7 Mistakes Leaders Make When Managing a Remote Team

August 5, 2020 Rabiah

Times of crisis lead to unforeseen challenges and one of the biggest hurdles CEOs and business leaders are facing right now is the unprecedented levels of remote work needing to be managed.

There’s no real playbook for going from leading an in-house to a remote team nearly overnight.

As with any sizable shift like what we are experiencing now, this comes with its own growing pains. Communications with your clients or suppliers along with internal dialogue, project management, meetings, and all of the daily tasks are now being handled in a new way. Your team is fighting to regain a semblance of normality and control while still getting their work done, but in a brand new way.

I want to share seven of the most common mistakes we see leaders make when managing a remote team so that you can avoid making them (or redirect if they’re already being made) and set your team up for success.

Mistake 1: Trying to Glide Into Business-As-Usual Without a Rest or Reset

Even if your industry isn’t directly impacted by the crisis, your team is reeling from the effects – perhaps even unknowingly.

You need to take some time to reset your own mindset and then those of your team before trying to return to regular levels of productivity. The first thing you need to do is get a clear idea of where you’re standing. Get a lay of the land in the new world of remote work and how your organization fits into it.

Be patient with the output of your team and your managers as they maneuver the changes. Ignoring the impact and expecting everyone to perform as they would in-office immediately is a recipe for failure and will breed distrust amongst your employees.

Give yourself and your people the time and space to get their bearings. Then navigate through the changes as a unified force.

Be flexible with new ways of doing the same work and new systems and timelines based on everyone’s work-from-home needs.

Mistake 2: Not Setting Your Team Up for Success

In order to perform its duties, your team needs the right tools. These are easy enough to manage when the team is centrally located in your office, but abrupt changes causing the entire company to work remotely? That’s a different story.

Each employee will need different tools in order to be successful in working in the same role from a new location. These tools will not just be based on their work requirements, but also their personalities. Whether this is something simple like improved WiFi or cell signal, remote access to servers, communication platforms like Slack or Zoom, or more robust project management technology, the tools will differ based on access and needs.

You have systems that worked previously, so, by all means, start with what you have, but also be open to augmenting as necessary. The processes and tools you perfected for in-office use may not work as well in the new remote environment. Be open to testing and adopting new technologies so your team can function at its highest level.

Mistake 3: Ignoring the Importance of Rapport, Relationships & Company Culture

In an office, there are ample opportunities for small talk and relationship-building. When working from home, these small-but-important relationship interactions need to be intentional to keep team bonds strong and morale high.

The success of the company depends on the employees within the company. Keep a finger on the emotional connection of your staff through strong relationships. Strong relationships are built on trust and authenticity. Especially between coworkers, the human aspect of work is key. You didn’t hire a bunch of robots, let their personalities and unique lives shine through.

The relationship with the primary manager is the biggest contributor to employee engagement. Make sure this bond is solid. Having strong ties with their manager can give your employees a sense of job security and faith that their work is valued. Especially in times of crisis, you want staff to feel appreciated.

Company culture isn’t built on ping pong tables and kegerators. It’s built on mutual respect, trust, playfulness, and the relationships between staff. These relationships are built through intentional interaction.

Mistake 4: Not Communicating Enough or Effectively

It’s easy to let regular conversations slide when everyone is working remotely. It’s easy to make assumptions about what’s being done, how, and when.

When it comes to communicating across a fully-remote team, less is not more. More is more and more is better.

Encourage your team to share how they’re feeling and what’s working and what isn’t. Talk about each project and task in detail, even if you’d glaze over it in-person. When we’re working from different places, we need to spend more time making sure we’re on the same page.

Having open lines of communication will lead to better job satisfaction and potentially innovative solutions as new problems arise from the shift.

Mistake 5: Prioritizing Productivity Over Job Satisfaction

Happy employees produce more and better work.

During a crisis, the true reasons your employees took the job with your company will come into play. Satisfaction looks like different things to people with different priorities. It can also come in handy to know some of the intricacies of each employee’s personality.

Knowing what each team member needs to feel motivated, will help you deliver on those needs. Staff who feel like they’re making an impact and are part of something bigger than themselves will bring their best. Take time to figure out what makes each team member tick. This is more critical now than ever.

Mistake 6: Ignoring the Impact Home & Family Life Have on Work

Especially when working from home, personal life can have a significant impact on your people’s work output.

It’s important to be aware of this and empathetic to all the personal stressors that may impact your team’s performance. Children are out of school and not everyone has a partner or a babysitter who can wrangle the kids. Someone in the family – whether in the same home or states away – may have come down with COVID-19 and that employee may be distracted with concerns about their health. Being stuck in one space, either alone or with roommates or family, can wear on a person.

Ignoring the impacts of home-life will breed resentment and your staff will lose trust when you only focus on work and productivity.

Support your team in taking the time they need to secure a stable and comfortable home environment.

Mistake 7: Focusing on What You Need Vs. What You Have

It’s easy to get stuck on what needs to be done and to obsess over your team’s work output. During a crisis, when it feels like everything is out of your control, you may feel like the only thing you can influence is results.

If you find yourself obsessing and nitpicking over what isn’t happening, take a step back. Notice what your team is doing right now despite the chaos. Always come back to gratitude when you feel yourself spinning out. If you’re stressed about production, your team will feel it even if you don’t say anything specific.

Spend time acknowledging the wins of your team, including creative solutions and excellent work that is already being produced. Not only will this calm your own nerves, but it will also boost morale and energize your people.

Focusing on what you do have, what is going well, and what you’re proud of will keep you and your team revved for the next project.

Transition Into Remote Work Smoothly

By avoiding and correcting for these seven mistakes, your team will feel valued and motivated like never before. You’ll be able to build and maintain a strong company culture and ensure engagement and productivity.

Each of these mistakes and their solutions feeds into each other. Appreciating your employees and their work – publicly and privately – will lead to stronger bonds and better output.

Acknowledging the unique challenges placed on each team member by the crisis and giving everyone space and tools they need to adjust will build trust and confidence.

If you take care of your people, the work will take care of itself.

Need help addressing the needs of your team now?

Want to do more than merely ‘survive’ this crisis?

In the “Resilience Through Crisis” Toolkit, I’ll give you a plug-and-play communication and team resilience plan packed with step-by-step guides, tools, and templates to help take your team from “Uncertain and Unfocused” to “Unflappable and Unstoppable.”