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A manager’s guide to leading, motivating, and inspiring virtual teams

Using collaboration tools for chat, documentation, and video conferencing can transcend time and place. But to become an effective remote manager, you can implement a few additional practices. Here’s how the teams behind QuickBooks, TurboTax, and Mint are operating virtually during the coronavirus outbreak.

Create ways to connect

You can’t “manage by walking around” to check in with your virtual team members. So you’ll have to be more intentional about creating time and space for workers to connect. Teamwork and reliability are the currency of high-performing virtual teams. Leaders should create a fun, connected environment where team members share their whole selves and build trust and rapport consistently.

Engage more

Your team members can’t see you all the time. So you’ll need to share even more about what you’re up to and how your projects are progressing. Encourage workers to share more about achievements, roadblocks, and work outcomes with one another more often.

Focus on results

Managing remote employees means you can’t control work the way you might on-site. When you focus on what you can control and leave the method up to the employee, you can empower and inspire confidence.

Clarify approval processes

Communicate when remote team members can and shouldn’t act without you. Remote team members face longer lag times when seeking input. To avoid potential slowdowns, discuss each remote employee’s confidence in situations where they may need your guidance. Align on the level of autonomy you both think is reasonable and adjust as needed.

Be accessible…but not all the time

Remote work takes organization, focus, and motivation. So it can be hard to step away. Encourage and role model “off” time, so your team feels comfortable shutting down work, unplugging, and recharging themselves. During “on” time, declare your presence by responding to collective and individual needs. Share how you prefer others to reach out to you and invite your team to do the same. Role model and set the tone by sharing when you’re attending meetings, working without interruption, getting lunch, or going to the gym.

9 tips for maintaining connections while working from home

  1. Whenever possible, turn your video chat on to communicate and connect more deeply.
  2. Take time in meetings to connect personally, before diving into the work.
  3. Encourage play and find laughter together. Try playing games or completing challenges through your chat system.
  4. Schedule a recurring series of formal and informal connection points during the week. These might include a weekly team meeting, coffee or stretch breaks, virtual stand-ups, one-on-one chats, or open office hours.
  5. Provide a physical anchor like a mug, award, desktop screensaver, or printout. These items can help teams feel connected to one another and the work.
  6. Don’t lose the connection. Discuss backup plans for what to do when tech breaks down. Include mobile apps or dial-in options.
  7. Practice radical openness. Share your calendar, invite edits to early drafts of documents, and let people know when you cannot be reached.
  8. Define team norms and create boundaries for how, when, and where you’ll do work together.
  9. Champion the team to cheer on one another and recognize when they jump in to help each other.

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