How to effectively manage and motivate your team.
Over the past year there’s one challenge that has been raised repeatedly in the Gather community: how can we manage and motivate our remote teams?
Remote working isn’t new, it’s a key benefit offered by many businesses and it brings with it lots of opportunities, but as COVID-19 hit, many organisations were thrust into an entirely remote working model.
And whether it’s a temporary change or one you want to embrace more permanently it’s a model that takes work to get right.
We recently held a workshop that looked at ways to manage and motivate a remote team. Delivered by Martina Gobec, who has led creative teams at the likes of Sony, ustwo and Bain & Company, it outlined lots of great tools and strategies you can use to get your team engaged, motivated and thriving.
The challenges of remote working
To kick off Martina shared a slide from the State of Remote Report that highlighted some of the biggest struggles with remote working. The top 5 were:
- Unplugging after work
- Collaborating and/or communicating
- Distractions at home
- Staying motivated
- Consider your environment - your office set up, the boundaries (or lack of them) between work and home.
- Take time for health and wellbeing - focus on nutrition, exercise, meditation, sleep, relationships and mindset.
- Structure your day - make a schedule and stick to it, focusing on the hours where you are most productive and put all your energy into important tasks.
- Let go of external concerns - COVID-19, the economic climate, and the news agenda can weigh heavy but try to concentrate on the things you can influence.
For many people, the initial shine of getting up a little later, ditching the commute, and an increased sense of autonomy fades if the right support isn’t in place.
So how can you make sure your remote team stays happy and motivated?
Start with yourself
Many leaders are experiencing burnout. A well-functioning team needs a well-functioning leader and that starts with focusing on the things you can control and influence.
Building habits and rituals that keep you thriving sets you up to manage your team effectively. And sharing these strategies with your team can help them thrive too.
Focus on communication
Connection and clarity are crucial for a successful team and it can be hard to nurture these when working remotely. If in doubt, over-communicate. Spend more time with your direct reports and make sure you have the time to listen to concerns, check in with how they are feeling, and show them appreciation.
Think about your non-verbal cues as well, when we’re communicating our body language plays a big role in setting the tone and these nuances can be lost on a video call. If you're looking to motivate your team make all aspects of your communication – your posture, your backdrop, your expressions reflect this.
And be clear with expectations. It's too easy to 'jump on a call' every half an hour, but calls with no agenda can sap time and energy and the content can often be more efficiently managed through email or Slack. Try to communicate information in smaller chunks than usual and focus on key business priorities.
Messages that were casually disseminated around the office and impromptu kitchen meetings aren’t going to cut it. You’re communicating with a group of people who can’t all be in the same place at the same time and you need to make sure they are all on the same page. So, create one shared place of truth and prioritise it ruthlessly.
Record meetings, take detailed notes, clarify and write-up weekly priorities and store them all in an easy to access shared workspace – Miro, Figma, Trello, Notion and Loom are all great tools to help with this.
Keeping your team regularly updated and sharing goals, challenges and successes will help to ensure motivation and engagement stay high.
Create team rhythms
It can be hard to foster the connection that being in a shared space brings and your team may feel lonely, passive, or disengaged. But with a bit of creative thinking, you can develop team rhythms that encourage togetherness and shared working.
In some ways this is an opportunity to really bring yourself to work, and your children, your cats and the builders too. Don't be afraid to be human, show vulnerability and give your team an insight into your life. It's good to share how you are but be careful not to burden your team – be constructive and future-focused.
Get together with your team more regularly and think beyond the traditional Zoom meeting. Schedule regular morning coffee catch-ups, consider an online water-cooler like Donut, hold virtual fireside chats and create an online shared workspace where people can work simultaneously and bounce ideas off each other.
Maintain your culture
As Martina said at our workshop, “Culture is 1000 things done 1000 times”. It goes beyond a set of values on a wall, it's what you do as much as what you say. As a leader putting it into practice every day is key to the happiness of your team and the success of your business.
Culture is more important than ever when we can't be physically together. Get together more often, be transparent and welcome feedback - really live your values. Think about taking the rituals that cultivate your culture online, throw a zoom birthday party (or one in an outdoor space if it's allowed!), do your own MTV cribs, have virtual Friday beers, schedule team huddles and creative sessions.
It's been a tough 12 months for leaders, having to quickly adapt working practices and keep engagement and productivity steady in the middle of a global pandemic
With the vaccine on the horizon there is hope of a return to ‘normal’ life and it will be interesting to see if and when businesses transition back to the office.
Remote working offers challenges and opportunities, and from discussions we've had with the Gather community it looks set to play a role in the working practices of many businesses in a post-covid future.
If you're a digital, creative or tech leader in the Liverpool City Region looking for business support find out more about Gather’s programmes here: https://www.gatherlcr.com