We have long heard about the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in the world (also known as a VUCA state), but it’s become especially strong lately. This pandemic has suddenly pushed us into a situation that we had not prepared ourselves for. Few companies had experience running a remote workforce efficiently.
Suddenly, most leaders are finding themselves unable to predict and plan, and this is causing anxiety and stress and affecting mental well-being. The challenges of managing a work-from-home team are unique because one cannot just get up and solve issues face to face.
A few critical points that leaders will need to understand and work to overcome:
1. There will be misunderstandings.
2. Collaboration may not be seamless.
3. There may be distrust between managers and employees.
4. Disengagement and anxiety will likely be high.
5. Disorderly communication will make things worse.
Leaders are facing demands and cannot be blindsided. Therefore, they need to transform into super leaders and use their superpowers of vision, wider understanding, clarity and agility to battle the destructive forces of instability, uncertainly, unproductivity, direction paralysis and doubt.
So how do you lead a remote team to success?
1. Set clear objectives.
The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to set clear expectations at the beginning. The objectives should include online processes, procedures on what to do when a problem arises and specific tasks to perform, as well as desired performance goals. These expectations should be discussed with the team and then documented and shared.
2. Offer resources that make working from home easy.
In remote working parlance, this means technology. Cloud-based storage systems allow easy and secure access to company information and shared documents. Powerful project management tools enable frequent tasks to be uploaded as templates and visible to all. Additionally, you get to see the progress on a real-time basis. You must always try to create an environment for team collaboration and accountability. Have a robust internal communication platform.
3. Build trust.
One way to build trust is by avoiding micromanagement. Once leaders have set expectations, created and shared the process templates, and implemented collaboration tools, they should also allow their team members some authority, flexibility and opportunity to work freely. This freedom does not mean that the objectives can be compromised or the team can delay task submissions or procrastinate. A time-tracker tool will help the team to maintain consistent working hours since distractions at home could be natural. Whenever possible, prefer to solve an issue on a video call rather than have a volley conversation over chat or email.
4. Promote engagement.
You must remember that in remote teams, it’s difficult to interpret each other’s body language and mannerisms. With almost negligible human contact with each other, disengagement may creep in. Combined with the challenging market conditions, working from home may frustrate employees.
You should share regular updates on team and individual accomplishments to inspire and motivate each member. Create a process to give and receive feedback without judgment, an atmosphere where people can find support whenever they need it. The idea is not to let your teammates face the issues on their own.
And even while remote, encourage them to enjoy their water-cooler moments with each other to help them fight anxiety. Replicate the experience of in-person interactions by allowing the team to create chat groups to discuss favourite TV shows, vent about a grievance with a customer, or share family pictures and good news. Remember not to spy on that group.
Now is the chance to apply the change management concepts that you have discussed, learned or heard about. It is essential to shift your mindset from being a project leader to being a collaborative leader.
Develop agile teams that are self-organised, accountable, coordinated and collaborative.
Set your remote team up for success.
Note: This article was originally published at Forbes.com on 26th June, 2020