As more organizations move toward remote workforces, leaders must be adept at modifying the way they lead and delegate to their teams. Creating remote teamwork that is successful and extraordinary is possible.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile, spending as much as 50-60 percent of their time away from their desks.
So maybe you're considering taking your team remote, whether it’s introducing a flex day, moving to two days from a home office, or jumping in with both feet and going 100 percent remote. But you’re not sure how to start laying the groundwork.
Lucky for you, we're here to help! Because since our inception, we've been 100 percent remote – and our team is 100 percent productive. We believe that's because we set the following three steps – establish, explain and execute – for building a high-performing remote team as our standard for how we do business.
In this first phase of building a high-performing remote team, you lay the groundwork – primarily for yourself as a leader – before the first remote employee is onboarded. That way, you know what you’ll be handing over and how you’ll stay connected, both through communication and culture.
Preparation. You can’t teach – or effectively delegate – something you don’t know and understand yourself. Take the time to get prepared before giving instructions or expectations to a remote team. It will save your team from muddling their way through something without a clear understanding in order to save face. Provide any necessary training to set everyone up for success.
Tools. A recent survey found that 38 percent of respondents named communication as their key issue when working on a virtual team. Collaboration tools such as Slack allow for team communication to be simpler to manage than traditional email, phone calls or text. Be sure to document everything – maybe in a collaborative project management platform like Trello, Basecamp or Asana – in order to create a chain of communication and deadlines that everyone can reference. There, everyone can upload emails, documents, images, and other files so everyone can access them as needed.
Culture. Unlike a physical environment, a cultural environment isn’t something that you can see, taste, touch, or smell; culture is the only environment that you can feel. And it’s just as valuable to a virtual workforce as it is to any other, so be sure you foster, nurture and promote it like you would if the whole team was on-site. Look for ways to replicate what is done on-site in a way where everyone can participate, like sending a Starbucks gift card to remote team members if you have special coffee and donuts delivered to the office on Fridays.
In this second phase, you’ve now onboarded a remote employee and must clearly share your expectations, availability, and scheduling.
Admittedly, this phase should really be called the ‘Communicate, Communicate, And Then Communicate Even More’ phase.
Outline Expectations. Be sure to let employees and teams know from the beginning exactly what your expectations are of them, their role, and the team. Also explain the shared and measurable objectives in no uncertain terms to eliminate the temptation to micromanage.
Define Availability. Clearly communicate when you expect remote team members to be available by phone, text, email, chat or otherwise. And when they are not available, explain that they need to communicate this in advance and define to whom. Choose to use an ‘available or unavailable’ signal, as found in many email programs to communicate when people are unavailable. Set the example for your team by letting them know when you are and aren’t available. Take it a step further and communicate virtual ‘open office’ times, and then – this is critical – be available. And do this as the leader as well, letting remote team members know when you’re available for a virtual ‘open office.’
Share Goals. Define the measurable objectives, goals, and deadlines specifically to eliminate the temptation to micromanage. Describe how those items will be tracked and measured to help your remote team know they are on track for success.
Schedule Meetings. If there are mandatory meetings for which the remote team will be expected to attend onsite, whether weekly, monthly or quarterly, explain these expectations in advance, and send calendar invites as soon as the dates are determined. If there’s a meeting called quickly, and even one person is virtual, have everyone attend as if they’re virtual, using a video conferencing tool such as Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype.
Consider hosting weekly one-on-one calls to proactively discuss delegated projects, questions, or concerns. Further, consider bi-weekly or monthly all-calls with everyone on your virtual team to update each initiative’s status and address any questions to get – and keep – everyone on the same page.
Over-communicate. (See? We even over-communicate about over-communicating.) Written communication comes with subtle nuances that can create major communication failures. So when in doubt, thoughtfully over-communicate and make sure your virtual employees do, too. More is definitely more here.
And don’t forget the oft-overlooked – and perennially avoided – phone call to stay in touch and nurture relationships.
This third and final phase comes full circle and passes the baton back to you, the leader, as you now actively lead your remote team.
Lead With Trust. To lead a remote team effectively, you must trust your team to do that for which they were hired. Remember to focus on what each individual is doing and the goals and objectives you’ve defined for them. And ask yourself how they may feel about accomplishing the goals you’ve set for them, and then respond and manage accordingly.
Actively Listen. Without in-person contact and its inherent physical cues, you miss important clues. Listening is at the core of emotional intelligence, and great listeners also ask questions. Actively asking questions not only helps you better understand your virtual employees, but makes them feel more valued, too.
Leverage Technology. Inarguably, technology has changed the way virtual employees – all of us, really – work and interact on a day-to-day basis. So when you can’t walk over to someone’s cubicle, take advantage of Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts and more to connect with virtual team members.
Be Inclusive. When there are important decisions to make or tasks to complete for a particular project or initiative, be sure to include all involved parties in emails and in meetings. This will serve to not only let everyone know what has been completed and by whom, but will also help remote employees stay aware of the status of each project as it’s handed off.
From this point on, it’s imperative to have faith in your leadership, delegation process and people. And while it may be hard to let someone else take the reins, you’re primed to lead and delegate effectively and successfully.
So take that leap of faith – faith in your ability to hire world-class employees and faith in those rockstar employees to do exactly what you entrusted to them in the first place. Your organization, your sanity, and your bottom line will thank you.