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Advice from the Experts: Six Tips for Managing Your Team Remotely

Advice from the Experts: Six Tips for Leading Your Team Remotely

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many organizations have made the decision to allow employees to work from home. As a manager, being faced with an entirely virtual team in the blink of an eye can be disorienting. How do you maintain the same level of communication and collaboration in your team when everyone is working remotely?

Whether your company has allowed employees to work remotely for years or it’s a completely new dynamic, now is the perfect time to create a plan for leading your team remotely. Setting guidelines in place early on will help you clearly communicate the new protocol to your team and take a little uncertainty out of an otherwise uncertain time.

To help you, we went to the experts, many of whom are contracted by Fortune 500 companies to help with their remote working policies and who hold regular training sessions to help individuals thrive in remote work situations. They gave us their best advice so we could create for you a list of six actions every manager should take when leading their team remotely.

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1. See Eye-To-Eye - Literally!

As any company that operates remotely will tell you, frequent interaction among employees is key. While those companies hire people who choose to work remotely and understand the implications, the current situation means that people who aren’t accustomed to working outside of an office environment must quickly adapt. 

That’s why it’s important to maintain a high level of interaction like employees are used to in an office. According to our experts, the best way is through frequent, daily check-ins using audio and video to simulate real-world interactions:

“Everywhere you turn people are talking about ‘social distancing’ when it really needs to be labeled as ‘physical distancing.’

Now more than ever with so many of us working remotely we need to be socially connected! As leaders you need to set up short virtual one-on-one meetings and total team meetings using you organization’s technology and webcams. 

The value of this is that you get to hear others’ voices, see their faces and read their body language which is 93% of the communication experience. Only 7% of our communication is the words we speak.” 

- Nanci Appleman-Vassil, CEO of APLS Group

“Set up daily check-ins for 15-30 minutes a day to make sure everyone is on track and knows what to be working on.  Additionally, this gives you a small bit of social interaction that we are all craving!” 

- Danny M. Goldberg, Founder of Gold SRD

2. Communicate About Communication

In an office environment, employees and managers can signal their availability in a number of ways: opening your office door, taking off the noise-cancelling headphones, or making friendly eye contact to show you’re available for a chat. When these visual cues are removed, how do we virtually ‘open the door’ to communication?

Our experts say it’s important to set clear guidelines about when and how you want to be contacted. Whether that’s through frequent, scheduled or spontaneous video chats, a messaging platform like Slack, or just email, be firm with your decision so employees know when you’re available.

“Set specific guidelines for how you will communicate with others. People like to know how often and through what channels you can be reached—when working remotely or not.”

- Ellen Cates, Project Coordinator at PPS International Limited

“Invite more frequent planned and impromptu communications. Working remotely can create a sense of isolation, so scheduling regular conversations and spontaneous, unannounced check-ins will create a sense of being connected, involved and valued.

The impromptu calls offer a way to invite others to share their perspectives, participate in a generative dialogue, or to develop relationships." 

- Alex Grimshaw, Senior Partner at PPS International Limited

3. Agree on Meeting Agendas

When collaborating remotely, it’s important to make each meeting count since quick chats or group meetings require more planning than in an office environment. Get the most out of every meeting by briefly sketching out the meeting agenda and goals and sending it to all participants. That way, everyone comes prepared and ready to present their ideas.

“Keeping participants focused in a virtual meeting is exponentially more difficult than in a face-to-face setting. To help run an effective virtual meeting we recommend starting with these three tips: identify the purpose and outcomes of the meeting, address items that need input early on, and indicate which agenda topics will be interactive so people know they’re expected to participate.”

- Scott D’Amico, VP of Communispond

4. Think Visually, Present Virtually

If you want to keep your employees engaged and productive during your virtual meetings, it’s not enough to put everyone in front of a webcam and start talking. There are many virtual collaboration tools to keep meetings interesting and fun! From online polls to gauge group opinion to virtual whiteboards complete with post-its made of pixels, our experts recommend using creative visuals in your virtual presentations:

“The key to driving business forward in a remote setting is understanding how to create a two-way dialogue—not a monologue—with your audience. You must plan interaction upfront and think visually when presenting virtually!” 

- Lee Lazarus, Co-founder of The Presentation Company

“Managing remote teams is not just about giving people tools (like a webcam and virtual meeting platform)—it’s about arming them with strategies for engaging their audience and making virtual meetings just as collaborative as face-to-face”

- Janine Kurnoff, Co-founder of The Presentation Company

5. Make It Clear You Care

Sometimes, what employees miss most about going to the office everyday is the feeling of camaraderie and social interaction that happens spontaneously. If your employees are missing their coffee breaks or watercooler chats, it’s understandable. Let them know you care about them and their mental health. Uplifted moods are just as contagious as the coronavirus, so share little moments of joy and check in on each other. Our experts agree about the importance of making it clear you care: 

“Hold a daily team brief meeting—10 minutes tops—to check in on how people are doing and to report out on focus for the day. This structure can help reduce being disconnected and replaces the natural small-talk that tends to happen when the team is all in one location.”

- Kelly Fairbairn, President of PPS International Limited

“Let some interpersonal/intergroup socializing take place before calls or meetings so employees can let each other know their individual situations and have the manager/leader start the socializing by asking how people are doing in these current uncertain times.

The old John Maxwell axiom especially applies: ‘Employees don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!’” 

- Bill Walsh, Founder & CEO of Proven Training Solutions

6. Give Gold Stars

During this period of social distancing and working remotely, focusing on positive goals and achievements helps keep employees feel motivated. Acknowledging and celebrating your team’s wins boosts morale and helps employees strive to reach their goals. Many people feel worried or apprehensive now, but our experts know that a little positive feedback can go a long way.

“Finally, be sure to communicate progress and accomplishments for the team so they gain a sense of achievement and winning.”

- John Bruce, CEO of Performex

If you’re a newly remote leader or leading newly remote team members, you can get support through virtual learning to help you and your team thrive from the experts who contributed their advice above. In the words of John Bruce, CEO of Performex: “How do you want your team to remember your leadership during this time of uncertainty?” Above all, lead by example and with care, compassion, and understanding.

Ready to find a course in remote management? 

Use our search engine and filters to find the virtual team training you need, today. 

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Last updated: 05 Oct 2020

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