It’s official: your remote team is a fact, not a fluke.
The sprint you made to work from home has now become a marathon. Ask any runner: the training that helps you win the sprint is completely different from the actions you take for a long-haul trip.
Even now, a full year after the great Work-From-Home-Scramble-0f-2020, too many of your remote teams are getting stuck in communication and behavior traps: traps that drain energy, commitment, and productive work.
It’s past time to figure out how work works from home—and how we as leaders and caring team members can make it better.
If you’re ready to reset your remote team and make sure work from home works as well as it can for your people, here are four strategies to try.
Strategy #1: Revisit Every Reason
When you look at your calendar, does every time commitment have a clear why?
If it does, does that why still matter?
For example, as they shifted to working from home, a leader at one of my client’s companies decided his team needed a 9 am check-in, and a 4 pm check-in, each day.
For the first few weeks, this rhythm kept the team connected, sharing stories, and feeling less alone.
But over time, the leader wondered if the meeting was helping—or hurting. He started noticing that no one had anything to say or ask at at each day’s 4pm check-in—and neither did he.
Soon, he started cancelling the meetings at the last minute every once in a while. However, the cancellations were random and he later discovered that since it was on people’s calendars, his last-minute cancellations were a source of frustration rather than a gift of found time.
It was time to revisit the reason.
Did the team still need those twice daily check-ins? Did they even need every day, now that the newness of the situation had worn off and folks found their rhythms.
The leader realized that while his intention was good, the reason no longer was relevant, and the team could do a meeting a week and accomplish the same goals.
Strategy #2: Disrupt Your Communication Pattern
If ever there was a time for the phrase “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” it’s now.
- Just because you can hold a video meeting doesn’t mean it needs to be a video meeting.
- Just because you’re using a video platform doesn’t mean everyone has to attend with cameras on.
- Just because you know someone’s online doesn’t mean you should message them anytime.
- Just because you can be live doesn’t mean you need to be live when a recording can do.
- Just because you have access to a technology doesn’t mean it’s better than the old technologies.
You’re human. You’ve likely fallen into a pattern that once felt different, but is now ingrained.
It’s time to take a step back and ask yourself:
Is your communication pattern working for your remote team? For YOU?
Take a hard look at all the elements of your communication, and see which may need a right turn or fresh approach. Consider:
- What you’re saying
- How you’re saying it
- To whom
- How often
- What you’re expecting from it
Disrupting ourselves keeps our messaging fresh, and helps renew attention. It also can come as a welcome relief to your team who knows that what you’re doing isn’t working—but who’s not going to tell you.
Strategy #3: Learn Better Facilitation Skills
You’ve probably heard the new trope: people are tired of video meetings or that they have “zoom fatigue.”
I think that’s a lie.
People aren’t tired of video meetings.
People are tired of BAD video meetings—and too many of our online meetings are still, to this day, oh so bad.
It’s actually quite shocking how bad many of these meetings still are—and how easy they’d be to fix.
All it takes is active facilitation.
At its heart, “facilitation” means making things easier. No wonder it’s the hottest skill of the new century. If you can facilitate well, you’ll have a job for life.
When you’re working with your remote team, it’s your duty to become an excellent facilitator, whether or not someone formally hands you the reins. When you’re a facilitator, you’re the glue who:
- Clarifies the purpose. Whether it’s a meeting, call or in-person event someday, our human brains crave clarity. When someone takes control and says, “We’re here for X, Y and Z,” it relaxes our brain and helps us focus.
- Connects the dots. Tell us where we’ve been, and where we’re going next.
- Asks great questions, especially the ones no one is asking. A great facilitator doesn’t let loose ends lie. “I heard us say we care about Project M, but that hasn’t come up in this conversation. Is there a reason for that?”
- Recasts what’s been decided. “I’m hearing us agree on x and y, but we’re not in agreement on z yet. Does that reflect what the rest of you are hearing?”
If you don’t know what you could be doing better, ask your team. If they’re disengaged and won’t tell you, invite someone from outside your department or hire a professional coach to observe your next online meeting.
Strategy #4: Be a Role Model for Well-Being
Do your office hours end each day, allowing you to go unplugged, not checking email, texts or social channels?
Have you taken any time off in the past year?
If you’re working ’round the clock, consider this your warning. Your team looks to you, no matter what your role.
So go first.
Be the role model, the one willing to show ’em how it’s done.
Your well-being matters to so many, and not just your remote team. Take care of you so you can take care of them.
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