Posted July 25, 2020 by Mark Perna
There’s one secret ingredient that makes it all work. Mark’s article, “How To Manage Your Remote Team With Style” published at Forbes.com on July 21, 2020.
Several months into America’s massive remote-work experiment, managers and employees are still finding their feet. From data security concerns to work-life blend, it’s been a major adjustment for everyone. Now, the dust is settling—and the workforce will never be the same again.
If these past few months have found you managing a newly remote team, you’ve likely discovered new ways to engage your employees (maybe along with some ways not to). But the best leaders never stop growing, and the remote workplace is wide open for innovation.
I recently connected with Alex Kvamme, CEO and co-founder of Pathlight, to talk about the challenges facing remote managers and strategies to overcome them. Here’s what he had to share.
There are three stages to successfully navigating remote work, and they start with the basics. “Ensuring that your team has access to the right infrastructure and logistics—desk, computer, webcam, Internet/VPN connectivity, et cetera—is the first step toward effective remote work,” Kvamme says.
The second stage is still tactical and involves making sure employees have the right tools, communication channels and support structure to be productive and efficient. “All of that combined will help boost employee morale and instill confidence that everything is going to be okay.”
Finally, stage three encompasses your work culture. “It’s all about striving to embrace the ‘new normal’ and emphasizing the new benefits, capabilities and efficiencies that come with it,” says Kvamme. Stressing the positives and maintaining connections with each employee can empower them to see their new work-from-home life as a good thing.
“Leaders who trust their teams will be amazed at how they grow and rise to the occasion,” says Kvamme. “Micromanagement is annoying in an office; it’s destructive when remote.” Instead of constantly monitoring employees, managers should give their teams objective goals and the resources to reach them—and then step back, trusting that they will perform. “Today, objective, data-driven goals can be monitored from afar without interruption or micromanagement, allowing managers to jump in only when needed,” Kvamme adds.Leaders who trust their teams will be amazed at how they grow and rise to the occasion. Click To Tweet
What’s the price of too much employee monitoring? Of course, there’s your time and energy as a manager, tediously tracing each employee’s workflow and output. But there’s also the cost to the employee. “Ultimately, oversight tactics like surveillance and micromanaging are counterproductive and communicate to employees that you don’t trust them,” says Kvamme. “This will erode morale and lead to decreased productivity.” Trust is the secret ingredient to an effective remote team.
One way to build trust is to make sure everyone is aligned on priorities. “Your team needs to start their workday knowing exactly what they should be focusing on and the deadlines they’re working toward,” Kvamme says. In the office, this alignment is generated through osmosis; everyone can see what everyone else is working on. But it’s different in a remote world. “Managers need to use technology and communication to make sure everyone is productive, happy and aligned on expectations.”
But there’s a caution: use this technology wisely. With a majority of younger workers saying that video calls are hindering rather than helping them, it may be time to reevaluate how much you use apps like Slack and Zoom. “Let your team know that it’s ok to turn off messaging apps for blocks of ‘focus time’ throughout the day,” Kvamme advises.
Finally, proactivity is crucial, especially regarding the question of coming back to the office. “Sharing updates—before you’re asked—about returning to the office can help alleviate the understandable stress and anxiety employees may be feeling,” says Kvamme. When sharing those updates, it helps to reinforce that the team’s safety, health and well-being are your top priorities.
Younger employees in particular have been struggling with the unique demands of a fully work-from-home schedule. One critical skill that can ease this transition is self-management—being able to regulate your time, workload and other obligations in a healthy and productive way.
“Self-management has never been more critical,” Kvamme says. “It’s one of the most important skills an individual can develop going forward, and one that managers will be looking for when recruiting.” Managers can promote this skill by examining their own ability to self-manage and then discussing their own challenges and self-management strategies with the team. Candid, non-judgmental discussions around this topic can also enhance employee trust.
Leading your team through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 era is tough, no doubt about it—but there’s a bright side. “Managers are finding that the skills they develop to lead their teams remotely will serve them well for the rest of their careers,” Kvamme says. Organization, empathy and communication are key. “Leaders can no longer rely on body language or visual cues, or even their team’s working hours, to help them understand engagement, satisfaction, or productivity. It becomes absolutely critical to have good, trust-building one-on-ones.”
Not only will you develop as a manager, but your team will forge new skills as part of a remote workforce. By taking an active role in employees’ professional growth, managers can demonstrate that even when distanced, people are still paramount to the company’s success.
Leading your newly remote team with style is an art, and like any other, it must be learned. As you and your employees pivot to meet the ever-changing demands of our uncertain times, trust your team. That underlying trust is the foundation of every great team, in the office or remote—and it starts at the top.Trust is the foundation of every great team, in the office or remote—and it starts at the top. Click To Tweet