What are the best practices for managing teams remotely?
How to beat the great resignation
There is a new buzzword jumping across industries – the great resignation. What many may not know is that it was coined by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University in May 2021. Flash forward today, we see that he had successfully predicted a mass exodus of job seekers emerging following the pandemic.
Earlier this year, Professor Klotz identified three new great resignation trends:
- The great resignation will slow down
- Flexible work arrangements will be the norm, not the exception
- Remote jobs will become more competitive
So it looks like there is positive news ahead for firms feeling the pressure from talent leaving. If Professor Klotz is correct again, we can foresee fewer notices are on the horizon.
But new questions emerge from his latest prediction. Are firms equipped at managing teams remotely? Do leaders know how to manage remote teams? Are there managing remote teams best practices you can start applying today?
Read on to learn more about remote work, managing people remotely, tips for being a remote manager, and much much more!
What is remote work?
Benefits from working remotely
Remote work challenges
Managing people remotely can be challenging. Throughout the pandemic, managers have experienced a wealth of adverse effects ranging from colleagues feeling lonely and missing social connection, having difficulties finding ‘no screen time’ moments throughout the day, to a lack of productivity due to breaks in communication.
During a video call, you might encounter poor internet connection, dropped audio, buffering video, lockouts, to unavoidable loud and distracting home environments making it difficult to tune in. This is why remote team management is essential to understand. Only then will remote managers be able to mitigate such challenges.
What is remote team management?
Remote team management is very similar to in-person team management. Managers focus on teamwork, communication, objective setting, performance, productivity, and planning.
Top down, bottom up and peer to peer communication is key regardless of whether a team is remote or meeting in person. Interpersonal communication will exist no matter the setting. Nevertheless, remote team managers have an even more important role to play in team communication. This is due to the fact that in person and informal communication occurs less frequently in virtual settings.
Knowing how a team communicates with one another can help the remote team leader adapt to the team’s needs. For example, applying these engaging and fun virtual icebreakers for remote teams could help a ‘shy’ team connect.
Just because an in person session doesn’t take place doesn’t mean that performance reviews can be taken off the schedule. Remote team managers need to ensure that goals are set and measured regardless. Although some managers might find it more difficult to communicate poor or even positive feedback remotely, it’s imperative that it happens. It also shows the importance of remote team leaders having heightened communication skills when managing teams remotely.
The pandemic has spurred innovative digital technologies that can easily be incorporated into remote teams’ daily operations. A growing list of apps now exist with integrations into Slack, MS Teams, Google and various other team platforms. These tools have been developed with the aim to enhance collaboration, health, well being, and productivity for remote teams. Check out the ‘the importance of learning remote team management tools’ section below to learn more.
The role of the remote team lead/manager
A manager is a manager whether they are meeting face-to-face during a weekly one-on-one or virtually from MS Teams or Zoom.
So what do leaders need to do differently when managing remote teams? In essence not too much. If you were a great manager at the office there is no reason you can’t be a great remote team manager. However, remote team managers need to ensure that they possess the right skill sets, mindsets, behaviors and traits.
Act as a servant leader
“The servant-first [leader makes] sure that other people’s highest priority-needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”
Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader
Knowing that remote teams might encounter challenges with feelings of loneliness, the inability to ‘turn off,’ and find time for ‘non-screen’ activities, a remote team leader should embrace a servant-first approach where the health, wellbeing and autonomy of colleagues is central. To be a great servant leader, understanding your team’s individual and collective needs is very important.
Be a digital tools collaborator
Remote team leaders should play an active role in using collaboration tools across their teams. The more traditional ways of junior team members having the only access to operational tools should stop. Remote team leaders need to understand how new remote collaboration tools work.
They need to understand the purpose and goals of the new technology. Strong remote team managers should listen to new ideas coming from the team and then evaluate whether incorporating new digital tools into operations will elevate team performance.
Also, they need to set budgets and forecast spending for application renewals and know how to troubleshoot problems that arise or advise on how to solve them. Essentially, remote team leaders need to embrace state-of-the-art technologies designed to enhance remote team productivity, and know how to train and encourage colleagues to use newer collaboration tools. This will give an extra advantage to remote teams as they integrate better and more efficient ways of working into their business as usual.
How to manage a remote team?
Host regular ‘you’ focused meetings
Grabbing a tea or coffee in the office cafeteria is a thing of the past. But that shouldn’t stop managers and colleagues from having informal meetings. Organising informal chats or adding an extra 15 minutes to your regular one-on-one where you specifically plan to ‘catch up’ is a great way to plan focused ‘you’ time. Locking these informal meetings in the schedule is quite important during busier times of the year.
Also drinking coffee or having tea virtually together is a great way to break the ice and change the formal setting into an informal setting quite quickly. During these ‘you’ focused meetings, managers can take time to check-in with their colleagues and ask about their health and wellbeing.
During ‘you’ sessions managers can ask questions about their colleague’s home working environment and double check that their equipment is working, their internet connection is strong, and that they feel comfortable where they are working. It’s also a great idea to speak about holiday plans at a high level. A long weekend might be in the pipeline. If a manager has a larger team, knowing holiday schedules well in advance will help with future planning.
A lot can be learned and discussed at these ‘you’ focused sessions. But one thing for sure is that your colleague will feel heard and connected more and more after each ‘you’ session.
Organise empowering ‘we’ focused team sessions
The importance of learning remote team management tools
Want to give team recognition in a fun way? If so, try Karma where any team member can give ‘kudos’ to fellow colleagues. Leaderboards can be turned on or off and points collected. The friendly challenge app is a great way to stir conversations during your ‘we’ team meetings.
Managing remote teams best practices:
Knowing what you are doing and how you are doing it will ensure efficiency gains. With so many great remote management tools on the market, make sure your tools and processes are up to date. Take an inventory or even audit how your working across the team and then research what’s out there to see if you have the best in class tools needed to keep your team together, healthy and productive.
Set the tone early on. Let new hires know about your meetings ‘you’, ‘we’ team, performance reviews, team building sessions, monthly business reviews and more. Make sure to lock them in the calendars early on. Don’t forget to prioritise objectives, deadlines and deliverables and check-in regularly with individual team members.
Focus on Communication
As mentioned communication is the cornerstone of success for remote team management. Ensure that you’re always adding new communication tools, skills and methods to your leader tool box.
Schedule daily check-ins
Make sure the right tools are available and accessible
Train and connect remote employees
Gather feedback regularly
Ensure no employees are isolated
Encourage social interactions
Whether you use remote management tools like Polly or Karma or give shout-outs at your ‘we’ team meetings, don’t forget to celebrate achievements your team makes. Great milestones to keep in mind include strong quarter end results, campaign or project go-lives and don’t forget personal successes such as a colleague getting married, having a baby or celebrating their birthdays. Recognise their personal or professional success and keep your team connected.