One of the people that used to report to me was remembering her Mother who had passed away in a really heartfelt post on Facebook. She was reporting to me at the time when her Mom was sick and as you can imagine have a difficult time with it. I had been in a similar position with my own Mom about 10 years before that so I could completely empathize with what she was going through.
We used to meet weekly over the phone since she was in Europe and I was in Chicago. This was my first direct report that was located in another country. She was not only facing challenges personally, but also professionally. I needed to build strong trust with her quickly to address the issues she was facing. We had to have some tough conversations to help her move forward and address the issues she had. I enlisted the help of one of my friends who was a manager there in her office. I thought he could help give her guidance and also to provide feedback to me of where else she may need help. It is difficult to manage the politics of situations when you are not physically there and may not know all the players. I was grateful that he was willing to help me.
It was a good experience for me to understand how to really work with someone that was truly remote. Building trust, frequent communication and listening were very important to establish a good working relationship. We have both since left the company and gone on to other things. We have stayed in touch via Facebook and she has now moved to the US. When I commented on her post about her Mom, she replied back that I was an inspiration to her and how much she appreciated my support over the phone during such a difficult time. I did what I felt was right for her both personally and professionally.
I always think about the Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” No matter who I am working with this quote is something that I always remember and try to live by. What can you do today to show your team or someone else in your life that you care?