Managing a team has never been more challenging. With so much work still being executed from kitchen tables and family room corners, collaboration is tough. A manager can find WFH regularly becomes WTH?
When everything initially shut down and workers were forced to work remotely, you no doubt thought it was a temporary inconvenience. You and your team could just muddle through for a while until it was safe to return to the office. A lack of productivity was expected and accepted.
What you didn’t anticipate was struggling with team collaboration nearly two years later. The corporate landscape has changed forever. Many employees will never return to the office full-time, if ever.
What hasn’t changed is the need for your team to collaborate effectively, even though they’re working remotely. They used to collaborate well when you were all in the same physical location. How can you get them back to that level again?
The lengthening pandemic timeline has ushered in one benefit. Managers are figuring out creative ways to get their remote teams interacting productively.
Here are five ways you can get your team up to par again.
1. Get Your SaaS Solutions in Collaboration Gear
Teams aren’t the only things that need to be collaborating in order to be productive. All those apps you use at work — like Slack, Salesforce, Zendesk, Microsoft Office 365 — aren’t working together. They’re creating departmental silos as cut off from one another as your team members are physically.
You have to break down those silos, first using an IPaaS that gets them working together. This step is similar to getting your team on Zoom or GoToMeeting. With this, you can at least all see and talk to one another no matter where you are. But it’s really just a start.
Using an integration-led automation platform like Workato will help you get to the next level with app integration. There’s no coding required and it’s scalable and automatable. Best of all, your team can monitor all the information in every department and react to it in real time.
Information is power, but only if you and your team can access it easily and it’s been uniformly translated. There are enough barriers for team members working remotely. Eliminate the walls between information silos for the ultimate collaboration.
2. Build Confidence in Your Ability to Manage
Only those managers and team members who worked remotely before the pandemic are truly comfortable with the situation. For almost everyone else, it’s a matter of learning and adjusting on the fly. And that doesn’t always go well.
One study indicates that 40% of managers lack confidence in their ability to manage remote teams, so building that confidence is key. If you aren’t sure you can manage a remote team effectively, how can you expect to help your team collaborate productively?
Take a step back and assess your management style. If you’re still attempting to manage your team in the same pre-pandemic way, research alternative methods. You’ll need to find means of monitoring task completion that don’t devolve into micromanaging. Project management software like Teamwork or Zoho Projects can hold team members accountable without turning you into Big Brother.
Recognize that your team may be feeling unsure about their ability to work remotely and manage their family responsibilities simultaneously. Strong collaboration requires confidence, not uncertainty. Your ability to guide your team will give them the assurance to deliver great work.
3. Create a Sense of Trust and Transparency
As you’re assessing your management style, take a long hard look at your trust issues. Does a lack of trust in your remote team have you caught up in extreme micromanagement? No one functions well under a microscope, and it can make productive collaboration a non-starter.
You know that trust and transparency encourage customers to be loyal to your brand. You need to remember the same holds true for employees. Your ability to deliver both qualities is necessary to their ability to produce great work.
Trust and transparency are built on an environment of open communication. The environment has been altered, but the need to devote time to communicating with team members individually and collectively has not. Holding one-on-one conversation to check in with them and offer constructive feedback just has to be done differently now.
If your team members collaborated effectively and delivered great work when they were all in the same physical space, trust them. Create open channels they feel comfortable using to talk to you about challenges they’re having while working remotely. Be open, patient, and fair because — after all — trust is a two-way street.
4. Set Clear, Realistic Goals and Collectively Map the Route to Get There
You know that setting team goals is an important part of your job as a manager. If your team is lagging to achieve them, take a deeper dive to find out why. Involving them as part of the process should help clear the way to achieving these goals, albeit with adjustments.
First, be certain you’re setting clear goals and communicating them fully with your team. Second, make sure they’re realistic for the remote work environment. Be ready to execute some pivots to accommodate your team’s new workplace reality.
Collaboration isn’t just necessary for your team to achieve goals. It should also underpin the work of charting the route to get there. Remote work has created a new set of rules that can drastically affect timelines, among other things.
Jane might have had no trouble completing a certain number of sales calls from the office before the pandemic. But if she now has to educate her kids during office hours, that reality changes her ability to reach her quota. You need to make your team part of the conversation so their new challenges can factor into the equation.
5. Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater
Bear in mind, not everything that worked for your team pre-pandemic becomes null and void in a remote environment. You don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But how you bathe the baby might be different.
You can’t repeatedly pop into a team member’s cubicle to check the status of an assignment. That’s true even when the cubicle is no longer located in the building. But you can check in with your team and make sure they have what they need to work together effectively.
You know the workplace has changed for the foreseeable future and most likely forever. If you’re receptive to change and willing to adjust, your team will be, too. Collaboration happens differently these days, but it still happens if everyone works from the same page.
As Henry Ford said: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”