As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one aspect of work that remains unanswered is: remote, hybrid, face to face, what is the right balance of work for all?4.7 million employees in the US work from home at least part of a week and I don’t think that number will decrease.
I read about one article a week touting the benefits of all of the above and none of the above.Having led and worked on globally remote teams for the past 20 years, having coached and guided many face to face and remote teams, it is very possible to be both a high performing team and remote team.
Now, this does not mean you should never plan to travel to meet your remote employees face to face or bring them together fornetworking, brainstorming, and collaboration, you absolutely should but having a remote team will most likely not be the defining factor impacting productivity of your team.
As a leader, building a high performing team should be one of your biggest priorities. Whether you have a small team or a large and extremely dispersed team, it is your responsibility to provide an environment that supports accepting diversity, building trust, promoting collaboration, embracing conflict and debate,and empowering your team to feel like they are part of something larger than the work they do, especially if they are remote.
There are many tools, technologies, frameworks, theories, research, and studies on how to build high performing teams. Some of them offer feel-good tools such as building trust with marshmallows and sticks. Some of them require more reflection and provokequestions such as why are you on this team in the first place and why should you care?
“With a bit of intentionality, thoughtfulness and preparation, you can lead your remote team to becoming high performing no matter how much time you spend in person or on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.”
Given today’s focus on wellness, work life balance, and hybrid working, you may be faced with a team where some employees want to work at home, some in the office, even in a different country or continent as the rest of the team, take heart and do not lose hope. With a bit of intentionality, thoughtfulness and preparation, you can lead your remote team to becoming high performing no matter how much time you spend in person or on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
1. Intentionality- Teams cannot become high performing team just by showing up to meetings. As a leader, you need to work with your team to establish who is on the team, why they are on the team and what they hope to get out of being on the team, that they couldn’t do on their own.Conducting an exercise with your teamfocused on defining these things is a strong beginning towardsbuilding a foundation in which to become effective. Engage the teamto come up with this together and align on it. This may uncover some differences of opinion, but it will challenge you and your team to set up expectations of working together while on the team.
2. Thoughtfulness- I mentioned above that having a remote team gives you the opportunity to have a diverse team. This means diversity in all aspects which we can think of. Take time to get to know your team’s preferences for meeting as a team and balance them as you can. Sometimes being remote, sometimes hybrid, and sometimes in person (if geographically possible) will allow for your team members to work at their best. Even better, allow these team members to share their own preferences with each other. This may open up avenues for alternative ways the team can collaborate together, when you are not there.
3. Preparation- Set aside time in your meetings dedicated to working on building team effectiveness and make it known to your team. Identify a few tools you want to work on together, such as a RACI model. Be ready to confront differences of opinion and debate how you and the team will make decisions. Once the norms are out of the way, it will leave you and your team open to focusing on the tasks required of your team to be successful at meeting overall business needs.
There are many more aspects of leading a remote team which I have not covered, but to start, leading a remote team can be just as impactful and rewarding as a leader, whether you only see the top heads of your team members or get to give them a fist bump when you see them in person.