This week’s blog comes from the CEO’s Chair as Claire shares insights to her leadership style and her approach to leading a global team. Over to you Claire!
As an advocate for women in STEM careers, I know it’s not easy. It’s tough for a female leader. I often get asked how I successfully lead a global team whilst maintaining high levels of engagement, which led me to share what works for me and Team TutorPro.
With the ongoing worries around the U.S. election, the U.K. back in lockdown from today and so many businesses closing their offices, strong leadership and communication within a team is now more important than ever.
WIFLE! – All our meetings start out with a 1 to 2-minute WIFLE (what I feel like expressing). This is typically not work-related and gives a sense of how each individual is currently feeling. This is important when we don’t get to have those water cooler chats.
Just Say Hi! – It takes just a moment and it’s a great way to check if the team is OK. Sending a quick hello to team members via Microsoft Teams IM, slack or email, in the morning on days that you may not have a meeting. This can make a big difference to their day, particularly for those who suffer from anxiety or live alone and could be feeling isolated. I encourage all of the team to do this and it’s been very well received.
Flexible Working Hours – I promote a relaxed, flexible company culture to increase creativity, so the team can thrive without worrying about fitting in home life around working hours. Even before the pandemic, the team had the choice to work from home 2 – 3 days a week. We are now fully remote and I’ve made it standard practice that the team can work the hours they feel are more productive for them and more conducive to an effective flow of ideas – no enforced 9am-5pm!
Understanding of Each Role – For many leaders, this may not be the case, but for those of you who don’t know, over the past 17 years I have worked in every department at TutorPro. The team know that I understand the pros, cons and challenges they face, and that I can genuinely relate to each role. This gives me credibility and gives substance to any advice and direction I give. I will never ask one of the team to do something that I have not done or wouldn’t do myself.
Communication and Transparency Are Key – I’ve implemented many changes over the past 3 years and will continue to do so! I’m a firm believer that growth and comfort don’t coexist. Changes can be daunting, especially under new leadership but I’ve been fortunate enough to have had full support from the team. I believe that with constant communication and inclusion in discussions and decisions, systems and processes can be successfully transformed with minimal disruption. The benefits have now become evident, building trust and confidence.
Departmental Sharing is Vital – From experience, I know how challenging it can be when departments are not aligned! Each Monday, the departmental managers and I have a “LION” meeting (Last Week, Issues, Opportunities, Next Week). This not only ensures everyone is kept up to date, but if there are opportunities and obstacles that need to be discussed each departmental manager is aware immediately. They also have all the information they need at the start of the week, to share with their team.
Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Vision – The ability to communicate my vision for the business is essential, this means the team know where we’re headed and encourages them to be fully invested in the journey. Each team member has quarterly OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) set, which helps them understand their focus. In addition, each objective is aligned to the overall vision and it’s clear to them the part they play.
Show That You Love What You Do! – For me leadership is also about having a powerful imagination and excellent interpersonal skills, in all areas. It is always my intention to remain positive, bring an energetic vibe to work to generate enthusiasm and demonstrate that I love what I do. It has become evident that when I show my passion and dedication, it becomes infectious!
Let Us Be The Crazy Ones! – The last Friday of the month is known as “Fridea” Day. The team take a step back from their normal role and use the time for personal or business development. This could be continued learning, product road-mapping, research, testing out a new idea or strategy, etc. Fridea Day also encourages colleagues who would not normally get a chance to work together, pair up and exchange ideas.
We also have a full week twice a year called Strategy Week, which has the same premise as Fridea Day but it’s an entire week! These opportunities boost creativity, stimulates idea generation, and broadens knowledge. I cannot express how excited I get when these days and weeks occur, the team are so energized and enthusiastic. It’s AMAZING!
I Know the Team Won’t Do It My Way! – The team know I have confidence in them, I trust them and their ability to work together. I particularly avoid micro-managing, which I feel creates undue pressure. Coaching the team means that I no longer provide the answer immediately or do it for them because it is quicker in the short term – that’s no way to learn! It’s more about being supportive, encouraging, and helping everyone to excel and demonstrate their full potential.
No Blame Culture – I’ve implemented a no blame culture; I encourage others to own their mistakes and be proactive to achieve resolution and learn from mistakes made. I lead by example and I openly own my mistakes and expect the same from the team, after all, it is only human to make mistakes. I hope that this transparency encourages openness and there is nothing that cannot be resolved if the team works together.
Everyone Gets a Say! – This is a simple and effective one. Whatever position the team member holds and however long they’ve been with the team. I encourage everyone to share their experiences, knowledge and ideas from their first day joining our team.
Buddy Scheme for Newbies! – I can’t take credit for this one, I just authorized it! This was submitted through our ‘Suggestion Box’ (another great way for the team to be heard!) but it’s too great not to share. Starting a new role has its own challenges, but when you’re not in an office it can be harder to build relationships with colleagues. The implementation of our Buddy Scheme means that any new employee is paired up with someone from outside their department to provide regular contact. Regular phone calls and a friendly chat encourages friendships that might not otherwise be easy to forge.
Have Fun! – Just because the teams are remote and don’t get an opportunity to meet for drinks on a Friday after work, doesn’t mean you can’t socialize. Twice a month we have a virtual lunch, which is optional but continues to be highly attended.
Celebrate the Wins… – I encourage the team to reflect on what we have accomplished, don’t just jump straight onto the next task! At company meetings we share our monthly wins so we can spend a moment basking in our successes. We also share these in Motivosity, a peer-to-peer recognition platform. I’ll come to that in a moment.
…Especially the Big Ones! – Early on in lockdown we achieved a milestone, something I immediately wanted to share but needed a way to celebrate with the team. I thought long and hard about how to do this virtually. I emailed each of the team and told them they would be receiving a box, to keep it safe for me and email me when they received it. Once I got confirmation from everyone, I scheduled a last-minute meeting with a non-related subject line! On the call I proudly shared that we had achieved the milestone and asked them to get their box!! I had sent them all a personalized gift and a thank you card for all their hard work. It was so much fun and we recorded the session for a keepsake. There are moments that need a special celebration, take the time to appreciate them.
Say Thank You!
It sounds obvious but saying thank you goes a long way. I implemented the platform Motivosity about 12 months ago, giving employees the opportunity to acknowledge each other’s wins and say thank you, while associating the post with one of our Core Values. They get a monthly allowance to gift each other, which can be spent in the store on gift cards etc. They can also celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other accomplishments. The platform also offer insights into our personalities and compares strengths and weaknesses when working together. It’s a fantastic tool and has a big impact on engagement levels.
How I Monitor Engagement Levels – We use a platform called Engagement Multiplier. The team complete a Benchmarking Survey and get an opportunity to provide feedback: about me as their CEO, their manager, team members, our clients and themselves.
Even with the high scores achieved, it doesn’t mean I can sit back and relax! It’s important to continue what we’re doing and make small changes where possible to retain these high engagement levels. The team know any feedback, good or bad, will be taken onboard.
We should support one another. Be inspired by others and share approaches and insights. If anyone would like to chat more about this, please feel free to reach out and schedule a call with me.
If you’re still struggling with working at home, check out our blog ‘Top Tips for Working at Home’.