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International Women’s Day 2023 Inspiration: Effective Remote Leadership

Kate Massey, Head of APAC at Searchspring, reveals her top tips for effective remote leadership to celebrate this International Women’s Day 2023.

A recent McKinsey survey shows that only one in ten women wants to work mostly on-site. Many also point to remote and hybrid-work environments as one of their top reasons for joining or staying with an organisation. Additionally, women who work the way they want have increased job satisfaction. In the same survey, 81% of respondents who can work how they want said they were happy with their job, compared with just 61% who could not work how they choose.

As the first “feet on the ground” in APAC (Asia-Pacific) for global ecommerce search, merchandising, and personalisation platform, Searchspring, I knew a completely remote work environment would bring challenges – but also unique opportunities.

I’ve always been inspired by strong females. Ruth Ginsberg famously said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception”. I also have enormous respect for female-led retail brands, some of which I’m fortunate to call Searchspring customers, including St Frock, Bed Threads, Snuggle Hunny, Beginning Boutique, Camilla, and Sans Beast – just to name a few.

I’m proud to say that Searchspring has supported my strategic decisions in driving the APAC region’s growth while also enabling me to build and support our APAC team.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, and of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share some of my insights about effective remote leadership strategies. I hope the ideas in this article inspire women – and everyone else of any gender or identification – to see success in their professional lives.


Turn Your Challenge Into a Strength

Searchspring’s headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, is over 13,500km away from where I’m situated in Sydney, Australia. I was always determined, however, to turn that physical distance into a cooperative strength.

Regardless of how far away you work from colleagues, partners, and customers, use that distance to share your unique perspective of the world. Talk about the similarities and differences to better understand each other, create connections, and build rapport.



Driving Results from Remote-First Recruitment

It’s always vital to put the right people in the right roles – and this is even more apparent in remote working environments. The recruitment process should be an open dialogue that allows both parties to understand the expectations of each other and help set roles up for success. Be clear and open in your communication during recruitment to see the best results from the start.


Use Technology to Keep Communications Flowing

In remote working environments, there’s no opportunity to swivel your chair and ask questions of a colleague. So the right tools to communicate in remote work situations are critical. Video calls, emails, and instant messaging systems help our team stay connected and aligned. We also have weekly “sync” video meetings where everyone shares their top 3 highlights and 3 priorities for the week ahead. Company-wide cascading messages and updates are also shared, along with progress towards targets, action items needed to reach future goals, and how we can overcome any roadblocks as a team. Additionally, weekly “1-2-1” meetings allow each person to speak candidly with me, ask questions, and check in with each other in a less formal setting.

Use technology to help communication flow more easily within your remote work team and keep everyone aligned.



Build a Bright Future, Driven by Culture

As a lean, high-output team, we’re incredibly focused on keeping our team and company culture on track. Despite having multiple locations and team members around the globe, connection and inclusion have always been clear strengths of the Searchspring crew. For example, our quarterly global MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards recognise individual efforts at a company-wide level, while our monthly “All Hands” meetings driven from our head office in the U.S. keep everyone included and updated.

We share various highlights, ideas, and information across groups that we’ve set up in our instant messaging system, Slack. Everyone can also connect for virtual coffee catch-ups, drawn at random, to build relationships and help team members understand each other’s roles and initiatives across the business.

Our strong sense of culture helps us build a bright future together – regardless of the physical distance between us.


Offsite Ideas to Drive Culture

Face-to-face events and company days provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate the successes that our team’s hard work and determination have produced. A recent highlight was bringing my team together to Cockatoo Island in Sydney. Throughout two full days, we engaged in strategy sessions, brainstorming, and presentations, with each team member creating a better understanding of how we can support one another and continue the incredible success we’ve seen so far. Additionally, a night of “glamping” (camping with a little extra glamour) between strategy days helped everyone get out of their comfort zones and bond as a team.

Another offsite event brought us together in an AirBnB, turning it into a temporary headquarters in Sydney for several days. We dedicated time to discussing each person’s role and responsibilities, their highlights, goals, obstacles, and opportunities. We talked openly and broke down barriers, helping us all gain an even deeper understanding of everyone’s day-to-day activities. It was incredible to hear the team articulating their passions for their roles, their team environment, and the company culture that we’re building together.

Look for these opportunities to bring your remote work team together for dedicated offsite activities. The value gained from connecting, collaborating, and communicating is immeasurable.



Applying Local Lessons to Your Global Growth Strategy

I’m incredibly proud of the rapid growth of our APAC region. We began with a humble install base and now support over 160 leading and emerging retail brands in APAC alone. We’ve driven a 434% growth rate in the first two years in-region with no signs of slowing down.

Our global team has been a key ingredient to our continued success in APAC. Regardless of time zones, they are always willing to help and strengthen our collective priority – to serve our customers with world-class ecommerce technology and the personalised support needed to drive the most value from it.

The attitudes and culture we’re driving from a local perspective are reflected back from a global perspective. And with strong communication, recognition of efforts, and celebration of everything our various teams have achieved, our culture is never forced and develops organically.

For me, effective remote work strategy all boils down to three things: communication, connection, and culture. The focus on these elements starts from recruitment, is reflected in our high-performance, high-output teams across the globe, and has resulted in incredible regional and global success that will only grow stronger from here.