With the increase in globalization and more telecommuters than ever before, leading remote teams is a skill that is increasing in necessity.
Societal trends with Millennial’s and Gen Z are pushing more businesses towards adopting more flexible working policies allowing at least partial telecommuting. Gen Z, in particular, doesn’t know a society without an internet. They are very comfortable with newer technology and are seeking remote and/or flexible working arrangements.
Leading them the same way you lead an in-person team will not retain and engage them in the long run. A recent study with E&Y discovered that less than 50% of global professionals trust their current boss, team and organization. Additionally, a lack of learning and progression opportunities leads to high turnover rates.
Transitioning from an old school style of leadership will be essential in order to retain and build this new team. Leaders of virtual teams need to be intentional in how they engage their widely dispersed teams. They need to realize the incremental benefits of nurturing and re-engaging existing teams.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
The highest-performing virtual teams make an effort to have face-to-face meetings with new team members within the first 90 days.
Create a team operational rhythm. Schedule meetings for the same day, time and share agendas in advance. Remember your 1 to 1’s and ensure that you don’t cancel them. Cancelling leads to a lack of trust and a feeling of non-importance with your team. Consider quick 5-minute check-ins calls daily. A team of 6 only takes 30 minutes.
Find opportunities for the team to engage. Surveys have found that a lack of social interaction leads to lower productivity and a lack of engagement. Keep an online open communication, such as a chat room, open all the time for team members to just hang out. Declare, “break times,” ”lunch,” ”game time,” “check-in times,” etc. It’s a modern-day version of a water cooler.
Run effective virtual team meetings. No monologues. Ask a lot of questions and opinions. Validate that participants have been heard. Call everyone by name. Start and end on time. Be concise. Long, detailed information should be sent in advance.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. In an office setting, the hallway chatter reinforces organizational and team messages. Remote employees need to hear those same important messages repeatedly. Share how and when you like to be contacted for the ordinary and the urgent.
Set expectations and hold them accountable. Share what you expect the output to look and feel like. Determine any processes or tasks needed. Establish milestones to track progress and create a “deliverables dashboard” visible to all on whatever collaborative hub you are using. Check in, without micromanaging, to lend support or provide opportunities for clarification.
Establish team norms. Create a charter to establish behavior when participating in a virtual meeting, such as limiting background noise and side conversations, listening attentively, not dominating the conversation, talking clearly and at a reasonable pace and no side work being done during the meeting. Also establish which communication modes to use in which circumstances, for example when to reply via email vs. picking up the phone or webcam.
Personalize the team. You don’t have to become best friends, but you should get to know everyone professionally. What motivates them? What stresses them? (Consider DiSC as one tool.) What’s going on in their personal life at the moment. Take time during meetings to ensure some socialization and fun as well.