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May 10, 2024

A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Leading a Remote Team From Afar | Creating Culture and Having Fun Together

Are you struggling to create a vibrant culture within your remote team?

In today’s episode, Eric Dingler, a seasoned digital nomad entrepreneur, shares his insights on how to cultivate a thriving remote team culture, regardless of your team’s size. With the rise of remote work, mastering the art of leading a remote team is essential for long-term success. Dingler explores the nuances of remote team dynamics and provides actionable strategies to foster connection, engagement, and productivity among team members, even in the absence of physical proximity.

Gain clarity on the six types of company cultures and discover which one aligns best with your remote team’s values and goals.
Learn four key principles to build and sustain a strong team culture, including fostering a sense of mission, effective communication strategies, focusing on results over micromanagement, and leading with courage.
Explore creative team-building activities and initiatives that promote camaraderie, connection, and a shared sense of purpose among remote team members.

Ready to unlock the full potential of your remote team and cultivate a thriving company culture from anywhere in the world? Tune in to the episode now for actionable insights and strategies.

PLUS: This week’s leadership tip of the week: The Core of Leadership is Coaching

Full Transcript

Eric Dingler: There’s no doubt about it. Creating and leading a remote team is got some challenges to it that you don’t face when you bring a team together in one place. However, though, come to think of it as somebody who’s led both in-person teams and virtual teams, both types of teams have pros and cons. And at the end of the day, I think they completely neutralize each other. And I don’t think one way is better or worse than the other. I know that’s not a popular opinion with a lot of people, but I just don’t see it because it all comes down to the leader creating a company culture. So how do you create a remote team culture and lead it from afar that has people wanting to stay with you for the long haul? Let’s talk about that in this episode. My name’s Eric Dingler. I’m a full time digital nomad entrepreneur, traveling around the world with my wife and kids. And I am so thankful to have you here listening today to this podcast episode. Now, I talked a little bit about remote teams with some guest with Tim in one episode and Stephanie another. Those were back in episodes seven and eight. But today I want to focus on leading the team to achieve a culture that you want your company to have. Now, real quick, if you’re listening and you’re like, I don’t have a team yet, it’s just me. That’s all right. This is where culture starts. What you do now is starting to create the culture of the type of company that you’re eventually going to grow into, if that is your desire. But regardless, you’re going to have a company culture. So if your company is going to have a culture, you might as well be intentional to build it. Now, what I mean by culture, well, what I mean by culture is that that thing, it’s it’s almost an intangible. But you you know it because you experience it. All right. There’s in fact, I think for businesses, there are six kinds of company culture. And I’m going to list those real quick and then I’m going to talk about how you can work to create culture and specifically the type of culture that we have in my company. But the the so what is culture? What is culture? Well, it’s, it’s how you do what you do. It’s the language you use. It’s how you talk to people. It’s the the and the atmosphere and all of this. And it’s it’s different when you’re remote, but it’s not impossible to have a great team culture. Now, first off, I don’t want to define in this episode or really, you know, for that matter, in any episode. I don’t want to I don’t want to pigeonhole people into thinking that there’s one specific right way to do it. And how I do it, how I run, how I run my business is the way you should run your business. That’s not true. And so these six different types of culture, if you will, I don’t care which one you choose, it’s just you’re going to have one of these. So be intentional about it and own it. And maybe you’ve never thought about this before and hopefully these six. Well, so just real quickly, the first type of company culture is a transactional type of culture. It’s a transactional culture. Okay. This is there’s very clear expectations and that’s good, but it’s purely transactional. All right. It lacks any type of engagement or connection that keeps people fulfilled beyond here’s what I need you to do. Great. It’s done. Here’s the money, and that’s it. All right? It’s. It’s just that it’s it’s transactional. Now, you can have in a company culture that is asynchronous collaboration. Now, this has a lot of flexibility in it, and that’s great, but it has very limited interaction, or at least face to face time interaction, you know, with someone your employees might miss any social connection whatsoever and not really have a sense of belonging that fosters loyalty. But again, if that’s not important to you, then you can totally have a company that runs that way. Now, you can also have the third type of culture, which is result oriented with autonomy. Now, in this type, this can kind of be a balance between the first two, but if autonomy becomes too isolated, that employees might not feel valued or part of the team at all. And this. You know, potentially increase turnover. Now, maybe not. If you are very upfront in the recruitment and onboarding, then, you know, you can set people up and and they they work and they just continue to work and produce. And there’s not a whole lot of checks and balances with it. And you can you can have the right person that really is kind of out there doing doing their thing or several people that are out there doing their thing. Now, the fourth company culture is a highly social and collaborative. All right. This is you know, there’s a lot of fostering of connect connectivity here, and this can really significantly reduce turnover. However, ensuring that everyone feels included in this can be a bit challenging because people, you know, this is where you really start getting into mixing introverts and extroverts and all those things. Not impossible, but can totally be done. Then you have the fifth type, which is the innovation driven. This is a culture. It’s very engaging. But if experimentation leads to instability or lack of clear direction, it might cause some employees to seek a more structured environment. You start to see this in places and in physical office buildings, you know, where they try to, you know, get away with, you know, walls or no doors. And, you know, there’s all kinds of ping pong tables and foosball tables and, you know, bright colors and everything like that. Again, nothing, nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that. You still lead through that, but you just have to be very you just have to be very intentional with that. And you can do the same thing with a remote team. And then the sixth culture and this is the one that I strive for the most, maybe have a couple of these mixed in, but primarily for me, I love the shared mission. This is all about setting out a strong purpose in front of people that’s very motivating. This is reduces turnover and as long as everybody sees how their work is contributing to the bigger picture, there’s a high buy in to this. And so I love having a shared mission, a big vision with a team that’s working together. And that’s that’s just my preference. And so that’s the type of company that I know how to build. And I used to do this with in person. I used to run a summer camp for 15 years. And that was all about bringing a group of, you know, 18, 19, 20 year olds together. Summer after summer after summer to to to achieve a mission. Our vision, how I planted the church and, you know, very much on the mission there and now in the marketplace. I just brought all of that into what we do as a company now, no matter which one of these, again, you choose, I don’t think one of them is right or wrong. Just choose it and begin to implement it. Now I am going to share with you four kinda keys that go to creating company culture. Even really, no matter which type of company culture you choose, these are kind of four keys that go into creating that company, the company culture that you decide. But before I share these, I just want to take a second to, to highlight this episode Spotlight Resource. This is it’s a tool I use called Naseby and Naseby. A.Z. Beatty Again. A.Z. Beatty This is my digital memory. If this does if it doesn’t go in naseby, it doesn’t get done. It’s just that simple. I use Naseby as my to do list for my gosh, probably, you know, 15 years. I absolutely love it. It’s so simple, is so clean. It integrates perfectly between my my iPhone and computer and iPad and there’s just I’d be totally lost without it. And so I would if you’re someone that’s struggling with a to do list or looking for a tool to help yourself get a little more organized, then I would definitely recommend you check it out. Get a 30 day free trial at D and E podcast dot com forward slash NAS. B No. Z b. E. All right. So what are these four kind of points here for that for that that I think it takes to be. Focused on as a leader to work on creating your culture. All right. And then after that, I’m going to share with you some fun things that I do with my team to help us build connection and that sense of camaraderie and and being on a team. All right. So the four things I think you need to focus on as a leader to build your culture. Number one, you’ve got to foster the culture. All right. It’s not going to happen otherwise. You have to own it even remotely like you have to make it happen. And to set up a strong team culture. You need three primary things. You need your mission. You need your vision. You need your core values. Even if you’re a company of one. And here’s why. When you’re a company of one and you set out your mission, vision, core values and you read them every single morning, it’s a reminder of what you’ve said is important. Now, sometimes it can be really easy to have some core values, to have a mission, a vision, and then get so caught up in the day to day running your business, especially if you’re in that stage of business where you’re in the All-In or even just Weekend Warrior, and it’s like it’s all your responsibility and there’s not enough hours in the day and you just feel like you’re constantly going after and chasing the next thing. You’ve got to get that next sale. You’ve got to get the last thing delivered and you’re just going to go and going. It’s really easy in that sense of overwhelm. It can be really, really easy to compromise. And so having a set of core values, having a list of, you know, 6 to 10 things that says, here’s how my company does things. You know, we we never compromise on quality. You know, understand the other person’s point of view, communicate on a cadence, you know, whatever your cultural core values are, then you need to put those in writing and remind yourself of those every day. Now, I don’t do that anymore. I used to I used to look through my core values, my mission of my vision every morning to get things started. It’s really was a big part of me helping to, you know, see what I was doing, not as a hobby, but as a business, something to that that existed that that I had the responsibility to steward. But having this mission, vision and core values and now I in fact, I had a leadership team meeting today with three of my leaders, and I talked about one of our core values and constantly talking about our mission, vision and core values. And having those core values makes it a lot more comfortable hiring someone. Because you will you talk about these things as you’re hiring your team and then as you train them to do it and you ensure that they’re running, doing their job based upon your vision, mission and core values, it’s going to be easier for you to go on a ten day trip, a 20 day trip, a 30 day, you know, vacation, because you’re not going to be worried about are they doing things the way you would want it done because you’ve already ensured that that’s happening. You’ve established your mission, vision, core values, and then you’ve trained yourself on them and your team on them. So that’s number one. You have to foster a strong team culture, leveraging mission vision and core values at the core of that. Now, if you don’t have mission and vision and core values, or you’re a little overwhelmed by the idea of creating those, I have a one time 90 minute coaching roadmap where I can help you create these three these things. All right? I help you, you know, start to craft out that mission, vision and core values. And then after 90 minutes, you know, over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to work on that. You bring it back to me and I’ll help. You have kind of words. Do some of the final word smithing on that, if that would be helpful for you. For more on that, just go to D and E podcast dot com. All right. So our second skill, if you will, or or focus that we have to have as leaders to grow the company culture or to have and foster a company culture. The second one is communication is everything. Communication is everything. And what you communicate is critically important. Kind of going back to the first one. What’s one of the things you’re going to communicate over and over and over? Vision. Mission, core values. Communication is critical now. There was a season in my business that we were almost entirely asynchronous, you know, like I would send a message and I’d get a message back from Peter and I’d send a message. I get a message back from Peter. And we had no standing meeting, no standing one on ones. He would work. I would work. We would, you know, send loom videos and stuff back, back and forth. And that worked for a while. But as the team grew and my portfolio of of my job started to shift as I was able to hire other people and, and take responsibilities off, off of my plate and really start to own the, the CEO role of my company, I needed to really pivot ah, the way we were communicating. Asynchronous just wasn’t working for me. And so we’ve gone now to a standing meeting structure. I meet with each of my direct reports one on one every single week. I have a leadership team meeting with my three top leaders every single week, and for anybody on my team that is leading a direct report, I require them to meet one on one with their team members and communication is absolutely everything. Okay. Now the third one here is focus on results, not micromanagement. If you focus on micromanagement and you focus on delegating out every single little task and evaluating every little single piece of work and not letting anything go out until you see it, you’re going to be the bottleneck and you’re going to stay in that transactional type culture. Now, if that’s what you want, okay, you can do that. You’re going to be very limited to what you can do. But if you want to expand out and have a company that’s growing, you really need to shift to focus on results and not micromanagement. Your team is going to be they’re going to become to feel very empowered. They’re going to understand that you trust them. They’re going to feel more loyal to you. And honestly, they’re going to work harder because they know that the results matter, the journey matters. You’re not micromanaging every little thing, but you’re staying focused on keeping the the main thing. The main thing. My fourth and final tip here is, remember, you’re leading, not managing. All right. Now, there is a world of difference between leading and management. A great manager will ruin a company over time. All right. I’ll say that again. A great manager, the most ideal perfect manager will hopefully run your company into the ground over time because managers manage systems and they keep things the same. They work to maintain status. They like to make sure that they just they embrace. This is how we do it. And they just they just do it. And because it’s how they do it, it’s how we do it. That’s how we do it. Here is what we do. And they just keep doing and everybody that they’re managing, they keep everybody on track as that as well. The issue with that is over time, your company has to pivot on some things. There has to be some change. Your company has to evolve and and stuff over time. And a manager won’t do that. A manager is showing up to manage. You are leading. You are leading. There is a very big difference between leading a management. Now, sometimes I have to manage, but when it comes to culture, I can’t manage culture. I lead to create culture. So as I’m running my company and working with my team, I manage through email, but I lead and coach via video. Even though my team is, you know, I’m I’m in Costa Rica and I’ve got you know, my director of Web Services is in Bulgaria. Our director of digital marketing services is in El Salvador. Our project manager is in Ohio and the USA are support a client support specialist is in India. I mean, we’re just we’re kind of just all over the place. We’re onboarding a new team member in Mexico. We’ve got a part time team member in the Ukraine. I mean, like we’re all around the world. And so I have to manage my team through email, but I lead and coach my team through video and we have a lot of fun. We have a great company culture now. How do we do that? How do we how do we have company culture? That’s not just why I only see them on video. And, you know, I just, you know, I send them what to do. And that’s, you know, we don’t have the proverbial water cooler and and stuff like that. And and I know some people I know some business owners that I hire. I’ll tell you something right now. There’s a guy, Dave Ramsey, Andre leadership. The guy is phenomenal. I read all of his stuff. I listen to his podcast. I’ve been to his trainings and workshops. The man is a money genius. He is a business genius. I mean, he’s been doing this so much longer than I have. I love learning from Dave Ramsey and the Ramsey organization and Andre leadership. But one thing I totally disagree with him on is he is dead set against remote teams and that’s fine. I don’t know a problem with that. I understand where he’s coming from, but I just disagree with him and I’m allowed to. You may disagree with me and I know he would disagree with me, but that’s okay. That’s okay. I think you can create a company culture and have high work output from a remote team and and it’s all great, but it takes some intentionality. So how do we how do we do this? Well, one of the things that we do by leadership team, it’s it starts with leadership. So with my leadership team, I start our Friday leadership team meetings with some type of question. We call it team time, you know, and it’s it’s a question. Today’s question, as I’m recording this, today’s question was, if we visited you where you are and you could only take us to one place within an hour of your house, where would you take us and why? And it was fascinating to hear, like, you know, one person wanted to take us to their their favorite amusement park because they they love adventure and they love riding roller coasters. And that was exciting. Another person, she went, Oh, man, this beautiful beach. And she loved it because it’s like a gem of a country. And you could just tell the pride she had in your country in this this beautiful place. Another guy, he’s more adventurous. You know, he wanted to take us to see, you know, these caves. And but there’s this restaurant there and there’s this one special food truck and oh, my gosh, it’s so good. And, you know, just the whole experience. And as they explained these places, they describe them in a way that you could you just get to appreciate their the love of their community. Okay. And we all sense that we talked about that for a little bit afterwards, you know, so that takes we have about 15 minutes that the four of us talk through those. And so I, I just have a whole list of questions that I’m asking from it. I’m constantly adding new questions to. We also play games as a team. So every once in a while last week and we have an all team chat that is not to ever be used for work related things. We have, you know, we have channels for work, but we have one channel in our project management software called Hive We have one channel that’s everyone. And I just like to every once in a while, you know, post a question. The other day I posed the question, you know, if you get one thing for your birthday, no matter what it is, what would it be and why? And it was so fun. Like one of the guys was like, I’ve, I’ve never been able to travel by airplane. I would love to fly somewhere and and be able to travel and see someplace new. One one was we’re remote, we’re doing some renovations at our house and really working on the outside area. And I’d love to have a new barbecue grill to really add to that, have a place to entertain. And and the list went on and on. It was fun to read through. That’s not next week. We’re actually going to be playing a game. We’re going to have a scavenger hunt. We’re going to have a picture scavenger hunt. And so I’ve come up with a list right now. I’m going to work on it probably a little bit over the weekend with my wife and and even asked my kids to contribute some ideas. But I’ve got a list of 24 things that you can find almost in any urban environment, you know, traffic, light, road sign, park bench, the front of your house or apartment, a Coca-Cola logo. And it hasn’t been a country yet. I’ve been to as a digital nomad. I haven’t seen Coca Cola, you know. And so anyway, we’ve got all of these different things and we’re going to have a WhatsApp group just for this, and we’re going to have this a scavenger hunt. And I’m going to give them I’m going to give everybody a week. And by the end of the week, we’ll see whoever gets the most gets a prize. And, you know, and if there’s a tie, that’s fine. Everybody, you know, that ties gets it gets a prize to have a special prize if you’re able to get everything you know, on on the list. And so we play these games and what happens with it is you start to see these fun pictures of like parks that you’ve never been to around the world or or, you know, just just different things from different cities. And so you have to post a picture of it and describe it. And so just on the phone and then and I was telling the team about it today and said, you don’t want to do this like it’s going to run over a weekend because I want you to you know, I want to encourage you to go out with your family. All of my full time team right now that participate in this are they’re all married. And so I was able to say, I want you to go out with your spouse. You know, just have fun. Well, what am I doing there? I’m saying, listen, we we and we think family is important. In fact, we encourage you to spend time together as a family. One of the things that my wife and I do is we’ve told everybody on our team that after you’ve been with us for five years, you get a special family fund and this family fund is a couple thousand dollars and you can use it to invest in family activities, buying you by season passes to an amusement park, take it to go on vacation, buy season tickets to a sporting club that you like. It’s just it you have to share with us what you used it for to invest time in to together with your family. And this is, like I said, they get it. You get it. I think after you’ve been on my team for five years, full time, and it’s a significant amount of money for a lot of our team, it’s the equivalency of two months salary. So, you know, it’s a pretty significant chunk of change that we we budget for. And they, you know, they have to come in, say, hey, listen, this is what we’re going to do. And again, we don’t say no, we just is, you know, this is what we’re going to spend it on and this is how we’re going to get to do what we’ll be doing together as a family. And that’s that’s important to us. So we want to we want to show that to our team. We want to model that. We want to equip them and empower them to to go out and do those things. And we have fun as a staff. We play games remotely, and it doesn’t take a lot to figure out what can we do with some of that? We use the app Marcopolo, which is asynchronous video. So, Gene, it’s it it’s kind of like sending text messages, but with video. Love it. But there’s been times we’ve done, like, office tours and house tours and a tour around my block, and you just start recording the video and you walk out and you just show everybody like, Right, this is where I live and stuff like that. Because if we were working together in a community, there’s a chance you might get invited to somebody’s house for a birthday party or something like that. But but that doesn’t happen here. Let it happen because we’re we’re all over the world. But we can still do things that bring people together. And we feel like we’re a team. We feel connected. So these are just a few of the things that we do. If you like those ideas and you want to hear more of those ideas, just let me know. Reach out, let me know. Send me an email and I’ll be happy to put together future podcast episodes where I talk about, you know, team building, things like that. So, you know, team building activities and different things that we do like that to, you know, work on having a culture for our team that is fun and exciting and they feel like they’re part of something, even though they’ve never met each other in person because we’re spread all around the world and different time zones. All right. Well, what I want to do now is I want to share with you this week’s leadership tip of the week. Now you may be thinking, what is the leadership tip? Eric, this is my first podcast episode of yours. Not exactly sure what that means. Well, leadership is one of my favorite topics to talk about. I and I think your leadership capacity is the capacity of your business. Like, your business is not going to grow beyond your leadership skills. And so if it if leadership is going to play such a major important role in the success of your business, and with my goal with this being to help you with your business, I want to make sure that I give some leadership tips. Now, this whole episode has been focused on leadership. All right. There are five core areas of a business that need your attention as the owner. Leadership is the first one. You’ve got to give attention the leadership lead generation, lead conversion, collecting and managing money and project delivery, project management. And so you’re constantly having to focus on these five things, but honestly, none of them are as important or more important than leadership. So what is this episode? Leadership, tip of the week, the core of leadership. Are you ready for this? I’m going to tell you right now what the core of leadership is. What does it take to be a great leader? You know, what is a leader? Leader has influence. A leader leverages influence to add value to those around them. That’s what a leader is. But what does it take? What is it? The core of leadership? You might think it’s a desire to be to to help people, but it’s not desire. It’s not wish, it’s not hope, it’s not assurance. You know, the core of leadership is courage. It takes courage to be a leader because it takes courage to keep your mouth shut. When you want to lash out at someone, it takes courage to be patient, to lead people to discovering truths that you want them to own. It takes courage to say, this is what we’re going to do when others are telling you That’s not a great idea. It takes courage to sit down and correct someone and say, Listen, I can’t allow this to continue. If this continues beyond this point, we’re going to have to give you permission to work for someone else. Like it takes courage to have hard conversations. It takes courage to end the workday when you need to end the workday and go give time to your family. The core of leadership is courage. I’ve never met a weak leader. If I’ve met anyone that is a weak leader because they had the title of leader, they were now leader. They were never a leader. They might have been a manager. You know, they may be a boss, but they’re not a leader. The core of leadership is courage. Well, my friend, thank you for listening to this entire episode of the Digital Nomad Entrepreneur podcast. I would love it if you would like subscribe, share, leave a rating or review. Do all the things that are nice to do for a podcast and I’ll see you in the next episode. Until then, chase the big dream. Lead with courage and safe travels.