Managing Remote Teams - Webinar
6:51PM Mar 23, 2020
Hello, and welcome to today's webinar on successfully managing remote teams. As I'm sure you all know, recent circumstances are forcing many people to work from home that they haven't been prepared for it. So we wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you the remote team managing experience of two of our team members. BetterManager co-founder Wendy Hanson has many years of experience. Both leading remote teams and coaching highly successful remote team leaders BetterManager executive coach Marian Gamal has led remote teams across the globe as she was launching that event bright and Google and has also coached many successful remote team leaders. We sincerely hope that their advice will help you overcome the challenges that you're facing right now. Please keep in mind that you will be receiving access to today's recording, as well as emails with additional supporting material to assist you with your goals. If you have any question questions that you would like to ask? Please click on the QA tab and submit them to us. And if time permits, we'll get to all of them. Okay, it's time to start. Let's get started with Wendy Hanson. Hello, Wendy. Take it away.
Thank you, Oliver. Thank you. And we are delighted that you have joined us because we're here to talk about something that's so important right now, the current need in our world to have companies that are not used to working from home, need to figure out how to do this better. And they've been asked to stay at home, not go into the office in many cases. So we want to really help you with this. And I'm so delighted to have my colleague Marian with me. So Marian, tell us a little bit about your experience managing teams remotely.
Sure. But I would say in the last 15 to 20 years, I've been mostly working with remote teams, because I've been working on launching Google Eventbrite in different markets. And at the beginning, we wouldn't have offices in that new country. So those people I was managing would Very often be working from, you know, home or shared working space. And so that's my experience over the past 20 years in digital.
So there's a lot of things that you can share with folks. And I've been an executive coach for over 20 years, supporting managers and now better manager we have a remote team of very experienced certified coaches around the globe. We coach in 12 languages, and we really work at staying connected with each other. So Marian and I do have a lot of experience in this and we want to support you is a challenging time for everybody. But we know that remote work for a lot of people is not new. You know, according to the Gallup organization, 43% of us employees work off site, at least part of the time so some people are used to this, but many people are not. And a company's now, you have no choice but to send employees to work at home. And to avoid contaminating the office. Many managers and their teams are in a Unknown new territory. So we want to help you today look at some of the challenges and what your you can do to support your workforce. So, Marian, in your experience, what are the what are the biggest challenges in remote work?
I can think of three challenges that are inherent to remote work and that often take managers by surprise. The first one is, of course, the lack of face to face supervision, right, both managers and employees expressed concerns about the lack of face to face interactions. Managers worry that employees will not work as hard or as efficiently and employees struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication. And in some case, employees feel that the remote managers are not as in touch with them as they were before. They're not in touch with their needs. They're not as supportive that they could be helpful. So this is the first thing, the first one lack of face to face supervision. The second challenge I can think of is lack of access to information, of course, because remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort that is needed to locate a piece of information within the company from coworkers. So even getting answers to what seems like a really simple question can become an obstacle for a worker who's based at home. And then there's more at stake, of course, because research has found that a lack of what's called mutual knowledge amongst remote workers translates to a lower willingness to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations. So for instance, if you know that your office mate is having a tough day, and he sends you an email that's a little bit abrasive, you kind of put it into context. And it's like, oh, well, you know, just, you know, that just happened to him. He's not in a great mood. But if you're remote, and you don't have that context, and you get that question, If email, you're going to go into emotions, you're going to think less of your co workers, but it has a lot of implications. And then the third challenge I can think of is social isolation. Of course, loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work with employees missing the informal social interaction and office setting. So extroverts may suffer from isolation more in the short run, but however, it ends up kind of touching everyone and over a long period of time, isolation can cause employee to feel less belonging, you know, to the company to the team, and that can result in procrastination or even a desire to leave the team. Those are the three that I can think of. Can you think of any other Wendy?
Yes, I can think of one more that I've been hearing from some of the folks that I've been talking to. But first I want to underline the loneliness factor being an extrovert. It is tough when you're sent home. Some introverts are saying, Oh, this is good, I can handle this. But if you're used to being around people, and that's where you get your energy, it's really tough. So for managers, they need to realize that this is difficult. We're not all the same, and we're all going to deal with this differently. So the other one that I thought of Marianne was distractions at home. Yeah, I encourage managers to talk to their remote workers about having finding a dedicated workspace if you're not used to working at home. And, and childcare is such an issue. Now, with so many schools closing, how are you going to handle that, and all of a sudden, you have this transition from you were in your office, now you're at home, and now some of you are homeschooling taking care of kids. So there's unexpected parenting responsibilities. And even under normal circumstances, it's this is a little bit difficult, but now we've got this happening very quickly. People are stressed there's distractions, so try to set yourself up in office. See if you can make some childcare arrangements, you know, with maybe you and your partner or however you're going to do that. But some managers may need to help their people work through some very easy ideas on how to be able to make this better. Because right now, we don't always think straight, right? When we're under stress, we're not always clear. So it's helpful to have a thought partner and that's what our managers need to be. So there's a lot to overcome. Marian, what are your tips on how to tackle this let's you have some great tangible things that people can do.
So yeah, I was thinking about this leading up to this webinar, and I thought maybe one way that would be easier would be to group them into like a few big themes because otherwise it's just like a laundry list of tips. And I thought the big the big first theme is really around individual individualization and being flexible and agile. So working from home can feel really confusing for some people because they're losing the boundaries. The reason normality, and feeling supported by their manager who guides them and helps them to create their unique way of tackling remote work is essential. Now more than ever, we can say that one size does not fit all at all. Some employees will feel a sense of normality by keeping a strict nine to five kind of timing and reason when they're working from home, while others will really be happy about the freedom to work whenever they're most engaged and energized, which means you know, 6am for some and 11pm for others. So, it is therefore essential for managers to proceed in two steps. The first step is talk to your direct reports, one to one individually and understand what is their setup, what is their new reality, you know, when are they most active energize? What sort of support do they need? Some may tell you, for instance, that instead of one a one to one meeting every week, they prefer to talk to you for five minutes every morning, that's just an example. So gather all that information from your direct reports. And then as a second step you meet as a group, the whole team, and you share people's preference and try to mix it into a well functioning that's going to work for everyone. It also shows fairness and empathy, you know, to and flexibility in terms of knowing that not everyone's in the same boat. Some people have three toddlers at home, some people are in a very quiet environment, and we need to be flexible around that. And the other thing I wanted to talk about on that theme is that what's happening today means that many households will have both partners working from home and with school closing down. In many countries, kids are thrown into the mix. And so I urge managers to discuss the home situation of their employees individually, so they understand the reality of their work environment. No, now's not really the time, to be honest. be less unrealistic or to hide the truth, you know, they This is what you want to know exactly. And some employees, for instance, may say, Well, you know, I'm going to be available every morning because my partner's looking after the kids, but then in the afternoon, it's my turn to look after the kids. So don't expect me to be on messenger don't expect people to answer immediately. And then eventually, you could share a calendar with everyone in your team showing everyone's peak time. So if you know that Marie is available in the morning, and john is more like available in the afternoon, then you know when to message them. And you know, when you're not likely to get an answer and where to go to someone else.
That's great. Those are such good things that people can, can take action on right away. So managers have to get a really good understanding of what their employees need and what their circumstances are, and then translate that for them. That's wonderful advice and know what to expect.
And then the second big theme is around everything to do with etiquette. meetings, you know, working remotely impacts the way people interact. So I don't need to mention how emails can, you know, escalates and emotions run very high on emails versus face to face conversations. And I think the remote working of today is just exacerbating that. So, without body language and even without the voice, a message is much more likely to be misunderstood according to the mood of the receiver, right? So discuss during one to one meetings with your remote team, and what media to use for what instance and you know, at what time of the day for what sort of purpose so for instance, slack very good for quick updates to everyone email really good for more like in depth reporting or showing a piece of news or a document. Messenger is more for like a quick response. You know, you don't discuss someone's promotion on messenger kind of thing. Phone is great for an explanation. When there's been a confusion or for like a meaty catch up, video conferencing comes in really handy when you want to calm down people when emotions have gone too high, SMS and WhatsApp brilliant for the emergency, I need your help right now. So ask your team to send or their do's and their don'ts and their expectations and at least of what they like and what they don't like. So for instance, just a silly example. But if people tell you I hated when people writing capital, because it reads like they're shouting and they're being aggressive, then make it a new rule. Let's not use capitals, it upsets some people, they're alone their home is no one to bounce ideas and come down with. So you know, it's about creating that etiquette. And when and I would say publish an etiquette document, you know, be quite clear about it and refer back to it when someone breaks that etiquette, so that you know, everyone's wishes are respected as much as possible. And when it comes to meetings, not only there's etiquette involved in meetings, but Well, a lot has been written about the inefficiency of meetings and how we have too many of them, etc. And I think that remote work brings an opportunity to actually revisit, revisit your current meeting situation, and to adapt to the new medium, which is video conferencing, which makes everything very different. So with the input of your team, set fresh rules for your video conference meetings, for instance, best practice is to tell people not to go mute. I've heard because when you're on mute, you tend to not participate as much, you know, you're not going to unmute yourself just to say I agree or Uh huh. But it's important that aha is important in the meeting. So don't go on mute. Don't switch off your camera. Even if you're doing something you know that you don't want people to know you're getting up from your seat, leave the camera on because the camera off. People can't hear you. They can't see you as far as they concerned. You've left the building And then think about shortening meetings. You know, we've been talking about shorter meetings with a lot of my clients for a long time. And can the half an hour meeting become 25 minutes in an hour meeting becomes 45 minutes. I think this can be achieved, especially if you introduce more structure into the meeting with like a proper agenda beforehand. notes at the end. I think if you start template tising, a little bit more your meeting process, you're going to be able to shrink them. One hour of meeting on videoconferencing feels very normal. Think about that.
Yes. Oh, well said Marian. And what we're talking about here is what may have worked well when we were in a face to face environment. But now we need to switch because it won't work anymore. It won't cut it in a remote setting. And I think maybe a silver lining of this maybe going forward we're able to do all these things a little bit better, because now we really have to focus On how do we do it? We're going to revisit those basic things like etiquette and new ground rules for communication flow and being efficient. And I love from from a perspective of using video conferencing for meetings is so good for people to see each other and connect and deals with that loneliness factor that you talked about too. And always check in first, like, check with people don't just jump on to the meeting and say, you know, what's the agenda for today during these times? Do a little quick check in and ask people a question be empathetic?
Yeah, he's so right. Yeah. And then the third topic that is sort of big overall theme that I can think of is all around deliverables and expectations. So in terms of deliverables, there was a Stanford University study not so long ago that found that productivity actually increases amongst remote workers. It's about the equivalent of an extra day of work per person per week. Amazing. This may Issue organizations we're dealing with remote working for the first time. However, managers have to remember that everyone is different. Some employees will suffer from distractions like kids pets deliveries, while others will rejoice in the silence and quiet for their home. So I think it's crucial for managers to review in a one to one setting with each of their direct reports, their unique deliverables, and the deadlines for each of those deliverables and understand what's feasible, what's not, the new context of your employee may mean that his efficiency is going to be really lowered and he has no control over that. So help your employee D prioritize a couple of maybe minor projects that could be done in April, May June, and prioritize either the really big projects very impactful or the ones that have a domino effect. You know, where other teams are, the people are waiting for you to pass on the baby so they can do their job and then so thing that's very important is of course, to publicize those decisions as in don't deprioritize stuff and not telling to anyone, you know, you need to make it clear that sorry, we were supposed to do that in March and it's just not going to get done. And then in terms of expectations, I think that isolation and stressed and to really enhance people's expectations as as making them too high. And then it leads them to procrastination and not dealing with today's reality. So for instance, your IT department would empower you with a phone, a laptop, firewall, etc. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. And your team may sort of start panicking and thinking about a lot of extra tech tools that they need to be able to function and I would say at that stage, it's important for a manager to sort of step in and play a role so that you protect a little bit to supporting functions that are probably overloaded. I'm thinking of It HR finance, you know, everyone bombarding them with questions and requests. So as a manager, you know, try to put together all the requests of your team requests for IT support requests for legal support, or finance or data or anything like that, and to channel for all those requests and expectations to be channeled through you, so that there's not like, you know, overflow of requests to those departments. And something that's also important I find is a bit a bit of context behind all your requests, like if you're asking for, you know, it to help you with something, but put a price tag on it and say, Okay, well, if we can't share that kind of documents amongst ourselves, we can't do that job. That job that's a million dollar of revenue in two months. So if you put a price tag on it, your IT department, for instance, or legal or finance will be able to understand how important your request is and prioritize amongst all the tickets that they had.
So it's all about helping your team members prioritize the tasks that are most important. And keep your own manager informed and the organization formed about expectations. And your it's also about managing your team's expectations so that the anxiety doesn't turn into an impossible laundry list of we got to do this. We need to do this now. We need to have some patience at this time, don't we?
Well, that that was great. That was so helpful to hear those things. Let me do a little recap here. So one of the things is talk to each of your direct reports individually about setting up their remote work. What do they need from you as their manager? When are they likely to be most active? What challenges are they facing working from home? And also, how do they want to be communicated with what's the best way to reach them the best time And number two, at your next video conference team meeting, which we hope you're all be having video conference team meetings to see each other, share people's preferences, create a calendar, I loved that idea, Marian, about the peak time because people's people have different peak times if their morning people are nice people, and they're gonna have to move things around during this different kind of period that we're working through. Make your meeting shorter number three. Ah, we should do that all the time. And be clear about video conference rules and structure your meetings more with an agenda ahead of time so people know what to expect and share the meeting notes after an action items. People will feel more control. When you're able to do that. They'll feel like yeah, we're moving our business along. It's also important number four for managers to help employees prioritize their own tasks and revisit the deliverable deliverables and timelines. And making sure that Anyone impacted by these changes are informed, very important. Number five, protect other departments as a manager, you may need to reach out and collect all the information from your team what people need, so they don't go directly to it legal finance and create chaos, we really have to stay calm during this period. And people will really appreciate that. And last, finally, as a manager, take time to check in on a personal level with your team. This is these are different times and people are all going to react very differently. compassion and empathy are essential in times like this. So this, this has been some great information, Marian. I'm wondering if there are any questions we're going to keep on this webinar for another 10 minutes or so. So we can answer any questions that you have. I
do have some questions for you guys. Okay, let me go ahead and bring those up to you. Right Now, the first one came from Lauren, and she was asking, how do you gather the pulse of people normally done by wandering around and catch the issues that they would not otherwise voice up?
Ah, great question. Because managing by walking around is a wonderful tool when we're together. Maybe you have to check in with each individual and say, some people might want to have a stand up every morning for five minutes and check and ask them how they're feeling today on a scale of one to 10. Do make sure that you try to have what you would have done in person that you figure out a way to do that remotely.
Yeah, I agree with that. I think that if you feel that one of your direct report is a little wobbly. It's a great idea to say hey, why don't we talk for five minutes every morning or every evening or whatever works best for you?
Fantastic. Next question is from Ryan and Ryan asks, How do you keep your reps engaged and motivated? During this unprecedent time,
yeah, keeping people engaged, if you keep on the why this is important, and that there is going to be something at the end of this, this is not forever. We have to focus on what's possible and what could work. And one thing that I think is really helpful with teams is to go through maybe at the end of the day or every couple of days, what's working, what are we doing really well as a team that keeps people motivated? Because they have hope? And and what are we grateful for about each other? That's another great motivational piece. Anything you'd add?
Yeah, also I was thinking of doing something that's very motivating is, of course, the mission of the company. You know, why do we exist? When do we show up every morning and behind our computer, and the impact we have on customers lives? I think that there's hardly anything more motivating and not to know that yesterday we solved a big issue for Maria in New Jersey, and yesterday, we delivered the dream come true something to john in Florida. You know, knowing those stories is something that is very motivating and keep the whole experience very human at a time when technology doesn't make it feel so human.
Great. Our next question comes from Rebecca and she says, Can you recommend any tools for encouraging employees to track their productivity?
Question I don't know of any specific tools, you know, whether people are are just keeping in a spreadsheet, what am I able to get done? Like, what are the things I wanted to do today? And what are the things that actually happened to check them off? Make it simple?
Yeah, I mean, I'm, I've been trained at Google for seven years. So of course, I'm not going to be able to note say the acronym okrs. objectives and key results. Whether you do them for a month, a quarter, okay, ours can be done for any period. of time, I encourage you to go online and check out check them out if you're not using that tool. And then at Google, we also used to do snippets, like on Friday night, we would send our boss, the five things we absolutely have to do next week, like whatever happens, good things could not fall in between chairs. And I think that's a good habit to start having for managers and saying, hey, what are the five really important things that I must help you and empower you to do next week? That's a great idea.
Fantastic. We have questions from Diane, she sent a couple of them. The first one being what are your thoughts on child care? This seems to be a huge issue for many.
One thing that I've been hearing about that and I had a career in education before this, so I am so empathetic with what's going on with parents, all of a sudden having to deal with this at home, is make sure that you're getting some support from your other friends that have like aged children, so that you can maybe do something Together, whether it's online, or if it's, you know, we still want to respect social distancing. But how do you how do you deal with that? Maybe you can if you're in a very small community, take care of each other's kids and still keep everything healthy.
Yeah, and I think that you, it's, it's gonna be guilt time for parents, basically. Because either you let down your job and use homeschool and play with your kids all day, or you can't carry on doing your job and you're neglecting your kids. So I think I would say anything that can help you be at peace with that and know that yes, your kid's going to be a bit more in front of his screen than usual, play more video games, which more cartoons, but you know, in comparison to catching the virus, it's nothing and it's just for a period of time. It's just for a few months. It's not his entire life.
Yes, if we do this, right, it will be over sooner. Great.
Here's a really good question from Diane again. Many people aren't comfortable on video and resist it. How do we get them over this hurdle?
Well, my grandmother didn't want to telephone
until the 60s when she realized that she was going to her neighbors to use her telephone all the time. And then she thought maybe it's time I get mine. So I would say there's always resistance to new technology, but how long can you get resisted?
use it. Try it. What do you think, Wendy?
I think I think once people get on and they see the difference of how it feels to connect with someone like this and say, you know, we don't all have to put on our makeup in the morning and do our hair like we can. We can just be informal. We can make this a really good place for us to connect. And I know there are so many good example of your grandmother. There are so many people that are getting onto FaceTime and seeing people they have to just like you know, we just should be getting used to that. So just try it.
Yeah, yeah. And even use it in a more casual way, like start using it for fun. In the evening, there are people who are having like abilities on Skype or you know, a nibble or pizza party on Skype, start using zoom or Skype in that sort of relaxed, casual way, and then you're going to react realize that it's not a monster. It's just, it's just an extra media. That's it.
Yeah. If you have happy hour on it, then the next day when you have to go to a meeting, you might feel a little better about it.
Yeah, unless you have a hangover, but that's
Yeah. Well, you don't have to happy an hour. Yes.
We have a question from Danny. And she says, How do you manage your workload while constantly getting requests to jump on video conferences for questions?
That's part of what Maryann talked about before about scheduling during the day. You know, I think we covered that during during our previous talk because if everybody knows when somebody is going to be available and say I really need this time but DNS on your schedule, so that you're going to focus so you're not jumping in all the time.
Yeah, or managers having like a open door period of time every afternoon, for instance, saying, I'll never be in a meeting, I'll never be on a conference call or on a call between two and four. So this is the time you can bombard me with information, no problem. And again, use the right medium for what you want you to if you just want to know what the number was for yesterday, maybe you don't need to start a video conference. Maybe you can just slack or messenger your your boss. Whereas if you want to talk about a meeting problem, obviously messenger is not going to work. You need 10 minutes on video.
Great. Here's one from Cassie, which is similar to one that we answered but maybe you want to add a little bit more ideas for ways to foster team interaction remotely when they're not communicating on the floor. I'm sorry when they're not connecting on the floor.
I heard of office parties on on video conferencing. Have you heard of them as well? Wendy? Yes, I have I have and the rituals that we have at work that we all meet at a certain time, or we do things or we have to figure out how do we create those now virtually so that people feel connected. And having that office party and having that lunch, we're actually going to help some companies and do a brown bag lunch remotely, where we can help facilitate a conversation as if we're all sitting in the cafeteria together. See if you can set those up for your team so that everybody gets on and has lunch together and just chats about things and there's no agenda. There's just being together.
Great. We have one from MADI and Maddie says How can I manage or help a team member who is at home and is anxious single mom, young child at home can't rely on grandparents for childcare worried about going out and getting provisions
That is a tough one.
Yeah, I mean that anxieties is way beyond the realm of work, isn't it? It's it's about work and responsibilities as a parent as a human being, I would say try to make her work as painless as possible. If you can already remove any tension or anxiety around work, you build her confidence, remind her that she's awesome at this and that and she's gonna nail it and kill it and do really well, then at least that's one less thing that she'll be thinking about at 3am when she can't sleep.
Yes. And again, don't feel socially isolated. Reach out to to peers and friends and discuss these issues. If you're home by yourself as a single parent, that is really tough, but get, get an outside of work, engage a couple of people to get on and say how are you solving this problem? You know, how can we work together? How can I support you? Maybe you take Turns going to the grocery store, and then you take care of your kids that way.
Great. We have two more questions. This next one comes from I think it's may her and is asking, is sharing and keeping logs for all the tasks done day by day a good idea or is it overwhelming for the team?
I would do it for myself, I wouldn't necessarily share it with the entire team because you don't want to create like some kind of contest or competition where did certain things today and the other one did five you know what I mean? And it also is going to end up like looking like a laundry list. So I would say this is the kind of tool that I would advise people to use for themselves, but not necessarily to share with everyone.
I would agree. Yeah, let's keep this as stress free as we can. Let's we can only we have so many things that are out of our control. Now. Let's figure out We can control make sure the most important things get done. But keep the atmosphere calm.
Yeah. And don't become a slave to the tool, the tool helps you do stuff.
Last question is just a repeat of the previous one, Danny's asking that, Marian, you mentioned a tool from Google. He wasn't didn't quite hear what the name of that was.
Oh, that was okrs objectives and key result. There's plenty of information online on YouTube about it, for instance. And it's a great way of organizing everything that you do for a month or quarter aligned with the company's big objectives. And I find it extremely helpful in terms of transparency and getting everyone aligned and planning ahead for the workload that you have. And for the workload of your team to check out objective and key results. That's that's one of my silver bullets.
Fantastic. That was the last question. There were other ones that were kind of piggybacked on other ones that were asked. So I thank you for getting to this. Wonderful.
Well, it's been fantastic to have you all with us today. Thank you for your really really good questions. We want to support you in the best way that we can going forward. So we want to be able you can reach out to us, let us know how we can help you can always reach out to me individually Wendy, a better manager, and we can set up a call Oliver, how else can they get help from our team?
So again, our goal today was to give you the takeaways that you can use right away with your remote teams. If you missed anything, don't worry, because we're going to be giving you a recording later today. Of all the and also supporting material that we've talked about. For information and how to see how we can help your business please go to better manager.us Check out our podcast building better managers that Wendy's the host that's available on all your favorite platforms. And you can also follow us on LinkedIn and in Facebook. In addition, we're going to be having a follow up next week on Facebook. It's going to be a remote team townhall with Wendy, to answer all your questions. Again, this is trying times right now we understand that you have obstacles that you need to get through right now in order to stay productive. Other than that, from Wendy and Marian, thank all of you for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you next time.
Right Bye, everyone.