Five Keys to Leading High-Performance Remote Teams

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To optimize your remote team for performance, first understand where your people are at — physically and metaphorically. SurePeople Founder and CEO Niko Drakoulis shares five keys for engaging, aligning and leading remote teams.

What does it look like to be a leader in a time of remote teams? How is this changing the way you lead?

What issues are you facing as you seek to lead and manage your people from a distance? What challenges are they facing as they suddenly find themselves working from home, with their professional and personal worlds colliding?

Everyone is in a changing environment right now. The standard ways of work for most of us are being dramatically disrupted.

Aside from the minority of people who have been working remotely for years, and who are experts at this, most of us are finding ourselves in a new situation with a new set of challenges. The days of the week are blurring together. We cannot see our colleagues face-to-face or chat with them around the water cooler. Our kids are running in the background.

Whatever tensions or distractions we might have left at home for a day at the office are now with us throughout it.

Even before this crisis and the new work situation we’re facing, we already knew that it was a myth that we could leave our personal life at the office door. Our emotional states, our relationships, and our personal concerns always followed us into work. After all, we’re human and can’t really cut off a part of who we are. But now, even more so, these worlds are blurred.

On the flip side, if we once tried hard not to bring work home with us, we are discovering that it’s pretty hard to do that now, when you’re working from home! All our attempts at balance have been thrown a curve ball. 

If you’re leading and managing people, you’re facing new challenges now in terms of how to understand what your people are going through, as well as how they need to be supported and motivated to continue to perform and meet their goals. 

Key #1: Central right now is the importance of intentionally connecting with your people.

The key goal of this is understanding where your people are all at ­– literally and metaphorically.

You want to understand their actual work environments now that they are working from home. What are the new challenges they are facing practically? What distractions or concerns are on their minds? Do they have the necessary infrastructure, whether it’s internet connectivity or other supplies and resources? 

And of course, you want to understand where they’re at emotionally and psychologically right now.

What worries and concerns are on their minds? Do they have people close to them who are ill or otherwise affected right now? Are they worried about finances or their kid’s schooling? Whether or not you can actually solve any of these issues, the important thing right now is for you to seek to be present with them, to hear them, to understand them, and to let them know that you care. Lead with empathy.

Key #2: Checks-ins are more important than ever.

When you check in with your people one-on-one, here are three questions you can ask: How are you? How is your environment at home? Is there anything I can help you with?

Rather than shifting into problem-solving mode right away, listen to them with the intent to understand and empathize. If you have some advice that you’d like to share, first consider asking permission to problem solve or offer solutions. As a leader your role is to support and help them so that they can fulfill their work responsibilities. What can you do and what can your organization do to enable them to perform well? 

To achieve and sustain this understanding, trust, and connection, you also need to maintain regular contact with your people. Depending on the size of your team, you should be having one-on-one calls with each of them weekly or every other week. 

Weekly meetings with the whole team are also essential, both to check in on projects, as well as to see how everyone is doing during Care Calls. These team calls will be a vital component for helping the team remain connected and motivated.

Key #3: In order to excel at connecting with and understanding others, you first need to understand yourself.

How do you tend to communicate and what are your own needs and challenges right now?

Are you caring for yourself and getting the support you need in order to enable to you effectively lead and serve those on your team? Are there conflicts or tensions that you need to address in your personal life that risk spilling over into work?

What tools and support systems can you draw upon to help you grow in your self-awareness and in understanding your team members? 

Key #4: Aim for work-life happiness rather than work-life balance.

At this moment more than ever — and most likely as the new normal going forward — work-life balance seems outdated. This doesn’t make sense as a goal right now. It’s hard to imagine and even harder to practice.

Rather, we recommend work-life happiness as a more productive goal to aim for. This deals with fitting work and life together in mutually beneficial and satisfying ways. Both your work and your personal life together should move you forward toward leading a life of meaning, significance, and fulfillment.

As a leader, it is partly your role in helping your people strive for this fit. Of course, you cannot manage their personal lives, but you can find ways to empower them to manage how these worlds meet and intersect. Connect with them regularly in order to understand and empathize, and to offer support and concrete help where you can. Keep trust strong and momentum going.

Key #5: Drive Remote Team Engagement with People Analytics

Once you’ve successfully met your people “where they are” and empowered them to perform, you can begin to optimize your team with people analytics.

At SurePeople, we have the privilege of working with world-class leaders to help increase team effectiveness, build team alignment and drive team engagement and performance with people data.

We utilize powerful tools, such as Prism psychometrics, to identify team members’ strengths, traits and attributes. We leverage synthesized people data to help leaders gain a deeper understanding of team composition and dynamics. And we utilize Emotional, Relational and Team intelligence (ERTi) to help leaders develop and nurture those power skills required to motivate, inspire and lead.

In short, people analytics should be leveraged by every single team leader today.

If you’re interested in learning about how to measurably elevate the performance of people and teams in your organization, please visit SurePeople for Teams and reach out. We can help.

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