Trust and Connection with Stephan Dohrn

Stephan Dohrn is one of the co-founders of Radical Inclusion, a remote consulting firm, and a prolific writer.

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Luis M.: Greetings ladies and gentlemen. This is once again Luis with the Staff it Right podcast. A podcast by Distant Job about how to build and manage remote teams who win, and today my guest is Stephan Dohrn. Stephan has been involved in remote work for over 10 years now, and in to 2009, he co founded Radical Inclusion, which is a training and consulting firm with a completely remote team, and what Radical Inclusion does is they help other remote teams with the focus on the individual improve their productivity.

Luis M.: As you listen to Stephan, you’ll see that he’s already figured out answers to a lot of the challenges that remote workers and remote teams face, and he lives the life himself. He lives in Brazil with his lovely wife and two children. He’s not just some talking head who’s coming with this from a purely theoretical angle.

Luis M.: He does it, he’s helped hundreds of people do it, and now he’s here to share that knowledge with you and help you and your team hopefully do it as well. Here are a few highlights.

Stephan D.: The team is only as good as each of the members in a way. If your team members have trouble dealing with that flexibility that remote work gives you and with the amount of autonomy that you have, the whole team is going to suffer.

Luis M.: Stephan makes a great point about setting your expectations of your employees which is don’t have expectations. Instead make an agreement with them.

Stephan D.: If you expect people to share with you their progress, it’s just a recipe for disaster in the sense that you’re going to feel disappointed all the time. Whereas when you make an agreement with them and discuss what works for them and for you, you have something concrete that you can actually then enforce, so that you can say, “We agreed on this. Why doesn’t it work?”

Luis M.: Before the end, Stephan shares with us one of the most powerful lessons he learned in his over 10 years of practice with remote teams. The power of connection.

Stephan D.: You really have to be in connection with people and build relationships for them to want to work with you. Not because you are their boss and you can tell them what they have to do now, but because you create something together.

Luis M.: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Stephan Dohrn.

Luis M.: Hello everyone. This is Luis once again with the Staff it Right podcast. A podcast by Distant Job, and today joining us is Stephan Dohrn. Stephan, welcome.

Stephan D.: Welcome Luis. Thanks for having me.

Luis M.: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. I’ve already explained to our listeners what you do, and I’m very excited to have you hear because it’s the first time that I’m having someone who specializes in teaching people how to work remote, and of course, our podcast is directed at people managing and building remote teams. I guess that the perfect way to start is to simply ask you, when did you have the realization that this was something that you needed to be doing?

Stephan D.: I think I slithered into it. Almost 15 years ago I started a job at a research institute and my boss was telecommuting. Ever since then I’ve been working as part of a remote team, and because we were coordinating … or she still does, but together we were coordinating a network of researchers from all over the world. 400 or 500 people in the network.

Stephan D.: We started experimenting with different tools to get more engagement, to give people more meaningful ways of participating, and at the time the tools weren’t that great so we really relied a lot on face-to-face workshops, and conferences, and meeting in transit. You had these ways of finding out who’s traveling where, and then, “Ah, let’s meet. We’re both in Amsterdam around that time. Let’s meet.”

Luis M.: Wow. The time before Skype.

Stephan D.: Exactly. Skype started becoming a tool actually in 2004 or 5, right?

Luis M.: Yeah, I think so. Wasn’t that good though, to be honest. I remember using it early on. It’s much better now.

Stephan D.: No. Exactly. At the time I also did a lot of group facilitation and then when I left my job there I started out as a workshop facilitator, and as life happens a few connections of mine, friends and acquaintances, started with the idea of, “Let’s organize a fully virtual conference on virtual collaboration,” and we really enjoyed working on that. After the conference was over … we had a about 100 people. It was mostly chat based because the voice over IP, that was 2009, didn’t manage to hold this many people yet without crashing.

Luis M.: How many people were there? Sorry to interrupt but how many?

Stephan D.: Well the first one was 50 or 60.

Luis M.: Wow.

Stephan D.: And then we did this three or four years in a row and in the end we had around 100, 120 people always, and we would do starting and closing sessions in chats. Everybody would write, “Where am I from?” And you would see popping up city names left and right in the chat. It got really dynamic even though it was only chat.

Luis M.: Wow.

Stephan D.: That was really fun.

Luis M.: Good.

Stephan D.: We had so much fun we wanted to work on it. We said, “Let’s see if there’s a market.” Little by little we got in to, “Oh, there are a lot people who are actually working remotely as teams and they don’t really know how to do that.” We figured out how to help them, how to do better meetings. Coming from the facilitation side that was a natural, and then we got more and more also in to to leadership.

Stephan D.: To go back to your question, there wasn’t really this one moment where I said, “Oh, there is this market and I want to do that.” It was really just born out of necessity in one job and then an opportunity presented itself and I grabbed it.

Luis M.: Wow. Alright. You bring me back to having so many people over voice over IP. I remember doing that in 2006 and the secret weapon was called Team Speak because that’s what people in World of Warcraft used to [crosstalk 00:07:28]-

Stephan D.: Oh yeah.

Luis M.: … and for some reason these crazy video game dudes, they came up with a way to put 40 people talking in the room. It was insane. They did it before anyone else.

Stephan D.: That is amazing. Yeah, it is.

Luis M.: Exactly. Exactly, it is. After that … That was pretty early. I think that makes you a pioneer for remote work somewhat. That was pretty early, and you talked about leadership. What did you figure out were the necessities of leadership in that situation?

Stephan D.: I think it resumes very well in the work connection. First of all, I think that a lot of the stuff that is taught on leadership in business schools for the last 10, 15 or more years is actually still very valid. You want to be a leader who is supportive of his people, who creates the circumstances and the conditions for his or her people to thrive. The reality does look different because in a lot of organizations we still have command and control type cultures, but what it taught in leadership courses is actually really valid. Now with remote you just have to apply it because otherwise people punish you by being distant. They just disappear, “Oh, I didn’t see your email. The connection is bad, we can’t have this call right now.” You really have to be in connection with people and build relationship for them to want to work with you. Not because you are their boss and you can tell them what they have to do now, but because you create something together.

Luis M.: Great. I really want to get back to that idea of command and control because I was reading some of your works, and you did mention that. That that doesn’t work remotely, but I really wanted … It’s not an expression that I’m familiar with. Can you just define it for our listeners please, and explain why doesn’t it really work in a remote environment.

Stephan D.: Command and control refers to very hierarchical structure. Some of the early organizations were very much built on hierarchy. Position in the hierarchy determines whether you can give orders or not. The most important decisions are taken at the top and then they trickle down until somebody has to execute them, and how do you know that that person executed it? You control what they do, you control how they work, and what they work on at what time. It’s like the production sites of car production or whatever. A lot of places still work like that. You know exactly what your worker’s going to do at what point in time, and you can control that.

Luis M.: Okay.

Stephan D.: That would be command, control. Why doesn’t it work? Well, because a lot of the remote work is … first of all, it’s the nature of work that we do remotely. Manage work, creative work where it’s not easy to just say that person has to produce 10 ideas per hour. It just doesn’t work that way. We just can’t control that that easy. That’s the one part, and the other part is, if I command too much that person is just going to find … In the complex systems that a lot of organizations have today, for example, you’re in the matrix. You have a local boss, and you have your topical boss. Let’s say you are in global sales team, and your sales boss sits in the U.S., and you sit in Europe, and the person that decides whether you get the bonus or not is your European boss. If your sales boss is somebody you don’t like working with, you just don’t because they can’t even do anything about it. Command doesn’t work either anymore.

Luis M.: I expect they could fire you.

Stephan D.: Oh yeah, but then the two bosses have to concur.

Luis M.: There you go.

Stephan D.: It’s much more complex than it used to be.

Luis M.: Yeah, fair enough. When you have people … because this has happened to me. I’ve actually faced a couple of people that weren’t sure of remote work and one of them, what he argued against remote work was that, “I really like to control, to fully control, to manage my people every day, and to be on top of them,” He said, “When you’re talking with someone that really has that ingrained, that really has the management mentality ingrained what does the conversation look like?

Stephan D.: Tough question.

Luis M.: I know.

Stephan D.: I think you just have to take it to a higher level, and that is what performance can you expect from somebody who has to work in such an atmosphere and culture, and to show them, and by now there are lots of different research projects, and people dedicated to that is showing that the more secure the people are, and the more they can be themselves, especially when they are in creative jobs, the better they are going to perform, and control systems just make me insecure. I’m always in fear, and I’m always protecting myself with armor, and when I put on my armor I can’t have that many ideas, and I can’t have that many good ideas. I think I would try and take it from that angle. Do you really want to help your people be high performers, and then you’re only bet is to change your culture, and to work on trusting them instead of controlling them.

Luis M.: Okay. I think that’s a good answer. That’s a good way to sell it. Doing it as a win win, because it really is.

Stephan D.: That doesn’t make it easy for that boss to change because he will have to change quite a bit.

Luis M.: And that’s never easy. That’s never easy. I agree. I want to shift gears a bit because I know that you’ve written in the past that tools really aren’t the most important thing. It’s how we use it, it’s the culture, and I completely agree with that, but it caught my eye, a couple of articles that you wrote about setting up your work environment. For example, you talked about going to a co-working space instead of working in the house [inaudible 00:14:52] children. I don’t have children but I can relate because I have a very childlike cat. How would you advise your employees or would you advise the manager to help his employees set up a shared office or any other work environment really. What are the key points about a good work environment for remote work?

Stephan D.: I think it starts … and that goes back to picking the right tools. When we advise people on how to pick tools we start with what is it that you actually need as an individual or as a team, and I think with the workspace it’s the same. What type of work do you have to do? What are the things that … Is it okay to be disrupted for example, or do you need … Is the nature of your work such that you have to have 2-3 hour blocks at a time where you really can concentrate, work in a concentrated way without being interrupted at all. That would be a first question I would ask. What’s the nature of my work, and what type of environment does that require? If it requires me being a lot alone, then as a boss I would encourage my people to find a space where they are alone. If that’s at home then great, work from home. Do the deep work that you need to do where you can do it best.

Stephan D.: If I have a team that has to constantly be in contact because they’re constantly working together, co-creating together, probably something like an open space type workspace would work really well because they can be in contact constantly. For others it’s just a nightmare to be in an open space because they get disrupted every five, six seconds by some noise or by something else. The nature of work is one thing.

Stephan D.: One thing that’s really not on the same level, but it’s something that comes up again and again is do you actually have the right hardware to work well, and connection? I’m always amazed when we start working in companies how many people don’t have good headsets. I shouldn’t be talking because I’m to you using a cellphone headset here, but there’s a lot of people who don’t have any. They use their speaker and then they’re sitting in an open space with a lot of background noise and it’s really hard to hear. They have really trouble hearing. Do you have these kinds of tools; a good computer-

Luis M.: Definitely, definitely. I can definitely relate to that. Okay.

Stephan D.: … and other than that I think that’s all really the basics. Is to think about where do I do my best work, and what is it that I need to do, and then have the basic tools, and then software is a question of what do I actually do. Not everybody needs storage, not everybody needs that.

Luis M.: Absolutely, and obviously for most people, working while sipping margarita’s at the beach isn’t really how they’re going to focus the most on their work, but some people might.

Stephan D.: If you do have a lot of creative stuff to do and that’s what inspires you, then that might be the place you need to be.

Luis M.: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely. Can definitely relate. To me a big part of my work happens during walks actually, and one of my previous guests always say the same thing. I guess that power walks help.

Stephan D.: Power walks do help a lot for me as well. How do you capture your ideas?

Luis M.: I used to just put a notebook in my pocket, small pocket notebook and a pen, but I found this really nice IOS app, which is [Bearapp 00:19:17], which is like a minimalistic version of [Evernote 00:19:20], and it tends to work really well. A couple of finger swipes and I capture an idea while I’m walking and then I’m off on my walk. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool, and that’s a good point. Good recommendation for anyone because when I don’t take notes when I’m out on a walk, once I get back the ideas are gone. I think I’m sure that in 30 minutes I’ll remember this. Not happening.

Stephan D.: No, because then there’s new ideas coming.

Luis M.: Yeah, of course.

Stephan D.: What I started to experiment with is the dictation function in the phone. I just got really frustrated at the beginning because it just wouldn’t write what I was saying, but now that I’ve trained it a little bit it’s gotten much better, and that really helps because when you type you have to stop your walk, whereas when you walk you can just hold your phone to your thing and just talk.

Luis M.: Yeah. I was-

Stephan D.: Voice memos can also work really well.

Luis M.: I don’t know if you’ve tried it, but I was impressed with how good the voice recognition in the google keyboard was.

Stephan D.: Cool.

Luis M.: Obviously it’s native on android, but you can also get it for the iPhone, and you just press the space bar and it says speak and it gets me quite well. It puts it to text. I guess that google is just spying on me all the time to know what I sound like.

Stephan D.: Probably.

Luis M.: Probably.

Stephan D.: You do that in English or in Portuguese?

Luis M.: It works both languages. It’s incredible.

Stephan D.: Nice.

Luis M.: Yeah.

Stephan D.: Because that’s one of the things for me, the keyboard is in the wrong language and it just starts gargling stuff, but those are the types of things that I think is another point that I think is important is a lot of the stuff there is no real consensus yet on how you do things. Remote work, even though it is already over 10 years, it’s still very much an experimentation-

Luis M.: Definitely.

Stephan D.: … of what works for me and what doesn’t, and maybe in 10 years we’re going to have some more common practices but at this point we’re still experimenting a lot.

Luis M.: Yeah. I can give you an example, and actually I’d like to hear your opinion, if you felt this. For the longest time we worked at our company, at distant job, and we recommended Slack just because that was the standard. Slack, it’s great software, but to me and to some people in my team was very distracting. It was very distracting to always see who was online, and that it was very easy to reach someone. It constantly broke our day, broke our flow. We since switched back to Basecamp, which still has chat, but it’s less visible, and it’s less intrusive, and it works better for us. Have you felt something like this before with regarding the team?

Stephan D.: We’ve also helped a few nonprofits implement Slack and that’s one of the feedbacks we get is that it’s getting too much. One answer is find a better tool that works better for you. If you’ve found that one, great. What we help people do a lot is to try and institute what we call gardening routines. Ways of reorganizing your space. It started out with Vicky’s. Vicky’s can get really, really messy after awhile. Especially when a lot of people start editing in them and then somebody has to just go in and take some editorial decisions and move things around so you get a new structure again, and a space like Slack, it’s the same. It gets too much so you have to just take decision to … Maybe we need to close some channels or we need to break this down in to several channels so that I don’t have to be in the 50 conversations that don’t have anything to do with me. Help people figure out how to set notifications in a way that doesn’t every two seconds something pops up. It’s taking care of the space in terms of structure and process.

Luis M.: I like the gardening.

Stephan D.: That can go a long way.

Luis M.: I like the gardening metaphor. It’s a good metaphor for that. Since we’re on to gardening, I wonder, how do you reconcile different approaches to work within the team and I’ll give you a specific example, which is for example, I’m very systematic. I do task lists for everything, and set deadlines for everything, but then there are very creative people who just feel like they have an intuitive grasp of the work they are doing, and I personally, when I’m managing find hard to track them. It’s not that I don’t think that they don’t work because I think that trust is a prerequisite for a remote team, but sometimes I find it hard to get an idea of where they are, and I don’t want to go in to the Slack prep of just me poking them all the time to know how things are. Definitely, how do you reconcile the people that are organized with task lists and deadlines, and the people that are just, “I’m going to do my work and focus on my work, and the work will be done when it needs to be done.”

Stephan D.: We’ve had a similar thing with a project where they wanted to apply [Agile 00:25:35] to a nondevelopment project, and a lot of the people are used to doing their work without sharing what they’re working on, but Agile lives from status updates. If you don’t regularly share what’s the point, and then there the discussion was also how much do we need to share and when, and in what periodicity? I think it boils down making an agreement. I recently discovered the distinction between expectation and agreement. If you expect people to share with you their progress it’s just a recipe for disaster in the sense that you’re going to feel disappointed all the time. Especially when they’re not with the same style you have. Whereas when you make an agreement with them and discuss what works for them and for you, you have something concrete that you can actually then enforce, so that you can say, “We agreed on this. Why doesn’t it work? Do we need to change what we agreed on or do you just need to honor that agreement, or me in that case, and you could also be us that infringe on the agreement, but it gives both parties a way of bringing up the topic without it being this annoying “Here he comes again with his to do list,” or, “Here he comes again with his intuition.”

Luis M.: Yeah.

Stephan D.: And then both just have to let go of perfect system for themselves. That’s just the nature of collaboration I think.

Luis M.: [inaudible 00:27:23] happy.

Stephan D.: Exactly. Yeah. I think of what works for the team. Not what works for me, but what works for the team. You have to produce something together, how can you do that best? What takes care of all needs that are there.

Luis M.: Definitely. I agree with you there, because obviously the team should have a unified goal. At the same time different people in the team have different functions, and the way that that one works can affect what the other one needs to accomplish in their work. It’s a complex interlocked machine. Compromise is essential. Hence, me talking about health happy, but I do like the concept of the agreement versus the expectation. Was that what you said?

Stephan D.: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Luis M.: How do you as a manager act towards your employees so that they feel that you’re approachable and that they can come to you saying, “The way we’re running Scrum isn’t really working for me,” or, “I feel like I’m getting too many notifications. This setup isn’t working. Let’s change something.” How do you let people know that you’re available to have those conversations, and then how do you act on them?

Stephan D.: I think first of all, me personally, my businesses are set up in a way that I don’t really have employees. I have partners I work with, and other consultants. There’s never this hierarchical difference of me boss, you the person executing.

Luis M.: Fair enough, but how would you advise someone, because-

Stephan D.: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just wanted to say that this is based on my view as a consultant and not necessarily as a manager.

Luis M.: Okay.

Stephan D.: For me, it really is in the team culture. It’s not in one saying it’s okay to come to you, but it’s really living that and bringing up the things, and having an intuition of they don’t seem to be happy with this, and then asking, “I feel you’re not really there yet. What is it that’s disturbing you?” And maybe it has nothing to do with work, and they’ll share, “I just slept badly and I’m not in a good mood,” or maybe they’ll say, “Yeah. This process that we have is really not working for me.” It’s really up to the manager to bring these things up if they feel that the employees are not happy but are not voicing it. If you do that for awhile they’ll start bringing up the things themselves is my experience. It’s just leading by example in a way that you are exposing yourself to be wrong. You say, “I have the feeling that something’s wrong,” and they might tell you, “No, everything’s fine,” and then you sit there and you think wrong intuition, but if it doesn’t feel great, but I think that’s what you have to do to get them to open up.

Luis M.: Yeah. I also think that a lot of times it’s about keeping at it, because most people won’t tell you the first time you ask. A default answer. You meet someone every day, “How do you do? Are you fine?” Inside the person is a wreck, is a complete total mess, but it’s like, “You know what? I’m not going to talk about my problems. That’s not the socially acceptable that you do.”

Stephan D.: The other thing I said earlier also, when you were asking about leadership, connection. I think if you have a regular way of connecting with the person, and not just talk about the next task that has to be done, but talk about how they are as a person, if everything’s fine, if anything needs to be adapted for them to be more productive, et cetera. If you do that in a regular way they’re going to start telling you the real issues as well.

Luis M.: Yeah.

Stephan D.: Not just when there’s a problem.

Luis M.: That’s a great jumping point, because I’ve heard you talk about social meetings, which from what I understand from what you’ve talked previously are just meetings that you set up with your teams just to shoot the breeze, to talk a bit, et cetera, and it’s the first time I’ve heard about that concept, so thank you very much for letting me know about something new, but second, it really clashes with something I’ve adopted very dearly near to me, which is Seth Goldman’s rule that the only good meeting is the meeting you don’t have. That’s a very large shift in [inaudible 00:32:31] can be. I guess that’s what I want to ask you. What is the value that you see in the meeting that doesn’t even have an agenda besides just people talking and how is this productive versus, at least what I feel is a modern approach, which is let’s do as little meetings as possible?

Stephan D.: I think in terms of the task focused meetings I would agree, let’s do as little meetings as possible. The reality in most companies is that people jump from one call to the other nowadays.

Luis M.: Yeah.

Stephan D.: You are in a call and you get to the top of the [inaudible 00:33:19], but I have to leave now because I have another call.

Luis M.: I’m an introvert, I am, more it’s like I have a call, and then I go sit in a corner softly weeping myself for 15 minutes.

Stephan D.: You built in those breaks already.

Luis M.: Exactly.

Stephan D.: Great, and they are not productive at all. A lot of these meetings you could actually scrap by implementing better processes, by doing things [inaudible 00:33:47], by communicating better through other means. Why are we bringing up this idea of the social meetings? When we shift from face to face or co-located work to virtual work you loose a lot of the social interaction you have almost naturally, organically in a co-located office setting. I will meet you in the corridor, I’ll meet you, I’ll go for lunch with my colleagues, I have a coffee, I’ll see you after work for happy hour, we’ll get early to the meeting room and we’ll have a chat of, “It’s been a long time I’ve seen you. How are your kids,” et cetera or, “How’s your cat?” And we don’t have that in virtual meetings. We jump in to the meetings, “Okay, what’s the agenda? Let’s go,” and then we work through the agenda and we leave, and we have no clue how the other person on the other end of the video, or of the voice line is doing, whether they’re having a good day or a bad day, whether something important is happening in their family, and it means that because I don’t know the context anymore it’s really hard for me to judge whether that person is just really critical with me and what I said, or whether they’re just in a bad mood for example.

Stephan D.: You get in to misunderstandings that have nothing to do with the work. It’s just because I’m misinterpreted some person who was grumpy that particular day as they’re always criticizing me, and it becomes a conflict that had no basis at all. The social meetings are actually doing that. They’re supposed to help people to get to know the context of the other person. It’s not about we have to be best friends in the office, but we know what’s going on in the other peoples lives. We know what their troubles are, what they’re dealing with, and in that way we can much better judge whether it’s a good moment to bring up a specific topic with them or not. Maybe the meeting wasn’t as productive but I know that they’re going through a tough phase so it’s okay. That’s basically the reasoning behind the social meetings.

Stephan D.: The other part, it just builds relationships. The stronger our relationship the easier it is to trust each other, and the more we trust each other the less we need control, and a lot of processes that are just taking a lot of time.

Luis M.: When you’re working with your clients how do you usually suggest they implement this? What’s the script that they’re going to tell their employees. We’re going, “Hey, we’re scheduling a meeting to hang out.” Something like that?

Stephan D.: No. Actually, where I would start at is starting the meeting with a round of how are you doing? A check in into the meeting. People just can be able to arrive. You’ve just gone through probably two or three hours of meetings and now you’re in the fourth meeting and you’re supposed to just switch in your head to the new topic and move. If you institute something, either going around the room and say, “How’s the day been today?” Or, “How are you feeling right now?” Or whatever. I would start not by doing separate social meetings, but by adding a round of how are we doing at the beginning of our normal meetings.

Luis M.: Okay.

Stephan D.: What it does, it helps you to arrive at the meeting as we jump from one meeting to another and our heads not always there fast enough, and it creates a possibility for us to say how today is a really horrible day, bare with me, or today something amazing happened and I’m really excited, et cetera, et cetera, and it just tells people about the context, what I was just talking about. That’s an easy way to start the meeting with a five minute round of everybody saying two or three words about how they are, or how their day has been so far, or something like that.

Luis M.: Okay.

Stephan D.: And then I would start doing a party. We have Christmas parties, and we do things for birthdays when we’re in a physical office space, why not do that with our team.

Luis M.: Yeah. I agree with you. We actually celebrate birthdays here.

Stephan D.: Yeah. Cool.

Luis M.: Yeah. It’s nice.

Stephan D.: Those are social gatherings that are pretty natural that nobody has to explain much, and you just start with these kinds of things that are easy to do, and then if you realize it’s enough that’s great, and if it’s not enough you just do more.

Luis M.: Alright. Cool. I’m going to try to start introducing that. You’ve told me about, it was when you did that conference with all the people it was 2009, was that it?

Stephan D.: Yeah.

Luis M.: Yeah. That’s a long time ago. What do you feel was … I guess this is a loaded question because there’s probably more than one, but if you had to pick one biggest lesson that you learned from advising remote teams what would you say?

Stephan D.: I think my biggest lesson is something that led me to start working less with teams and more with individuals and that is that the team is only as good as each of the members. If your team members have trouble dealing with that flexibility that remote work gives you, and with the amount of autonomy that you have, the whole team is going to suffer. You really need to make sure that it’s not just about having the right tools and knowing the processes, but it’s also that if I’m working from home there’s all these … it’s just not my work context so I don’t have the same structure. I might not even put on proper work clothes in the morning but I’ll just stay in something more comfortable, and then the fridge is right there, or I can just go over and watch that Netflix series because nobody’s watching me. I’m not saying that remote workers do that, but there is this temptation, and-

Luis M.: Some do. I might have done that once or twice. Again, it’s like WOW. Sometimes work happens while you’re watching that Netflix series for-

Stephan D.: No, I’m not saying that you can’t have that flexibility, but it just means you have to be disciplined in other ways.

Luis M.: Absolutely.

Stephan D.: And when you take away the structure and the discipline that the office gives you, you have to be able to deal with that and know how to use that freedom in a good way that you don’t overwork, because there’s a lot of people that then start working 12 hour days because they don’t go away from work, they’re just always at work, and the on the other hand, you have people who just slack a lot because nobody’s controlling them, and they can’t deal with that, they don’t stay as productive. It usually ends up them losing their jobs, but it has an effect on the team. I think that’s the biggest lesson I learned is that you can work as much as you want on processes and make agreements within the team. If the individual team members can’t organize themselves and take responsibility for themselves and their share that whole thing won’t work.

Luis M.: Alright. Okay. That’s really good. Let’s get off track a bit and ask you something different. Do you enjoy Chinese food? Have you had some fortune cookies?

Stephan D.: I live in Brazil. There’s not too many Chinese restaurants.

Luis M.: Okay.

Stephan D.: But I do enjoy it from time to time. I know what fortune cookies are.

Luis M.: Okay. Here’s my question. If you were hosting a dinner at the Chinese restaurant, and you were the guy deciding the message that went in to the fortune cookies, and you knew that the people dining were CEOs and CTOs of tech companies that were contemplating remote work and how to manage your remote teams what would be written in the fortune cookie?

Stephan D.: You should get ready for the future of work.

Luis M.: Okay. That sounds fortune cookie ish. Well done. Stephan, I do think that … First of all, thank you for doing the job that you do because look, these are struggles that I see everyone facing all the time. It’s great that there is someone devoting themselves to help people get better at this whole remote work thing from the individual perspective and from the managing perspective, and people do need your help. Let people who are listening to this know how they can get your help.

Stephan D.: I think the easiest way to find me is to go to my website, it’s www.sdohrn.com, and there you’ll find links to my work with individuals, my coaching work, as well as to my company where we work with remote teams such as called Radical Inclusion.

Luis M.: Okay. All of those links will also be in show notes. Stephan, it was a pleasure. I enjoyed our conversation immensely. Thank you so much for participating.

Stephan D.: Thank you for inviting me. I enjoyed it a lot as well, and I have to give the same congratulations that you made to me back, I’m very glad that there are more and more initiatives like yours coming up, and I know you’ve been working on this for years already, to make remote work a really bigger part of how we work and live.

Luis M.: Okay, thank you very much, and thank you for being here. It was a pleasure, and see you around.

Stephan D.: It was a pleasure.

Luis M.: And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Stephan Dohrn from Radical Inclusion. Of course you can always visit the show notes to find exactly how you can get in touch with Stephan. As for us, I have to thank you once again for your support, for your continuing support through the sharing and reviewing of the podcast in social networks and in the podcast providers such as iTunes. It really is wonderful, it’s very encouraging, and it helps us get to more listeners so please keep at it. If you think this episode was worth your time, if you enjoyed it please leave a review, please share it with someone who you think will enjoy it. That’s it for today. I was Luis on the Staff It Right podcast, and remember, if you are building a business and you need to staff it right, come talk to us at bestinjob.com.

More ways to listen:

In this episode of the StaffITRight podcast, we talk to Radical Inclusion’s Stephan Dohrn. Stephan has been helping remote teams do their best work for over a decade, and his experience has led him to focus on each individual as the building blocks of a top-performing remote team.

In our conversation, we talk about building trust, connection, responsibility, and accountability, among many other things. All without ever stepping foot in the office.

As always, if you enjoy the podcast, we humbly ask that you leave a review on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice – and if you could share it, that would be even better!

Need that one incredible employee to bolster your team?  Get in touch and we’ll find you who you need.