Managing Remote Teams
Its difficult to be a leader in today’s world. Managers are expected to lead their team, deliver consistent results, balance their time between work and family and and all the while dealing with the fears and uncertainty that Covid brings. No matter how competent or productive you normally are, the current circumstances have pushed us all to our limits, testing our resilience, testing our relationships and testing mental health.
As a Leadership Coach I have got to witness the rollercoaster of emotions over the past 6 months. The ups and downs of a pandemic and just when we think we have some degree of stability the rug is pulled once again.
Some people ask is it possible to be strategic or visionary when tomorrow is so uncertain? Perhaps all you are hoping for is that you can be supportive and present while there is so much volatility in the world. Everything is possible but very often its going back to the basics where we get to stabilise so that we have a platform to reach for the next level.
So here are 5 things that I have seen make a difference for managers and their teams when it comes to managing effectively but these things become even more important when we are working from home and embracing the reality of managing a remote team.
1.Your Team Needs Clarity
Delivering clarity is an essential step in creating a High Performance Team and especially with a Remote Team. It is often a trait that not enough managers are good at.
Firstly your team needs clear goals. Clear quantifiable and time bound goals will help an employee to know when they have met the objective. It is also good to prioritise a goal in relation to other existing goals. In this way if the team member has to make a decision for themselves about what merits their time, they are clear where this goal falls in priority to other goals. Make sure that your instructions were received in the way you intended. Often we deliver instructions clearly (in our opinion) to hear something different repeated back. This can be due to experience, culture or many other reasons but in order to avoid this check in with them to ensure you are on the same page.
Another area of weakness for a lot of leaders is the lack of systems they employ to help their team do their job. Some team members are left to their own devices, learning the ropes as they go along, creating their own way of doing things. This was never the most efficient way to run a business, but even less so in Covid times.
All processes in an organisation need a system. Mapping your process will identify areas for improvement and highlight inefficiencies and assist your team in doing their job. Having processes are not only good for your customer and your business, they also help your employees to work more effectively by reducing ambiguity and uncertainty at work.
Frustration at work often stems from from doubt and uncertainty so by implementing processes you are giving your employees a way of working that will both benefit them and the company on the whole.
If you don’t know where to start, check out this blog post from Process street, a tool that helps you to manage your teams recurring processes and workflows. top 10 business processes.
Lack of role clarity is a very common issue in busy organisations. Sometimes individuals are recruited without too much thought put into the job specification. Other times the specification is clear but the job evolves. In small organisations this will inevitably happen with fewer employees, everyone will give a dig out when required. But it can cause issues between employees in both small and large organisations. When responsibilities cross over roles and departments, and when some people feel they are doing more than the rest of their team it can create conflict. This lack of clarity is causing a lot of frustration with employees working from home and and this frustration can sometimes lead to resentment. So take some time to make sure everyone is doing the role they should be doing.
When roles and responsibilities are unclear, not only does productivity suffer but relationships can get damaged too.
2. Your Team Needs Support
People are suffering, it sounds dramatic but it’s the reality for a lot of people. There are many enjoying the working from home phenomenon but lots more struggling, living alone, feeling isolated and lonely. As a manager it is your job to make sure people are ok. To know their circumstances and know when they need support. Some parent are still finding it difficult with the kids back at school. They thought their childcare problems would be over when the creches and schools opened up, but now parents and children are feeling anxiety around going to school and then we have to keep them home with any sign of a cough or sneeze.
It is very difficult for people to perform at their best when you don’t feel supported. Lots of parents are hiding their woes as they don’t’ want their manager to think they are not coping or managing the workload so In order to get the most from your people you must allow them to be honest and understand what they are going through. And of course kindness goes a long way. But of course its not just parents who are suffering, a lot of single people are feeling isolated and finding it difficult to be creative or motivated without the interaction and energy they get from their colleagues. Make sure you team know best practise when it comes to staying focused and productive working from home.
While it is important to be there for the team it is also important to manage your time and your availability. There needs to be a balance. You will be no good to your team if you are feeling burnt out. So make sure you include yourself when you are looking after everyone else.
3. Your Team Needs Flexibility
Life as we knew it has gone, which means the way we did things is not the we need to do things moving forward. We cannot bring the norms and structure of pre-Covid 19 into a Covid workday. We need to accept that agility is the new norm and flexibility a given. A lot of our old systems and processes were build for time based productivity, cultures of presenteeism and hierarchical structures. Life doesn’t work that way any longer.
We need to be open to new ways of working and move to task based systems, where if the work is done it doesn’t matter if its done at 9 am or 4 am. Once a team member is performing, let them figure out there own structure and timetable themselves.
Creating an flexibility environment adds to a environment of psychological safety and trust, all essential elements of a High performing team.
4. Your Team Needs Honesty
As well as trust and support your people need honesty. While it is important to be a beacon for your people, its also important to be honest with them. If things aren’t looking good don’t pull the wool over their eyes, they are more likely to knuckle down and do whatever they can do to turn things around if you are honest with them. It’s also important to admit your vulnerabilities and take responsibility if you have made a mistake.
It’s a difficult time and nobody knows what’s coming next so as a manager you will probably make mistakes and make the wrong call from time to time. Don’t brush over it, admit your mistakes and you will earn your people’s respect.
Being honest will ensure that you people trust you and trust is an important foundation in any team. and if there is an absence of trust between the team member and their leader all other attempts at creating a high performing team will be a struggle.
5. Your Wellbeing Matters
In order to be available for your team, present and energised you will need to be looking after yourself. Far too many people managers are running on empty. Too stressed and overwhelmed to be effective. Too overloaded to be supportive to anyone else.
In order to perform at your best, its essential to look after a couple of basic elements which will help to manage your time, energy and focus more effectively. All High Performers have positive habits. Some of those habits include productivity habits, habits that maximise their energy and habits that keep them present.. The positive outcome from improving your own performance will also organically contribute to improving the performance of your team.
Effective Leaders know their priorities and don’t allow themselves to get distracted or side tracked from their goals. Productivity Habits help leaders to stay focused on the priorities. Creating productivity habits will reduce frustration and overwhelm. Simple habits such as planning and scheduling your time, managing your email and tasks more effectively and and taking control of the things that distract you form doing your best work are simple ways to start.
Good leaders have good energy habits they look after their bodies and and stay energised with the right nutrition, exercise and sleep. If you currently don’t have good habits in this area, start small and build on your positive habits. Change one thing at a time and experience the benefit before moving onto creating another positive habit.
Staying present in the moment, is a skill not many have honed. When you give you full attention to the people around you or the task at hand you will get much better results. Great leaders are aware of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness in improving their focused awareness, better relationship, improved problem solving and decision making.
If you or your team need coaching support for managing remote teams and working from home, let’s have a chat and see how I can help.