5 lessons learned while managing remote teams
It's hard to believe that we're approaching Year 3 of the pandemic.
What we originally thought was going to be a weekslong experiment with remote work has turned into a complete global shift in the way we work. As much as we've grown, many business leaders tell me they are still struggling with how to effectively manage teams.
As we look toward long-term remote or hybrid work, here are some lessons learned:
1. Trust must be the foundation
First and foremost, trust your team members. Effective remote managers are flexible and adapt to the way their employees work best.
This means listening, observing and having conversations: How do you work most effectively? Should we have working sessions over Zoom or do you need to block "meeting free" time to be more productive? The adage "people show up at work wanting to do well" is generally true. It's your job to help them do well.
2. Manage by results, not hours
Remote workers focus and excel when they understand what is expected of them and they have the tools to deliver on their commitments.
Back when everyone was in the office, managers often suffered from the "first in/last out" syndrome, equating hours put in with output. This measurement is meaningless now. Clearly communicate expectations to measure the productivity of your team members.
3. Encourage employees to communicate your culture
Ensuring that employees remain connected to the values and culture of your organization during the remote work era is a real, though not insurmountable, challenge.
First consider that humans need to be part of something bigger -- something that has meaning. Culture is based on the stories we tell about our organization, its history and what it means to be there.
What are some of the peak experiences co-workers have had at your company? How has growing with your organization given them a greater sense of purpose? What values do they uphold in their daily work?
Encourage employees to share their perspectives with one another, rather than from the top down, and recognize those who behave in ways that exemplify the company culture.
4. Connect informally with your team
Remote work can often feel like jumping from one carefully blocked meeting to the next, squishing socialization out of the day. Make the effort to connect with your team.
Have informal or impromptu meetings (i.e., coffee talks) where you say: "Hey, let's chat. I want to hear about you. Can I help you?" Spend less time showing up as the person who has the answer and more time showing up saying that we're in this together.
In the absence of those little moments of connection that naturally occur throughout the day at an office, listening and empathy becomes much more important.
5. Don't let leadership development languish
There's a belief that since everyone is remote, our future leaders are not getting opportunities to practice people management.
However, when organizations get creative and leverage technology-based platforms to develop leadership skills, they are able to keep their emerging talent growing and engaged with their learning.
Allow managers to practice leading in a remote setting (clear goal setting, consistent communication, team and trust building, providing flexibility and managing by results). This helps to develop capable leaders who can navigate the nuances of any environment.
When facing the task of managing a remote team, remember that we cannot move backward. Instead, we must lean into the future and try new solutions.
• Paul Eccher, Ph.D., is president and CEO of The Vaya Group in Warrenville.