Working from home can result in increasing efficiency but the real challenge is that it results in a decrease in engagement, collaboration and teamwork. People can drift apart and productivity starts to suffer. How can leaders make up for the loss of this sense of community?
Building a group of individuals into a cohesive and high performing team is one of the most challenging leadership challenges. The quality of relationships between individual team members accounts for up to 80% of the team’s success factors? Trust is the key. Trust between team members and between team members and the leader.
For a remote team of people to work well, you need some face-to-face meetings to build and maintain relationships and the sense of collective purpose. When safe to do so under Covid, a blended approach of face to face and virtual team meetings will build and maintain that glue of trust.
Work between team meetings is particularly critical with remote teams. Don’t forget, the telephone was the first remote working tool. In my opinion, it remains the tool of choice for the regular check in call and communication between team meetings. As a leader, you will need more telephone calls between meetings. Giving your team an input into the agenda. Asking them what they want to get out of the meeting. Breaking down particular tasks and asking sub “thinking pairs” to work on particular aspects of a project and report back to the team is a great way of ensuring collaboration, progress and teamwork. Giving people responsibility for working on tasks they excel at and love doing is key.
Using the appropriate technology well
Despite all its challenges, we are fortunate today, to have an array of effective communication technology. Leaders need to select the right tools for the particular meeting. I find Zoom or Microsoft Team meetings work really well when you have a good internet connection. Get the basics right – camara position at eye level, good lighting, good speakers/sound, an uncluttered background. The Leader must be both competent and confident in using the new technology. For leaders who are struggling with the new technology, asking a member of your team to help provides a great reverse mentoring opportunity.
Six Tips for effective Remote Team meetings
1. Keep everybody positively engaged
2. The smaller the group, the better.
Once you go over 4/5, the law of diminishing engagement sets in. For larger groups/teams, use the breakout room facility for breakout groups and thinking pairs.
3. One-hour meeting
People’s attention span at virtual meetings is limited – meetings should last no more than I hour.
4. Insist everybody has Video on:
Insist on everybody having their video switched on - unless there is bad internet connectivity. Switched off, it takes away from the dynamic and openness of the team. It removes key nonverbal communication through eye contact and facial expression.
5. Present concepts and ideas visually
Avoid sharing long text documents. Present your ideas or proposals on a highly visual slide using pictures or graphics with minimal writing.
6. Breakdown Assistance
Have a contingency plan if the internet connection breaks down. Don’t panic. A telephone conference can also work well.