Leading from Afar: Top 3 Tips to Lead Remote Teams

The Remote Work Revolution may have caught the world off guard, but a few months into the global Covid-19 pandemic, it’s clear that we have all learned that teams don’t have to be co-located to be successful.  As we all adjust to new ways of working, there is more pressure than ever on managers to step away from their old ways of micro-managing and enforcing compliance and instead, fully embrace their role as leaders who coach and enable.

Here at Humanity, we are always learning and improving, as we hone our skills and become better leaders for an ever-evolving world. After having coached over 100 teams during the first three months of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have identified some of the most effective ways to lead better from a distance and ensure high levels of performance and employee engagement in remote teams. Here are our top 3 recommendations:

New Rules

We cannot possibly duplicate the  “co-located team in the office” scenario with remote working and we need to stop clinging to the past. New ways of working require new rules of engagement. Set some time aside to workshop with your team, just what these new rules of engagement need to be. What times are reserved for radio silence or focused work? How often will you have team meetings? What communication channels will you use (hint: it’s not going to be email). Co-create these new rules of engagement in your team and hold each other accountable for complying with new ways of working, whilst also being flexible enough to change and adapt if you realise something doesn’t serve the greater good anymore.

Authentic Human Connection

When we don’t physically see each other every day, it’s easy to forget to nurture authentic human connections and interactions. Those “how are you? How’s the family? What are you watching on Netflix?” conversations that we take for granted in an office environment, are actually crucial to building and maintaining our relationships with each other at work. In a remote team, we need to work a little harder to make time for authentic human connection. As a leader, schedule a weekly or bi-weekly 15 to 20 minute virtual coffee or snack date with each of your team members and talk about life and everything outside of work. Just catch up and connect as fellow human beings.

In your team, perhaps start looking at using some of the awesome apps that are available as plugins for Microsoft Teams. We love “donut” which randomly connects colleagues for virtual coffee dates and conversations.

Daily Stand-Ups

One of the biggest challenges we have found that managers complain about, is that they don’t know what is happening in their team or who is working on what. This fear leads to a tendency to micro-manage and to schedule more unnecessary team meetings. Instead of letting your fear impact your team negatively, you can get the oversight and feedback that you need by introducing the daily stand-up meeting. Stand-ups are used very successfully in Agile software and project teams. Everyone is meant to be standing and the meeting shouldn’t last for more than 30 minutes every morning, so you have to be strict with yourself and your team members about not being distracted and veering off course. Each team member has an opportunity to share their update and answer these 3 questions:

  • What I have completed;
  • What I’m working on today; and
  • What challenges I have or foresee, that I possibly need assistance with.

If you have a really large team or you’re managing an entire department or division, your supervisors and team leaders can conduct their daily stand-ups in their teams and then report back to you with the collated information before 10:00.

Make sure that your team members know and understand what is expected of them in their roles and then step back and trust that they will achieve their workplace goals in a way that works best for them and their individual situation at home. Show your people that you care about them, give them the tools to succeed in their jobs. The results may pleasantly surprise you.

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