stress, lacking a commute, all that has helped me be a more present husband, more present father and a healthier me. So, I think that’s how it’s worked for me.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So, tell me a bit about your, I mean, it’s a long time since 1998. My first real work, well, it wasn’t real, but it hardly qualifies as real world work experience, managing video game websites, editorials teams and et cetera. But that was nonetheless my introduction to remote work. It was managing editorial teams, managing teams of writers working around a WordPress based website.

Luis:

So it was a long time ago when I started doing it. But you do have the edge on me. And I assume that throughout your career, you have been placed in different setups, right? You’ve probably had people working under you. You’ve certainly worked under other people. So, tell me a bit about, how have you felt over that long career, 20 plus years? How have you felt the change in those dynamics? Tell me about some really good experiences that you had, some really bad experiences that you have had. Obviously omitting real names to protect the innocent or not so innocent, but over these past 20 years, you’ve probably experienced a big breadth of working situations working remotely. What are the, let’s say, top three that come to mind?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah, absolutely. So, as humans, we tend to remember extremes. So, in the world of work, we remember the really good people we work with, and we also remember the really bad people we work with. So, I’ve been fortunate to work in two global companies. And you’re right, I’ve been managed and I have managed virtual distributed teams all over the world. Right now I prefer being an individual contributor. I like the autonomy that that brings and a relative lack of bureaucracy.

Scott Dawson:

But I did enjoy managing folks remotely. I’m a technologist by trade, so I like to think that a lot of the things to do with technology can be applied in any industry. I happen to work in the financial world. But I would be able to apply these types of skills to healthcare or transportation or anything. Same goes for people management. I think when you take a look at the skills that make a remote work arrangement thing, they’re all around soft skills.

Scott Dawson:

And nothing made that more evident for me than being responsible for some other people. So, I actually really enjoyed building relationships with people and making sure that we could be as productive as we could be as a team while also respecting that we’re all individuals and work is not the only reason we’re on the planet. So, it was really great to get to know different people and different people working styles all while not being physically present with them.

Scott Dawson:

So, as for the top three things, gosh, I mean, I think one was to recognize that even though, and this is way back in the late nineties. Recognizing that despite there being offices, that people would physically go to, we were very much distributed anyway, because not everybody who was working together was from the same office. Not everybody came together physically for meetings.

Scott Dawson:

So, it was recognizing very early on that proper communication was the linchpin of success. And I worked with great teams. And initially in the late nineties, the only infrastructure you really had for collaboration was phone. So, every meeting had a dial in. And I literally went several years after having worked with somebody, and they’d ask, “What office building are you in?” And I would share that I worked remotely and they had no idea. That was just not on their radar at all. They just imagined me across the river in-

Scott Dawson:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, very early on, my colleagues helped me realize that geography was rather irrelevant. And I have to give kudos to the gentleman who offered that initial work arrangement. I’ve always found that honesty is the best policy. And so, when I was faced with a conundrum, do I keep my job or do I carve a path that’s going to be right for me and my wife, I thought maybe there was a way to not disappoint my employer and surprise them with my departure.

Scott Dawson:

And so, honesty in that case was, “Hey, I’m having trouble finding a place where I see myself living longterm. And I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be looking for an internal transfer or perhaps leaving the company. And that went down a path that I never could have envisioned. So, that was the start of this whole remote work thing.

Scott Dawson:

And I think the third thing is a negative experience that actually turned out to be a positive experience. In the book, I have a chapter about a really bad manager.

Luis:

What? Sorry?

Scott Dawson:

And so, the acronym I use is RBM, really bad manager. I learned so many lessons from a person and don’t fully understand why they managed the way they managed, but they were tyrannical. It was really a negative influence on the team. And I’m grateful to have had the experience because A, it brought me closer to the people I was working with, but B, it really showed me the importance of using empathy when leading.

Scott Dawson:

And you don’t have to be hierarchically above other people to lead. You’re perfectly capable on a team to help lead within the team. And I think, especially when working remotely, especially when our lives are stressed in different directions, whether we’re talking about coronavirus or politics or a change or upheaval, leading with empathy will always take you far.

Luis:

Okay. So, I have a couple of notes on that. First of all, regarding that first conversation that led you down your path in remote work, you started the conversation by being honest, by saying that I think I predict that in the coming months, a lot of people will be in that position, that having had a taste of remote work, they’ll want to keep the arrangement at the time where most businesses, let’s be frank, most businesses will want people back in the office as soon as there’s a vaccine available and COVID isn’t an issue anymore.

Luis:

So, I think that a lot of people will be in a position of having to say to their bosses, “I’d really rather not.” So, number one, can you share a bit more about the details of that story? What was the back and forth between you and your boss like? I think you mentioned that your boss came up with the idea. What was that conversation like? Where do you think he got the idea from? What was this taught process? And B, how would you advise people to manage the conversation with their current bosses in order to avoid returning to the office, if they so choose?

Scott Dawson:

Man, there’s so many different ways to approach answering that question. I love it. So, I think it’s a really different climate to be asking to continue to work remotely. And it’s different in a good way, because I think, again, this depends on everyone’s unique situation. But people have learned that things don’t fall apart when we can’t be together. My team, for example, I would argue probably with a fair amount of consensus with my colleagues, that we are a better team fully remote than we ever were as a hybrid team.

Luis:

Interesting.

Scott Dawson:

My team is composed of people who work on onsite in three different locations. And I was one of the few virtual folks. And now we’re all virtual and it has an effect of leveling the playing field. And everybody has to meet at a certain level of communication, a certain level of fulfilling your commitments because you don’t want to let your teammates down. And there’s no leaning on somebody else physically in the office, right? You are on your own in your own little outposts. Now that said, there are companies and leaders who don’t believe in remote even after this.

Scott Dawson:

And I would argue that if you find that you perform better, you are happier, you’re a better worker when you are remote and you find yourself lining up against the company or a group of folks who don’t believe in it when we’re not suffering under a pandemic, then you are not in the right place. Right?

Scott Dawson:

It’s the same type of argument for any kind of clash. I mean, the number one reason people leave a place is because of a manager. And it might be a disagreement about work style, it might be a disagreement about whether you have perk A, B or C, and one of those is remote work. But I would start looking.

Luis:

Okay.

Scott Dawson:

But I would hope that the experience of the last, almost a year now has taught us that, given the proper environment, remote work can really be great for both parties.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, I mean, you don’t have to convince me. This job is a remote only recruitment agency. So, we definitely believe that, but I do think that many people will be faced with the situation where they will have to justify their staying remote. Right?

Scott Dawson:

Yep.

Luis:

I usually-

Scott Dawson:

Yeah, and-

Luis:

Yeah, please go on.

Scott Dawson:

Sorry, I think to that point, it’s really important. We can talk a little bit about performance management and the importance of quantifying your impact. This is actually the year that I’ve done the most organized effort to quantify my impact. And it’s very simple. It looks like at the end of every week, I sit down and I say, I’m a software developer, so I do things that are quantitative. Like how many code commits did I have? How many features did I implement?

Scott Dawson:

I have non quantitative things like what kind of initiatives did I lead? What kind of projects did I help manage? And at the end of the year, it’s really easy to go through that document that I’ve built up over 52 weeks and say, “Here’s a performance review.” And it turns out to be four to five pages of, “Holy cow, this is what Scott’s impact was over the year.” And the underlying thing is, he did that while he was remote. And it’s no different. It’s no different. The fact that I didn’t walk into an office didn’t enable me to do those things. You know?

Luis:

Yeah, definitely. So, keeping track of what you do, that’s one of the major advices that I give to people as well. And people are usually surprised to find out, or their bosses are more surprised, but even people themselves are usually surprised when they actually account for their productivity, that they actually achieve more when they were remote. They thought they achieved the same, but it was just nicer. But they actually usually achieve more. Right? It’s pretty good.

Luis:

So, I’m curious about that original story. If you don’t think it’s interesting, we can just move on, but I just want to try one more time. Can you go a bit into more detail about what was the conversation like with that first boss that proposed that you work remotely?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah, I mean, the conversation was really simple and short. And I basically was transparent with him about my personal situation. I’m about to get married. What we were finding. We can’t afford real estate where we want to live if I’m going to be commuting to this job. And B, being a global company, there are opportunities to transfer internally.

Scott Dawson:

So, I had in negotiation it’s called your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. The best case for him in my mind was I get to stay with the company, they don’t lose that investment in me and I look for an internal transfer. The worst outcome is, I leave the job because there is no other option.

Scott Dawson:

And he put a third option on the table that, “Have you ever thought about telecommuting, working remotely?” And so, geographically speaking, we ended up moving to the Boston Area where my wife had a teaching job. And so, I was able to support her in her early career by working remotely from a couple of states away and one short plane ride to LaGuardia.

Scott Dawson:

But the conversation itself was really short. There wasn’t more than a day between me walking into his office and then working with HR to be like, “Yeah, we can set this up. If it doesn’t work out for three months, you’ll have to come back. If that’s okay, then we got a plan.”

Luis:

Okay. So this was ’98?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah.

Luis:

I’m pretty sure the term remote work did not exist then. Right?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah.

Luis:

So, did you ever question your boss? Where did he come up with this idea? What was the impetus, I mean, besides wanting to keep you as an employee and keep the company having access to your skills?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. I don’t know where he came up with the idea. I do know that telecommuting, as it was termed at the time, was popular in certain pockets. I was by no means the pioneer but I was in the minority definitely in being somebody at my company who called in every day.

Luis:

Okay. So, moving a bit back, you mentioned a term in your book, a chapter in your book about RBMs, really bad managers. What makes a really bad manager?

Scott Dawson:

I think having a mindset that you have all the answers and not paying much attention to the opinions of others, which manifests as essentially a lack of respect. I know at least I have a really good radar for that. So, I know when I see it. And I also know the opposite when I see it. It’s really refreshing to see people who know how to gather consensus, who know how to make people feel appreciated.

Scott Dawson:

An example is my current manager. He’s really, really good about giving feedback throughout the year. And that’s something that I’ve struggled with throughout my whole career is getting feedback outside of formal performance management cycles. And we’ll have a big meeting and I’ll get feedback. And it could be positive or negative, but I think somebody who seems to have the best interests of their team at heart is a sign of a really good boss.

Luis:

Nice. So, do you think that bad bosses and good bosses are universal, or are there some changes that if a good boss doesn’t make when the business moves from standard to remote, that will make him or her a bad boss?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. So, I think the terms, like many things, there’s a lot of gray areas. We shouldn’t really paint people as either being good or bad. I think what a lot these things boil down to combinations of folks. And whether that combination is a workable combination. So, I think in that case there definitely were people who learned to work really well with RBM. And there were who couldn’t figure it out. And I was one of the latter. I constantly sought counsel with other people on my team with some of his peer managers. I had a matrix relationship and I really couldn’t figure it out.

Luis:

Okay. So, let’s talk a bit about the analogous, a really good manager. You already gave an intro about that, but specifically for remote, right? Let’s think about specifically in a remote work setting, what can make someone that is already a good manager, managing people on site, what are the things that they need to pay attention if they want to keep their level of good management once they transition to remote?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. So, a lot of the skills, either as a worker or a manager, that are necessary when you’re physically with other people, they’re the same skills that you need to be successful when you’re not with other people physically. They’re amplified. And one of the biggest ones is communication.

Scott Dawson:

I like to distill down the competencies for a good manager as being somebody who communicates to the team what is expected. Okay? Goals are clearly articulated. There’s really not a lot of gray area on why we’re doing the things that we’re doing. Right? So, number one, make sure that your team is aligned with what you’re expecting them to do.

Scott Dawson:

Number two, give them the tools that they need to succeed. So, whether those tools are software development tools, whether those tools are training, whether those tools are infrastructure for securely getting into the company or collaborating efficiently with the other people on the team, you give them the tools they need to do the job. So, you’ve got clearly stated goals, you’ve got tools needed to do the job.

Scott Dawson:

And the third is to step back and let your team do their work. That’s a ding right against micromanagement, it’s about not wanting to jump on the playing field and take control of the ball when things start to go a little bit South. You almost have to let your team make some mistakes and that will help your team grow.

Scott Dawson:

And you have to help them recognize what were the mistakes and where were the growth opportunities and learn from it. That’s all about the maturity curve of a growing team. So, yeah, those are the three things.

Luis:

Yeah. I saw a really good analogy about that once. It was in comic book form. It was a drawing. But basically the baseline is that a bad boss, well, not necessarily a bad boss, but a manager that won’t get good results is one that tells their team to, “There’s a river now build the bridge and build the bridge this way.” And the good manager will say, “We need to cross the river. What’s the best way for us to accomplish that?” Right?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah.

Luis:

So, that’s something that stuck to my mind and I just remembered about it when you were saying that. So, let’s talk a bit about the communication. And I guess that helps us cycle a bit to the soft skills that you mentioned before. Now, in my area of work recruitment, one thing that people are being particularly challenged by now is interviewing, right? It seems that people have a bit more of a hard time showcasing their soft skills or more importantly for the employers detecting people’s soft skills over a video call.

Luis:

What do you think about that? How do you think that people, let’s say that you’re interviewing me for a position under you, what are the cues that you’re going to look for to make sure that I have the soft skills necessary to be a good and productive team member?

Scott Dawson:

Wow. Yeah. So, I think there’s a really subjective answer to that because-

Luis:

I know that the cats get me hired. I get hired just on basis of the cats alone, but let’s remove the cats from the equation.

Scott Dawson:

Oh. But the cats would resist, they wouldn’t like that. Yeah. I got to be honest. So, I’ve had two jobs post grad school, so I’ve gone through the interviewing process once. And that was virtual interview first and then an onsite interview. But something about the virtual interview makes them, whoever’s involved in the decision making, they’re like, “Yes, let’s proceed.”

Scott Dawson:

So, you want to get to, “Yes, let’s proceed.” So, you can learn a lot about somebody by having a conversation like this. Right? You’re assessing soft skills. Yes. And our conversation back and forth is letting each of us know what style? Is it really formal? Is it really informal? Are the thought processes cogent?

Scott Dawson:

And then depending on what you’re interviewing for, the topics of conversation like we’re going to steer it toward talking about some design-oriented things or some development-oriented thing. So now, you have to come across as somebody who has competence in their hard skill area.

Scott Dawson:

But ironically, the way you structure your thought process is very much a soft skill. When we talk about communication, you have to be able to tailor what you’re talking about to your audience. So, I’ve learned that I speak very differently to a peer versus a manager versus somebody in the C-suite. You have to meet people where they are or where you think they are. So, looking for some adaptability there as well.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. So, what about written communication? Personally, when I’m hiring, I place a big emphasis in written communication because that’s how I prefer my team to communicate with me. Right? Not necessarily over email, but over Slack as well. I tend to privilege people that write clearly and concisely and aren’t afraid to repeat themselves in order to get the point across clearly. What’s your experience with that? What recommendations would you have?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. So, I enjoy reading some of the reviews of the book. And one of them was that it was a “breezy read”. And actually I liked that. I mean, you could-

Luis:

That’s a really good compliment.

Scott Dawson:

… take that one of two ways, but I like that because I wrote it using a lot of the things that I use in business anyway and in personal life too. You should be able to read something easily and breezily and not fill it with a whole lot of jargon, not fill it with a whole lot of unnecessary words.

Scott Dawson:

So, when I’m writing an email, for example, I use a minimum of words to get the point across. I use precision, I don’t capitulate, I’m very clear about what I expect or what I observe. And then I make it clear what I need. I’m also very big on persistent communication. So, working on a team, working asynchronously, persisting things where other people can access it is really super important.

Scott Dawson:

We use a Wiki-like software at work. And I have built up, with my colleagues, a pretty substantial knowledge base. So things that anybody would need to know and we can’t keep it all in our brain. So, all of those articles, they’re brief, they’re to the point, they’re procedural. And that is very much by design because nobody likes to have to parse something to find out what you really mean to say.

Luis:

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So, let’s talk a bit about your daily routine, if you have one. I mean, obviously you’re a very successful remote worker, very successful at remote work. How has your daily routine evolved over the past 20 years? And what do you do currently? What does your typical day and typical week look like?

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. So, obviously work is front and center, Monday through Friday. I feel bad for remote workers who say they have a problem disconnecting. And it’s easy to say, “Just do it.” But I think if you have a laptop at the kitchen counter, it might be hard to do that. That’s my way of leading into I start work typically sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 and I finish work around 5:00, 5:30. And a lot of that depends on the day and who’s on for dinner prep, what my fitness plans are.

Scott Dawson:

Generally before work, I go for a run. I have a dedicated home office, so when I come in the office, that is a very strong cue that you are at work, sir. So, I open up my laptop, I do my work. I usually take a break for lunch. I think that’s a really, I have a chapter in the book about taking lunch, guarding it, putting it in your calendar.

Scott Dawson:

And now that my whole family is here with me, that’s even more important because it’s a way for us all to connect over a meal in the middle of the day and reset. And then, yeah.

Luis:

Please go on.

Scott Dawson:

No. And at the end of the day, dinner also, I think it’s one of the things that has made my family so well-glued together is that we share meals. We’re sitting down, one or more people have prepared the meal, we talk and then we might go our separate ways to do something in the evening, whether it’s read or do some more fitness. We’re watching TV show as a family. Right? But that’s done to dusk what we’re up to.

Luis:

Nice. Nice. That’s cool. I was wondering about your office. You’ve written before, I’ve read an article of yours about where you talk about your work-from-home office. I actually hadn’t fully realized that you were in your home office because it’s so big. It’s big, it has plants. It feels almost like a living room, right? It’s a small living room. It really is something. Wow. Yeah. So, Scott is showing me his office, he’s giving me the tour. Ladies and gentlemen, I can really… He has a beautiful office. It’s big. It really is. I wish I could have an office like that. Oh and I see the rabbit. Yeah, I can confirm, ladies and gentlemen, Scott has a rabbit on his office.

Scott Dawson:

So this room is interesting. So, when-

Luis:

I can confirm that I’ve seen many offices in my life, but this is the first time I see an office with a rabbit. Well done.

Scott Dawson:

So, when we built this house, we built it with working at home in mind because I’d been doing it while we lived in apartments. And this office room is on the second floor. It has extra insulation in the sidewall that connects to the rest of the house and also extra insulation in the floor. So, I’m a little more insulated than normal rooms from the rest of the house from noise.

Scott Dawson:

And we also wanted it to be a comfortable, modern place. So, I’ve always had an expansive desk, about five feet wide, three feet deep. I haven’t always had a couch in here, but the couch is nice if you want to sit and read something. And there’s a television here that doesn’t go on during the day, but it is where we come as a family to watch movies and stuff. So, it’s the place in the house where we consume media.

Scott Dawson:

But largely it’s just, I spend most of my time here, so I want to make it nice. I want to put things out there that remind me of happy vacations and things that make me smile. I’ve got a lot of Funko Pop characters that I like. I’ve got grumpy to remind me that not everybody has a great day.

Luis:

Grumpy from Snow White. Yeah. Snow White. Right. Okay. Well, it is definitely a lovely office. Let’s move on to some lighter questions. And since we’re talking about your real office, tell me a bit about your virtual office. What are the browser tabs that you have open once you start your day? What are the browser tabs that you have open right now or apps?

Scott Dawson:

Oh, at work? So actually we can talk about technology for a minute, because I think it’s really important. My tech setup has evolved. I’ve always had separate hardware for work. And I recently bought a large, curved monitor, a widescreen monitor and it’s fabulous. It has a KVM switch built into it.

Scott Dawson:

So, I’m able to toggle back and forth between my home computer and my work computer. And I’m only looking at one at a time. And I think that’s really important to maintaining focus. Our phones can pull us away, our personal computers can pull us away from what we’re supposed to be doing. So, I’ve never looked at my work computer as anything but work. So, you’re not going to find any news tabs open, if folks at work surveil what I’m doing, they’re going to be like, “Man, this guy’s really boring. He’s not going to look at anything during the day. He doesn’t do any online shopping. He doesn’t consume any news. He’s totally unaware.”

Luis:

I agree with them. I have to say I do, I 100% agree with that. I do the same thing. I have a desktop computer for entertainment purposes and then I have my Mac laptop for work purposes, which I plug into a second screen. So, I got a bit more real estate than the Mac laptop allows for.

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. So, I won’t share my work tabs because they’re boring. It’s just Atlassian products. But my laptop for personal use, I have a few tabs up here. One is a tab listing. It’s an article from The Atlantic. And it’s listing 25 feel good films you’ll want to watch again.

Luis:

This is definitely important.

Scott Dawson:

Yeah. Tab two, free code camp. I am always learning. I’m very big on continuous learning. And so, free code camp while I can bust through a lot of things with front-end development and design, I’m going into some more advanced topics there. And then the third tab is Smashing Magazine pitch your writing. So, I write about technology on my own personal blog. I’ve done some projects with Winter that I’m really proud of, and I’m going to pitch a story to Smashing Magazine.

Luis:

Good luck with that.

Scott Dawson:

And those are my three tabs.

Luis:

Routing for you.

Scott Dawson:

Yeah.

Luis:

So, if you had one a hundred dollars to spend with each person working with you, with each of your colleagues, what would you give them, and specifically to improve their work, their productivity or work-life balance or that kind of thing.

Scott Dawson:

Yeah, I would give them an Ember coffee mug. So, Ember tech make a coffee mug that keeps your coffee, your tea at the right temperature. It’s got a companion app that lets you set the temperature, a target temperature, and it’ll ding you when it’s the right temperature, whether it needs to cool it down or warm it up. And then it charges on its coaster. So, I haven’t had a swallow of lukewarm coffee since I got the mug and it’s the most fabulous hundred dollars I ever spent.

Luis:

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Great recommendation. Never heard of it. I will check it out. So, removing that Ember mug and the rabbit, what purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year?

Scott Dawson:

My monitor. My monitor. Having screen real estate is such a huge differentiator. I used to have just a fixed 19 inch monitor and now this thing is like 34 inches wide and curved and extends my laptop monitor and it’s just, I can have everything open. I don’t like switching back and forth. I like being able to see everything at once.

Luis:

Do you think the brand is important or is it just a matter of size?

Scott Dawson:

I think month by month technology changes so fast, this is a Phillips model. I got it on Amazon. I’m a big fan of the New York Times Wirecutter site where they give recommendations. But it’s funny, in coronavirus times, whenever anybody starts really wanting something, most of the recommendations are out of stock. So, you have to do a little bit of research. I think by the time people listen to this, there might be some better things out there, 4K video of certainly consideration. This is not 4K monitor. But yeah, I would say get the best that you can afford at the time you buy and you can’t go wrong.

Luis:

All right. Good advice. I agree with that advice. So, what about books? What book or books have you gifted the most?

Scott Dawson:

Oh man. I actually am not in charge of giving books as gifts. My wife does that. The people we do it for are the teachers in our kids’ lives. And I’m not going to be able to pull out a book-

Luis:

Sure. So, tell me about influences.

Scott Dawson:

Oh, actually I do have one. I do have one. It’s Lost Connections. Have you read this book?

Luis:

No. What’s it about?

Scott Dawson:

So, Lost Connections is a book by Johann Hari. And it is about depression and it is absolutely fabulous.

Luis:

All right.

Scott Dawson:

Just to amplify that a little bit. I think a lot of the things about remote work that make remote work tough, things like depression, and loneliness, and isolation, nobody really likes to talk about them for the reasons that they’re uncomfortable things. And I think they might be perceived as revealing flaws that you have.

Scott Dawson:

I’ve had moments where I’ve been depressed and felt really isolated. Right? And I think the thing that got me out of those situations is talking about them with other people. So, reading Johann’s book, Lost Connections, is something that helped validate that process that I had gone through. And it really is a great exposition on the topic.

Luis:

Nice. You tied it nicely with remote work. Well done. Well done. So, we move on to the final question. This one requires a bit of a longer setup. So bear with me, but let’s say that you are hosting a dinner, and attending that there are the top decision makers at the biggest tech companies around the world, right?

Luis:

We’re talking about CEOs, CTOs, hiring managers, et cetera. The people that will decide the future of work. Now, the round table will be specifically about remote work, the round table at the dinner. And here’s the twist, because you are the host and the dinner happens at the Chinese restaurant, you get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookies. So, what is your fortune cookie message?

Scott Dawson:

Oh, that’s awesome. That’s a nice twist on Tim Ferriss’s closing question about if you could put anything on a billboard, what would you put there?

Luis:

Yeah, I love that, but I can’t rip it off or Tim Ferriss will sue the hell out of me. So, I had to go with elaborate scheme.

Scott Dawson:

We don’t want litigation. And plus, I think the fortune cookie wrapper makes the message all the sweeter. I would want to say something simple. Connect, do not divide. Something along the lines of countering the divisiveness. You set it up by saying that we have people who are in charge of tech companies, which leads to, they’re in charge of the platforms that we rely on to connect us while we’re virtual. Whether we’re virtual from our aunt who lives in the next community or our friend who lives halfway around the world.

Scott Dawson:

And as well-intended as a lot of these platforms were, I think they’ve actually served to help divide us even more than ever. And I would like to find ways using the influence that those folks have to connect us as a society and not divide us as a society. And I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t know that that was the intent, but everything has consequences. Right?

Luis:

Yeah.

Scott Dawson:

So yeah.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a really great point to end on. So, thank you so much for that fortune cookie message. Sounds good. We should go with it.

Scott Dawson:

Excellent.

Luis:

So, Scott, it was an absolute pleasure having you. I hope that the listeners will want to continue the conversation with you. So, where can they find you, where can they find more about you? Where can they continue the conversation with you?

Scott Dawson:

Absolutely. So, as a remote worker, every Wednesday, I moderate a remote chat on Twitter. My working remotely handle on Twitter is workingREM. My personal handle though is a great way to get in touch with me @ScottPDawson on Twitter. And then also I have my personal website at scottpdawson.com.

Luis:

Okay. And of course, don’t forget to check out theartofworkingremotely.com and the accompanying book. I will have those links on the show notes. Scott, it was an absolute pleasure having you. Thank you so much for being here.

Scott Dawson:

Likewise. Thank you for having me.

Luis:

It was my pleasure. Ladies and gentlemen, this was The DistantJob podcast, the podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week. And 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 convinced 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 get to have more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast. Click on the, your favorite episodes, any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episodes up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent.

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 standard. And with that, I bid you adios. See you next week on the next episode.

 

More ways to listen:

Leading remote teams requires a different set of skills and strategies. Many leaders had to change their approaches when they found themselves leading a virtual team instead of an on-site team.

During this episode, Scott Dawson shares his journey being a remote worker for more than 20 years. He reveals the main lessons he learned by leading remote teams and being led by other managers (both good and bad). He explains that one of the key skills for successful remote leadership is being empathic and caring about your team.

 

Highlights:

  • Leading your virtual team with empathy
  • His path towards working remotely
  • How to quantify your impact as a leader
  • Characteristics of a RBM (Really bad manager)
  • The three keys to being a successful remote leader

 

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!