Leading remotely can present a certain set of unique challenges, especially if this is a new transition for you or your team. Planning, communication and expectation-setting can help maintain productivity.
Here are some tips for managing a remote team:
Communicate clear expectations
Take a moment to plan. What do you need to achieve, by when and what changes might you need to make to your original quarterly plan and goals? Type it up so you can start discussing it with your team. You will avoid misunderstandings when you create a document that serves as a source of truth. You might also share the document with stakeholders and other teams you collaborate with.
Schedule a team meeting to discuss if there are any new expectations and what, if anything, has changed with working remotely. In your agenda, include:
- Goal responsibilities and ownership
- How often updates are expected and in what form (written, video chat, recording, stand-up)
- Communication norms (which technology you want to use for each type of message, expected response time, dark time, etc.)
Cherish and protect your 1-1 time
1-1’s are a time to make sure you and each member of your team are working towards the same objective(s), that the work that is being completed is the right work, and most importantly, to check on the well-being and engagement of your team.
Regular check-ins stop larger issues from festering, allow for immediate and regular feedback, and promote open communication. Dedicated one-on-one time with your team members becomes even more critical and important when managing a team virtually. Try allocating between 30 minutes to one hour with each of your direct reports for a 1-1 each week.
Getting the most out of 1-1s
Many factors dictate the best way to structure your meetings for success including the emotional needs of those you manage, your relationship and the team member’s experience level. The most important element in a successful 1-1 is creating a space where people feel comfortable discussing the issues and concerns on their minds. These meetings are primarily for the employee and their participation is vital.
Pro-tip: Pre-populate a shared agenda. It will help you provide context prior to the meeting and also allows both parties to take ownership of the meeting. Timebox the topics you know you need to cover.
With the constantly evolving media coverage of COVID-19 and this new way of working remotely for some, it is possible your team may be feeling overwhelmed or anxious. One of the responsibilities of a manager is to ensure your team feels supported and informed at all times.
Start your 1-1 with an open-ended question. This allows the most important and top of mind topics to surface. Here are some questions you might try:
- How are you feeling?
- What is on your mind?
- Do you feel like you have clear priorities?
- Do you feel in-the-loop?
- Do you feel isolated from the rest of the team?
- What are you most excited about?
- What are you most worried about?
- How can I help you?
Once you’ve fully heard their answers, be a facilitator of solutions. Uncover what they’re excited about, how you can mentor them to be successful, and unblock them to do their best work.
Provide feedback often
If employees are more familiar with working in an office environment where they receive feedback daily, the silence in a remote position could cause uncertainty or confusion. It’s easy to assume the worst about your work when you don’t hear otherwise. Regular feedback lets employees know where they stand, gets everyone on the same page, and reduces the chance of a surprise and disagreements during a more formal review.
Share relevant information in a prompt, inclusive and organized way
Keep employees informed by sharing information broadly to all team members in a timely manner. Your leadership is necessary for sharing relevant information that you need to trickle down to your team. Take time to understand what’s being communicated, why and what is being asked from your team.
Choose the right medium or a combination depending on the message and its implications. Some messages will require an email followed by a team meeting. When working remotely, especially in the beginning, more communication is better than less. Sometimes (and depending on your communication style) you can replace a long email with a video.