The Adecco Group’s deputy general counsel Meera Ferguson explains how she reinforces relationships during lockdown, keeps in the loop with the wider business, and achieves buy-in when implementing new global policies.

What are your tips for keeping in contact and subsequently in the loop with the wider business whilst remote working?

Meera Ferguson
Meera Ferguson

Use this time as an opportunity to reach out and reinforce relationships. Whether it’s a quick call or a one-liner email…we all appreciate personal contact and it doesn’t have to be work related.

Be the steady pair of hands and trusted partner.  I’ve been with The Adecco Group for nearly 15 years and I never want to lose sight of what the front office is going through.  They will be looking to you for guidance, support and reassurance that you understand and are strategically aligned during these unique times.

For example, I’ve been doing my ‘#yourDGC’ sessions across our brands which I started a couple of years ago. I take time out each month to jump on a call for about 45 minutes and anyone across the brands can ask me any legal or non-legal questions – we always have some very interesting conversations!

As well as keeping in touch, these sessions let me hear their concerns, even if we can’t work a solution immediately.  I can communicate issues that my team are having whilst keeping both legal and business aligned. Relationships are key and by adding my team to these sessions I can also support their stakeholder engagement.

How do you ensure everyone is happy when implementing new global policies? 

Unless you’re offering up ‘free ice-cream Fridays’ as new global policy – this will rarely happen. What you can do is ensure it’s relatively pain free…and sometimes that means you will have to be a project manager and drive it forward if legal are the overall owner.

We are in the middle of rolling out a new policy and in my experience the foundation to any implementation is organisation and communication.  Getting stakeholders’ ‘buy in’ early on will ensure everyone understands the reason for the new policy and ultimately pull in the same direction.

Your colleagues and central functions will probably be impacted the most, so ask for their feedback and ideas.  Keep an open mind, we are not experts in everything, and someone’s idea may get you across the finish line and you all share in the success.

Practically, we’ve pulled together a mini-project group in Microsoft Teams, so all issues are logged, actions are divided up and we have a weekly status check to look at progress and see how close we are to ‘go-live’.

What are the fundamental considerations when managing a team through an uncertain and intense period?

Wellbeing…yours and theirs. Being a leader can be very isolating (even without the current situation), so you need to find time to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.  I find a morning meditation can set me up for the day or a crazy dance class will get me focussed.  Find something that gives you energy and allows you to be present when steering your team through this complicated and emotional time.

To manage remotely you need to understand every individual’s needs – both personal and career orientated.  As a leader, set the right tone and make time for meaningful conversations. Aside from my managers, I regularly catch up with all my department and listen to whatever they want to talk about. It’s important to nurture your team, acknowledge that life is crazy right now and for them not to feel guilty about taking a break from work when they need.

Being flexible will also help foster an inclusive, productive team that will have broader benefits.

In 2019 we began to automate our existing procedures, and made the conscious decision to bed-in Microsoft Teams. Having already implemented ‘Lean’ and ‘Perform’ programs, the move to a user friendly ‘virtual’ space supported further streamlining of processes and creating efficiencies.

Being present without being a micro-manager is important. Working this way allows me to drop into huddles, giving oversight of what the team is working on, but with support and escalation only if needed. It reinforces trust and demonstrates you have belief and have confidence in them.

What is your favourite dish to cook?

Too many to pick one. I am totally food obsessed and did a slot during our company Wellness Week on the benefits of unloved fridge contents!

As an avid baker of all things sweet, savoury, and sticky, lockdown allowed me to turn my hand at bread baking – focaccia being my current go-to.

I wonder if there is a remote PhD in ‘The Secrets of Sourdough and Grains’….?