It has never been more important for leaders to actively engage with their teams. To do this in our new virtual world can be challenging, however, this exceptional situation can be an opportunity for clarifying priorities as you navigate through this crisis and implement your recovery plan. A good balance of encouragement, empathy and gratitude is also crucial.
A finding from the Covid-19 Insight Survey shows that 76% of employees find it difficult to perform their jobs effectively since the onset of the global pandemic. Therefore, after prioritizing your employees’ safety and well-being, helping them work more efficiently and productively from home are the business priorities. A well respected Sr. Executive once told me, “People don’t know how much you know until they know how much you care”.
The #1 Challenge managing remote teams: Building Trust
(R + O + C = P)
Relationship + Order + Complexity = Performance
It underpins trust as the foundation between a leader and their direct report. In our current situation, "Relationship" is particularly relevant if you want to have a profound impact on the performance of your team. Without trust, little else matters in our new virtual world. Trying to get a direct report to “update their deals in CRM” is not coaching. (Updating CRM is important, however, it is not the most important). Without trust, these requests are landing on deaf ears and can actually cause more harm than good.
Leaders who have cultivated Relationships and have developed trust over time are actively engaging and communicating with their teams.
The #2 challenge managing Remote teams: Employee Engagement
In my recent conversations, I am hearing about good salespeople that are struggling. As one top achieving salesperson recently said to me, “This has been the most challenging time in my sales career. My manager is constantly asking me to fill out reports and update CRM and I am working 12 hours a day just trying to meet my clients demands”. There are better questions this manager could be asking.
When times are good and teams are hitting their targets, “it’s all good”. However, when times become more challenging, weaknesses are exposed and leaders need to more intentionally engage their teams.
Creating psychologically safe environments for discussions is crucially important and takes time to create. Shelter in place has actually created a unique opportunity for leaders to invest more time building trust through One-to-one’s. This in turn creates an environment in which growth can occur. As an example, creating a professional development plan for an employee is easier when both the leader and their direct report agree on the performance gaps and then work together to build the plan. Coaching beyond managing involves challenging and supporting your employee as they try to apply their learning into action.
The #3 challenge managing Remote teams #3: Driving Discretionary Effort
Expect this to be harder to happen virtually. The “secret sauce” to a high performing sales leader is the discretionary effort they enable with their team which in turn delivers above goal results. For example, in a virtual 1-1, crack open a learning opportunity once trust has been established. Helping them see their untapped potential is the goal and sometimes this can be a difficult conversation.
Having established the need for a coaching relationship, the questions becomes, “How do I do this?” Perhaps asking, “Who do you look up to?” could be a way to establish trust and lead to a more interesting and insightful conversation. “What’s holding you back from your best performance?“, could be another question to ask in a virtual 1-1. These conversations could be set up in advance with an agenda so the employee has time to think through the questions and be ready for the conversation. Using this time for development opportunities can be a catalyst for future growth.
Although the months ahead are filled with uncertainty, controlling the things we can control, like managing our virtual teams in a proactive and effective way is absolutely going to pay dividends in the future. Don’t waste this golden opportunity to take a step back, assess your employee relationships and build a collaborative plan to accelerate through this challenging time.
Here are my three ideas to help make the most of your remote team management in a virtual coaching world:
1) Establish the weekly check in: Monday mornings, 10-15 minute update.
- “What meetings do you have this week that you expect will move you closer to achieving your goals?
- Walk me through the agenda of your most important meeting and your expected outcomes.
2) Ask about last week:
- What was your best meeting and what made it so successful? How can you apply that to another meeting that didn’t go as well ?
3) Offer support:
- What is one thing I can do to help you move an opportunity forward this week?
No doubt, coaching in this new virtual world is challenging. Helping each member of your team get better should be a top priority of a high performance leader. If each player on your team gets better, the scoreboard (results) will take care of itself. The foundation of having a positive relationship is key in the Performance Equation. Seize the moment. Take action. Your team will appreciate it!
Download this remote management checklist to find out if your leaders are prepared to coach remotely.
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