My series of blog posts on managing an innovation team in China caused one of my co-workers to forward an interesting article my way (thanks Carter).
Mark Murphy, Founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, published an article Monday that is highly relevant to me as I adjust and experiment in my new role as a (matrix) leader of the EMC Labs China research team.
The article posits that there are four aspects that remote managers should focus on. I’ve listed them below:
Connection: the bonds we build with employees.
Alignment: keeping employees focused and moving in the right direction.
Accountability: how we get people to accomplish what we want.
Communication: via all mediums.
This is helpful, but it doesn’t exactly give me any advice on how to alter my behavior. The rest of the article, however, describes a set of six characteristics that can enable success for a remote manager. It also challenges remote managers (e.g. myself) to consider how they stack up. The first characteristic is as follows (word for word):
Characteristic #1: Indefatigable: Managing employees that span time zones can mean 11 PM conference calls and 6 AM coaching sessions. If yours is a 9-to-5 mindset, and your energy flags after a “normal day”, learn to adapt to a more flexible schedule where you include breaks between “sprints” so your performance over long periods is more consistent.
Am I indefatigable? I had no idea what the word meant. Here is the definition:
incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue; untiring.
My first 2-3 weeks on the job I had a lot of catching up to do. I needed to learn the projects and meet the team. One week I spent every night in meetings until 11 p.m. I was totally fatigated. I agree with the author. A high energy level is required, and I was instantly drained by the varied hours I was working. My morning meetings already included several 7 a.m. conference calls with locations in different parts of the world.
So I made some adjustments. First of all, I stopped going to the gym at 6:30 AM every morning and pushed it out until 8 a.m. This gets me into work quite a bit later, so I make sure not to schedule any other meetings until 10 a.m (if at all possible). I view an exercise routine as an essential part of maintaining energy levels.
The team in China directly asked me “when do you want to work with us”? I chose 2-3 times per week, at night. The main downside of this approach is that my conversations about cool software projects has my brain pretty juiced when I attempt to go to sleep.
I have also told them that I guarantee a quick turn-around time on email (and I’ve kept that guarantee).
I have been an early arriver for my entire career, but my new schedule won’t allow for it. Now I relax around the house in the morning, have some coffee, hang out with the wife, play with the dog, saunter over to the gym, and stroll into work around 10 a.m.
And I’m starting to think to myself: “I like this China gig“.
According to the article, the odds of increasing the innovative output of my team is directly related to my energy level. I agree, I’ve made adjustments, and my overall sense is that the China team and myself are currently operating in a sustainably indefatigable manner.
I’m interested in hearing about other ways that remote teams keep the energy levels high.
Steve Todd is Director at EMC Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author “Innovate With Global Influence“. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 180 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd