How to lead remotely when you’ve never done it before
via Work Life by Atlassian by Jamey Austin
Remote work was a hot topic before everyone was suddenly working from home. According to an internal survey we conducted, 95% of Atlassians surveyed were willing to change their ways of working in order to enable more remote work.
But most of us are still new to working from home and its characteristics. It’s more than flexible hours, a work-from-home day in your schedule, or accommodating a teammate who lives in a rural state. Right now, in particular, your whole team is working remotely. This means new practices (or the modification of usual practices), new tools, and new ways of communicating. To get all this to work and flow smoothly, much of the onus is on you, the team lead. Managers set the tone. That’s true whether your team is colocated and huddling in a room together, or widely distributed and huddling virtually in a Zoom meeting.
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But take heart. Though managing virtual teams might be new for you (and many others), others have been at it for a while now. Here are some practices that have helped these remote leaders, a list of the practical ways to manage and support remote teams. These anecdotes and stories about what works and what doesn’t will help you navigate these curious waters as captains of your newly-remote-crewed ships.
5 fundamental tips for managing virtual teams
The big question on the minds of most leaders: What’s the main difference in leading a team remotely versus in person? Well, there isn’t just one difference. But, it’s safe to say the one you should concentrate on first is communication, and how it changes when everyone’s working remotely.
In “normal working life,” lots of decisions are made in hallway conversations or over lunch. When this kind of casual information sharing isn’t happening, you must replace it somehow. This starts by doing a good job of over-communicating. It’s just too easy for someone on the team to get out of sync – on a new decision, or the status of a task, or recent update. This happens anyway, right? Just imagine the cracks through which things can fall when your full team is working remotely. And it’s not just that these casual opportunities to connect are less frequent, it’s the familiar exchange of team information that’s been fully disrupted.
So, over-communicate. Make it a practice. Use Slack messages, @mentions, and emails to keep everyone in the loop, even when you think you’re being repetitive. Be intentional about looping people in. Ask if they know about something, even if you’re pretty sure they do. Keep in mind, if it’s during a group interaction, maybe someone else on the Zoom call didn’t know and learned about it because you asked, or because you repeated information. It doesn’t hurt to repeat something for clarity and may solve some problems right away.