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Working Remotely: Managing Your Team Effectively

Because of the COVID-19 virus, many organizations are now working remotely. For some people (managers and employees) this will be new.

For over 10 years I managed consulting teams with offices in 6 cities in the USA and Canada. My team was highly regarded by their clients, they were productive, and they worked well together.

Here are my tips for managers who are new to managing people remotely, or would like to be better at it:

Leverage technology.

At a minimum everyone will need access to phone and internet (preferably high speed). You’ll need a conference bridge and to have a videoconference app such as Zoom, google hangouts, or WebEx. And make sure everyone at home has adequate security on their computers.

Be clear about performance expectations.

Make sure your staff know what is important. This should include the measurable things (sales goals, tracking project deliverables, customer satisfaction calls / day etc.) as well as “softer” goals…people need to have good relationships with clients and other people on the team.

Be prepared to change priorities.

In times of uncertainty and volatility like we are in now priorities may change quickly. What made sense yesterday may not make sense today. Be ready to change direction when needed and make sure your team is aware of this.

Have a regular time when the whole team gets together on-line.

A weekly meeting at a minimum. The meeting is an opportunity to tell people what’s going on in the organization (what you know and can tell them, what you don’t know) and to give people an opportunity to ask questions. It’s better you hear the questions and answer them sincerely and honestly than leaving answers to the rumor mill. The rumor mill is rarely positive. At the regular meeting, invite everyone to share what is going well and what isn’t. Take action to correct things not going well.

Treat everyone with the same amount of respect.

 You don’t want to be seen as having favorites or treating some people better than others. Make sure everyone has the same information about the business. Not doing this can be divisive to the team.

Find the “right” level of oversight for everyone.

Your experienced staff who you trust can get less oversight than inexperienced staff who may be new to the work they are doing. It helps to explain your thought process on delegation, so people understand your motives and don’t think you are playing favorites with anyone.

Be available.

Make it easy for people to ask you questions. Your team is less informed than you are and will have personal worries. When possible, listen and offer reassurance or support or direct them to your EAP program if you have one.

Encourage teamwork and the spirit of “we’re all in this together”.

Having team goals and having the team develop a “Team Vision” is a good bonding exercise and sets the stage for good working relationships.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver to your team.

In times like this many organizations may have to cut hours or reduce staff. People will be worried about if they will have a job, or if their hours or benefits will be cut. These are valid concerns, and you may not know the answers. If asked about reductions it will be better to tell people about the process you will follow and the criteria you will use rather than giving reassurances that could be misleading. When you do know about scaling back, be as clear as possible about the reasons and impact on clients and staff.

Be as flexible as possible about the hours people work.

Many people will be balancing home schooling for their kids and maybe care for elderly parents. They may not be able to work 9 – 5 anymore.

David Green

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