How to lead a remote a team…

With the onset of Coronavirus more companies are either introducing or increasing remote working. Remote management can feel like a totally different challenge than managing people you work side by side with. Things that work in an office don’t always translate exactly to remote employees.

Here are some tips to help you manage remote employees effectively

1. Use video where possible

Research shows that over half of human communication is nonverbal. When you don’t get to see someone in the office, having any type of visual clue to what someone is thinking is essential.

Whether you’re gauging their reaction to a proposal or just trying to judge their overall mood that day, video tells you way more than an audio only call.

There are so many free and inexpensive solutions for video chat (like Skype, Messenger, and Zoom), there’s no reason not to switch to video whenever you can.

2.  Make time for small talk.

When managing remote employees, it’s easy to just talk about what needs to get done and jump off your call, end your chat, and get back to implementing.  In some cases, that’s exactly what you should do; if you’re on a tight deadline or fighting a fire fighting.

However, if that’s all you do, you’re really missing out on a critical part of management – building rapport. This is what will help you work through problems each team member has and trust they can come to you with things important to them. Rapport does not come from doing and talking about work. Rapport comes from getting to know them as a complete person.

3. Have longer conversations

As you don’t have all those moments in the office to build rapport and talk about issues ad hoc, make up for it by setting aside more time for your one on ones with your remote employees.

The best way to handle this is to give remote employees a full hour every week on your calendar for one on ones. This ensures you can cover a variety of topics and really dive into issues that aren’t covered because they’re not in the office for ad hoc discussions.

4. NEVER cancel a one on one

One of the fastest ways to build resentment on your team is canceling one on ones.

Remote employees miss out on a lot of things going on in your office. They also miss out on the kinds of information that would naturally spread across an office related to other parts of the company and brief announcements.

One on ones provide an opportunity to make up for that as well as handle all the little things that build up over the course of a week. With so much to cover, you cannot afford to miss one for these team members.

5. Use emoticons

As so much of communication is non-verbal, it’s hard for words alone to convey how you feel about something. Especially in work, words can come across more aggressive, or not as impactful as you may like.

Watch the positive reaction when you just email, “Good job.” You can get a similar effect if you want to diffuse an email by putting an emoticon at the end to show you’re not too serious.

6. Build a culture of inclusivity

It’s easy to have discussions and pause and say, “John should be involved.” If John is in the office you will likely grab them and bring them into your meeting, but if you are working remotely, that often gets forgotten.

As a leader, set the example. When situations like that arise, you should go out of your way to get the remote person into the meeting. Whether you convey that it doesn’t matter or that it is important to loop in your remote team members, the rest of your team will follow your lead.

7. Establish a culture of ownership and accountability

You need to make sure you invest in establishing a culture of ownership and accountability.

When you say you’re going to do something, do you deliver? Do you trust them to get the job done, assuming they’re prepared to handle it on their own? Do you hold them accountable for the results?

The best place to start here is always with you. You’re the example that your team will look to copy. The better you work to establish this culture of ownership, the easier the transition will be for your team members moving remote to also be accountable.

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