Build trust and increase productivity with remote teamsSeptember 28, 2020
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic and the virus COVID-19, we were in a major change, where development due to the digitalization of businesses was accelerating. When the pandemic was a fact, we were forced to work remotely during a very short adjustment phase for many of us. In a very short period of time, our previous behaviors in the working market changed, which has meant that many of us have become compelled to rethink and rethink again.
Working remotely suddenly became the new everyday life for many employees and managers. There were other expectations and with it also new demands on leadership.
We at Heartpace quickly realized that it was not always so easy to lead teams at a distance and issues such as; "Do employees really work as much at home as they did in the office?" and "Can they really work from home and be just as productive?" were not entirely uncommon and were asked quite often.
In an article from Gallup, Ph.D. Adam Hickman points out some results from their research, and there raises the fact that the most important factor in the success of remote work is the manager, whose role is crucial to succeeding or not. How managers lead their teams and lead each team member to success is crucial to productivity and employee engagement. According to him, no other role in an organization has more influence. No wonder many managers "out there" feel increased tension and sometimes great confusion.
According to Gallup's international survey, five out of ten employees say they no longer want to work in an office and we will probably follow that trend in Sweden as well. Although there are concerns about reduced productivity, and poorer cooperation, we have not yet seen any data to support these concerns.
Based on the changes we at Heartpace have noted, we want to highlight some important aspects of how managers can be equipped for a future remote set up.
The first thing leaders and managers need to address is the issue of trust.
If you as a manager struggle with your trust of your co-workers, or teams, you should consider at an individual level, who you actually trust and not.
Lack of trust and confidence in your employees can lead you to become an annoying "micro leader". The kind of manager who questions every step and focuses on what goes wrong.
No one can wave a wand and get a poof, "Now I trust everyone." If you have that attitude as a manager, it can lead to your team members withdrawing too much, and the consequence is that the team gets no guidance at all.
So how should you go about it? As a leader, you must understand and have knowledge of your employees' inherent motivation. You get this by studying previous results. That knowledge can then be used to work with each team member. For example, some employees want to start a project immediately - and decide on the details during the project journey. Others take their time, ask questions, reflect, and set deadlines before they begin. Both methods can work equally well as long as the work is done.
So, as a manager, you do not have to stress how your employees approach the work, instead, you should focus and learn to use the various talents to get the job done.
To read your teams as a whole, look for clues and existing contexts to measure their collective ability to work well off-site and contribute to future projects together - remotely.
Below we have highlighted some questions that you and the team should be able to answer:
• What past achievements have shown the team's ability to trust each other when completing a project
• Who was involved and what was the employee role?
• How were expectations communicated?
• How was the work completed - via e-mail, telephone, video conference or in meetings in the office?
• How did the employees get the assignment for their functions? What were the criteria?
• How was the success measured? How was it communicated back to the employees?
• Where did the emotional highs come from?
Ask these questions and you will hear success stories. With this knowledge and awareness, managers can get the right employees in the right roles with the right talent and then trust that they will deliver.
Understand the unique contributions of each team member and then activate it.
Stress and anxiety have been high for many workers since the pandemic began. Teamwork has probably never been tested so much - or been more important.
Some teams have created a sense of community with team members who join video chats from their homes. Other times, virtual collaboration feels like a game or like working on a renovation project with your co-worker - it's hard to come up with the right end product without misunderstandings or hurt feelings.
When teams fail to thrive in a remote environment - meaning they exhibit behaviors that missed deadlines, less collaboration, and employees who directly express their stress - you as a manager must discover what is at the core of employee talent to prevent disruption within the team or declining performance.
Psychologist and researcher Don Clifton, the founder of strength-based psychology, developed a model called "CliftonStrenghs", which was based on 34 different strengths that exist within ourselves and which are sorted into four different domains;
Executive, influencing, relationship building, and strategic. The purpose was to quickly discover how someone's talent comes into play and how they get the job done in collaboration with the team.
Based on Clifton's research, it could thus be concluded that managers can ensure the success of remote working by taking advantage of these innate abilities, as opposed to focusing solely on assigned tasks. Below are some examples.
• The executive answers the question "How do you make things happen?" High-performing teams rely on employees with a strong drive because they make things happen.
• Influencers answer the question "How do you influence others?" High-performing teams rely on people with strong influencing abilities, as they take responsibility, speak out, and ensure that others are heard.
• Relationship building answers the question "How do you build and nurture strong relationships?" High-performing teams rely on employees with a strong relationship-building ability to bring individuals together and make the team larger than the sum of its parts.
• Strategic thinking answers the question "How to absorb, think about, and analyze information and situations?" High-performing teams rely on people with strong strategic thinking to absorb and analyze information, leading to better decisions.
Knowing what team members contribute helps you as a manager to create better team dynamics and position employees to do what they are naturally best at to get the job done.
Your employees may want and need to continue working from home.
Today, 50% of all employees say they prefer to continue working from home - and they may not change. Leaders need to formulate strategies and begin to make decisions that enable employees to be equally, or more productive, from home in the long run while keeping the well-being of their employees in mind.
However, managers also need to focus on the current situation and their teams' performance no matter where they are while creating employee engagement and productivity.
Asking the right questions contributes to how managers will get the right results today and equip their teams for success tomorrow.
We at Heartpace are happy to show you how you can easily work and coach your teams remotely with the help of our tools.
Adam Hickman, Ph.D., Content Manager at Gallup.
Don Clifton, (February 5, 1924 - September 14, 2003)  was an American psychologist, educator, author, researcher, and entrepreneur. He founded Selection Research, Inc., which later acquired Gallup Inc.,