5 steps to improve the performance of remote teams

This checklist will help you navigate unchartered waters of communicating with a dispersed workforce.

Remote workers

No doubt you are feeling the strain of COVID-19.

The economic, social and political implications of the coronavirus are being felt by businesses everywhere. As much as anyone else, communication leaders are being forced to manage their teams in a new and stressful environment.

Your organization will need to change the way it operates and communicates. You can’t afford miscommunications or missed deadlines.

The good news is that there are models for you to build upon and examples for you to follow. Here are five steps you can take today to help your remote teams execute more effectively:

1. Create a roadmap for the next 30 days.

Don’t leave anything to chance. Create a roadmap for the next 30 days that highlights your key business priorities, crisis response, timelines, measures of accountability, metrics for success, and a progress indicator. Share this roadmap with everyone on your team. Consider creating a video or hold a video conference call to walk your team through the plan.

Roadmaps, ideally, should be plotted for the next 90 days, but because of COVID-19, things are changing very quickly and even 30 days might be a long projection.

2. Choose a remote meeting platform and make sure everyone has access.

There are a lot of great options here and chances are you already have remote meeting platforms in place. Whatever platform you choose, you can leverage it for team meetings, one-on-one coaching, small group gatherings, and even social events. Be creative. Especially during times of crisis or uncertainty, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.

3. Introduce a structured meeting format.

Here are some basic guidelines to running efficient and productive meetings. These guidelines are especially relevant to remote meetings:

  • Seek input on topics from the entire team in advance
  • Choose topics that affect the team as a whole
  • Choose a meeting facilitator who will manage the meeting flow and keep it on track
  • Send an agenda at least a day in advance. The agenda should:
    • Include a short opener or segue to check in with employees (try a one-word opener)
    • Include a list of topics that are posed as issues or question to solve. Establish and hold firmly to timeframes for each topic
    • Identify who is responsible for leading each topic discuss
    • Express if the topic is FYI, for discussion, or if a decision needs to be made
  • Ask for feedback on the effectiveness of the meeting and make adjustments based on that feedback. For example, two easy methods you can use to rate a meeting are:
    • Thumbs up or down
    • Rate on a scale of one to five

4. Begin using technology to engage your employees daily.

Engaging your team members daily will be essential for those working remotely. This is especially important given the personal strain the COVID-19 outbreak is causing. Demonstrate your support and concern through daily communication. This sort of outreach does not have to be on the official communication channel—instant messaging and Slack are great for daily check-ins. Doing this will help your employees feel connected, particularly if some are working remotely and others are physically together.

5. Select a workflow app and get everyone established on it.

Having reliable tools that enable employees to work remotely is critical. Workflow apps such as Trello, Asana, ZOHO, and JIRA allow you to focus on results and outcomes rather than your employee’s time on task, which is something you should do anyway, COVID-19 or not. If workflow apps are new to you, don’t overthink it. Choose a well-known and respected platform and get all your employees on it. Most workflow app companies are now offering expanded customer service, so you don’t have to go through this alone.

No matter where your organization or team is on the spectrum of adjusting to employees working remotely, taking quick action now to improve your ability to serve your customers, meet your business objectives and care for your people will allow you to control this element of a situation that is otherwise largely out of your control.

Kevin Gyolai is president of Gyolai Consulting.

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