My last blog post addressed the issue related to being an employee in an organization who reports to or works with someone in another company location … many miles and time zones away.. The fact is that there are real challenges to juggling the demands of this kind of job while still working to have a balanced life.
Yet this is not a one sided situation. It is every bit as daunting to lead and manage in a geographically diverse organization. Let’s explore the challenges and find solutions that will make this … well … more manageable.
Successfully managing a geographically diverse group requires these sensitivities:
- Building trust
- Visiting the other locations on a predictable schedule
- Encouraging communication
- Creating impromptu interactions
- Getting to know those you lead on a personal level
- Making those remote from you feel like a part of the team
- Considering the needs of all stakeholders
Easy, right? Except, what we hear our clients say about how often team members feel “others” are insensitive to their needs. It is the perception that, in spite of a leader’s best intentions, the employees’ expectations for a “normal” business day are not being honored. This is especially acute where multiple time zones are a part of the organizational structure.
The common complaint is that the leader appears to disregard time differences or even having the work day cross over to a weekend day. In doing so …
- Meetings are scheduled for the manager’s time zone convenience. The impact is that the employee must be available regardless of how early or late in the day or even day or the week.
- Work is often assigned with the request to have ‘in my email in-box’ by the first thing tomorrow morning … and the request takes an amount of time that will keep the employee working well beyond any semblance of a normal work day or week.
Over time, the result is an exhausted, demoralized and disgruntled employee. In spite of liking the job and the nature of the work, resentment builds as one becomes aware of the impact the added time has on one’s personal life. This directly affects weekend activities with family, solid nights of sleep and, in general, the ability to be a participatory parent and partner.
In speaking with managers who oversaw reports in remote locations we came to realize they were probably responsible for setting the level of perceived expectation because they always responded to email at night and on weekends. Their level of responsiveness set an implied expectation among the direct reports. Fortunately, some managers realize this was wrong and needed to be clarified.
Here in lies what we find is the cure for much of this challenge. Clarification of expectations and requirements. We encourage all of you who are in this situation of multiple time zones and/or locations to be clear in your own minds about what really is required and expected of those who report to you. Then, convey to them what you expect:
- when there will be an a very early or late in the day meeting or call. Is there compensating time off … that day or week or month?
- when one is expected to be available during the work day? Is it to start early to accommodate being closer to the time of the headquarters i.e. begin at 6am and leave early?
- when there are special circumstances wherein one is expected to be available at an ‘out of norm’ hour and how often should they anticipate this need? Will accommodations be made?
- of yourself in terms of conducting conference calls with any company locations in a different time zone? Will you adapt your schedule to that time zone and thus require nothing out of the norm for those involved?
We’ve found that once a leader takes the steps to clarify expectations and is willing to adapt themselves, so much of the frustration and resentment greatly dissipates. If you are reading this as one reporting to another in the company wherein you experience some of these challenging situations, what might be right in your forwarding this to those who might benefit from its’ message? Could their benefit be your benefit? And if you’re hesitant to do this, give me names and email addresses and I’ll be glad to it for you. 🙂