Five successful ways to lead your team remotely

I expect the ability to lead teams remotely will be one of the most critical skills in the future. It’s a skill that needs to be mastered in the post-Covid era. In today’s episode of “The World Class Leaders Show”, I share five pragmatic strategies that I use with my clients and that can be useful for leading your team too.

1. Rules of engagement

You won’t be able to build a strong relationship with your team if you don’t set clear rules from the outset. I’m not talking about policies or procedures. I’m talking about defining how you want to work and play together as a team.  First, make sure that you clarify what you expect from your remote team. How are you going to communicate together? What will you appreciate or won’t tolerate? How meetings will be run? Etc. etc. Then, give full autonomy to your people. Autonomy is a big success factor for leading teams. Let them be in the driver’s seat. They know how to manage their own time to get great results.  Finally, encourage them to disconnect and you be the first to say that. Your people don’t need to feel threatened if they are not always ON. Expecting they’re there for you 24/7 is crazy, unhealthy, and disrespectful.  Ask them to block their time in their calendars so they can spend time for themselves. Everybody should know when they won’t be available and they need to respect that.  Give also a good example. Don’t be the first to send emails after hours, ask for impossible deadlines, or to break the rules you built together.  Find a common ground where everyone can perform at their best. 

2. Be a powerful communicator

We know how much is important to communicate properly, especially when it comes to working remotely. Yet, I still see the same mistakes.  Here are three specific tips to improve your communication.  First, be very explicit and clear in setting expectations. Don’t let misinterpretation or misunderstanding prevail. Be specific and make sure you don’t leave the conversation until everyone is 100% clear on what to do next. Second, be intentional. We spend a lot of time thinking consciously about what we’re trying to say, but we don’t often spend much time thinking about how we’re going to say it. Every communication is two conversations, the content and the body language. They’re both critical, especially online. Three, allow everyone to have more spontaneous conversations. In the office, you used to have more spontaneous conversations with people at the coffee machine or during a break. In the online world, I don’t see these spontaneous conversations anymore. 

3. Look for early signs of disengagement

When you see teammates tired, burnout or stressed, it’s clear that you have to act fast to help the team to go through the moment. However, there are some warning signs of early disengagement that you might disregard. Examples are less participation in a meeting, requests of being off-camera, more sickness days, etc. In this scenario, you must be able to “read the room” as early as possible to anticipate bigger problems. Negativity is contagious, so you need to tackle the problem at the first signs. Go back to square one: having more one-to-one conversations with your people to understand why they are disengaged. Ask for more feedback on regular basis. The best question you can ask in these situations is “How can I help you today to xxx?” or “How can I support you today?” or “What can I do to help you deal with xxx?”.  Finally, be aware of proximity bias.  Not everyone will be able to come to the office for team meetings, so someone will connect remotely. And this is when an unconscious bias kicks in. You may treat those who are at home differently than those who are with you in the meeting room. Also, you don’t need to like everyone in your team but this doesn’t mean you should have more frequent one-to-one conversations with people you like most. People see these things and talk. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss talks with others and not you? Be mindful of team dynamics and be fair with everyone, regardless of who they are and where they are.

4. Prevent and fight isolation 

You don’t want people to feel isolated, especially if you have a hybrid/remote setting.  First, have more regular virtual coffees with your team. It could be just 15 minutes every day, but the most important thing is to keep business out of the conversation. This is not a meeting for setting priorities, sharing updates, or talking about a project. It’s a coffee.  Another excellent idea is to encourage people to spend time outside of their homes and make a phone call once they’re out to speak with one of their colleagues. Because they don’t need to be on Zoom all the time.  Finally, use collaboration technology tools to engage with each other, not only for business projects. Encourage people to connect on Whatsapp or Slack and get to know each other more. Another idea is to create learning groups, where people with the same interests can learn something together (new skills, reading books together, etc.). It could be a small group.

5. How to run (or not run) meetings

Many data confirm that we all are having more and longer meetings than before. Not just that. Most of these meetings have little value for either the organization or the individual. Before planning your meetings, I want you to focus on the difference between synchronous and synchronous teams first. Synchronous teams have a high level of interdependence between the team members. For these teams, it’s very important to meet all together because every action is dependent on another. A classical example is a project team.   But most of the teams are not synchronous. Members are connected but not interdependent from each other. So for these teams, I strongly recommend having a full team meeting only on three occasions:
  • The team needs to be aligned towards a common purpose, vision, or goal
  • There’s a conflict that needs to be eliminated
  • Daily virtual coffees/drinks
Otherwise, asynchronous teams should be managed more effectively in other ways by using:
  • well crafted emails or the company CRM for sharing updates
  • breakout rooms or small group meetings for a specific need
  • recording video/audio messages and sharing them more frequently within the group
Finally, I know that many people still need to attend six, seven, or even more meetings per day. For 90% of these meetings, they shouldn’t be there because they don’t have either role or responsibility on the topic. But they need to be there for compliance because everyone is there. Do you really need to invite everyone to your meeting just because they’re part of the team? Let people be more productive (and less stressed) by attending fewer meetings and only those are necessary. I trust these strategies, if implemented correctly, will be very effective and help you improve the relationship and the performance of your team. Listen to the podcast related to this article:
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