Leading A Remote Team

Fiona MacKenzie

The Covid pandemic forced many of us into remote working and whilst there are distinct benefits of working virtually, moving forward, employers need to take immediate steps to improve the way they are managing virtual teams.

With the commercial benefits of a more flexible workforce, more than two-fifths (44%) of UK organisations are planning to change their flexible working policies as a result of the pandemic. The long-term impact of this could be even more substantial, with 19% of employers expecting to eventually reduce their office space.  Many travel industry organisations have substantially reduced office space to minimise overhead costs and ultimately, they face new challenges in managing their employees.

There are key challenges to remote team management, all of which can be met by considering:

Direction

In times of uncertainty people look to their leaders and managers for direction.

  • Specific Priorities –where should our teams be focusing their efforts day by day and week by week.
  • Bigger Picture – in what direction is the organisation heading and how is it responding in terms of employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  • Ways of Working – we must take the lead on establishing some team ground rules for home-working. For example, start and finish times, expected speed of response, daily check-ins, set periods to be off-line and working in a focussed manner on key pieces of work, etc.

Communication

Simply put, communication must increase and improve as our teams become remote. However, we must pay particular attention to choosing the right communication channels and ensuring that people have the same information, at the same time.

Email is just one of many tools at our disposal, but an over-reliance on it will simply add to stress levels. As well as increasing the frequency of our communication, we must also increase the quality. So, aim for emails that are so explicitly clear that the team can deliver what you are asking for, to the right standard, at the right time, without misunderstanding. Before hitting “Send”, ask yourself “how could this email be misunderstood?” and then make the necessary changes.

As leaders we must also prioritise picking up the phone and using video-conferencing to achieve stronger human connection.

Connection

We are social animals and connection is vital for our wellbeing and work performance. Some that we lead will be happy working from home, by themselves. It is likely to be an easier transition for the introverts within your team; but they too need that social connection. Prolonged periods of homeworking are likely to be more of a challenge for the extroverts within your team, as their energy generally comes from other people.

Regularly check in with the team one-on-one and create set times to come together as a team, virtually. And these virtual meetings must focus on the task, as well as allowing people to simply connect.

Support

Every team member has had an individual experience of the Pandemic. Whilst some will have emerged relatively unscathed, others will be anxious and unsettled. Treat everyone as an individual and up your game in terms of support and empathy. Our teams need us to be leaders, not managers.

Trust

Trust is key. Not being sat next to those that we lead could push some leaders to micro-management. However, if we’ve provided clear direction, if we’re communicating frequently and keeping everyone connected, and if we’re providing the right levels of support… there will be no need for the micro-manager to emerge and trust will build.

Talent development and management

Managers may find themselves leading a mix of new and seasoned workers at varying levels of experience. Part of learning how to lead a team remotely is learning how to develop talent and challenge team members to grow from a distance. Now more than ever, it’s essential to put a robust training system in place, so that inexperienced employees can learn and grow efficiently in a virtual environment. This also applies to your seasoned team members, who will be adapting to new ways of working. So, give priority to assessing and meeting those specific training needs that will give you the team talent that you need.

Ask your team for regular feedback on their experience

Always be willing to learn and grow from experience, especially if you and your team are new to remote working. Ask for regular feedback on team cohesion, communication and technology infrastructure. This will show you where you need to make adjustments and improvements.

New and better ways of working and communicating can emerge – many great teams, and team practices, are forged in the crucible and aftermath of a crisis.

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Sirius Talent Solutions can provide your organisation with a tailormade Management Training programme. For further details, call (01932 562007) or email:  [email protected]