Leadership knows no shutdown: How to lead remote teams efficiently.
From one day to the next, CoVid19 presented lots of managers with a new challenge: managing their team remotely. The task was to keep business going as best possible using only telephone and digital media.
Right when people started working from home, my coaching clients asked me many new questions about remote management: “As a manager, what should I pay special attention to when it comes to remote leadership?”, “What makes sense and what doesn’t when working from home?”, “How much is perhaps too much?”, “How do I reach all my employees?”, “How do I manage both full-time employees and employees on short time?”, “How do I organise my meetings, so that I don’t end up stuck in video calls all the time?”, “How do I find time for my family?”
About 3 weeks into working from home and remote management as the new normal of business life, I carried out a survey among some executives and managers of different lines of business. What I wanted to know was:
1) What specific changes have there been to your work?
2) What are the greatest challenges?
Why do I take an interest in this? Not out of mere curiosity – but because I would like to provide you as a manager with specific tips and solutions on how to handle this situation productively in the long run.
Because one thing is for sure: Working from home will stay with us in some shape or form. I am convinced that after the crisis, more flexible forms of work will become increasingly predominant. We will continue having to rise to the challenge of leading teams to success from a distance.
What do managers of remote teams struggle with the most?
Feedback from managers was fairly consistent. Their responses can be clustered as follows:
1) Increased communication effort
2) Longer working hours and higher energy
3) Increased complexity
Structure creates clarity – the objective point-of-view in remote team leadership.
How should increased communication and energy efforts and greater complexity be dealt with? Let’s break the problem down into three areas:
Content: clear definition of the problems and tasks at hand
If coordination in the team fails somewhere along the road, you as a manager are in greater demand than ever:
Your “DOs”: What is important right now?
Separate the tasks that are important from those that are not. Declutter your own and your employees’ to-do lists. The clearer you are about WHAT needs to be done, the higher the chance that you will get exactly the performance you need.
Your “DON’Ts”: Don’t rush it.
Before each new task, step back and get an overview. These days many people want to “do something” and whip into a frenzy of action for action’s sake. Now is the time for calm and the big picture. It is your job to keep tabs on it.
Process: WHAT needs to be done HOW and by WHEN?
Your “DOs”: Prioritise tasks, create a schedule, keep communication efficient.
You as manager decide which tasks have what priority. You specify by when which task must be completed. Especially when these tasks are links in a work and information chain. The more clearly you define this, the easier it will be for your employees to do their jobs.
This also involves as much communication as necessary, but not overdoing it: Send emails only to people actually involved in solving a task. Avoid emails with many “CCs”. Remember: All the employees are receiving more emails now. Limit the flood of emails, otherwise important messages will be lost.
Your “DON’Ts”: Encourage multitasking and keep fixed working hours.
Banish multitasking and don’t expect your employees to multitask either. Multitasking has been proven to increase stress levels. Employees working from home, especially those with children, already have to keep several balls in the air at the same time – don’t make it any harder!
If possible, do not insist on the same fixed working hours as in the office. Allow your employees to work flexibly – to the extent possible while ensuring that the way you work together remains efficient. Introduce fixed online appointments and meetings, and allow for some slack before and after. This will help your employees keep their energy and motivation high.
It is not important how long an employee works, but what he or she manages to get done during this time!
Attitude and social competence
Especially in times like these, the human factor provides the basis for any successful action – and at the same time presents the greatest challenge you as manager will have to face. How much of your presence and how much contact do your employees need with you and with one other? How to organise this? How much do you trust your employees, how much supervision is needed? What can you do to make your employees feel that they and their issues and concerns are being heard – which is a prerequisite to ensuring their compliance?
These are the questions I will be discussing in my next blog article:
Attitude and social competence in remote team leadership
Your Raluca Ionescu
Your Raluca Ionescu