Simple Tips For Managers Leading Remote Teams
Given the fact that many of us are now transitioning to fully remote working cultures, I saw this as a great opportunity to write a blog and share what I’ve learnt works effectively when it comes to manging teams remotely. In the coming weeks our teams are going to be under an incredible amount of pressure, particularly in small businesses, myself included! Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that our senior leadership and management teams come together and deliver a solid employee experience – but how can you do this when all of your teams are working remotely?
Today’s blog aims to discuss some of the challenges that you may face when the realisation hits that nobody is in the office. Before then going on to provide three simple to implement tips that any UK business can adopt – that are purposely simplistic.
This blog is potentially one of the most important that I have ever written and what you will ever read. Over the coming weeks managers will need to be given the confidence and structure to manage remotely, if not then many businesses will be at risk of performance issues. Can you afford that in your business?
One thing that will not be covered today is a hidden rule, which is to give managers discretion and employees autonomy. Without sounding like I am contradicting myself, it is really important to provide guidelines and structure however, one thing that I have seen some companies do is micromanage and just like in the office, this simply will not work!
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What challenges may you face when managing teams in a remote environment?
- Not knowing what employees are doing
To begin with a lot of managers will find this incredibly strange. Not being able to see your teams will leave your mind wondering as to what they’re up to. Have they gone to the pub at 10am? Are they asleep? Did they do any work today?
The reality is that some days will be more productive than others, just like in the office – I spent 6 months working fully remote and I can assure you that although I was not at 100% all of the time, when I was in the mood I delivered some of my most productive work. One thing that I found really useful was to be given guidance from my boss. Regular communication, objectives but most importantly the autonomy to get on with it was absolutely crucial. BUT, you know your teams best, or you should. So manage everyone in the way that they’d like – you can even as them how!
People will know when you message or call them to “check-up” – really you’re just trying to see if they are working!
Communication can and will be difficult
Let me just remind you of the fact that moving to a remote working culture is going to be an incredible shift that most of us will not have experienced in the past – gone are the days of walking across the office to speak to a colleague, we need to be more creative. If your business adopts a “core hours” approach e.g. we need you to be available between 10am-2pm but do what you want outside of that window (providing you get your work done), then you’ll find it really hard. How are you going to get in touch with your colleagues with important matters? What if you cannot get hold of someone?
Our businesses have invested heavily into systems such as: Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Slack, Skype and any intranet you can possibly think of – its time to start using them! Assigning tasks, creating group chats, video call meetings, product demo’s, phone calls – absolutely anything! Its time to adapt – it may feel uncomfortable at first but this is the solution to our problem. Remember… SOLUTIONS NOT PROBLEMS!
Maintaining a culture within your team
This is probably the hardest point for me personally. Your culture is something very personal and its tricky to build the same level of relationship over the phone or via a screen. Some members of the team may begin to feel isolated and others will become frustrated as they miss the buzz of the office. So what can you do to maintain your culture?
Lots of people have been sharing ideas over the last week or so and it has been really good to see. I’ve seen anything from 15 minute Monday video huddles, Friday drinks via video call, through to quizzes, socials, coffee mornings, you name it! One thing that is absolutely crucial when it comes to remote working is to make sure that you hold on to and nurture your culture!
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3 tips for managing teams remotely
#1 Have regular check in’s
For the last 12 months I have been talking to our clients about the importance of regular check in’s. I’m not taking about heavy 1-1’s where there’s a back log of administration but instead, sitting down with each member of your team every week and asking three very simply questions. What has gone well this week? What has not gone so well? And is there anything that we can do as a business to support you? Begin to implement this across your business and watch the relationship change between a manager and their team.
#2 Consistent communication
From a managerial perspective, it is important to utilise as many of the internal communication channels as possible – but wherever possible aim to avoid having people manging multiple systems at any one time. E.g. if you have Microsoft teams then you’ll be able to have personal and group chats, along with video calls so you probably won’t need another platform. If you use slack then I’d recommend using Slack as a video tool. I’ve left a list below of my preferred communication systems that you may wish to use to keep your team updated…
- Microsoft teams
- Your internal intranet
#3 Focus on results, not outputs
This relates to the age old argument that just because you’re sat at your desk 9-5pm, 5 days per week, does not mean that you’re being productive. A lot of research suggests that we can not concentrate for any longer than 14 minutes – obviously I wouldn’t recommend 14 minute sprints however, allowing your day to break up their day can have transformational results.
Reflecting on my own experienced I found that working with my boss, Matt, to set my weekly goals around what I wanted to achieve worked really well. I created a simple list in word, that was then transferred into our internal system with tasks that I wanted to achieve. I created one list that was critical things I had to complete and one which was noncritical. I then reviewed this every single Monday. Matt’s approach was to recognise my good work and if things didn’t go too well he asked “ok, so why do you think we didn’t achieve this and is there anything that I can do to help?”. Try this – I’ve seen it work!
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The one thing that I ask is that if you do adopt a remote working strategy, then please do NOT try and mirror your outdated ways of working. Take this as an opportunity to draw a line in the sand, move towards a progressive culture and empower your managers & teams.
If you have any questions regarding remote working then please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.
Employee Engagement & People Strategy Lead