So, your company is mixing it up and your L&D—learning and development—team needs to support managers and remote or hybrid teams in the “new normal.”
While they are new for many organizations, remote and hybrid teams have been with us for a while. They are part of our charge, as learning leaders, to offer “anytime, anywhere” learning.
So, no need to panic, right? We’ve got this!
While ‘mixing it up’ is not that new and there are lots of resources available including books, articles, tips, tricks, and best practices to help get you through, that does not mean it is easy.
Two ways you can support these new remote and hybrid teams are by adding microlearning to your portfolio of offerings or developing some formal coaching models within your organization.
Aligned to the second suggestion, you might start by offering direct-to-manager/executive coaching around the best practices, described in this article, that are often associated with remote or hybrid teams.
1. Maintain consistency in scheduling
If you did something before and it worked, why change?
The transition to remote or hybrid working teams is a redesign that benefits from much of the same structure and foundation you and other managers in your organization have always used for success.
- Keep your regularly scheduled one-on-one and working meetings.
- Keep a purpose and an outcome for all meetings and have an agenda.
- Ensure there is a healthy cadence of working sessions, meetings, and breaks. We ‘surrender to the flow’ when there is one.
Encourage managers of remote and hybrid teams to avoid over-meeting: Make sure there are not too many meetings. Everyone, including you, needs time to themselves. Coach managers not to overcompensate for the lack of in-office interactions by scheduling unnecessary meetings to get a status updates or check up on people. A meeting is not the way to fill that gap. There are other ways.
Give people space and encourage team members to block time for themselves to get work and assignments done.
Establish trust through measurement and accountability. Let the results and performance speak for themselves. Focus on managing performance through better measurement, results, and valued achievements.
2. Rely less on email in completely virtual environments
This may sound strange; however, email is not the best way to communicate. It can work for some things, but there are drawbacks: You lose a lot of context and nonverbal cues that are important for relationships.
When moving to a remote or hybrid model, make sure you are encouraging team leaders to foster and maintain human connections. This means picking up the phone and take time to talk when needed. Conversations increase the human connection, and that is a good thing when working remotely.
A few good rules of thumb to teach managers:
- If you cannot say it in six sentences—or 50 words or less—pick up a phone or schedule a meeting.
- If the email requires an action from someone else on the thread, pick up the phone and/or confirm receipt in some way.
- If it is the third email on the same topic, pick up a phone.
3. Ensure teams have the infrastructure they need
This suggestion may be obvious, but it cannot be overstated. Coach managers to find out the answers to these questions:
- Can you run a virtual meeting just as effectively as if everyone is together in the room?
- Does the company have a policy and guidance for virtual meetings—and does your team know that policy?
- Does everyone have a webcam?
- Does everyone have good speakers?
- Does everyone have good bandwidth?
- Do you have the right tools and technology?
If you have not already, check out Mark Burke’s Mynddcast podcast—he has got ideas for you!
4. Bring people together
Make sure that managers meet with remote or hybrid teams on a regular basis, more often when remote.
The people make the difference, so let them. Encourage managers to listen to their employees. Every person on the team has a way that they want to work—so allow them to design the work world they want to see.
Team members have ideas, and managers have ideas. Encourage managers to adopt this mindset:
- Your ideas matter less than theirs; learn to listen. Let your team members speak first: What do they think is best? Pull together a plan with them that aligns with the expectations the organization has for you and them.
- Collect feedback by regularly checking in with your team, however you do that. Listen to that feedback and adjust accordingly.
- Encourage creative ideas, let others take the lead, assign rotating facilitators, and let team members prepare the session for a day—it does not always have to be you at the center. In fact, it is better if you are off to the side.
- Find ways for people to come together and work together: Make assignments and projects with a mix of remote and office team members working together. Foster peer-to-peer relationships in this way.
Coach team leaders on how to create more collaborative working sessions instead of meetings. The best way to do that is to always have an outcome and only have the people in the session who need to be there for success.
In my experience, when you fail at bringing people together, everything falls apart. Sometimes it is a slow failure and sometimes it is quick, but when people lose the connection to each other, performance issues follow.
5. Provide flexibility through equity as well as equality
Everyone’s situation is unique in the workplace and even more so in a remote setting.
We are not all the same. Some people have kids, some people have dogs, some people have family members who depend on them for care.
In the work-from-home environment, flexibility is needed.
- Equality gives everyone the same thing.
- Equitability provides fairness based on an individual’s unique circumstances.
People need both things to succeed and be productive.
6. Make it fun; encourage and allow for humor
Teams need to come together to just talk and get to know each other again and again.
- Daily meetings are not just about the work. So, lead that way, and teach managers to do the same: Encourage people to take time to come together, share stories, share their lives, play team trivia games.
- Get away from the numbers and performance metrics and go with the exact opposite: What did you do this weekend? Who is getting married? Who is having a child? What makes you interesting (and interested)?
- Have a real conversation. Laugh and make jokes. Riff a bit in a professionally appropriate way. It sounds easy—and it takes purpose when everyone is distanced.
- Allow for conversations about each other and what is going on in your lives. At least a little bit. Maybe a lot.
The status update will be there and can probably be emailed and read instead. Be more interesting than that, and your team will be more engaged in the long run.
7. Say 'thank you'
Express an attitude of gratitude. A lot. Appreciate others and their contributions daily. Call them out and recognize their efforts as often as you can. Coach managers to start each meeting asking if anyone has someone they would like to thank.
While it may feel cheesy, cheesy is good sometimes. And the bottom line here is that recognition and approval are critical to our emotional development and well-being. It is fuel that gets us through the day and helps us get over the inevitable disappointments we are also likely to face in the workplace and at home.
Celebrate the team, their work, and their achievements—celebrate publicly, if possible, and celebrate together.
Making it stick
People care about you and other people on their team much more than they care about what you or others are doing. We are social beings and need human connection more than we need a status update.
Bring people together. Ask what they want and how they want to work. Listen to them. Design the world they told you they want and design that around choice, equality, and equity. Avoid meetings that only serve to make you feel better and instead meet when others need you to make them feel better. Provide lots of time to come together, plenty of time apart, and help them, and you, have the best day possible.
What leads to success and, ultimately to productivity, are our human connections.
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