Chances are, you’re reading this at home, either on your phone or laptop. Remote work is the new “normal” across multiple industries, and most of us have established home routines by this point. Since we’ve been at this for a few months, it’s almost become a habit, really. But just because it’s a habit, doesn’t mean we’re doing it successfully.
Managers have had to pivot just as quickly, and in their own (understandable) chaos, may have been pushed to figure things out on the fly, with little preparation or training.
So, what’s a manager to do?
How do you go from leading your teams well in the office to having equal, if not, better success remotely?
By tapping into your natural skill set and following the tips below, you can be well on your way to establishing a well-oiled machine, even if you have to work kilometers apart.
Here are our 5 Tips to Better Lead your Remote Teams!
- People First. It’s important to remember that your employees are, first and foremost, people. Having your work life thrown upside down is stressful enough, but almost everyone has additional stressors, as well. Not everyone’s home is conducive to a working environment for reasons ranging from broadband connectivity, to noisy neighborhoods (including neighbors that sound like they’re tap dancing on your ceiling), to children that are struggling to cope with this, also. It’s imperative to allow flexibility for your employees to do what you’ve hired them to do, but maybe more on their own time. Communicate deadlines well in advance, but give them permission to manage themselves a bit more than usual. Remember them as sentient humans, and not just workers who are making mistakes or seem a bit distant. They’ll work all the harder for it.
- Documentation. Keeping things documented is hard enough in normal circumstances, but you may really need to step up your game with documentation in the remote work era. In keeping with #1 above, your employees may be working slightly different hours than before. This may mean they can’t make that 11:00 meeting someone scheduled because their kindergartener needs to eat lunch (and is needy for attention, also). Make sure every team meeting is recorded and saved, so your team can review when it’s more conducive (like when the kid takes a nap). Also, having minutes of meetings written out is also a great idea to help people reference their next steps when applicable. Good documentation empowers employees to work more efficiently, without having to sit around and wait for chats or a call whenever someone is free. Have it well organized, too, so they can find what they need, when they need it.
- Outcome Focused. Keeping your sights on the outcomes and not the path everyone is taking to get there may be a shift, especially for those that have a tendency to micromanage. Now is not the time to worry about how your team is filling up the minutes of their day. Shift the priority to your end goal, and make sure it’s well communicated. You need to ensure your team is on the same page, working for the same outcome, as it helps them feel more unified and purposeful. With so many things tugging for attention, employees need to feel like every minute they spend working stays as productive as possible. When they know what they’re working towards, it can invigorate the day and help them stay a bit more focused.
- Set Expectations. This is a huge factor in managing success. Your team needs to know what exactly is expected of them, with no room for ambiguity. They need to understand your thoughts on everything from how they work, when they work, the etiquette for meetings, behaviours you’re not okay with, etc. This should also be documented so that they have it to reference for later, and you can verify these communications were made. Also, don’t forget to be clear about the projects or tasks themselves. Nothing is worse than an approaching deadline with everyone saying they thought someone else would handle this or that, and there’s a scramble. In this environment, the more people understand their guidelines and boundaries, the better.
- Online Tools. There are a host of online tools to help gain management and leadership skills during this time, that actually can provide growth and benefits for years to come. Identifying that you may need more training is a great step towards being a better manager. Find a corporate online course that can help you really understand your strengths and weaknesses, and how to utilize both. If your company bristles at the cost, remind them that this is a long term investment, since we really don’t know the future implications of the coronavirus and if remote work is a better fit for the company. Empower yourself to seek the resources you need to lead your team through the unknown.
At the end of the day, you need to remind yourself that you’re human, too, with needs and anxieties, as well. Don’t try to be a hero by stretching yourself too thin for your team, or you’ll run the risk of burning out, which is no good for you or them.
Lean on your resources and remember that you’re not alone!