The world has vastly changed over the last few weeks. Without much warning, the team you are leading is no longer in the same office. The way you used to lead the team will no longer work. I had the privilege of leading a team of 19 direct reports all who were remote to me. What I have learned over the years is that leading a remote team is very different than one that is co-located. To continue to be high performing you are going to have to learn to adapt and change the way you lead and communicate.
Your weekly staff meeting is dead
The era of the once a week staff meeting has been dying for a while, but now is the time to completely kill it. The first thing to go when you move to an all-remote team is communication. There is no more incidental contact you must be intentional in everything you do. “Daily Standup’s” have been popular in the agile software world for a long time. They are equally effective for any disciple, especially for remote work. You will need to check-in as a group daily or at a minimum every other day. Hold on, you want more meetings? Yeah, I know this seems like micromanaging overhead but trust me when I say it’s not and it is necessary. To maintain a high performing team you must maintain an uninterrupted flow of information. The purpose of these meetings is not for the leader it is for the team. To ensure every team member knows what the team is working on and to bring up any issues that the team can solve. There are hundreds of templates online on how to do this, but the most important rule is to keep it short. These meetings should be 15-20 minutes max. Get in and get out. Everyone on your team should be able to answer two important questions:
“What are you working on right now”
“Do you need help with anything”
I just want to see you
Video Chat. Yes, you have to use it. The team I took over was entirely remote and when I moved us to a daily standup I also decided to move it to video chat. I am not sure if you can hear eye-rolling over a conference call but I am pretty sure I did. No one wanted to do it, but I felt it was important. A month or two passed and the most opposed individual admitted he was wrong and it made a difference. He felt more apart of the team and enjoyed the interactions. You probably still don’t believe me so here is a staggering statistic, 55% of communication is nonverbal. Without seeing the individual you are missing out on over half of the conversation! This is not to say you need to use it every time but at a minimum, you need to make eye contact with everyone on your team at least once a week. This is going to reveal more about their mindset and what is actually going on.
Just the two of us
Every leadership book will tell you about the importance of one on ones. Where the disagreement usually arises is how often to do them. When your team is remote….. Once a week is best. Yes, this puts a huge burden on you as a leader with a large team but it is the sacrifice that is needed to keep it high performing. The only way to lead everyone to their fullest potential is to take time and personalize what you are doing. You need to have small talk, you need to connect with them. Especially in stressful times such as these. As a leader, these one on ones don’t need to take a long time. You need to ask them two questions. “How is everything going?” and then “What can I do to help you?” That’s it. Once these questions are answered you will know what you need to do to make sure they are being their most effective. The open-door policy doesn’t work so well when people are remote. They will be hesitant to reach out when they have issues or need something. It is up to you as a leader to give them that opportunity.
The biggest roadblocks remote teams face are lack of information flow and isolation. A team at the top of its game knows where the challenges are and are always communicating how to fix them. As a leader, you must be deliberate and consistent with reaching out to your team and getting them together to encourage the flow of information. Working at home is already challenging enough now let’s add your entire family is there with you and the world is scary. It is easy to become isolated and alone. Making sure you are talking with your team and looking them in the eye can go a long way to helping with these issues. You have an opportunity to help see your team through this. An opportunity to provide stability even when it seems scarce.
This is reposted from Linkedin