Managing a team remotely isn’t any more problematic than managing one in person, IF you have the right framework in place.
Whether you manage a team of two or one hundred and two, there are some key things you need to have in place to make managing your team easier. These include some of my favourites:
- A plan – put it on a page
You need a plan. It could be a strategic plan, a brand plan, a sales plan, a marketing plan, a project plan…but a plan of some sort to give the team direction. If everyone knows collectively where the business is heading it gives a context to what they are meant to do as individuals.
The plan doesn’t have to be big or detailed – it just needs to exist and if it’s on one page and is clear, even better.
- Technology that unites the team – you need an audit
Mayhem version: ‘We can’t see Lisa’s face on the zoom call – it isn’t working’ (oh really?); ‘Geoff can’t get on the Teams call – he can’t access it’ (since when?); ‘I’m urgently waiting on the sales data from Tristan but he can’t access the server’ (oh for God’s sake he could do it yesterday!!!); ‘we have our new business pitch tomorrow on zoom but we can’t get the video to load from within Powerpoint’ (aaggghhhhhhh, just kill me!!!!!!!); ‘Lee can’t email our report to the client as his internet has dropped out’ (what the hell is going on?!?!!!)……
With ‘remote’ being the key word, the technology you use is designed to bring the team together and facilitate access to each other, emails and files on the server. Does everyone operate on the same platform? Do your team have reliable internet access? Does anyone need a laptop or mobile upgrade? Enabling remote working requires a technology plan the same as if your team were all together in the one place. Do an audit, standardise, upgrade if need be, and with a bit of luck your technology will work smoothly!
- Structure in the day to day – use the calendar as a tool
Mayhem version: One of your team insists on sending you important reports and updates after hours. She works around her kids. That’s fine but this happens every single week and it does your head in. There’s another team member who you know has a small online business on the side (and you applaud their entrepreneurship!). But with the world of remote working, suddenly this person seems less and less available, and you’re sure they are investing more in their business than yours. It’s hard to get real visibility over what they are doing each day. You feel like the team has less cohesion and you need to bring it back together.
I am not talking about micro-managing because that is counter-productive. When your team are working remotely, day to day structure is even more important as it is largely ‘invisible’ unlike being in a physical space together. They still need to feel connected and also feel that they are still working as part of the team. The best way to do this is to have scheduled 1:1 meetings with each person or your direct reports, as well as scheduled calls amongst other members of your team.
To have these on the same day each week helps set up a more structured framework to keep everyone engaged, online and on track.
- Clear accountabilities – working remotely, not alone
Mayhem version: You have a 1:1 with one of your team. You can tell they’re fed up. Lots of annoying sighing is going on and rolling of the eyes. You ask why she doesn’t seem to have the information she needs to get back to the client. The reply is annoying but it’s possibly your fault: ‘I’ve asked Jack to get it for me but he says it isn’t his job. No-one knows anything about it and I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this.’ Hmmm…..
It is possibly your fault because you haven’t made clear what the roles and responsibilities are for your team. They should all have a position description and anyone who supplies any services to your business should have a clear brief of what you want them to do and what your expectations are. At its simplest, give your team a checklist of broad areas they are responsible for on a weekly basis, and break it down into daily or weekly outcomes if need be, like producing a regular weekly sales report for example. And if there’s still any confusion, clear it up with regular team communication as per the next point.
- Regular communication – keep connected
Mayhem version: It’s all too familiar….the email trail with way too many people copied in. The writer of the email seems to be dumping all the information they have about the matter at hand and copying everyone else. The problem is, no-one has any clue about who is meant to do what as a result of this email. You’ve even been copied on it! What do they want you to do? Is this some passive aggressive form of managing upwards? Yet another thing that does your head in!
I highly recommend visual communication with remote teams – Facetime, zoom, videos – as it gives the greatest sense of connection. Face to face also reduces misunderstanding and ambiguity when people can talk it through. Unlike email which can become torturous and irrelevant, at times, a phone call or face to face conversation can cut to the chase and be a lot clearer.
Whilst meetings over zoom and Microsoft Teams are standard, video communication is less so. A brief but purposeful video to your team is a powerful tool to connect, engage, share, inform and also to provide a more emotional connection that people need when working alone remotely.
These strategies are all very simple and very effective. They can make a huge difference to avoiding the potential mayhem that could occur without them being in place. Maybe your one-page plan covers off the last four of these strategies as a plan for keeping your team producing effectively together in your new world of remote management.