How to Lead Remote Teams? 5 Tips to Lead Virtual Team
10 days ago, the German government announced major social distancing measures in response to the exponential spread of Coronavirus in Germany, and the continent. Events got canceled, schools were closed, and the majority of office workers had to embrace home office as their new workplace. The long-anticipated digitization of work in Germany began.
For many, nothing changed, as rapid Internet and mobile devices have been around for over a decade now, together with an increasing number of applications that help get work done remotely. And yet, the majority found themselves overwhelmed, working from home for the first time. Surrounded by school kids, bad morning routines, or the burden of social distancing, some even had to learn to manage virtual teams overnight. If you belong to the latter, this article is for you.
We have collected tips, best practices and remote work hacks on how to lead remote teams from the tech startup scene. It will help you organize, maintain, and improve remote work with your team.
Tip #1: Embrace communication
Let's face it - this is a unique time. And it's not just about home office and going fully digital overnight. The disease is still out, an economic crunch is approaching, and people are anxious. Working from home, with their kids and spouses also at home, their office environment missing, a person across your video conference might be in any situation you can think of. The only way to avoid misunderstandings and overcome insecurity is to embrace communication. Embrace communication!
- Check in proactively on your team members - and do it a lot more frequently than what you’ve done in the past.
- If you used to have a team meeting once a week, do one daily. Shorten the time if needed, but make sure you get to speak with everybody often enough.
- Make more frequent, smaller sessions, rather than big sessions.
- Schedule time for chitchat, as it might be the most important tool to raise the confidence and spirits of your virtual team - during the crisis and beyond.
- Always assume positive intent in any interaction, whether it's written or verbal. If you're insecure, qualify with a question like, "Can you get into that a little deeper?"
Tip #2: Scale up through digital communities
One way not to run into meeting fatigue, and the reason for team communication apps to spread, is to step up your digital communities game.
- Instead of doing more meetings, you can use digital messaging for quick sync (e.g., over Slack)
- Use bots for automated reminders (with caution) and brief input collection. If you can't find a slot for your daily standup, you can use one to still stay on track with everybody.
Tip #3: Go cloud!
If you haven't yet, it's time. Moving teams outside the office raises requirements on the amount and quality of documentation.
- Use Google Docs to work on meeting notes during the meetings.
- Literally enable everyone to share their input in the same document prior to, or after meetings.
- Use a wiki system like Confluence to document common processes and guidelines.
- Put all your team tasks on a virtual whiteboard like Trello or Notion.
Tip #4: Get personal
Make it as asynchronous as possible. Move every detail to written so that in personal meetings you can take time for what's most important - being personal. Using digital channels and automation inevitably make communication become more robotic, so you should be purposeful about making it personal again. It is a challenge to create an authentic connection online, because while it doesn't happen organically, it should be the ultimate goal. We are emotional human beings and in the digital space you should make an effort to engage them not only intellectually, but also emotionally.
- Care personally! Use emojis to give your words emotions.
- Give a Slack shoutout to colleagues to make their efforts visible.
- Set up a buddy system to match people with each other for exchange or mentorship. You can use tools like Mentessa for this, but also a simple spreadsheet.
Tip #5: Be on purpose
It's always great to let your team know that their work helps people and has value, but in times of insecurity, it might become your secret alignment strategy.
- Be precise and concise in communication. Be focused and clear about what you do, and doubling so in a time of crisis.
- Live purpose on any level, e.g. in meetings. Prior to a meeting, be clear about its purpose - Is it brainstorming? Or a decision-making meeting? This would change the necessary participants, and give them enough information to take the RSVP decision themselves.
- Try not to play the, "doing things right, but the doing the right things" game (check out Big Heart Ventures: Purpose-driven Entrepreneurship for the Next Age of Technology as a reference).
- This can influence the way you measure your team's performance. Avoid tracking time as a productivity measure ("doing things right"), and move to a "Northstar metric methodology" that helps align your team(s) around the impact the business is creating as a whole. They will surely figure out the specifics as well.
And a freebie: Have a wonderful one!
Virtual teams imply the uncertainty of location. Online, you can speak with team members literally located anywhere worldwide. The complexity of scheduling different time zones interferes with communication to an extent that normal greetings like, "Good evening" or, "Good morning" become strategic decisions. The new form is "Have a wonderful one!" - simple and inclusive for team members independent of their location.
Remember - you can't use time as a bellwether while working remotely, as you can't use your first experience with remote work to it. This is a special situation, and it is challenging for everyone. Everyone is distracted by the newness of home office, but also distracted in general. So don't go crazy if something doesn't work, or if your virtual team doesn't work out in general. You can't change an entire culture overnight.
So, how to lead remote teams? Take it one step at a time and have a wonderful one!
Mentessa is a software platform that helps organizations unite employees around the common goal of knowledge and skills sharing, and builds communities based on collaboration rather than competition. To find out more about how we can help you streamline onboarding, improve relationships between employees and management, and support openness, fairness, and inclusion as pillars of your corporate culture:
This article was originally published here.