There’s No “I” in Team (or in Zoom): 6 Necessary Actions to Effectively Lead Remote Teams
January 22, 2021
leading remote teams
Now more than ever, it is important to know how to successfully lead remote teams. The most effective remote managers are those who develop structure and culture to encourage engagement, productivity, and commitment. Below are 6 actions managers must take to effectively lead remote teams.

1. Set and communicate clear expectations

Effective leaders clearly communicate what needs to be accomplished, why that work is important, and when that work needs to be completed with their team.

When possible, determine these expectations alongside your employees. This method is empowering and results in a sense of belonging. It also offers the opportunity for alternative or more suitable suggestions. Head into team discussions with expectations in mind, and consider offering initial suggestions, but allow other voices to be heard. Until the expectations are determined, redirect comments about how the expectations will be met back to what needs to be accomplished. Doing so can help prevent your employees from becoming overwhelmed by how the work will get done.

After setting these expectations, inspire your team members by giving them the space to decide how that work gets done. Say one of your employees is expected to train another team to perform a new task to increase department efficiency, and it needs to be completed in 4 weeks. You can inspire and empower your employees by giving them the space to plan how the expectation will be met.

Giving your employees the opportunity to determine how to meet expectations does not mean you need to be absent. You can offer support and guidance as needed or as they request. You can even establish consistent check-ins to monitor progress. What is important is that you show your employee you trust them by allowing them to determine how the work gets done.

leading remote teams

2. Develop a consistent meeting schedule, and communicate that schedule clearly

Establish a schedule for touching base with your staff, both as a team and individually.

Use your discretion to determine how often you check in with your team. Find the sweet spot where you are meeting often enough to maintain transparency, ensure individuals are on the same page, and offer space for people to challenge and offer ideas, yet not too often where meetings are redundant or take up valuable time that could be used on other tasks.

Begin by reflecting on whether you’re meeting too often, not enough, or just enough. You can also check in with your employees. Are the meetings productive? Is the information shared necessary for everyone to know? Are team members engaged? Depending on your findings, update your meeting schedule. If you note that half of your team is disengaged during a meeting because the content is irrelevant to them, you might want to consider splitting meetings.

Whether you are building your first meeting schedule or updating your schedule:

  • Ensure your meetings are meaningful and productive.
  • Monitor the content so meetings last only as long as necessary and are tailored to attendees.
  • Communicate with your team members about why you have meetings. Understanding the why — whether it is to build community, to understand the intricacies within the team or department, or to simply be on the same page, can help maintain attention.

3. Be available

Create a culture of openness by ensuring your employees feel confident and comfortable approaching you with needs and feedback, which can increase accountability and productivity.

Throughout 2020, Gallop found that only 31% to 40% of American employees report feeling engaged at work, percentages that depend on both job satisfaction and current events. Approximately 13% of American employees surveyed reported feeling actively disengaged at their jobs. Being available builds trust and increases communication between you and your employees. Offering this openness in conjunction with giving your employees a voice in how to meet expectations and facilitating consistent meetings drives accountability and trust and helps engage employees.

When your employees feel supported by you and trust they can share information and communicate with you, they can experience increased engagement, productivity, and commitment

Start by ensuring your employees understand your preferred method of communication, then inform them when you are available and for what issues. If you are available to help them problem solve, communicate that willingness and act on it. If you have teams that work in different time zones, discuss when and how you will be available, and stick to those commitments.

Being available also includes being responsive. Failing to respond to questions, emails, or tasks you commit to risks your employees feeling unimportant or undervalued, which can extend to unmet deadlines or unsatisfactory outputs. Consider setting a goal for your email response time. For example, aim to respond to team members’ questions the day they are received.

Being responsive does not mean you need to have your email open all day. Your goal is to be as responsive as you can commit to and deem necessary while taking time to fulfill your personal needs and work responsibilities.

4. Know your team’s collective strengths and communication tendencies

Learn about your team’s strengths and individual communication styles to ensure you offer feedback that empowers them to improve, progress, and meet expectations.

leading remote teams

An employee who feels like crawling into a corner when offered constructive criticism needs a different style of communication than an employee who thrives when given constructive feedback. By understanding how your employee receives feedback, you can communicate with them in an individualized manner that empowers them, not discourages and distracts them.

Consider having your team take an assessment like the StandOut Assessment to understand their individual talents and tendencies. Apply the results when setting expectations and assigning projects and tasks.

Exploring and understanding your team’s individual and collective strengths will allow you to be a better leader, build a productive team with high morale, and assist your employees in achieving personal and professional growth.

5. Request feedback from your team, and apply it

Gathering positive and constructive feedback is critical when leading teams because it allows you to assess how your leadership and team dynamics are thriving or needing improvement. You can do this both informally and formally.

Obtain feedback more informally by creating an atmosphere of openness. You essentially want your employees to know you’re available for them, creating a culture that encourages sharing arising questions and issues and discourages allowing issues to fester. While the transparency and communication that results from openness is important and allows you to make ongoing changes, you will have to be ready for feedback to come at any time.

Distributing surveys throughout the year to assess culture, climate, and engagement are formal ways of gathering employee feedback. As important as it is to gather department and company-wide feedback, you should also survey your own team. This option is how you can obtain anonymous feedback about your leadership, team dynamics, individual needs, and more.

Before gathering feedback, you need to be prepared to follow through. Requesting feedback without being prepared to listen, consider, respond, and act can result in unmet expectations and unhappy employees. Your commitment to accepting feedback and actually implementing changes accordingly can increase retention rates, productivity, and morale. It may even improve customer service.

If you find out your team wants more guidance on resulting client concerns, begin by reflecting on what you can offer them. Then, communicate your next steps, when your team can expect change, and follow-through.

leading remote teams

6. Use technology tools to increase team communication

There are many tools available today to help remote teams stay engaged and effectively collaborate. You want to mindfully select tools that can support your team’s productivity, and communicate your expectations for using those tools.

Facilitate meetings using a service like Zoom or Microsoft Teams and encourage the use of video to reduce distraction and multitasking. Video engages a human element in daily interactions that would otherwise be lost in audio-only meetings. Non-verbal communication, like gestures and facial expressions, helps teammates connect and predict their teammates’ feelings. Ensure you provide your team with a consistent meeting link, making the meetings easy to access and consistent.

Between scheduled meetings, maintain transparency and open communication through tools like Slack (for real-time chatting and problem solving) and JIRA (for monitoring progress across a team and assigning tasks). When training and directing your team to use such tools, consider having a discussion about your expectations regarding responsiveness and how to use these tools to engage with your team.

If you try a new technology tool and it isn’t sticking or effectively engaging your team, gather feedback from your team, explore alternative options, and follow through on finding an alternative that works for your time. If your company requires using a tool that your team is struggling to adopt, have a discussion with your team and determine how you can make the most of this tool.

Find and use technology that will drive, not hinder, your team’s productivity.

Whether you are a remote leader of one employee, several freelancers, multiple teams, or an entire department or company, it is never too late to apply and tailor these six actions. If you found this article to be helpful, subscribe to receive updates and notifications straight to your inbox. Be sure to also check-back every Friday for more content.

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By Noelle Griffiths

Noelle is the Manager of Resume Services and Senior Resume Writer at BrandResumes. She applies expertise in Human Ecology, learning and development, coaching, and organizational communication to develop and manage a team of 30 remote individuals who are competent in client relations, writing, research, problem-solving, and communication. Noelle leads the ideation, development, testing, and implementation of communications, training materials, and courses to increase skills and competencies and achieve company objectives. She is recognized for seeking, researching, recommending, and launching process improvements across departments that increase client satisfaction, productivity, and staff morale. Noelle and her team use a human-centered approach to assess client needs, understand intended audiences, and develop final products that reflect clients’ core needs.

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