With the business continuing to grow, Jason Downes, MD of Powwownow has teams expanding across Europe and the US which has meant expanding his skills.
Managing a company is a complex enough task when your senior leadership team and staff are all in the same location. However, with the increasing number of enterprises spread across continents and time zones, and flexible working becoming the norm, more and more companies now face a number of logistical and communicative challenges.
I’ve had to ensure that my teams stay productive and motivated regardless of what time zone I’m in. So here are some of my lessoned learned:
Staying connected while being remote
It’s an inescapable part of managing international companies that you will lose days from traveling. While it’s possible to do some work when on the go, jet lag does tend to catch up with you. It’s essential to make sure you’re having the level of impact needed both in person and remotely.
When starting out with a new team spread around the globe, it’s important to immerse yourself physically to get to know everyone on both a personal and professional level while implementing clear reporting lines. Although this means longer trips abroad initially, once you’ve built rapport and established a clear structure, it’ll free you up to start a more remote presence. With key relationships in place, and the right technological tools to support you, you can make an impact regardless of where you are in the world.
Having discipline during your team meetings and catch ups also helps establish clarity when you’re starting to work with new global teams. Blocking out time on a regular basis to catch up with your direct reports will ensure that you stay up to date and maintain your presence – remotely or in person. Having this time set apart each week is as much for the team as it is for you to understand what’s going on and what direction you want to lead your teams in.
Trusting in your teams
When you’re managing businesses both locally and abroad, you quickly learn that you can’t be as hands on as you once were when all your direct reports were in the same time zone. This doesn’t mean that you become out of touch, it just means that you need to adapt.
What’s important is that as a leader you’re aware of the differences between teams and can manage each accordingly. Cultures differ between countries and you need to learn to trust your team. By letting go of some level of control and encouraging employees to step up to the challenge, it’s a great opportunity to not only empower them to take on more responsibility, but also help you become a better leader.
Harnessing communication technology tools
From instant messaging to email, webinars and web meeting tools, the technology needed to stay connected is widely available. When starting to run businesses spread across the globe, the time difference can catch you out, particularly if you are jumping back into email threads having been asleep for six hours. However, with practice, and a well organised calendar that automatically changes to the time zone you’re in, it becomes easy to manage.
Harnessing technology in this way creates an open channel of communication between you and your team, enabling key decisions to be made and issues to be resolved quickly and efficiently, regardless of where you are. No longer a nice to have, communication technology tools have become the backbone of managing businesses successfully.
Staying connected is important but as is being present. Over time I’ve learnt that rather than constantly checking emails and trying to do too many tasks at once, it’s important to balance your responsibilities with being present so you can focus your attention on the team you’re with when you’re abroad.
The same goes for spending time with family. Sometimes, the best way to solve a work-related problem is to mentally switch off and let the solution work its way out in the background. It’s essential to take time to look after your physical and mental health and make time for the things that matter most, so no matter how busy you get at work, your family and friends will always appreciate the efforts you make, no matter how big or small.
Managing multiple companies spread across the globe is a challenging task. However, by harnessing the latest technology, trusting your teams and staying present, the role becomes much more manageable. To ensure that you’re fully recharged and ready to take on the next business challenge, it’s important to be present with friends and family so you can focus on what matters most to you – personally and professionally.
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