In this 4th newsletter in our Crisis Leadership series I’d like to offer four other proven tactics for leading a remote team:

  • Understanding Your Employees’ Remote Work Environments
  • Establishing Clear Goals & Expectations
  • Taking Advantage of Virtual Meeting Options
  • Rewarding the Employee Behavior You Want Repeated

Understanding Your Employees’ Unique Work Environments

A priority in leading a newly remote team can be identifying any obstacles that could prevent the team from performing to their capabilities:

  • Not knowing how & when to communicate
  • Childcare & homeschooling issues
  • Feelings of isolation & anxiety
  • Workspace interruptions & obligations
  • Lack of familiarity with the technology

With so many employees having a new workplace, leaders are asking questions like: ‘What barriers or challenges are you facing that I should be aware of?’

Most employees will have children, spouses or others vying for their time & attention in the employee’s new workspace. Working parents may not feel at all isolated but may be finding it difficult to perform their jobs with their children home from school & their normal childcare options unavailable. And parents who are not used to working & watching their children simultaneously may find it difficult to balance those competing priorities. Since many employees are working in less than ideal home environments, leaders might consider – and employees would certainly appreciate – granting some latitude regarding project deadlines, hours of work, etc.

Establishing Clear Goals & Expectations

While employees’ workdays are very different their goals & deliverables are probably similar to those they had before this crisis. But because of the lack of face time virtual leaders might over-communicate their expectations with regular progress updates. For example:

  • When employees will need to be online
  • Which tools the team will use to collaborate
  • How to track & report their progress & results

A key element in leading a team of remote employees is establishing the most effective team communication practices. A useful tactic for communicating your expectations is to establish Work-From-Home Guidelines such as:

  • Responding to emails within 24 hours
  • Using text for urgent issues
  • Not making calls to team members outside of certain hours
  • Achievement expectations for the day & week including why they are important
  • And not expecting employees to work around the clock

Clarifying expectations & their rationale provides both motivation & hope.

Taking Advantage of Virtual Meeting Options

Leaders can encourage connection & continue to build relationships by holding virtual gatherings that reinforce that the team is in this together. There are a variety of video platforms available that play to our natural visual strengths – with 50% of our communication coming from body language.

FaceTime, Zoom & Skype enable teams to have highly interactive, visual meetings with breakout groups, poll questions & chat opportunities. And these can be more effective than conference calls because they make employees accountable for their attention. This audio & visual form of communication minimizes miscommunication.

And it is important during virtual meetings that we maintain sound meeting guidelines:

  • Starting & ending on time
  • Having a clear set of objectives
  • Sharing the agenda prior
  • Everyone coming prepared
  • Seeking employee involvement & feedback
  • Following up with action items, accountabilities & deadlines

Small doses of virtual team bonding during the week boosts employee morale. Using technology organizations are having regular, virtual team:

  • Coffee breaks
  • Social hours
  • Lunches
  • Chats about adjusting to the quarantine etc.

All with the focus being sharing & connecting.

For some remote employees, this form of interaction may become a highlight of their week. My brother, who is an attorney in in DC & has been working remotely, told me about his church choir’s cocktail party where they talked & sang – while enjoying their beverages.

Rewarding the Employee Behavior You Want Repeated
For multiple reasons, amp up your recognition efforts. Leaders can look for ways to celebrate successes & milestones – big & small such as:

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Personal & team accomplishments, etc.

And/or introduce contests with prizes:

  • Amazon gift cards
  • Take out meal/food delivery vouchers, etc.

Leaders can utilize any number of forms of monetary reward or nonmonetary recognition to show appreciation for employees continuing to get the work done. You might consider:

  • Notes of appreciation
  • Celebrations via video conferencing
  • Recognition on the company website
  • Company logo items such as coffee mugs, hats, shirts, etc.
  • Participation in future training events

Employees who have recently had to transition to working from home will have better focus & be more productive when their leaders:

  • Remove obstacles inhibiting their performance
  • Over-communicate their expectations
  • Connect through virtual collaboration tools
  • Recognize & reward their achievements

Please share the tactics that you have found useful & let us know if we can help during this challenging period. 

“Homeschooling is going well. Two students suspended for fighting & one teacher fired for drinking on the job.”

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