The lockdown is upon us. We had been on a voluntary lockdown since the earlier week and we’re getting used to the new reality. However, managing remote teams in these times is different from having a virtual team in the normal course of business. You need a wartime Consigliere to deal with the situation or turn into one. The secrets to succeeding in these times are different.
ponder over these facets to managing the remote team during the lockdown
1. Motivate your team
Online teams are great to work with – the time saved in travel and other issues can add to one’s productivity but working from home for long is challenging. While we did speak about how to effectively handle it, the fact remains, continuous distancing from the team can lead to boredom and lethargy and eventually loss of motivation.
As a manager, you need to keep your team motivated in these challenging times. Do not forget that each of your team members is also fighting a personal battle – either dealing with the challenges at home or being worried about friends and families across the world. Lastly, the growing financial challenges during these times can lead to stress and result in loss of motivation.
In their blog, Young Entrepreneurs Council elucidates effective ways to motivate remote teams.
In addition to clear and precise communication, we at Sneed instituted a team challenge that can be accomplished from home. Our daily call starts with an update on how people are meeting these challenges. Employees were free to pick from a set of challenges (one even wants to put on weight!), mostly not related to work but individual development. Building camaraderie, as well as a healthy competitive spirit, is often not easy but is the key to success.
When the lock-down ends, not only will we have a winner, but also more healthy folks!
2. Efficient Communication
The news is only about how widespread the virus is. Each evening brings more numbers – new patients and deaths. In all this, we tend to lose focus on those who have recovered – the good news. When the overall situation seems uncertain, providing clarity to your team is very essential.
There are a lot of issues that we are also unaware of, but let us start with what we are certain about. If your company is likely to be impacted severely then start working out alternative plans and speak to your team on how this is likely to impact them. These are never easy and have immediate fall out if the news is not positive.
Be proactive in speaking to your employees, and more importantly emphasize to them that you are open to anyone speaking to you. Depending on the size of the company, choose which is the best mechanism to reach them – a virtual townhall, or mail or simple one on one calls. Employees may need reassurance about the company’s future and their role in it.
These conversations need precise and clear answers and not to promise something that you are uncertain about. It is better to err on the side of caution and not speculate than to promise something that cannot be met.
Remember, working remotely means you no longer have the liberty of non-verbal communication, so everything must be called out loud and clear! Keep all channels of communication open and dedicate time every day to reach out to your extended teams.
Your strategy should follow these 7 virtues of communicating during uncertain times.
3. Use Technology
How often do you check in on your teams? If you are doing more than twice a day, then you are probably not giving them enough space to work. Technology has helped breach distances and there are many free tools out there that allow video chats and calls. Popular apps like skype, Google Hangout, zoom, etc help create calls quickly and add people from across the world.
Most companies use multiple communication modes – one for chat, one for audio conferencing and a video chat. I prefer Slack to communicate during the day and have one video call at the end to wrap up. Our agenda for the call is clear and there is no deviation which ensures we close it on time and have clear action points for the following day.
Chat messages during the day can be annoying at times but I find them more useful than emails. Email is for communicating a matter that has longer-term impact and something that needs retrieval in the future.
There are many project management tools to track progress. Tools like Github allows to developers for version control and sharing of codes.
Thanks to collaborative and multiuser applications like Google Sheets and storage options like Google Drive, Evernote, etc, you do not need to email back and forth or have to wonder which is the correct version.
Sign up for the right set of tools to help your team work efficiently. Doist creates remote working products and this blog explain the pyramid of remote working tools, very interesting, read it.
4. Measure Outcomes
What do they say about goals? That it should be measurable. The flexibility that remote working bestows also makes it challenging to keep things working within the set budget – of time, cost and effort.
As we discussed, using tools to track the progress of projects helps drive efficiency. One needs to set measurable outcomes to stay the course. What these measurable attributes are for each manager to define and evaluate, but having set tracking parameters brings in the discipline needed to make remote working just as efficient.
Once again, communication of these goals and measures and how they impact the overall performance of the company is critical. For sales teams, meeting the budgets are critical because this sets the pace for the rest of the organization. For the technology team to deliver products within the timelines agreed with the customer is essential to ensure the tasks around the rollout to work out effortlessly.
Choose the right metric by which to evaluate each member of the team. Be specific about meeting these and guide them towards it. Be practical too. In a locked-down scenario, certain targets may not be practical – accept the realities.
Lastly, remote working is a lot about self-discipline. As a team leader, manager or CEO of the company, you need to set the pace of work, tone of communication and punctuality. Set the right example for others to follow – the right demeanor in dealing with complex issues, how to communicate amongst people of diverse cultures and using the right set of words.