Leading from afar

Emma Banks
By Emma Banks

Our MD, Emma Banks reveals the trials, tribulations, and tips when running a business 6,000 miles away. 

Distance from the day-to-day

Anyone that travels for work often will relate to this blog. Being away from home is hard. For you and the loved ones around you. It’s also hard professionally to feel in control of a team when you’re less accessible compared to usual. 

As I embark on a three-week trip around the east and west coast of America, I reflect on what it means to be away from a business you are responsible for a long period of time. In 2022, do you still need the physical presence of a CEO? Or has the role we once knew completely changed?

The context

Firstly, what an incredible trip I have ahead of me. Not only do I get the chance to attend Bio International and visit some of our lovely clients, but I’ll also get time with our US team and some personal downtime. So why does that justify a three-week trip? I hear you! I had an event and an important client meeting just 10 days apart and didn’t fancy two UK to San Diego trips within the space of a fortnight (or the carbon footprint guilt), and the opportunity to spend time with the US team was just too good to miss.

So, back to the business. How do you take a temperature check of a business in a different timezone? How do you make yourself accessible without throwing any work-life balance out the window? I’m sure every business and team is different – but having managed a global team for some time, I wanted to share 3 simple tips I’ve learned over time.

1) Trust your team

It sounds simple. But we all know this is harder than we’d care to admit. A leadership role often lends itself to control. Which is hard to maintain as a business scales and so does the nature of your role. I’ve found that clear expectations and a healthy team dynamic enable you to relax when absent, as you can trust that the business will operate as usual. This is not something that can be switched on when you need it to though. Does your team feel trusted? Are they truly accountable? My advice – if you struggle with this, you need to work on the health of your team.

2) Be flexible and available

This one is a tricky balance. How do you stay available without needing to get up at 3am to accommodate other time zones? There is an element of deciding what you do and don’t need to be involved in. But, it’s also about understanding that your role as a leader is to serve the people who work with you. Does your team understand that they don’t have to change their working practices because yours have temporarily? Do they know you can be available if they need you to be? Set boundaries around what suits you and your team and make sure that’s communicated widely.

3) Protect time for yourself

We’ve all had the guilt of taking personal time when we travel for work. For me, no matter whether I’m travelling or not, this tip is vital. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in work and forget to call home, forget to go out and socialise in the evenings or get busy and skip a meal. For me, I know my team will get the best version of me if I’m rested, happy and healthy. So, whether it’s staying with an old friend during one of my weekends or arranging team dinners in the evening, stay connected to the people in your world outside of work.

So, these are my simple tips for anyone taking time away from a business for a period of time. Or anyone running a business with a global team. 

Trust your team, make adjustments to suit your team, and give yourself some space.

Connect with Emma.

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