LSE alumnus, Ben Abbate, is Director and Regional Sales Head at Fitch Solutions in Singapore. Read his five ways to manage teams now working from home, who before the pandemic spent the majority of their time travelling, out of the office and on ‘the field’.
I manage a team of corporate account managers in Singapore who work across Asean. Due to the persistent community spread of COVID-19, we were faced with the challenge of abruptly transitioning from an in-office and field sales team to fully remote working from home.
The challenge was several fold.
First, we are a face to face business. Our team are known as ‘road warriors’ meaning we travel up to 75% of the month seeing our clients. We’re extraverts, used to being out and about, and thus not well-prepared for the business and psychological challenges of extended home working.
In the last two months, we’ve adapted as best we can to the environment.
As a manager, I’ve developed a shorthand of team principles to keep in mind, which I think are useful to other managers facing similar challenges.
Five team principles for Managers
- Firstly, recognise and articulate that the current operating environment is not an ideal state and therefore our productivity as individuals and as a team is diminished. As a manager, these are powerful words and you have a duty of care to convey them honestly.
- Next, do your best to foster a safe emotional space within the team’s working environment. Your goal is for the team to surface problems and anxieties without fear of retribution. Avoid the instinct to simply ‘focus on the positive’ without acknowledging the present reality.
- Bring order to the disorder. Create a weekly internal cadence with a mix of team and individual calls. I try to have the more formal business-y reviews earlier in the week and by Friday we can relax into to a less formal team call to share highlights from our week.
- Use technology to plug the social gaps where possible. For example, to replicate office chatter, encourage the team to ask questions between themselves on a group chat rather than one to one. This helps to simulate the office environment and foster group problem solving.
- Surprise and delight with an unexpected home delivery of cake and coffee and urge the group to ‘pay it forward’ with their own friends and loved ones. Anyway, who doesn’t like cake?
How have you and your teams faced the home working challenge? Write to me in the comments.
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