Two heads are better than one – even at a distance

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Two heads are better than one – even at a distance

Imagine working closely, day-to-day with someone for more than two years but never actually meeting them face-to-face. Unusual before the pandemic, but today much more common, so how do you work together when you are physically far apart?

Imagine working closely, day-to-day and sharing a job role with someone for more than two years but never actually meeting them face-to-face. Before the pandemic, this would have been very unusual, but today it’s probably a lot more common than we think.

It’s the case for Rachael and Nathalie, sales enablement specialists for Panasonic TOUGHBOOK. They are based in Wales and Belgium respectively and to make things even more challenging, when they started in their jobs, it was a brand-new role at the organisation. No-one had ever done it before and there was no rule book to follow.

Their new role was to be the glue between the sales and marketing operations and to ensure the right information, in the right format, could always be delivered in the right way by the salesperson. Content, training and coaching are the three pillars of sales enablement.

Nathalie was new to Panasonic and joined with an HR, training and psychology background. Rachael was a technology marketeer and moved to the new role from within Panasonic.

“I was due to join just after lockdown and ironically our bosses delayed the start date by a month because they believed that working closely together, face-to-face, especially at the beginning, was going to be so important,’ explained Nathalie. “Of course, the pandemic was not

going away quickly, so we decided that we just had to get on with it and do the best that we could.”

More than two years on and the two have still never met but it doesn’t seem to have gotten in the way of their work, with sales enablement playing a vital role in helping the organisation to adapt during the pandemic and beyond. So, what’s the secret?

“It helps that our personalities clicked right away,” said Rachael. “We bring very different skills and backgrounds, and we complement each other very well but you have to work at it. We talk every day and it’s not always scheduled. The ability to instantly share thoughts and ideas is incredibly valuable. We synchronise on what we have been working on and plans for the week. We have access to each other’s diaries.”

Nathalie laughs when she says: “I like to talk and strategise, and Rachael has a real eye for the detail and sees the plan and is able to capture it all on paper. We allow each other to try new things and grow but we also always give honest feedback – that’s very important.”

The two rely heavily on Microsoft’s collaborative tools but they also recognise its limitations. “With things like training, sometimes the temptation is to bring everyone together in one virtual room because it can save time, but we have learned that it’s a mistake,’ said Rachael. “It’s incredibly hard then to read the room and to keep everyone’s attention. Small, interactive groups are the way to go.”

The pair agree that two heads – even far apart – are better than one. “We really like to see each other succeed,” explained Nathalie. “We are like each other’s cheerleaders. We really root for each other and that is great for collaboration.”

The two almost met at the end of the summer last year. Flights had been booked and suitcases packed but at the last-minute lockdown restrictions began again and plans had to be cancelled. However, the two are determined that the face-to-face will happen soon.

“The first thing I want to do is give Nathalie a big hug,” said Rachael. After two years of intense working together online, the two feel as close – if not closer – than many work colleagues that share the same office.

Nathalie and Rachael’s top tips for creating a close working relationship at a distance.

  • Schedule less meetings and call each other when you need to. Make it a call rather than an email.
  • Make sure you are aligned at a big picture level and then the everyday details matter less.
  • Remember to talk about non-work-related stuff – it helps to build relationships. In the office you would have socials/drinks and that must be replicated in some way from a distance.

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