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Finally, the key to a successfully managed team of remote workers is compassion and motivation. To have a truly motivated team, you need to not only communicate with them and set clear expectations, but also look after their human needs. With the current COVID-19 crisis leading to more remote working environments than ever before, your emotional intelligence as a manager will be put to the test.
1) Make time for small talk.
We’ve already recommended coming prepared for meetings and adding extra structure to your days. While we stand firmly by that advice, it is not at the expense of making small talk with your team. When you’ve a list in front on you and you’re talking to a face on a screen, it’s easy to rattle through what needs done and get on with business. The casual chats of the office are no more, but don’t forget that they too serve a purpose.
Taking the time for small talk in your team stand ups or individual calls shows warmth, compassion and the human touch which could very easily be the first casualty of remote working. Especially with the COVID-19 crisis, people are worried, uneasy and looking for security. If you can, as a team leader, provide that in some small part, it’s a small contribution that your team will thank you for.
Building rapport with your team, especially in the current climate of uneasiness and worry, is incredibly important for you to do as a manager. Camaraderie, togetherness, and team successes will become increasingly important for people in times of worry. The rapport you have as a team and also individually with your team members will help you problem solve and work through challenges. It also affects how honest your team are with you, whether they will come to you with problems, and how much they will be prepared to go that extra mile – all of which have huge implications for you, your team, and the business.
There’s no shortcut to creating rapport with people. Insincerity and duplicitousness can be sniffed out a mile away. If you “care” about your team only in terms of what they can do for you, they will not want to work with you. Being a taskmaster who doesn’t care about their struggles, development and personal life is a cold and ineffective way to manage people.
And let us be clear – the hope very much is that as a manager you don’t care about your team because you have to. You should want to. It’s a more effective way to manage a team, but it’s also a better way to lead, and be a part of a team.
Time and again, reports (such as Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends above) show development is the top item for most employees. Remote workers often feel overlooked when it comes to this, often due to limited interactions with their managers. Don’t allow this to happen. Demonstrating that you care is important to your team and essential for you to truly understand their motivations. Everyone has career goals and motivations, and as a manager, you should take the time to understand your team’s. Taking the time to do this will also make them like working for you more.
One of the best ways to offer consistent encouragement and motivation for your remote team members is to set up a development plan with them during your regular one on ones. An Individual Development Plan (IDPs) is a great way to get the individuals on your team to think about what they want to achieve, and then for you to consider how to action it together. Taking the time to do this with your team is a proactive step to demonstrate your efforts to help them grow, development and achieve their goals.
3. Consider mentors and in-house peers
Research by Deloitte found that mentors can be hugely instrumental in retention of staff:
“Those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).”
Perhaps you can be the mentor, perhaps not. However, once you’ve done your IDPs with the team, you’ll have a better idea of the direction they would like to head. Look in house, or in your network. Who would be best positioned to chat with your team members? It might feel like you’re simply facilitating a new connection, but that could be an extremely rewarding relationship that your team will thank you for.
4. Trust your instincts
For many of you reading this, your office team might have become remote workers as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. More than ever, you need to check in on the emotional and mental well-being of your team. Remember to ask the human questions, where appropriate, and check that your team is coping. Most importantly, trust your instincts when you see something might be wrong. Ask in a call, or make time to ask about it. Those non-verbal clues you see on video are your opportunity to fix problems when they’re small for your remote employees.
5. Show compassion
These are uncharted waters for many businesses, and indeed, many employees. Show compassion by considering people’s situations. Will one of your team members struggle to keep regular work hours because of carer duties? Suggest flexible hours or other alternatives. Do all your team have the correct technology at home to be effective? Check in with them individually to see how you and the business can best equip them. Do some of your staff have other pressing concerns? Make yourself available and have these important conversations with your team.