6 Tips for Leading an All-Remote Team

The key is to find out what works best for your team. Managers can use this list to experiment and learn what’s most effective.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of challenges to people’s work lives. It has also brought opportunities. For example, some companies that found themselves with decreasing sales took the time to step back and restructure or turn their attention to back-burner projects that will ultimately make them stronger and more competitive. 

Additionally, the need to establish remote work teams showed some companies that this approach could be an effective way to move forward, even after the pandemic ends. But, to make it so, team leaders need to learn new methods for running their operations. Here we explore several tips for managing an all-remote team.  

 

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It’s important to establish a regular cadence of communication, especially at the beginning of a remote team deployment. Video calls usually work best for planned get-togethers. Consider the following types of meetings:

  • Daily check-in. This meeting should be brief so team members can get on with their work. Use it to address roadblocks, make sure team members have everything they need, and establish goals for the day. 
  • Weekly wrap-up. Gather the team together for half an hour or so to discuss progress made during the last few days and what to expect the following week. 
  • Monthly deep dive. Set up an hour-long meeting each month to introduce new projects, brainstorm processes, and ideas, and work through long-term issues. 

For unplanned communication, you can use video calls as well, or switch to phone calls, chats, or conversations in online spaces, such as Slack. Set up a “water cooler” channel so team members can discuss non-work-related topics on their breaks. 

 

2. Manage Expectations

Managing expectations isn’t a once-and-done activity. Rather, it should be accomplished in multiple steps. For example, explain the overall goals and how each team member should contribute at the beginning of a project. Describe how success will be defined. Throughout the project, use the meetings you set up in #1 above to make sure everyone is on track.

As team members are working on the project, don’t micromanage or be too concerned with how they’re spending their time. Instead, focus on the outcomes. Also, let team members know how and when they can reach you. Additionally, remember to convey your expectations for keeping company data secure. Remote work arrangements can be a primary target for cyber villains. 

The following video expands on this tip:

 

3. Provide Needed Resources

Remote team members can’t do their jobs unless they have the right resources. That includes technology, office furniture, and supplies. Ensure your IT team also has what it needs to assist remote workers, whether that’s a call line, a ticket system, or the infrastructure needed to go to workers’ homes to help them onsite. 

Access to resources also means less tangible items, such as mental health help if they need it. Especially as the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, make sure employees know where to find that information, as well as other benefits your company might offer, such as assistance finding childcare, or financial advice. Count yourself as a resource as well and let team members know they can turn to you if they’re having professional or personal trouble. 

 

4. Stay Organized

A remote team can quickly devolve into chaos without clear processes and effective use of organizational tools. Even a simple, free tool like Trello can help you stay on top of all the steps needed to complete a project. If your business is complex, you might consider having custom software built to help you manage your projects. 

Make sure everyone knows the workflow for completing projects. For example, when someone finishes a report, do they send it via email? If so, who do they send it to? Or do they upload it to a shared folder? What is the review process and who is involved? Are there any supplemental documents that must be sent as well? Go over these procedures with team members and also have a shared process document or platform easily accessible for reference. 

 

5. Set a Good Example

Even from a remote distance, employees are looking to you for cues about how to behave. If you set a good example for work habits, professionalism, timely responses, and adherence to company rules, they will follow. 

Additionally, team members look to their managers for emotional cues. For example, if the company institutes a major change, how you respond will set an example for your team. If you are distraught and troubled, don’t be surprised if your team members are as well. On the other hand, if you show a brave face and a can-do attitude, it’s likely they will imitate your reaction. 

 

6. Have Fun

Coworkers don’t have to be best friends, but it’s nice to find some time to engage in social interaction. This type of togetherness helps build team cohesion. Even in remote work situations, you can find opportunities to have fun together. 

Try setting aside 5 minutes out of certain meetings to catch up and talk about weekend plans or upcoming trips. Or try a virtual pizza party in which you deliver pizza to each team member’s house and enjoy it together during a video call. If it’s feasible and safe, meet together physically once a month or so. 

 

No One-Size-Fits-All

Every team is different and requires its own set of resources, expectations, and processes. A team of people who were already working remotely before the pandemic might already have their home offices set up, giving you one less thing to worry about. At the other end of the spectrum, a team that has always worked from the office may need more direction and support. 

The key is to find out what works best for your team. Managers can use this list to experiment and learn what’s most effective. Talk with team members and higher-level managers to learn what’s going well and what could be improved. Keep modifying until you find the best strategies to help your company move forward, even from afar. 

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