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4 key things I learned about keeping global teams engaged in 2020

Our CEO Andrew Campbell reflects on some key lessons he’s learned in 2020 about engaging Lingo24’s global teams during this year of extraordinary change.

Very early in the pandemic I wrote about how I felt as if I’d just been through the hardest three weeks of my life. Fast forward to the end of this year, and I can honestly say that I’ve found myself tested in more ways as a leader in the past nine months, than in my previous 20 years in senior global roles.

Thankfully, Lingo24 has been able to navigate these difficult waters, and as 2020 draws to a close I’m genuinely excited, optimistic even, and eager to embrace what 2021 will bring.

But as I reflect on this year of extraordinary change, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned about keeping our teams engaged across the Lingo24 locations in the UK, Romania, Panama and the Philippines.

1. Be transparent, be visible

In 2020 I needed to make some tough decisions and ask our people to show even more effort and commitment than usual so the business could deal with the economic challenges brought by the pandemic. At times when everything felt so unknown, it was tempting to soften the message. But sugar coating doesn’t work, and I knew I had to be honest, clear and direct.

Prior to the pandemic, I had always travelled regularly to meet with clients, and also to engage with our global hubs. To try and keep some semblance of this face-to-face connection across our teams we scheduled more regular virtual town hall meetings so that the senior leadership team was visible, and colleagues understood they could ask us any question. It wasn’t always fun as tough points were raised, but these forums really helped us gauge the mood across our global locations where the pandemic was progressing at different rates.

I also started sharing regular internal CEO video updates. Although speaking directly into a camera and inviting all of my colleagues into my home office was daunting at first, it didn’t take me long to find my groove here, and I’ve really embraced this as a regular internal comms channel to connect and share important information quickly.

It was so heartening to read feedback from our employee surveys that people appreciated actually seeing and hearing me talking through the plans and next steps, rather than just reading an email, or a piece in our weekly newsletter. For me, sharing important messages via video, when I can’t do it in person, is something that I’ll definitely take forward beyond the pandemic.

2. Pick a great project to unite your global teams

2020’s been a crazy year. There was so much that was outside our control, that never more has the old leadership adage of ‘focus on what you can do’ resonated with me. So we took a step back and looked at some internal goals we’d not got moving, including a flagship project that would pull everyone across the business together into one team.

The objective was to drive over 90% customer adoption of a key part of our technology platform within four months. Initially, some of our teams thought the goal was too ambitious, but we delivered it all at blazing speed, smashing the target after only three months. And it’s already significantly improved our customer experience, allowing us to focus on more development to take this to the next level.

There have been other internal successes in 2020, but that one project injected such a tremendous level of momentum into the business by bringing together every Lingo24 team from Sales, Tech and Finance right through to Marketing and HR to focus on a common objective.

3. Be flexible and be a true partner

Many of our customers are major global brands that have been affected differently by the crisis. Some paused existing projects, while others were scaling their global ecommerce channels faster than they’d thought possible. We had to be nimble to accommodate what they needed from us as a language partner.

Early in the pandemic there was a colossal rise in the demand for internal communications. We were pleased to support so many of our clients to get their business critical messages right in the local language of their global teams during such a difficult time.

We also took a step back to refocus our message to market on our stronger tech capabilities that we’ve been developing. Our technology helps us deliver quality at scale for our customers time and again, as well as enabling efficiencies in their workflows. But we weren’t actually communicating these benefits. This revision to our message helped us win one of our biggest new client partnerships to date, right in the middle of the pandemic – a success that again helped bolster the confidence of our teams.

4. People are more resilient than you might think

My colleagues at Lingo24 have really exceeded my expectations this year. And I’ve been bowled over by how they’ve responded, pragmatically and with grace, despite the many challenges of having been confined for extended periods and having to find a place to work in their homes, with many juggling childcare, to name a few.

And speaking of resilience, one final thought I’d like to share is about how much I enjoyed our online Christmas party last week, where colleagues could move between virtual game, music and chat rooms. It was wonderful seeing everyone enjoying themselves so much, reforming some of those bonds that have been lost over the course of this year as spontaneous water cooler moments have vanished.

I won’t pretend to be sorry to see the back of 2020, but I am genuinely grateful for the lessons learned this year that I’ll take with me into 2021 and beyond.

Andrew Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Lingo24

Andrew Campbell is Chief Executive Officer of Lingo24. He has extensive experience working with IT centric businesses in Edinburgh, London, Singapore and Hong Kong.

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