14 Tips to keep your Remote Team FOCUS and Effective

Keep your team engaged, focus is hard enough in a traditional face-to-face workplace setup and today over 50% of the workforce are regularly working remotely. Here are 13 Tips to keep your Remote Team FOCUS and your company goal set at all time.

1 – Schedule daily check-ins

This may seem like overkill, but for managers and teams new to remote working, this is key. And where email, phone, and texts may have once sufficed, managers successful in their remote leadership endeavors are trending toward more frequent use of video conferencing to establish the face-to-face interaction that is now lacking.

2 – Over-communicate

Beyond the simple daily check-ins, over-communicating is imperative when it comes to the team’s tasks, duties, responsibilities and desired outcomes, which we’ll cover more in a minute. In a normal workplace environment, lack of communication can already be a challenge. But when employees are working remote – and potentially now focused on new or different tasks and goals, communication is paramount.

3 – Take advantage of technology

By now, most of us have been forced down a path of digital transformation that can take most organizations months, if not years, to adopt. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams – which most of you are already using on a daily basis – provide simple platforms for tackling tips 1 and 2. I’ll admit, it was a bit uncomfortable at first, but once fully adopted, it has been a fantastic way to support engagement strategies. And just for getting stuff done!

4 – Establish rules of engagement

Or ROE’s as we call them in the military. Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but we use IM when something is urgent.” Also, establish expectations on the best times of day for team members to reach their manager (maybe that’s you) and the manager to reach each team member. And make sure peers are sharing information as needed.

5 – Manage expectations

This is always an imperative but has become increasingly more important in this current environment. As previously mentioned, many organizations and teams have had to pivot (some significantly) which means the same employees may now be refocused on new tasks which impacts ability and motivation…and therefore performance and outcomes. Set clear expectations and request feedback to ensure alignment. Don’t simply assume the team understands where they need to focus their energy.

6 – Focus on outcomes, not activity

This is widely known as a best practice for increasing engagement and empowering employees. Clearly defining the goals and desired results, then allowing employees (that have the training and resources to execute – that part is important) to develop a plan of execution enhances creativity and ownership. In a remote environment, it is even more difficult to micro-manage people anyway. Oh wait, that’s a good thing, right?!

7 – Outsource as much as possible

The reason we encourage you to outsource where possible is because those team or company are handles your work are trained and equipped to do that job as well as possible. Now that the playing field is level – remote working <> outsourcing, why not outsource where possible. Things you can outsource are like your office, bookkeeping, marketing, designing, sales, customer service and etc.

8 – Define the purpose of those outcomes

Here’s where we tie the first six tips together. Again, defining the WHY is always critical for emotionally connecting employees to the mission. But on a new battlefield, with new initiatives, new enemies, and vast amounts of uncertainty and complexity, ensuring everyone knows the overall purpose and their role in achieving success is the bedrock of high-performance for remote teams.

9 – Provide resources

No great battlefield commander sends their troops into the fray without proper training and resources. Ok, maybe that’s not totally true, but you know what I mean. Many remote teams now need new laptops, better WiFi, and new technology such as headsets and webcams. This may mean shifting already strained budgets towards critical tools. Set the team up for success.

10 – Remove obstacles

We’ll cover the importance of flexibility and empathy below, but it’s important to note some of the new unforeseen obstacles remote employees face: physical and emotional isolation, distractions at home pulling them in multiple directions, children engaged in home-schooling, Amazon ringing the doorbell every hour. Remove as many obstacles as possible.  

11 – Encourage remote social interactions

Many of you have heard of – or even experienced – these types of events: virtual happy hours (preferably not before 9 am!), pizza parties and recognition sessions. And while they may seem a bit forced and inauthentic, research (in large part derived from the best practices of managers who have led remote teams for long periods of time) shows that this actually works. My recommendation is to not over do it and mandate even more Zoom meetings, but rather carve out time during already scheduled meetings for non-work-related conversations and activities. Then, on occasion, plan that happy hour or pizza party!

12 – Show flexibility

Here is the big challenge. Every member of a team has a different home environment. Some will have spouses and children. Some won’t. Some will have private home offices while some will be taking meetings from the closet, bedroom, or bathroom. Some maybe be at Starbucks. Some may be experiencing challenges in their relationships. The point is that a manager needs to understand the unique circumstances of each employee. Knowing that it won’t be perfect is just the new normal of 2021 anyway!

13 – Exhibit Empathy

Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote work, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion tells us that employees look to their managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations. As we say in the Navy SEAL teams, “Calm is contagious.” But guess what? So is panic. So, chill out.

14 – Mentor more than manage

The best managers mentor and coach more than “manage.” They also understand the not-so-subtle nuances and differences between the disciplines of leadership and management. And just because we are in the midst of volatility, complexity and ambiguity, that doesn’t mean we halt any and all efforts in developing our teams – and ourselves. Sometimes that requires outside help, new initiatives, and making the time. So, get on it.

Each of the tips above fall into the category of simple but not easy. They each require time, attention, and consistency. Good Luck!

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