Being a manager is a tricky business. You are responsible for the success (or failure) of your team, it’s on you make sure the cogs of the machine run smoothly. To ensure that your team is equipped to achieve what they are tasked with. But the trickiest, is to find the sweet spot between managing too much and managing too less.
Too much, and you find yourself a micro-manager breathing down your team’s necks. Too little, you’re not supporting your team like you should be. Good managers constantly evaluate where their efforts fall.
But it is a lot harder to gauge if you’re doing a good job when you’re physically disconnected with your team. You may not get formal feedback, but being in the same proximity offers some hints as to how you’re doing your job. Managing a remote team can feel like flying in the blind sometimes.
Especially if you haven’t worked remotely or managed a remote team before. But you’re not alone. That is precisely where most managers are right now, with entire countries shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transitioning to a remote model
The key to success lies in preparation, and moving to a remote work model is no different. In fact, it might just be a radical enough change that your success lies in preparation alone. But Corona has caught us all off guard and companies have been forced to working remotely without a warning. This is what you can do to enable your transition.
Define your work hours
Most companies have been flexible in their hours in the recent years. But being in the same location made it known when a colleague was working and when they weren’t. Now that everyone is working from their homes, the working hours may not be as clear. It is best to communicate what the work hours are, individually or as a team. and how they will be distributed among different aspects such as goal setting, collaboration, deep work, and reflection.
Specify daily activities
What could be a two minute exchange across the table now requires connecting over a call. It helps to communicate the daily activities, (standups, one-on-ones, logs and reports, etc.) as well as dependencies and scheduling for them beforehand instead of spending most of the hours on futile coordination. It helps to have dedicated time for goal setting, collaboration, deep work and updates.
Be clear on the tools
This is already covered in most work settings, but if working remotely has added some modified your workflows or requirements, be sure to communicate the same to your team. The documentation, communication, and collaboration tools that will be used have to be known across the teams.
Adapting to remote
Establish how tasks will be assigned, how their progress will be monitored, and how the overall productivity will be measured if required. If there are any changes in the operations and procedures, specify the same to your team. Communicate what is considered as acceptable behaviour and what wouldn’t be.
How do you manage a remote team when neither you nor your team has absolutely no idea how to work remotely
Don’t pretend like it’s business as usual.
The first and the most important move to make, is to admit that these are unusual circumstances and that it would take some efforts from everyone’s side to make this work. Don’t keep going like you used to and expect everything to fall in line. Your best employees can also feel lost and in testy waters in this situation. Be prepared to face some kinks and to help your team fall back into their rhythm in time. Brace up for some of the challenges in adapting to remote work.
Vocalise everything and encourage the same
If you have suggestions for your team member, share it with them, either personally or with the whole team. If someone is falling behind, take time to schedule a one-on-one to understand what is blocking them and how to improve. If another is thriving in the remote set up, take a moment to acknowledge that too. You taking the initiative to be vocal will help your team members do the same.
Be available, work or otherwise.
Communication is crucial to your team’s success, it may or may not be about work always. Whether they have a conflict with a colleague, struggle with working on their own, or are anxious about news in their community or not coping too well working from home, be ready to hear your people out.
What was previously spoken needs to be written
Your daily meetings, sync ups and scrums that used to be face-to-face have surely been replaced by virtual meetings and calls. While that necessary switch has enabled your work to go on, you need to do better than that. Instinctively, we tend to talk rather than write. But it’s easier to lose track of tasks and get derailed in a remote set up. Writing also helps everyone involved to stay abreast of the developments.
Trust your team
If you cannot trust your team to work from home, you probably should not be working with them.
That’s literally it. You need to value them, believe in them, nurture and support them. If you can’t do this then you are either a terrible manager/leader with issues or you have done a terrible job of recruitment.
Remote team management and collaboration
You need not have an elaborate framework and years of experience to be able to make this work. Be patient, empathetic and aware with your team. Provide a structure and support system to collaborate and engage your teams.
- What did you do yesterday
- What are you working on today
- What are the challenges you faced along the way
Having a stand-up twice a day, before the work begins and at the end of the day before logging off is working better for our team, personally. Drawing the line after work seems to be easier this way. Fixing the workflows is also proactive.
Unlike the stand-ups, meetings have a fixed agenda and are important to realign your daily tasks to the goals and milestones along the way. Be it a new initiative, a product update or monthly review, schedule a dedicated call to discuss the problem statement and plan of action, different roles and responsibilities across team members and individual as well as collective success metrics and deadlines for the same. There is a sense of purpose and togetherness in working together and team meetings need to emulate that.
Schedule regular one-on-ones.
You can’t make expectations clear and you cannot expect results if you don’t communicate with your team members. This can only be achieved if you can connect and resolve problems on an individual level. If you can’t invest in connecting with your team, if you don’t create the space and time for improvement or even resolution.
This is where one-on-one meetings come in. Of course, as a remote team, you’ll need to have these via calls, but skipping them is not advised.
When co-located, most remote managers tend to hold one-on-ones with greater frequency than they realise. It could just be a simple greeting in the morning or an informal conversation over coffee. This is valuable time to line up on what could be better, how the person is feeling adjusting and coping with work. This needs to happen in a remote set up too
Do you have trouble to managing your team remotely or think you can do a better job at it?
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a comment so we can discuss it further in person. We’d love to hear from you!