9 Tips on Leading Your Team Remotely

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9 Tips on Leading Your Team Remotely


Are you leading your team from home? Many people are during this period of uncertainty. While telecommuting is not something new, many companies have recently switched back to call workers back to the office, including IBM, a company that pioneered the trend back in 1980’s. Theoretically, remote work makes a lot of sense. It cuts down the second highest expense in business and it gives your team more flexibility. In practice, it actually has a lot of challenges, collaboration, communication, team building, accountability, etc.


At Delivering Happiness, we are in a unique position. We know what it means to work remotely since we are a global team and have team members working globally at different customer sites all the time. We also live and breathe culture, because that is our business --- to help businesses to make culture their #1 business advantage.


As a new remote team member of the DH and having led remotely myself, I want to share a few tips on how you can effectively lead your team remotely. 


1. Communicate effectively

There is really no over-communication if you are working remotely with your team. Do not assume that communicating once in one platform gets the job done. Create agreements on every communication! For example, if an assignment needs to be done by next Wednesday, state why that task is important, ask if additional resources are needed and ask for a written response in agreement to create accountability. Understand everyone on your team's work style and preferred way of communication. Some people might prefer checking emails just twice a day, while some would like instant email response, and some prefer phone calls. Knowing more info ahead of time could build trust quicker.  


What are your team’s communication styles?


2. Create and document processes


This is important even if you are not leading remotely. Having the processes somewhere and actually using that process allows your team to know what to do next without having to get directions from you. Create flow charts and use tools like RACI charts to let your team members know how to elevate issues and bring up ideas. Make sure the steps within your processes are actually value-added. This might take some time to create at the beginning but will create higher productivity for your team. 


What processes would you need to create now that you are working remotely?


3. Delegate by assigning appropriate tasks


Assigning tasks that are appropriate for the right team members could create higher engagement. Allow your team members have freedom on leading and designing a project [rather than just assigning a task] could create a sense of control. You could create an internal customer for that assignment. If assigning an entire project is too much, leaving room for creativity and decision making on some subtasks can also increase a sense of control. Slowly assigning a more challenging project could create a sense of progress. Oftentimes we don’t have a choice, but assigning tasks that allow for "flow" state [challenge meets capability] could increase productivity and happiness level. If you are thinking about assigning this task to a particular team member, consider the following questions: 


Will they be challenged and empowered, or will they be stressed out or confused? Do they have the appropriate resources available to help them perform?
Do they know the objective for this assignment?

4. Measure performance


Once tasks are assigned, of course you’ve got to follow-up!  Measure performance. Make sure you have leads for projects and actions for tasks. Know the metrics that you should measure: both process driven KPI and outcome-based KPI. Keeping process and outcome KPI will allow you to see what activities create what types of outcome. This could create a great sense of progress for them. Who cares how many hours it took your team to finish a project as long as it’s AMAZING and on time?


What performance metrics are the results you want to see?


5. Help your team feel a sense of belonging


One of the negatives of working from home is the lack of community. Water-cooler time is actually important, but we lost this in a virtual setting. At DH, we love having the freedom to work whenever and wherever we want, but we also love seeing each other. We have created a strong virtual supportive community and our own rituals to show love for each other. Just an example, we create virtual birthday cards using love-notes to write to our team. We also dedicate time for check-ins during some of our regular meetings. While this could not make the meeting run more effectively but it allows for the entire project to run smoother and the team to work better over the long run.


How can you help your team feel more connected?


6. Leverage technology


While we have very effective communication and project management (Email, zoom, Trello, Asana, Chat, Basecamp and your internal systems), they could further scatter your communication. Use video conferencing often. Make sure you have an agreed communication strategy to determine what information should go into what platforms. Otherwise, different team would start using different platforms and this could create chaos and miscommunication. 


Does everyone know what platforms are you using for project management? Sales? Operations? Marketing? 

Where do you keep your stand operating procedure?


7. Ask for feedForward (feedback at DH)


Listen more, ask more questions, and understand your team. As we say at Delivering Happiness, “We want to hear the good, the bad, and we LOVE the ugly.” As a leader, it’s up to you to set a great work environment for your team. Showing your team that you treat feedForward as a tool to improve rather than to criticize, you can gain more trust and your team will embrace a growth mindset. See what’s working and what’s not working from your team. Evaluate and improve! One way to get feedForward is to ask simply for them often.


How else can you get your team to give you more feedForward more often?


8. Show CARE and build TRUST


Even if you can’t get any of the above right 100%, but if you can show your team that you truly care for them, you will still have a much easier time transitioning to working remotely. They would be much more forgiving for any mistake that you make, because we are all in this together! One simple thing to show care is to set up a check-in to just listen without giving advice. Often times, we just want to feel seen and be heard. 


What else can you do for your team to show that you care about their well being?


9. Focus on your culture


To sum it all up, start with culture. If you can align your team’s values and goals to your company’s values and vision, working remotely will turn out to be much more effective.


What are your values? What’s your and your company’s higher purpose? What difference are you trying to make in the world? 


For some additional help on leading your team remotely, please join our complimentary DH Global Culture Coaching Platform. Ends April 30th.


What's a remote work tip you've used that that was helpful?

Let us know in the comments below.



About the Author

Kelly Lei

Kelly is the happy growth activator at DH. With her 15+ years of lessons learned in engineering, sustainability, investing, business, education and non-profit, Kelly works with business leaders, especially startup founders, to level up their personal and team performance. She's also a venture investor passionate about creating a better future of work and a sustainable world.

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