Leading or managing businesses and teams is no mean feat at the best of times. However, when you are in your office surrounding, you generally get the opportunity to establish a presence, and also get the chance to get a feel for the team and their needs. When working remotely however, that element of human interaction and face-to-face contact are eliminated, leaving gaps in communication which can be detrimental to the business. Head of Australia at SThree, Adrian Oldham, has put together a few key pointers on effective leadership from afar, which should help those in leadership and management positions when dealing with different teams, offices, countries and even regions.
Here are five key pointers which you could consider implementing immediately in order to stay ahead of the curve –
- Make use of the technology at your disposal
There are some great programmes and applications out there to help practice effective communication and sharing of materials. Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams are two such tools which are great for staying in touch, scheduling video chats and sharing resources. You can create multiple chats and channels in them, meaning that various teams within the office can each have their own channel, or a few if necessary.
Skype is probably one of the original software that helps immensely when working remotely. Scheduling Skype calls can help you with a variety of business challenges, such as staying in touch with your employees or teams, to scheduling interviews for new hires. It is an inexpensive and highly efficient tool which is integral especially when you’re not physically in the office.
There are also other applications and programmes which you could try such as Yammer (a collaboration tool which promotes engagement and inclusivity), Slack (similar to Yammer with ore of an instant messaging feel) and Trello (a collaboration tool that organises your projects into boards)). One or all of these may be beneficial to your business, so it is worth trying them out, if you have not already done so.
Beyond that, ensuring some face time, whether that be through Skype, or an application such as Teams is also important as messages can get mixed and isolation can become more prevalent via solely verbal communication. Hence, these can help to boost engagement and build stronger team spirit.
- Don’t keep it strictly business
While it’s easy to use all available time and resources to delegate and monitor work when leading from home, it’s important to remember your employees or team members are people too. Therefore, dedicating some time to regularly catch up with them and to encourage non-business related discussion among team members is critical to maintaining a positive morale. This doesn’t have to be on a daily basis, but this element of getting to know those you are managing on a more personal level will shine through in their productivity and engagement with the team.
You can keep the chat light if you don’t feel comfortable, so this could be by way of discussing general interests such as music, sports, television programmes or movies. Naturally, elements of news and current affairs might almost certainly come into discussion, and this can be a good way of assessing what may be happening especially if you’re managing someone in a different country to know what’s going on and how this may affect employees’ needs or circumstances.
Showing an interest in employees on a personal level will be sure to increase your rapport with them, therefore contributing to a healthier working relationship. Staff will be more likely to come to you if they have any issue or challenges, and you’ll be viewed as a more approachable leader. If managing teams in different countries, be sure to become familiar with their cultural and societal norms in order to avoid causing offence and to eliminate bias.
Organising competitions between the team or office, albeit virtually, is a great way to maintain a positive company culture and promote togetherness. Other ideas to provide a break throughout the working day could be a virtual coffee break, or creating a team Spotify playlist which members can add to increase the team spirit.
- Attempt to accommodate to the majority of schedules
This is particularly important when managing teams in different time zones. This should be something which is constantly on your mind when planning calls or team meetings. If you’re currently working from the other side of the world, or anywhere with a significant time difference, you must be mindful of this when organising catch ups with staff. This is also important when dealing with team members across the board who may have other commitments, i.e.; young children to mind or elderly parents to take care of.
By resisting to attempt facilitating varying schedules, you could be accused of micro managing which in turn may affect your retention rates. While having regular check in’s is important, simply attempting to find a time which suits both you and your staff for this is also crucial. Maintain sensitivity to schedule inconveniences and try to resolve these as much as possible in the shortest time in order to keep your team(s) positive and motivated in their roles.
- Delegate tasks as much as possible
Adjusting to managing or leading remotely will naturally mean a busy period of transition for you, and for your team. One way of dealing with the adjustment process, is to delegate non-essential tasks to other team members and staff where possible, so you have more time to focus on core business decisions and strategy. When you have a clear idea of everybody’s role, and keeping their years of experience in mind, you can start to hand out tasks where you see fit. This could be by appointing a deputy team lead or team lead to check in on people meeting deadlines, hitting targets, or simply allocating different team members specific core tasks.
One other team member for instance can be in charge of raising morale and another implementing some of the points we mention above A simple way to start is to allow somebody to do the research, answer any questions they may have and then report back so you can make the final decision. This gives them some leeway in terms of responsibility, yet allows you to closely monitor the task at hand at the same time.. Nobody can manage or lead a business or even a team single-handedly so asking for help and support from your trusted colleagues is nothing to be shy about. Once all team members know their role, their responsibilities, the end goal and vision for the business as a whole, the whole process should work seamlessly and fall into place.
- Keep an eye on staff's health and wellbeing
Working from home, particularly when you're not used to it, can sometimes be stressful for people. As an effective leader, it is your responsibility to check in with people in regards to how they are feeling both mentally and physically and to promote positive activities in relation to this. This could be by way of suggesting a virtual workout for the whole office to participate in or sharing of healthy eating plans. Promoting the importance of a healthy diet, regular exercise and also fun team engagement is crucial to the health and wellbeing of your employees. A fun idea could be hosting a weekly virtual meeting where the chat is social and not work related, and attendees join while enjoying a beer or a coffee for the duration of the catch up.
Being a successful leader while working remotely takes time, practice and new ideas. Are you new to working remotely and need some advice? We will be sharing more tips in the next few articles so follow us on our website and LinkedIn page to get the latest updates. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch for more information.