Melinda P. is the Director of Small and Medium Business for the Facebook Company’s Global Business Group Account and Partner Management team, managing the Australia and New Zealand regions. We asked Melinda to share how her leadership style has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic, how she helps her team feel connected, and her top three tips for working from home.
Leading with empathy
As a seasoned leader with two decades of experience, Melinda has tackled challenges of all shapes and sizes. But as the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold, it’s required many leaders to adapt to a virtual work environment—with learning lessons along the way.
Melinda says, “When our entire team first started working from home, it felt a bit like navigating the unknown. For the first two weeks, we were trying to over-communicate. But when we got to week three, people started to feel like they were spending every day in video meetings. I had to adjust to ensure every meeting had a purpose.”
The ANZ Global Business Group Account and Partner Management team stays virtually connected even if everyone is working from home.
She continues, “Many people on my team live on their own, and away from family. It’s been challenging for everyone, and everyone’s time is precious right now.”
When asked how she’s had to adapt her leadership style, Melinda explains, “I’ve become more deliberate with how I check in with my team, since we aren’t having the office conversations we usually have where you can sense how people are doing.”
Bridging gaps to build stronger connections
Melinda is no stranger to helping teams work together cohesively. She oversees four teams within the Global Business Group that each focus on a different business vertical—from financial services to agencies. “I knew that my team leads would do a great job connecting with their teams during these challenging times, but what I wanted to avoid was emerging from working remotely as separate teams. I want to remain united as one connected team,” Melinda says.
To stay connected while they work from home, Melinda introduced Coffee Roulettes. “Each week, I invite one person from each of the teams to a casual, virtual catch-up. We've talked about everything from where to buy groceries online to how to boil a soft egg effectively.”
Melinda’s team introduced a monthly trivia challenge as another team-building initiative. “One of the women I work with used to do pub trivia. She’s super entertaining.” Because of the diversity of her team, Melinda is conscious to make sure everyone feels like they belong. “After one of our trivia challenges where we had a lot of topics related to Hollywood and American sports, I received feedback from some people on my team who felt they couldn’t contribute as they had not grown up in a western culture. We’ve made sure it’s more inclusive going forward.”
Fitness challenges are also popular. “These challenges have helped people practice mindfulness and resilience. Sometimes people nominate each other—for example, one of my team members recently did a five-minute plank and nominated me to time mine.”
When her team does return to Facebook’s office in Singapore, Melinda hopes to carry the lessons they’ve learned back to their in-office environment. “The more we can be deliberate about building connections and understanding each other, the more trust our team will have,” Melinda says.
Melinda: “My team and I love celebrating together. This photo was taken during lunch on International Women’s Day.”
Strengthening ties within the larger community in ANZ
One of Melinda’s team’s initiatives is supporting the broader communities of Australia and New Zealand. Earlier this year after Australia was devastated by bush fires, Melinda’s team created a response program to help the businesses affected. “We offered support in several forms, including ad coupons and help with updates to their business pages,” she recalls.
One of the Global Business Group Account and Partner Management team’s long-term initiatives is managing trade partnerships. Last year they started building relationships with the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise association, and Austrade in Australia. “Our goal was to learn how we can play a stronger role in educating the businesses they work with. The two biggest priorities are helping small businesses improve their digital literacy, and helping them understand how they can use Facebook’s platforms to export their products or services to international consumers.”
In light of the current social distancing mandates, the team has pivoted Facebook’s Community Boost, its training program for small businesses‚ to a digital format. “Typically at these events, we’re on-stage explaining how to do group moderation or how to use Messenger to speak with customers. That’s challenging to put into an online environment,” Melinda says. “So we created a Boost Facebook group to serve as an interactive program, sharing education from our Community Trainers. Business owners can get advice and build a network of like-minded people."
This video showcases how small businesses in Australia have been using online platforms like Facebook and Instagram to generate new sales and survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether virtual or in-person, Melinda lights up when talking about the opportunity for impact on her team. “We can truly help small businesses dream big and realize their full potential,” she says.”
Top three tips for working from home
Like many people, Melinda is balancing working from home with caring for her three young children. She shares three tips she’s picked up while adopting to this new normal.
1. Take ownership of your time. “This has been an important message to my team and myself. Be deliberate about blocking your calendar at times that are important to you, whether it’s time for yourself, exercise, hobbies or family.”
2. Find your fuel. “For me, that’s exercise. I find that when I push myself harder when exercising, I feel more energized. I found some fantastic free video classes online that suit me, and make me feel so much better throughout the day.”
3. Stay connected! “Because we aren’t seeing people in-person and picking up on non-verbal cues, we have to be open in telling people how we are doing. When you are getting low on energy, take time off to get a break and refresh. And team building exercises inject a dose of fun into the work week.”