Michelle Abraham and Debra Dinnocenzo discuss the insight’s Michelle has gleaned from her experience as an entrepreneur and leader of a dispersed team. Michelle shares her experience leading a global team, her strategies for successful talent acquisition/retention, and her approach to effective communication with her remote team. Debra highlights the learnings from Michelle and the applications to leaders of both small and large organizations, with emphasis on success factors for remote leaders of teams in any size organization and any type of business.
Learn more about the Remote Leadership Mastery program by scheduling a call with Debra by CLICKING HERE.
About the Guest:
Michelle Abraham: Podcast Pioneer | Entrepreneur | High Vibe Visionary
Michelle Abraham is a Podcast Pioneer and Entrepreneur known for her high-vibe approach to life and business. As the founder of AmplifYou, North America’s top podcast management company, Michelle has launched hundreds of podcasts, earning accolades like Entrepreneur of the Year. With a passion for podcasting, she’s on a mission to amplify voices, spark visions, and elevate visibility in the world of entrepreneurship. Join her on this transformative journey!
About the Host:
Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership. Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience that distinguishes Debra in the hybrid workplace and remote leadership space. As a nationally recognized expert in remote workplace and distance leadership, Debra has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course.
Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting, coaching, and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author.
Debra is the co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership Podcast. I'm excited today to welcome Michelle Abraham, founder of amplify you North America's top podcast management company. Michelle is a real force of energy as a podcast pioneer, international speaker and entrepreneur. She's been featured on or honored by Entrepreneur, Inc, podcast magazine, Entrepreneur of the Year and community champion from business from the heart. Michelle was also recently interviewed by shark tanks, Kevin Harrington. So I'm especially honored to have this opportunity to talk with Michelle today with a passion for cod casting, Michelle's on a mission to amplify voices, Spark visions, and elevate visibility in the world of entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for joining me, Michelle, and welcome.Michelle Abraham:
Wow, thank you so much for having me, Debra. I love I love that intro. It just got me like so much better than the way I have.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Well, I think it's all quite accurate. So. So let's start with your story and the way you live and manage your business. I found this so interesting when I first met you. And so can you share with everyone? How you do this and how it all works for you,Michelle Abraham:
Sure. So I like to tell people that I run a six and seven figure business from she shed on a lake in the middle of nowhere Canada. And so if I can do it from here, I don't know what your excuse. Exactly. She's a little tongue in cheek but I think it's kind of funny when you say didn't that way. Yeah.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So where is said Lake?Michelle Abraham:
Yeah, so in all reality, we were about three hours outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. So how it works is you take a little ferry boat, which you drive onto with your car, it's actually big. It takes a few 100 cars on it. Okay, it's about a 40 minute trip. Yeah. Yes, it's a big ferry boat. And it's about a 40 minute trip across the water. So you're going on the Pacific Ocean, through the Inside Passage, much like a lot of the cruise ships heading to Alaska, Canada kind of the same route. And where we go to is the Sunshine Coast. So technically, it is a part of the main line of BC, but it's not drivable. So you have to take a boat to get there. And then we drive an hour from once we get off on the other side to our, to the lake that we live on. And and then we take a boat across the lake to our house. So it's a bit of a trek to get here. And if you think of it in the way, it's kind of like a cottage country, or it's where everyone goes on vacation from Vancouver. So population of about 3000 people in the winter and about 30,000 in the summer.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Okay yeah vacation destination, you just want a vacation all year.Michelle Abraham:
That's right. Yeah, exactly. And we're, we actually live in my husband's family's property, an acreage that they bought over 40 years ago that they use as a vacation home. And my husband and I just got tired of coming up here every weekend and having to leave on Sundays. And so we thought, hey, why not? Our kids are young. And we have the opportunity to work remotely out, why not try to make this work from from here. And my first thing, my first thought was, oh, shoot, the Wi Fi is not that great. And so we had to get a little bit of an upgrade of the Wi Fi. Because not only do we live like remotely across a lake, we're actually off the grid completely. So our power is generated by solar panels. And by water water turbine that's run through a creek. Wow, winter, so Howard's also a bit of a thing. And so we had to get a special internet test setup as well to be able to, to run this online business of mine. Right.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So you're doing it from there, I'm assuming you are using like some satellite connection of some sort.Michelle Abraham:
It's actually through the cellular towers,Debra Dinnocenzo:
Oh Cell towers all the way out there, I think Vancouver's like, you know, like, far, far away. But you go so much further than that. So how does it work with your team? And how big is your team? How dispersed are they? Where are they located? And how have you learned to manage all of this, you must not see most of them very often. Share with us how you make it all work.Michelle Abraham:
I really have to be careful what I say though, because you know, my team edits your podcast.Debra Dinnocenzo:
That's right. Yes. Full disclosure, disclosureMichelle Abraham:
there. Yes. Your listening team. I love you.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So but Michelle is my podcast manager. So this is great. And they do a fabulous job. But I've just been so intrigued. Because, you know, I work with a lot of leaders who work in big cities with all kinds of great tech resources and everything. And it's a challenge so it must be really a challenge for you.Michelle Abraham:
You Yeah, and I think one of the things that for the general population out there, if I was to say this leadership, they would probably think I'm crazy when I actually hired people, personalities over skills, because what we do is very unique. And it's not something that most people have any the skills to do, right out of the gates. And so when I was bringing on team members, at the beginning, I was looking for people that personality wise I could really connect with. And we could have a really good solid foundation. And so I found a few of those people actually locally in our community. And I fit including Troy, who's our manager of, of all the podcast managers. And he's been amazed, he actually came, I was sitting on the board of a preschool. And he came to do some work with a preschool. And I said, Hey, you know, I love what you're up to. And this is something totally different. But if you're interested, you know, I'd love to see if you'd be interested in he's first of all was like, Well, what are podcasts? Wow, so it was a real, real learning real real learning curve. But, you know, he's been with us over five years. And same with some of our other team members. So we have three or four team members that live in Vancouver, we also have several team members that are in the Philippines. And we have over the last couple of years had several team members in the US as well. So we're over a couple of different countries. And then we've also had a project manager in South Africa. And then she moved to Australia. So we have, and we did have some people in Chile at one point as well. So we've had all sorts of different team members from different countries. And it's been really fun trying to build a community and a team community, from where some people, some of them knew each other in person, some don't. We've gotten together in Mexico together, some of us. And it's been really, really fun challenge, running a community of team members.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So even the people who are in Vancouver, they might get together with each other and occasionally even see you if you take the boat back over. But they're really distant from you, in terms of where you are as well. So what have been your big learnings? Relative, as you've grown, your team added people who are even more remote in other countries to help you do this and do it well.Michelle Abraham:
Yeah, so you know, it's interesting, we always, when we're looking for new people, we ask our team members, who do you know, is there someone that you think would be a really good fit or, you know, usually they're approaching us with someone that they know is looking for an opportunity, and they've heard what they're doing. And so in fact, we have two sisters that work for us in the Philippines. And we have two sisters that work for us in Canada. And we also have a set of cousins that work for this. Well, we like to call it the Amplifyou family. And it's your family for a reason, because everyone's almost sort of connected in some way or another. And I've had some, some, some family friends also work for us over the course of the years as well. My cousin's wife worked for us for a little bit as well, while she was coming back from that leap. And so I like to say that we like to, it's almost like a, I think one of the successes we've had as we've been running our team, as like they run their own business. And so they're take ownership of what they're doing. And it's because they are remote, and because they are mostly independent contractors, but we're all worked together as is in an organization like an employee would, we have a strong network, so they have ownership of what they do, and a little bit of flexibility and freedom also, in what they do, because they can make their own hours, because of the nature of the work we do. They can you know, if it fits. So for example, we have one team member who had a small child and was you know, pre preschool age. And so she was working in nap times. And then in the evenings after he went to bed, which worked great for her, we had another team member that was going to school to become a coach and a therapist. And so she was able to work outside of her school hours. And so we built a culture of people that could fit in their work within the community. And we have two team members who also are heavily volunteering at our elementary school that our kids go to. And so, you know, they're able to do be the president of the pack, as well as get their work done. And for us to so allows for a balance of the bigger life balance.Debra Dinnocenzo:
I feel like Yeah, yeah. So it says sounds like it facilitates their work life balance. And the the nature of the work is such that if somebody's working at two in the morning, your time, it doesn't really matter. Because well just the nature of podcast production is such that you know, things get loaded up and people can work on them whenever and so long as they're dropping on the right date. That's kind of all that matters. So how do you communicate? How do you keep your team connected? What technology tools do you find have been most helpful which Have you found weren't helpful that you abandoned,Michelle Abraham:
we, for the most part, you use Slack. And so slack was really good for us because it was like chat so we could have, each of our podcast shows how to channel that could have the podcast manager, and Troy, who is the, their manager, as well as the client, as well as myself all in one of those chats so that we could see what was going on in any moment, we could have a look and see the communication that was happening. So instead of being in all sorts of different emails, we wanted to keep all of our communication with clients and with our team off of email into Slack. So Slack has been really helpful for us with the messaging, we have moved as a organization over to circle recently, which you know, and so each now of our each of our shows have a circle group, which works very similarly similar to Slack, right? Yeah. Although the difference is what it does facilitate as more of a community feel it's much more visual with like, you can put videos in and training in and you can host meetings on there, and webinars and things like that. So we've been finding that a little bit more valuable for our clients, but also for our team to be able to communicate and do team, we have team training things in there. And it's easier for us to communicate all together. The one challenge that we have had is having a an in person, like a virtual Zoom meeting, that everyone in all time zones, and in schedules can come to. So we typically meet once a month as a full team. And then we do weekly team meetings as far as like podcast managers, or administrative or marketing teams. So smaller team meetings more frequently.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So I'm curious if you on your monthly meetings to rotate the times of that. So it's not always middle of the night for the people in the Philippines? Or how do you manage that? Because that's a that's always a challenge for international leaders. Yeah,Michelle Abraham:
we were able to kind of pinpoint at like 8am Pacific Time was good for the Philippines, but also for our parents who are trying to get kids to school or high school already at by eight o'clock. So it was a bit tricky for a couple people that were driving kids still back home, and the drop off or whatever. It was kind of like the best option that we could figure out that worked at that time. And so over, I would say probably every 90 days or so we were kind of reassessing, okay, is this still working or less people are showing up to this meeting, maybe we need to switch the time, just to make sure that we're always communicating. But because of the nature of like the business communicating, like each of our team members are communicating with clients, and also with their team leader. So there's lots of communication going on within the team on a regular basis. Anyway, so those general meetings were recorded, so people could follow up and listen, listen, what they couldn't make it. But also, it was more just tell us what's going on personally, what are your wins personally? What are your wins in work? What are your wins with clients? You know, what, something exciting that you're working on? What are your goals? So there was more, it wasn't more, it wasn't that they weren't so much specific for things that were happening other than general larger announcements.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Okay, so What tool do you use for the monthly all team meeting?Michelle Abraham:
That one? We're just using zoom for? Soon? Okay. Yep.Debra Dinnocenzo:
And which was what we're using today for this podcast. So yeah, I find it, you know, I, when I'm doing training, I always have to remind people that this is, even though people that are familiar with teams, you know, can never really find how to raise their hand. And so they figure it out. And I have to remind them that, you know, the tools we have now are so wonderful compared to what we you know, we didn't have, you know, 510 years ago, that, that people are much more familiar with and comfortable with and can facilitate, you know, what I call face to face, people are face to face on Zoom, they're not on site, on site is different than face to face. But, you know, we're getting all the stuff that we used to complain we couldn't have in terms of seeing people and facial expressions. Do you typically have your team keep cameras on?Michelle Abraham:
Yeah, absolutely. And it's our way like, they can each see each other, right, they don't get to see each other in person. So this is a way that we can still build and some of them know each other personally, some of them see each other in person. And so for those that don't, this was a nice way to kind of see each other face to face. So we kind of know who each other are, you get a different kind of feel when it's when it's visual, I don't know what we would have done without zoom in the years has been so helpful. But we did do a team trip to Mexico, that not everyone was able to make it to but a good you know, about seven or eight of us were able to go and so that was great to be able to meet some of them in person for the first time and get to know each other a little bit more over a few days in Mexico and then you know, Oh, that just builds on as we come back and, you know, help one day to be able to go to the Philippines again and meet some more of our team members there.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah, great. Okay. So for other remote leaders that are listening to this, what would you suggest are the top three things that they need to do or keep in mind, to keep their teams connected, to build trust to communicate? And you know, I would get a lot of questions all the time, you know, how often should I communicate? And, you know, what's the best way to do that? And, you know, of course, the answer is, well, it all depends. It depends on your team, each individual. So it would be great if you could share with us your insights and what you've learned as takeaways from how you've been managing, forMichelle Abraham:
sure, yeah, I'd say number one is like, I would start to feel a little bit disconnected after, you know, more than a week without communicating with some of them. And when we were communicating, I would say the number two thing is, is trying to find out what their personal goals are to, and see if our company could help them croute help them reach their personal goals, as well as their as well as their, you know, work goals, so that they so that they feel like there is like, I feel like we did a good job of helping them stay longer, because they were achieving the goals that they wanted to choose the cheat personally to whether that be more income, or whether that be like a different working hours or, you know, working towards a vacation of some sort. So that was that was something that we were pretty proud of that was a key takeaway is just really finding out what matters to your team members the most. And then number three, also just checking in with them regularly about what's working what's not. And because they're a lot of our team members are client focused more than we are claiming focus, we were really leaning on them to find out what's working, what's not working, what our clients saying, to really back to us so that we can help make changes together. So we were we orchestrated everything that we were doing is like it's an asset thing, and what are our decisions on it instead of what's my decision? And then you follow what I said we're doing. So it was more of a cohesive collaboration, rather than, like hierarchy.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah. Interesting of one of my other podcast guests with people would have heard this as a CEO of a real large company. And he has abandoned the annual performance review, now that there's no performance management, right? But he said, I want people coaching, checking in the term that you use, on a much more regular basis than even mid year end of year how to go, you know, what did you not get done. And so when you have that 12 month check in or even the mid year, that's when people tend to talk more, and he wants them talking monthly, checking in talking monthly, in much more of a coaching approach. The other thing I really liked about what you said about checking in on personal goals, and the connection between that and retention. Constantly, what I'm hearing is still talent acquisition. And talent retention is the challenge of the day. And obviously remote work if we can master that allows leaders to get that talent wherever it is, which you've clearly done. Because it's not co located with you because there aren't too many people moving to your island. I hate to tell you. And so luckily, though, the your your ability to impact retention by really helping people grow personally, and professionally, is I think a fabulous takeaway. So before we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share about what else you're into or where you're going next? Beyond all the pod wonderful podcasting stuff you do? ThankMichelle Abraham:
you, when actually one more thing I just wanted to mention, and it was something that I hadn't really clued into it until just recently, when I was talking to one of our team members. And she said, you know, we she's like, we I love the shows I am managing because what we've done is we've kind of like allocated shows the people that fit kind of the show. So for example, she's a coach. And so she's learning about coaching, she's learning about parenting, she's learning about all sorts of other things that relate to her life, too. So she's getting some personal development while she's doing her job, which I think is great. Yeah. And like we like our our team members learned so much from the shows that they're working on, like this show has been so valuable for so many of our team members listening to it. So I think that's been really helpful as is that personal growth and the personal, personal aspect of of the work, the aspects of the work that they're doing that kind of helps them stay with us longer to it's fun andDebra Dinnocenzo:
you know, you run a relatively small company compared to some of our listeners who run are part of huge corporations. I think the takeaway is Is every leader though, has the opportunity to do what you're doing with their team on a one on one basis. And so, I love that as a as a big takeaway from all of this. So anything else that you're dabbling in these days? ActuallyMichelle Abraham:
Funny, funny enough, my you know, my the last few years has been kind of like, something that's been thinking about I've been thinking about a long time is how we as leaders can be of a higher vibration. And when we're of higher vibration ourselves, we're attracting other people that are vibrating higher, or whether it's the right magnet, we're magnetizing, the right clients and the right team members. And so I'm moving into a new area where I'm supporting high vibe leaders. And so in my community that I'm building is called high vibe leaders. And that looks like a mastermind. And we're running, raise your vibe retreats. So that's something that I'm really excited about. Because it just what I'm finding is that people are a little bit out of alignment. And when you're out of alignment, things are hard and work is tough. And it's you know, not as fun and easy as it could be if you're more in alignment with what you're doing. So yeah, just pulling people out of their normal environment into an experience with other people connecting collaborating, masterminding just as does a whole world of difference. I mean, you and I've met in masterminds before. It just gives your perspective when you get out from behind the computer every once in a while. Yeah,Debra Dinnocenzo:
absolutely. So Well, thank you for this. Michelle, this has been really interesting and a lot of great insights for leaders of small organizations, as well as from large organizations to think about what's the best they can do with their teams, even when they're not on site together. So I appreciate your time, and we'll make sure we put in the show notes. The best way for people to reach you. That's great.Michelle Abraham:
Thank you so much. It's been a lot of fun.Debra Dinnocenzo: