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Strengthen Your Team’s Capability for Remote Work

This article was based on episode 239 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get the full episode guide when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase any full episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop.


When a group of people work together in the same physical space, collaboration happens organically. Meetings facilitate planned communications and impromptu conversations build social capital and continue the flow of information. If you’re building a remote team, however, these relationships need to be deliberately built by intentional communication patterns. On a classic group Zoom call, for example, only one conversation can happen at a time. I’ve noticed the awkwardness and lost opportunity from limiting the ability of folks to have casual chatter while waiting for the meeting to start. And I’ve definitely noticed how ‘out of sight, out of mind’ impacts what and when I share with my team members.

Kapil Kale joins us here to guide us in how to establish healthy norms that create a united remote culture. Kapil is a long-time entrepreneur who founded three companies and is currently the co-founder and COO of Tremendous. He discusses here the skill sets managers should be looking for with remote workers, how to create relationships within remote teams, and why remote managers need to think about accountability differently.


SHARE THE WHY AND WHAT OF GOING REMOTE

If you're going partially or fully remote, spell out the reasons to your team. Are you hoping to give everyone more flexibility to work from home? Are you trying to build a team made up of the best talent in the country or world? Do you want people to be able to live in the cities of their choice? Knowing the “why” can be a powerful motivation for your team to navigate the trickier waters of remote work.

Next, consider what skillsets strong remote workers must have to succeed in this environment. The ability to communicate asynchronously, stay focused on deep work, and self manage accountability are often essential. Those who effectively communicate their ideas in writing also tend to thrive in remote settings.

It can be hard for people who were initially hired for in-person teams to develop the skills needed to successfully serve in fully remote environments. If this reality reflects your team members, you may want to provide extra support to help them build the new skills.


RECREATE (PART OF) THE “WATERCOOLER” THROUGH IN PERSON GATHERINGS


Work relationships can easily become more transactional than relational in remote teams. We lose the essential, casual interactions around the watercooler that traditionally foster connection. Consider making up for lost time by engineering off-site events to hypercharge your team’s relationships. Unlike traditional off-sites that focus on or combine important working sessions with team building, Kapil recommends making these retreats only about having fun and getting to know each other. These playful types of experiences can quickly accelerate the relationship building lost over remote teamwork. And the glow of these times together can last for months! (Yep, I’ve experienced it myself with my remote team!)


HOLD REMOTE WORKERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUTPUTS

When you’re in the office, you can check over your teammates’ shoulders to make sure they’re getting things done. With a remote team, the focus on accountability needs to shift from visibility to outputs. Getting clear on what someone is responsible for getting done, and then checking in to ensure they’ve completed that work, offers a way for managers to gauge their team members’ efforts while at a distance.


Before you go completely remote, consider who on your team might be less productive working remotely. Encourage them to remain in the office at least part of the time. The people who are often the best at remote work are those who don’t need a lot of oversight. And consider who has the skills and knowledge to complete assignments already within their capabilities. Those who are fresh from college or new in their role, for example, might benefit from being in the office surrounded by people who can guide them, at least early on.


CELEBRATE VIRTUALLY AND IN PERSON

Everyone needs times of recognition to help them feel appreciated. Be creative in the ways you find time to applaud your people. In Kapil’s organization they have a Slack "Praise Channel" for people to thank each other for their help. Offsite retreats can also be a perfect time to do things like an Award Show and funny acceptance speeches to recognize people for a job well done. When our colleagues feel seen and valued, they will feel more connected to the team and larger organization.


This is definitely a new era for Modern Managers to experiment with building remote teams. A successful virtual manager must deliberately engineer social interactions to build a thriving team culture. Consider the benefits that come from going remote and communicate these reasons to your team. Find, or develop, people with the skills to thrive in autonomous environments. And build fun offsite retreat experiences and celebrations to hypercharge your team’s connection to each other. With the right intentions, remote work can be incredibly productive and fulfilling for everyone involved.


KEEP UP WITH KAPIL


Get the full episode guide when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join. Or, purchase an individual episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.


This article was based on episode 239 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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