Managing a remote team can feel overwhelming at first but is a pretty rewarding process. Here are some key considerations in becoming a better, more flexible, manager as well as a future-ready one.
To be really effective at managing your team from a distance you will need to challenge your thinking, especially about communicating and performance. Managing remotely means looking at your team’s outputs rather than the time they spend on input. When you can’t see your people working at their desk from 9am to 5pm and you can’t just pop over to them to ask a question or check in on progress, you need to find new and different ways of working. Ask yourself the following questions -
- What do I need to do differently? How might my management style need to adapt to this new set of circumstances?
- How might my mindset need to change to be effective?
- What feels like the biggest challenge for me in making this change?
- Who can help me?
Working from home means you and your team can be far more flexible. For some people, starting early and finishing early may suit them best, for others a more eclectic pattern might work. In a lot of cases, we are no longer bound by the need to be at our desks from 9am to 5pm. Clearly, each team needs to take account of key customer and business partner needs too, but greater flexibility is likely for most of us.
People are more positive, engaged and productive when they feel they have some choices so it’s important that you challenge your own preferences and consider what could work for the team as a whole. You may need to shift your approach or mindset to accommodate a more flexible working pattern for members of your team.
Remote work offers flexibility but at the same time, it means you have to work harder to set boundaries and expectations. It’s also important to recognise that during the current situation there may well be more pressure on those who have caring responsibilities - home working provides them with much-needed flexibility and choice. Make it a point to discuss with each team member their needs and preferences about working patterns and the best way to deliver your team’s objectives.
Consider the following questions in your planning:
- What are the key priorities for the team to deliver in the next few months? How might we share out that work? Who could work together on key tasks and how might they do that?
- What are the projects or tasks that are not essential or appropriate to do for now?
- What are the projects that we have been putting off that might be good areas of focus for the team in the coming weeks? How could we get ahead of the game now?
- If the team is overwhelmed with work or has periods of inactivity, how will I keep them motivated and engaged?
- How often do we want to communicate with each other? Do we want to catch up regularly or at the end of each week?
- Which collaboration tools will we use and when - instant messaging, video calling, telephone or email?
- How can I best support each member and the team as a whole?
- How are my team feeling about working in this way?