Leading High Performing Remote Teams: Your ‘Top Four’ Checklist

April 09, 2020

Filed Under: Leadership, teamwork, Remote

By Nicole Bendaly

Photo Credit: Getty

There is no doubt that leading a remote team can be challenging, especially now, in a time of increased flux, uncertainty and complexity. The good news is that leading a remote team doesn’t have to be a struggle. The key is to be fanatically focused on the practices that will make the biggest difference to a remote team’s effectiveness.

Below you’ll find a top four checklist for leading a high performing remote team. I’ve drawn these from the practices we know make the biggest difference to a remote team’s effectiveness. When you and your team apply these practices, and remain fanatically focused on them, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your performance.

1. Build Team Cohesion

A cohesive team is fanatically focused on where it is going and how it will get there. Being clear about and focused on success is always important no matter the team situation, but when working remotely it is even more critical to ensure that everyone is in sync. If you and each of your remote team members don’t have clarity about what success looks like for your team, it will be a struggle to achieve it - if you achieve it at all.

So here is a quick test to check your cohesiveness. If you were to ask your team, ‘What does success look like for our team?’, would they be able to answer it right away? Would you? Would everyone’s answer be similar? If not, then chances are your team members are spending too much time pulling in different directions and focusing on practices and initiatives that aren’t leading them directly to their common goal. The antidote to this? Spend time getting clarity on:

  • What success looks like for the team.
  • The team’s top priorities for achieving success.
  • The behaviors and practices most important to the team’s effectiveness.

You can find specific strategies for building remote team cohesion in my complimentary recorded webinar: How to Lead a Cohesive and Resilient Remote Team

2. Cultivate a Healthy Team Climate

A healthy team climate is one in which team members feel comfortable being themselves, asking questions, sharing ideas, and trusting that their fellow team members will be there for them when needed. It is a climate in which team members feel valued, respected and safe. In a remote team, the health of the climate will determine the degree to which strong interpersonal relationships are built, regardless of the number of miles between them. The team’s climate will determine the degree to which team members speak up on a teleconference, or in a virtual meeting, it will determine the degree to which team members reach out and check-in with each other and build a strong community. If this is lacking in your team a place to start is by developing new team norms by clarifying what team members need and expect from one another, and from their leader. To establish team norms, ask: “What behaviors and practices are most important right now to our team’s effectiveness?”

Here’s a practical tool to help you lead this important group discussion along with some strategies for ensuring these new team norms take hold and improve the climate.

3. Focus on Group Work Skills

Improving the way in which your remote team engages in team meetings is the fastest way to strengthen its performance. Group work skills refers to the team’s ability to effectively facilitate and participate in meetings and to problem solve, make decisions, and reach consensus as a group. This is of course essential in any team but is even more critical in a remote team where all group discussion occurs via teleconference or virtual meetings. Asking for input on a tele-conference can feel like pulling teeth if there is nothing but silence on the other end. A quote from a leader I coach says it best, “Are they awake? Are they paying attention? I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to say, “Bueller, Bueller?”

The first step to improving your meetings is to ask your team members what they believe will make their meetings more effective and enjoyable. Some suggestions include:

  • Use the vital agenda to ensure your time together is well spent.
  • Ensure every meeting has a clear objective.
  • Dedicate time in every meeting to group discussion, idea sharing and problem-solving.
  • Clarify expectations regarding what an effective team meeting looks like, and what team members need to do to achieve it.
  • Use a video-conferencing tool instead of teleconference whenever possible.
  • Ensure social time is included in some of your meetings.

You can also view my complimentary Meetings For Results video for more tips and tools.

4. Develop Shared Leadership

A global study found that dependency on technology makes staff feel isolated and disengaged, which is an alarming finding given that remote teams depend so significantly on technology. An antidote to this risk is building the team’s shared accountability for the team’s success by engaging team members in challenging and meaningful work that positively impacts the organization and those you serve. As a leader, an important part of your role is connecting team members to experiences that align to what maters most to them. To do this, begin by incorporating the following questions into your one-to-one meetings and get to know your team members on a different level:

  • What matters most to you at work?
  • What makes a good day for you?
  • What makes you proud to be a part of this team/this company?
  • What does it look like when we are at our best as a team? As a company?
  • Are there any initiatives you aspire to be a part of?

Not sure where to start? Ask your team which of the four practices is most important to the team right now, and dedicate time discussing them. Here’s a team exercise that introduces all seven of the practices of a high-performance remote team that you can use to spark discussion and action.

For the original article, visit Forbes.