For the last 8 weeks, I was dreading a daily call with my newest staff member. I was scared I’d blow my top and be a bad boss.
Not because of her, but because of me.
Almost from the start, I was being a total arse and it was difficult to stop because we weren’t communicating at the same level and the work wasn’t being completed on time or in the way I wanted.
Were my expectations too high?
Part of the problem was that she was thousands of kilometres away in my Cebu office, so all our communication was over Skype. Skype is better than a phone call because you can look at each other, but nothing replaces a physical face to face meeting.
This is a common issue that many business owners would say about their experience in working with offshore staff. So they give up.
Let me be absolutely clear, there are no excuses for poor behaviour with anyone.
When I asked her to add how she felt about our relationship, this is what she said:
“I think it’s normal for two people to misunderstand each other especially when you do not fully know how each party would want to have tasks done. Personally, I am someone who gives importance to quality. Brian, on the other hand, wants productivity. So we were having difficulty meeting halfway because I did not know yet what he prioritized so I ended up focusing more on the quality of the task rather than finishing more tasks.
In time, I was able to slowly pick up how he wanted things to get done and we were coming along a little better but sure there were still miscommunications. There was once when he got so frustrated because he felt that he needed to reiterate the instructions so we could come up with a good product. I, on the other hand, felt disappointed in myself. As someone who has just started, it is my goal to give a good impression as a start but it wasn’t what was happening.
When I started to open up more about my ideas on how the tasks are done, I felt that Brian was happy about it. I then slowly realized that we were having miscommunications because I wasn’t too open about my opinions.
When Brian came here in the Philippines, I did not know how I would start a conversation with him. I mean, we call each other every day via Skype but hey, meeting and talking to someone in person is totally different.
I was told by my colleagues that Brian is a huge hugger and I myself am a hugger too. So, when I approached Brian, I didn’t know what to really say, instead I just gave him a big hug. And I think that started to cut all those barriers we once had.
We had a good talk over pizza and beer and it made our relationship better. I have come to believe that some things are not easily solved by words but can be with a hug.”
Right from the start I really liked her as a person and knew she could do the job, so the only solution I could think of was to hop on a plane and visit her. Of course, there are other benefits for me to visit the office and spend time with my management team and staff, but the main purpose was to visit her.
My behaviour was not who I truly am and although I felt like she wasn’t following my instructions in the order of priority given, it’s common decency to treat all others how we would want to be treated ourselves.
So to get over myself and get back to being to the person I aspire to be, a plane trip and time in the Cebu office was the best solution I could think of.
So, last week I was in the Philippines and the first thing I did when I met her was to give her a big hug. Without me knowing it, my existing team had already warned her (and everyone else) that ‘I am a hugger’, so she was expecting it and returned my hug with enthusiasm and a big smile.
As the saying goes, ‘we hugged it out’ which I believe is an offshoot and the opposite of the phrase ‘we slugged it out’.
Imagine if all conflicts were hugged and not slugged out!
Before the hug, the ingredients for disaster were there from the start. I am headstrong, driven and like efficiency. I give detailed instructions at the start so there’s little room for confusion.
My staff member, on the other hand, was hired to be our head of digital marketing which comes with a high degree of creativity, free thinking, and possibly flexible timelines.
Now the hug didn’t fix everything but apologising over and over again, plus a beer and pizza at the local shop helped to change a stressful work situation into a warm, caring and understanding one.
Looking back now at the time before we met in Cebu, before calling her on Skype for a daily meeting, I could already feel the tension building and it wouldn’t take much to set me off if she wasn’t delivering what I expected.
So how am I now that I’m back in Australia?
Totally different, now I really look forward to calling her and having a chat about our work and also about our respective children.
Our relationship is solid and the work quality is also exactly where we both want it to be. For example, if you’d like to see what she has just completed for me, check out our website which she built from scratch, animated videos and all.