While many of us may have hoped 2022 would start with a return to the office, it looks like we may have another year of remote working.
Leaders have had a good couple of years to settle into leading a remote team, but it does take a lot of practice and we still have a long way to go to perfect it. Amongst the challenges of leading a remote team, it’s pretty common to feel disconnected from each other, experience minor break downs in communication and many businesses haven’t mastered how to run effective meetings well in the absence of face-to-face connections.
Managers really need to double down on the fundamentals of good management when leading remote teams. This includes establishing clear goals, leading good meetings and leveraging on the individual and collective strengths of the team. Despite the challenges, it is possible to further fine tune your remote working leadership capabilities.
Building a remote team
For hundreds of years, leaders have been building teams of individuals based on a work model of having a central office, where the new people can come into the office to meet and collaborate. Remote working obviously throws that centralised model out the window and requires hiring managers to consider other specific attributes to find the ideal people.
Three things to consider when hiring someone in a distributed team
If you are in the situation where you are hiring new people, here are some vital criteraia to consider;
- Make sure you hire the right people
Some people are great at working remotely, others not so great. In fact, many people don’t work so well in a remote environment, they like to have constant interaction and do better with face with face management.
If you are in a position of hiring new people, make sure you pick individuals who will be comfortable working on their own, who can get things done without the need for micromanagement and constant check-ins.
In the past, you may have hired someone with less technical skill and experience with the aim of giving them plenty of mentorship and on-the-job training. With the centralised work model, it could have been more important to hire people with the right behaviours and attitude, rather than with the right skills and expertise.
With a remote team, you need to ensure they have the right qualifications, skills and experience required to jump right into the job at hand.
Once you have ensured they have enough skills and experience to do the job, it’s important to then assess their communication and behavioral qualities. How well do you feel they will be able to jump into remote working?
Do they seem ‘needy’ of leadership and guidance or are they natural ‘do-ers’, ready to take initiative and think outside the box to complete the job at hand. Have they thrived in remote working environments before?
Are they flexible to participate in communication and meetings with multiple time zones, if necessary?
Some people who were confident and communicative and thrived in a face-to-face environment actually become more withdrawn in an online setting, and vice versa. It’s important to try to assess their level of comfort and ability in a remote working environment.
- Transition them into the team effectively
Once you have hired the new candidate, it’s important to have an effective on-boarding process to allow them to get to know their new team members, build rapport and quickly acclimatise to their new role. If you have a strong email communication culture, consider swapping this with video conferencing with the new team member, especially for the first few weeks.
It’s important for team members to meet their immediate team and the broader team in order to feel valued.
Video calls are a much better method for building connection and trust and making the new person feel they are part of a human team. Without the daily in-person interactions the centralised office work environment provided, it’s easy for new employees who are working remotely in a new company to disconnected from the rest of their team, who probably already have good rapport for month of years of working together.
You can also assign a ‘mentor’ to all new team members; someone who is readily available for the new person to show them the ropes and in case they have a quick question or get stuck.
No matter how independent, confident or capable a person is, chances are they will still need guidance as they navigate new work relationships and new processes and procedures. They should feel they can readily contact their mentor to ask quick questions as they arise.
The mentor needs to have an ‘open-door policy’, in a remote capacity. Be clear on the communication methods they should use; messenger, Microsoft teams, text message, email or simply calling. If they have clear processes outlined for them, they are more likely to feel confident in using them.
Having training videos that cover ‘how we do things’, can be a great resource for new recruits as a reference tool in the absence of face-to-face contact.
- Set crystal clear expectations
When on-boarding new employees, managers need to prioritise the development and implementation of clear guidelines and expectations.
You could be setting your new recruit up for failure if you don’t set crystal clear expectations straight away. Unclear expectations can cause unnecessary tension and conflict within the team, as the new person stumbles their way along, stepping on other people’s toes and going about things in the wrong way. With clarity around expectations, you will ensure everyone is on the same page, with no ambiguity in what is expected of each member of the team
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.