The global coronavirus pandemic has forced a widespread shift to remote work. The impact on our families and careers has been significant. Around the world, parents struggle to find a quiet space to work, professionals battle with technology, and employers assess the safest way forward.
For all these reason and many more, we’re stressed! Many of us are burned out and disengaged.
We’re left with the question, is remote work a viable option? Can it be done successfully? Richard Walton and Heléne Smuts say yes—provided you have the right framework in place.
Walton is an member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and founder of Avirtual, a company that supplies virtual employees. Smuts is currently enrolled in EO’s Accelerator program and the founder of Credo Growth.
They recently collaborated on a seminar exploring the key ingredients for successful remote working. Here’s what they shared.
In order for any company to transition to being remote, a robust framework must be established for everyone to follow. Additionally, all employees, at every level of the company, must understand the expectations and procedures.
A successful framework for remote work is made of these building blocks:
The biggest cause of disengagement is lack of communication. When working remotely, it’s imperative for companies to communicate three times more than what they were doing previously.
There’s no such thing as too much communication. Accessible communication channels and regular check-ins will make remote work seamless. Make sure you’re communicating the same expectations and rules to every member of staff. Set aside time for assessing how people are feeling as well as recognizing great work.
Check out these practical ways to ensure open lines of communication.
- Daily team huddles. Morning meetings with operational updates are a great way to keep everyone on the same page. Keep them to 20 or less. If you have more than 20 people in your business, then divide your larger team up into smaller groups of 10 or less.
Because these are frequent operational updates, leaders should be able to quickly ascertain challenges, obstacles or concerns that team members are experiencing. Ask, where are people are stuck? The huddle isn’t about solutions. Challenges and issues are mentioned but then get dropped onto a parking lot and spoken about by the relevant team members after the meeting. Details are discussed one-on-one after the meeting.
- A “fireside chinwag”: Walton suggests informal get togethers where staff connect on a personal level. This type of session promotes full transparency because it’s where your employees can ask you anything. Sometimes less structure gets people to open up and this builds more of a bond.
- “Start, stop, keep”: This technique helps staff open up. Ask the questions, what should the organization start doing, stop doing and continue doing? People always have suggestions and this is a great method to get everyone contributing to the discussion.
- All-staff meetings: These should be around 30 minutes long and held once a month. Crucially, they don’t touch on operational items. They are an opportunity for acknowledgement and recognition. Welcome new staff, celebrate promotions and achievements. Share appreciation and learnings.
Walton has had great success using something he calls “spotlight”, where he picks two random people what they have done over the last few weeks that they are proud of.
“The beauty of this is that the team knows I am going to pick on two people, so in advance of the meeting everyone starts looking back to think of things they are proud of”, he explains. “We all have things we are proud of but it sometimes takes some prodding to stop and remember them. I think that’s really healthy”.
Without trust, everything else falls away. Distrust results in micromanagement.
Credo Growth applies the Trust Equation from the Trusted Advisor to build trust among employees and to become trustworthy as a leader.
The Trust Equation = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy over self-orientation/interest
The Trust Equation helps teams and leaders develop credibility, reliability and professional intimacy. One way to develop professional intimacy is by asking yourself, how can I share something with you that leaves me feeling vulnerable?
Trust forms the foundation of Credo Growth’s remote team intelligence framework:
- Focus on direction: People must know what they’re working towards and must be focused on action steps.
- Routine and habits: Leaders and staff alike must be intentional in their planning. Everybody must follow the rules of engagement.
- Engagement: Leaders and team members are accessible and working toward personal and professional development.
Essentially, this framework ensures that people have what they need to deliver. They know what to expect and what’s expected. They feel connected. If all these components work, and you have the team centred in trust, you are well set up to have a high performing remote team.
People become more responsible if they buy into your culture and vision. It’s important to recruit people who align with your company’s vision. The hiring process must consider remote needs and be guided by on the company’s values—even if you’re outsourcing or bringing on contractors.
Your people need to understand—and be passionate about—your why. Why do you exist? What is your purpose? This is especially important for millennials and Gen Zs. They want to understand the bigger picture and what they are contributing to.
It’s essential for leaders to consistently reiterate the importance of the why. If done regularly, then everyone will understand what winning will look like in six months, 12 months, and even three years from now.
Follow these steps to improve culture:
- Encourage feedback. Schedule regular one-on-ones. Start by praising what the employee is doing well. Then provide constructive criticism. Together, determine the best next steps.
- Assign culture ambassadors. Identify any employee who naturally promotes the values. Leaders are also meant to be culture ambassadors, so it’s good for them to spend time with employees and teams across the organization. This can help them discover what’s really going on, on the ground.
- Create an environment where people feel safe. Practice secure-based leadership. Coaching enhances psychological safety. Having deep conversations, being very transparent and vulnerable will get the best performance out of your people.
- Own the culture and environment. Leaders must listen, reflect and question. How do leaders earn respect? People must trust you. Start by listening.
- Launch team development initiatives. Look at experiential learning opportunities—with people sharing their own challenges and experiences. These often work better than teambuilding exercises to connect and engage staff.
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