Leading and communicating with a team regardless of its size are challenging on a normal basis. Leading and communicating with your team remotely due to social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19 and there is a whole other set of obstacles. Employees may be uncertain about their jobs or the health of the company overall. Some people may be uncomfortable using technology to work remotely.
By using clear, decisive communication, great leaders help their team through these challenges and unprecedented times.
Consider the following best practices when leading a remote team:
- Utilize the right tools: One of the biggest challenges when leading a remote team is keeping employees engaged. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the type of leading and communicating that will work best for your team or, for that matter, for each individual. Use e-mail, video, text and conference calls and file-sharing to keep your team informed of important updates and deadlines.
- Set clear goals and expectations: COVID-19 has forced organizations to look at how and where they are allocating precious resources and finite dollars. As decisions are being made to cut costs and get their fiscal house in order, it is essential to communicate those changes to the team, along with the specific goals and expectations for the organization in the near future. Team members need to know what their role is and what is expected of them as it relates to the larger strategic and operational vision for the organization.
- Share information: Especially when leading remotely, all employees need to “buy in” to the need to share information. It could be an article or news story that impacts the organization or a client, or a new system, procedure or innovative approach for a particular function. Google Drive is a common tool to quickly share information in one location in real time, as is Dropbox.
- Provide opportunities for remote social interaction: Beyond Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or Blue Jeans meetings for work-related items, it is important to connect with your team on a social basis to help avoid feelings of isolation. Try a virtual pizza party, where pizzas are delivered to all team members at the time of the video conference or a virtual happy hour. Or, allow a few minutes in a meeting to talk about non-work-related items, like what have they been streaming on Netflix or what did they do that weekend.
- Offer Support: Beyond technical and task-related support, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees may need more encouragement and emotional support. Communicate that you are there to listen to their anxieties, fears or concerns, and empathize with what they are feeling. Go out of your way to check in and ask: How are things going working remotely? What, if anything, can we do to help you be more effective in working remotely? This simple action let’s your employees know you hear them and you value them as a team member.
- Stay connected: Create a prioritized list of calls, texts or e-mails that you will use to connect and communicate with key “stakeholders.” These stakeholders are clients, customers, vendors and, simply put, people who matter in your world. Make sure you keep track of who you communicate with, when you did it and any action you agreed to and be sure to follow up.
- Recognize team members: Make note of specific team members who are “stepping up” and embracing the sometimes dramatic changes that are needed to not just survive, but thrive, in difficult times. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts and, more importantly, their attitude.