How to Lead Successful Teams when Everyone is Remote
March 30, 2020
Working from home has become the new normal. But normal doesn’t mean everything will come naturally—especially for managers.
How do you motivate employees while working from home? How do you keep teams engaged and connected?
If you’re a new manager who’s suddenly leading teams where everyone is remote, you’re having to quickly figure out how to operate in this new work environment. Your team, your success (and your sanity) depend on it.
You’re the hub that connects the geographically disconnected team, says Phil Gold in Managing Virtual Teams. That means it’s in your power to set the tone that will inspire trust, connection, and hard work.
Focus on these three strategies to build cohesive, high-performing teams that will weather this storm together, and come out even stronger.
3 strategies to successfully manage remote teams
#1 Reset expectations
With such a dramatic shift in our work environment, it makes sense that expectations will change as well.
Help your team feel secure by clearly communicating what’s required of them. When you get specific about individual and team responsibilities, roles, and goals, you will reduce ambiguity and create common ground.
Consistency and structure will also go a long way in reinforcing new expectations.
Regularly scheduled meetings, for example, will help build rapport among team members. Many employees are craving personal connection, so even if you don’t have much to discuss, still hold the meeting and give them a reason to come together.
#2 Establish a team mindset
Globally, this is the time to come together (virtually) to do what’s right for the health and safety of everyone. You can apply that mindset to your teams too.
Many people feel isolated right now. Encourage a team identity by reminding them you’re in it together, working towards a common purpose.
It’s also helpful to give them opportunities to collaborate without you present. When people have the chance to successfully collaborate—especially if they’re new to doing it through video calls—it gives them confidence in their skills, strengthens team dynamics, and builds trust.
Allow for a learning curve and encourage people to ask for help from you and their teammates.
“Nothing says ‘we are a team’ better than the individual workers looking out for each other, and taking an active part in ensuring their mutual success,” says Gold.
#3 Communicate any changes ASAP
“The only constant is change,” we’ve all heard. And that’s certainly true in these uncertain times, as businesses seem to pivot daily.
Projects get dropped or become hyper-critical. People move into new roles. Strategic goals shift. All of this can cause additional stress and anxiety, especially for remote employees who may feel out of the loop.
Make your team feel supported by communicating any changes to goals and priorities immediately.
First, email the team with a summary of the change.
Second, follow up with an immediate team meeting:
Provide as much detail as is available regarding the change. Give the team time to voice their reactions.
Discuss how you and the team will respond to the change, again allowing time for input.
When appropriate, make decisions as collaborative as possible. Team buy-in will make implementation easier.
After the meeting, send an email to the team documenting what was discussed and any next steps. If the change impacts some team members more than others or if anyone has concerns, make time to talk with them one-on-one.
“Taking a little extra care of people not only heads off potential problems, it also strengthens the bonds between you and the team member, and helps demonstrate your genuine empathy,” says Gold.