Tabita Seagrave, Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications, Clarivate, shares her expert advice on managing a remote workforce
Tabita joined Clarivate in April 2019. Her role involves overseeing all the organization’s internal and external communications on a global scale, including public relations and social media. Tabita heads a 10-strong multinational team spread around the world, with colleagues in China, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. She is dedicated to keeping Clarivate colleagues and customers, as well as the media and influencers following the company, fully informed and up to date on key news, activities and events. Having worked remotely with virtual global teams for over 20 years, Tabita is well positioned to give advice on managing and motivating a remote team so that everyone can shine.
Leading a global and diverse team
For me, leading an international and remote team is one of the highlights of my job. I love the challenges and rewards of working with a global and diverse group of colleagues every day. My team includes a great mix of people with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. In my experience managing a remote team successfully means you have to be sensitive to individual situations and be flexible and adaptable as much as possible.
I’m proud that Clarivate is far ahead of other multinational companies in terms of its culture of inclusivity and support for remote working. The recent switch to home working in response to COVID-19 may have been seen as challenging for some, but the communications team here at Clarivate has been working in this way for many years, so the current situation is nothing new for us. Even for those colleagues who are not used to working remotely, the change in working practices is helping to bring the team closer together.
Managing a remote team
My five top tips for managers who may be new to leading teams remotely include:
- Trust everyone is doing their best. You don’t have to see someone in order to trust that they are doing the best work they can. We build trust by focusing on results, outcomes and productivity, not number of hours sat at a desk in an office, or by checking up what hours people are starting/stopping work. Of course, in some roles the times someone start or finish their day is important, but in many roles it’s not. Focus on the results and motivate your teams to aim for greatness in order to build trust. Great work will follow.
- Know the team. Everyone copes with going through tough times in different ways. Some sail right through it and others are much more affected. Some need to talk about it at length, others don’t want to talk about it at all. We’re all different. Knowing your team means listening to every voice, respecting the differences and trying to understand what brings out the best in individuals. When we are not in the same physical place, we can’t see facial or bodily expressions that normally provide clues to how people are coping. In a remote situation we have to be more sensitive and ask more questions, become better listeners and learn how to empathize – without sounding like we’re interrogating someone! Knowing the team better means we can better plan and prioritize workloads to ensure everyone copes at their own speed without losing productivity and motivation.
- Be flexible and adaptable. Working remotely from home comes with its own challenges. In today’s COVID situation we may have colleagues with babies, toddlers or older children at home who need looking after. Some may be caring for older parents or grandparents, others may be sharing their offices with partners, spouses or housemates. Others may be completely on their own. Being flexible means we accept interruptions when they happen (I do think it’s cute when babies try to eat headsets or when teenagers try to creep past behind the parent thinking they’re not seen on video).
- Checkpoints are important. Just don’t overdo it. Not everyone needs daily check-ins just because we can’t see them in the office. Weekly 1:1s and team meetings are great – and why not get into a habit of turning on the video? However, don’t set up new meetings for the sake of it. Don’t be afraid of finishing early; you don’t have to talk for the allotted time if it’s not needed. It is, however, important to have regular checkpoints scheduled in the diary so that everyone knows they have a time when their manager will be free to talk about whatever is needed – and don’t reschedule unless absolutely necessary. Consistency and reliability show that you care as a manager. Spend some of the 1:1 time to get to know your colleague and build trust, as well as on the usual list of what’s happening and what support is needed. On the other hand, if you have colleagues that you suspect are not as productive as they can be, don’t shy away from difficult conversations.
- Have their backs. The other side of the coin to building trust is to have the back of your team. Working remotely means other colleagues and stakeholders can’t meet your team members face to face either and working with internal and external customers might become more difficult. Be there for your team when they need it. They will appreciate it, and it will help everyone aim for greatness.
Importantly – keep the mood light. “Laugh and the world will laugh with you” is the saying. So much more so when we go through a tough time. Setting aside some time for a virtual happy hour, or to do something that the team enjoys has become another way of building closer relationships and working better together.
To find out more about working with Clarivate and our current opportunities visit: https://careers.clarivate.com/
Interested in more stories like this one? Discover #LifeatClarivate with voices from our global colleagues.