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Remote team reporting lines

“Hey, I’ve been meaning to mention to you that we’ve decided to reorganise a little. We’ve not really been getting consistent standard with local reporting, so would you be okay to take solid-line responsibility globally for your function? They’ll still report into the country heads, but you’ll be the one calling the shots. Don’t worry, everyone agreed. Keep me in the loop.”

After the initial euphoria of being elevated to a global level of responsibility wears off, reality dawns. How on earth are you going to pull this off?

Common Influencing Challenges

Situations vary widely, but some common challenges you will face include:

  • political challenges that changing reporting lines presents. The decision is to shift power away from the local leadership to you. Are they really all on-board?
  • retention of a dotted-line relationship means that informally, it is likely to remain a solid line to all intents and purposes. Habits of communication and trust will make it a bond that is difficult to break
  • geography makes it difficult to build relationships with your scattered team, between you and them and also between them as team members. Calling a team meeting at short notice just isn’t going to happen
  • lack of visibility and insight. They cannot see you in your office, nor can you see them. The majority of the time, you have no idea what they are doing or, what others are saying about them

The underlying challenge is finding a way to shift loyalty from the old to the new. Not at the expense or disadvantage of the old manager, but to achieve the purpose decided by the executive and deliver the benefits they expect.

Strategic Leadership – Bear in mind the politics

If you are in this situation, or one similar, pay careful attention to:

  1. The political backdrop. What is really going on, why was this decision made, and what will each (losing) local manager do in response?
  2. Analyse the nature of any opposition you may face, and keep updating this as you get to know people
  3. Consistently strengthen relationships. Never be complacent. To gain loyalty you need to gain trust. To gain trust people need to get to know you. And doing that at a distance is going to take a clear strategy, skill and execution
  4. be mindful of the political dilemma this change creates for each team member. They will have to make personal decisions about how their relationships are changing, and what they should do for the best
  5. Keep challenging yourself. Why should the team trust you? How could they benefit from working with you? How can you make it easy for them to adjust to the change?

Of course, you don’t need to pay attention to all of these matters. Many don’t. You may decide to simply tell them what to do and how they should report to you. The organisation has given you the power to make it happen.

Or has it?

Alternatively, invest time and attention in these areas. It will cost you a little now. You will move a little slower at the beginning. Done well, you will save yourself many problems in the future, you’ll build a tea, that feels like a team, and one that will bond around your mission. They will work together to deliver benefits – and enjoy doing it.

And more importantly, you will demonstrate greater potential to the executive, and your peers around the world.

Your call.

Watch this space for Colin’s influencing tips in part two of his blog.

Colin is our Influencing Specialist. As a leadership coach and author, he helps senior leaders to increase their impact, influence and results. His work has been used in over 20% of the FTSE 100 companies and 30% of Fortune 100 corporations.

Further Reading

Influential Leadership – A Leader’s Guide to Getting Things Done

21 Dirty Tricks at Work – How to Beat the Game of Office Politics

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Aziz was founded over 30 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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