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Just when you thought you had this whole leadership thing pinned down, a global pandemic completely changed the game. Now, instead of interacting with your team face-to-face, you’ve gotten used to seeing your employees smiling faces from a screen. And what’s more, you also have to adjust how you manage and motivate them from afar.
Understandably, there’s going to be a learning curve. But, many leaders are continuing to fail their remote teams by committing the following six mistakes.
1. Lack of clear goals, direction, or priorities.
“As with any team, virtual or colocated, a lack of clear goals and priorities will inhibit team performance,” states Rick Lepsinger, co-author of Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance. Of course, this isn’t the easiest of tasks when trying to communicate with a geographically distributed team. But, as long as you reassess the team’s goals as priorities as they shift over time, the odds of being a more effective leader increase.
Lepsinger says that effective teams can outline goals quickly, and a good leader can clarify how each team member will work to reach them. From there, you can use virtual meetings and post updates on your “site to inform team members about any updates and changes over time.”
2. Being too rigid.
If it’s challenging to achieve the above, then just imagine what it takes to micromanage a remote team. Despite this, leaders still require team members to start and work at certain times. They even track their hours, screens and monitor daily activity to make sure that their employees are working for 8-hours.
However, according to a 2020 Deloitte study, “nearly all respondents say they would benefit from work flexibility (94 percent).” The advantages include “being less stress/improved mental health (43 percent) and better integration of work and personal life (38 percent).” In turn, you’ll have a happier, healthier and more productive team.
To put it another way, stop tracking hours and focus on results. Let your team work how and when it’s best for them. As long as they’re meeting deadlines and delivering quality work consistently, you don’t need to be so rigid.
3. Ineffective communication and collaboration.
Most of the communication and collaboration that takes place when working face-to-face is through informal interactions. For instance, you can walk around the office and check in with your team. During lunch, you might have team members brainstorm ideas or solve problems together.
You don’t have this luxury with virtual teams. That means that you need to find a way to rectify this problem.
The easiest solution is using the right tools to foster better collaboration and communication. The obvious choices are Slack, DropBox and video conferencing solutions like Zoom. You could also try out project management software to automate recurring meetings.
At the same time, you need to strike the right balance. You don’t want to distract a team member with a hundred different Slack messages throughout the day. Instead, schedule a short phone call so they can focus on their work. You also shouldn’t bombard them with messages during off-hours, like during the weekend.
You should also establish a communication and collaboration hierarchy. Having this type of document lets your team know who and how to contact for specific inquiries. Let’s say that you want to plan a brainstorming session. Who would be in charge of that job? Through what platform would your brainstorming session be conducted?
4. Nonexistent, inconsistent or unconstructive feedback.
Feedback can be used to motivate and improve performance. It also keeps employees satisfied since it shows that you want each member to succeed.
If this is an area that your struggle with, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- Be consistent. At the least, employees want feedback on a monthly or quarterly basis. Gen Z, however, would prefer this to be a weekly occurrence.
- Coach them. Studies have found that employees can be more productive when a leader coaches them.
- Offer suggestions. Don’t just criticize your team members. Provide recommendations on how and where they can improve.
- Accept feedback. To grow as a leader, you also need to accept feedback from your team.
While this may seem like a challenge with a remote team, it’s certainly possible. You could issue polls or surveys to solicit feedback. As for offering it, make frequent one-on-ones time a priority through brief video calls.
5. Lack of engagement.
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles that leaders must overcome with remote teams is keeping them engaged. The reason? They don’t have the opportunity to interact with them in-person.
Darleen DeRose, the other co-author of Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance, suggests that you regularly assess your team by asking:
- Are all team members contributing to conversations and projects?
- Attending and actively participating in team meetings?
- Motivated to take on new work, or are they feeling overwhelmed?
- Working well together, or is there frequent and unproductive team conflict?
If you notice any of these red flags, then you need to find ways to correct the course. For example, you could host a virtual lunch. Having this type of event allows everyone to get to know each other better and address problems. It could also be a fun activity that your team looks forward to.
Another way you can keep your remote team is to priorities their health and wellbeing. Ideas for this could be giving them access to meditation apps to launching a wellness program. You could also take action on their feedback, provide growth opportunities, and gamifying teamwork.
6. Not recognizing and praising good work.
“Remote workers are 29 percent less likely to strongly agree that they have reviewed their greatest successes with their manager in the past six months,” notes Annmarie Mann for Gallup. The reason is quite simple: Because you aren’t in the same location as them, there are fewer opportunities to offer praise.
“To increase the frequency of these important conversations, both the manager and the employee need to be more intentional about connecting and sharing,” adds Mann. “Managers need to make use of existing touchpoints to ask about the employee’s most recent successes.” For instance, at the start of a virtual meeting, give a shoutout to your All-Stars.
You could also encourage your team to share their successes. Maybe you could conclude a weekly meeting with all participants sharing the goals they’ve accomplished since the last get together.
You could also show your gratitude by going old school and sending them a handwritten note. Or, you could give them an allowance to spruce up their home office.