Leading Remotely

In a matter of weeks, businesses have gone from managing a team in a local office, to managing a team remotely. This is a huge transition, and one that not only requires implementation of the logistics and equipment to be successful, but even more importantly, it requires leaders to transition to truly “leading remotely”.

There is still a job to be done, and an important one.  Leading a team that is onsite, is very different than leading a team remotely, and you’ll be more successful by approaching this methodically. Dealing with change like this is difficult even in the best of situations.  When employees are already stressed and/or dealing with change at an alarming rate, leaders should be even more understanding.

To begin, leaders may need to shift from a more traditional way of thinking to managing accountability, (i.e. “desk time”) to measuring goals attainment and other productivity standards.  Additionally, now is the time to maximize the use of system KPI’s and metrics that help you gauge individuals as well as organizational performance.  Line of business applications, such as ERP and CRM platforms can tell leaders a lot about their team if they are configured to do so.

First things first, realize there will be challenges.  Change is difficult for everyone so set the tone before you begin to measure people on a different standard.  Begin implementing some of these ideas at your company’s pace and adjust as needed to match your culture.

  1. Communication might be challenging initially. It’s very easy when working onsite with a team, to walk over to a co-worker’s office or cubicle to discuss a work item, and keep things moving along.  Working in a remote environment does not have to be any different.   Allocate time for structured communication as well as ad-hoc conversations to ensure that your team can continue to make progress on initiatives.  A few ideas to do so:
  2. Weekly 1:1s – by establishing a set time each week to meet with each team member, with a pre-defined agenda, you keep an open (virtual) door to ensure there is ongoing communication.
  3. Regular Team Meetings – establish a meeting with your team at least once a week using a virtual meeting or call.
  4. Ongoing communication – while structured meeting and call times are important, unannounced touch points are important and will help to keep employees engaged and productivity maximized.
  5. Tools for Success – There are some things that are obvious. Does each team member have a laptop or computer to work from home? Internet connection, web cam, etc.?  However, there are other productivity tools that can help to keep a team engaged and productive while working remotely.
  • Secure network access to key applications and data.
    • Firewall VPN (Virtual Private Networks) ensure a protected connection to data.
    • Cloud and SaaS applications. These include those apps hosted by 3rd party providers such as email, document management and other Line of Business apps.
  • Productivity Tools
    • Instant messaging and communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and others indispensable in todays’ remote work setup. These tools offer the best possible virtual experience to share information, and communicate in real time via call, video and chat.
    • Task management platforms help people stay focused on work that needs to get done. There are dozens of good task management apps, but be sure to choose one that integrates with other systems, and fits your organizations workflows and culture.
  • Critical Applications. Those systems, such as ERP, CRM, Accounting and other business applications are especially important.  The lack of access or issues with these systems can be detrimental to the business very quickly.  Because of this, ensure these apps are absolutely reliable and redundant.  Be sure users can access and leverage them from any location through secure connections.

 

  1. Productivity Standards and keeping score are all very important areas to keep your team successful during this transition. Look closely at your systems and metrics and provide your team with guidance so they can meet expectations.  Try not to completely change your team’s workflow, but rather incorporate key changes that can be blended into their daily routines.  Start with these areas of focus.
    1. First, set expectations and align with company goals. Just as you would any other time, it’s important to have well-defined goals and align them to the productivity standards. Team members need to understand how their “remote work” goals align with the company’s vision, and what’s expected of them each day to execute.
    2. Next, establish SLAs (establishing response times and expectations). While team member schedules may be a bit more flexed while working at home, there needs to be clear standards established. In some environments, this may be okay, but employees need to know what’s expected in terms of a daily work schedule.
    3. Identify and incorporate the right metrics. People want to know if they are winning or losing. Develop a visual scorecard providing metrics from the systems they use.  ERP and CRM systems, for instance, can provide strong indications of a person’s work behaviors.  Activities, orders, inventory, purchases, sales and other major operating metrics that can be used to measure an individual’s performance.  With little “local office” insight into what employees or doing, these metrics are extremely important for both the employee and the manager.

After reviewing these ideas for managing remote work, build your plan to implement.  The business world is pivoting to “remote work ready” capabilities, as it is not merely a phase.  Begin acclimating your teams to new ways to work and position them and your company for future success.

The OneVision team is specialized in organizational change and look forward to propelling your organization to “Achieve their Vision” in the world of leading remotely.