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In this BLOG, you will learn to lead remote and hybrid teams when you are more familiar with leading in an office environment.  Working remotely through virtual communications and meetings is a way of working that will continue. Some of the best practices for leading virtually include the following recommendations.

Remote and Hybrid Meetings

Using video during virtual and hybrid meetings

Keep video on.  Studies show that 80% of communication is non-verbal. We communicate through our facial expressions, body language, and other nuanced behaviors. It’s not necessary to make video mandatory for every meeting. Encourage team members to be on video for 90-100% of the meetings.  We recommend simply encouraging your team members to have video on. Utilize the ‘raise hand’ function to prevent people from accidentally speaking over each other. However, if a team member has children, pets, trash trucks, or other factors making audio/video on difficult, that is acceptable

Minimizing distractions

Try your best to be aware of when your trash truck comes or when other disruptions may occur. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your phone to minimize distractions (this will mute push notifications). Try turning off or minimizing self-view (engage Speaker View) so your attention is focused on those speaking and not diverted to yourself. This way of viewing others replicates natural in-person conversation. If you are in-person in a hybrid meeting, avoid side conversations so your hybrid team members don’t miss important information.

Plan the meeting in advance

Have you ever sat in a meeting that thought to yourself, “This could’ve been an email…” Every meeting and meeting agenda should have a goal. If you can’t think of a goal, it shouldn’t be a meeting (or should be an email or async meeting instead). Send the meeting agenda with the calendar invite so all attendees have the information they need in a timely manner.  Put a standard agenda in the description of the meeting even if there are agendas or meeting note sent out to supplement.  Scheduler (unless delegated to someone else) responsible for sending meeting notes/takeaways/action items from meetings within 24 hours.  Try to schedule 55 minutes or less.  Stay focused on the subject and avoid “surprises”.

Summarize points frequently during meetings

Invite team members to summarize each agenda point before moving on to the next topic. Call on remote employees first in meetings.  Invite, by name, remote team members to participate- Avoid engaging your remote attendees only in the very beginning or very end of the meeting, invite them, by name, to participate throughout the meeting.

Keep meetings short

Video fatigue is real. The adult attention span is only 20 minutes.  Some companies schedule 20-minute meetings and try to get to the main points during this time. It is also important to schedule some non-work-related virtual team activities or one-to-one relationship building meetings.

Representing your company professionally

Dress business casual or more professional for meetings with customers/vendors (no t-shirts/ripped jeans/etc.).  If you are customer facing or attending a business meeting, wear business casual and company issued shirts (no graphic shirts with words/pictures/team logos/hats…unless for religious traditions).  At all times, cover shoulders (no tank tops).  Use more professional headshots on virtual background.  Use company logo or professional virtual background

Remote and Hybrid Team Dynamics

Understand that spontaneous interactions are less frequent

We don’t pass each other in the hallways as much; the water cooler chats won’t be as frequent as they were in the office.  Ask team members what their preferred mode of communication is by sharing yours first. For example: “Hi Julie, I know you would prefer to have a quick phone call to go over the new project deliverables rather than outlining it in a long email. What would work best for you?”

Structure and schedule many interactions

This can be informal one-on-ones with each one of your team members. Ask them questions. Make it a coaching/mentorship type of relationship. How can you incorporate coaching into your leadership? Use the tasks you delegate as coaching opportunities. If your direct report made a mistake, don’t fix it yourself. Analyze the root cause of the problem and utilize it as a learning opportunity.

Ask questions- As a leader, show gratitude by saying “thank you”. Ask, “How am I doing?” “How can I make your life easier?” to direct reports/team members.  Encourage team members to connect informally with one another.

Build trust

We want all team members to be included and feel comfortable expressing their feelings/concerns to their manager. What does building trust and an inclusive culture look like? Be consistent. Don’t cancel meetings at the last minute without giving a reason why. Do what you say you are going to do. Be human and admit to your mistakes (show that you deal with the same things that they do).  Invite everyone to the table (discussion) to express their ideas to be considered.

Build a Team Operating Agreement

When you lead remote and hybrid teams, it is critical for you and your team to determine how you’re going to communicate, what your different processes are, meeting etiquette, modes of communication (email, phone, chat, etc.) that work best for different tasks

Remote and Hybrid Team Challenges

Be aware of proximity bias

Proximity bias is the implicit preference for individuals that are physically closer to you rather than individuals that are physically farther away.  No one is to be blamed for proximity bias…it is an uncontrollable bias but can be managed through awareness and various strategies.  The implications could be unfair treatment, favoritism, poor performance reviews and more opportunities for those in working with their manager in the office.

Minimize proximity bias when you lead remote and hybrid teams

Try your best to be aware when proximity bias may creep in. This is the first step to managing proximity bias.  Lead with intention and know why you are doing what you are doing, especially when it comes to delegating tasks to remote and in-person team members in the office.  Manage with result and process goals.  Don’t just measure the results, but also the processes.  A non-work example illustrates the difference between result and process goals.  If you want to lose weight, that is your result goal. The process goals can be tracking your caloric intake, exercise, how many steps you take/day, etc. A more work-related example to illustrate the difference would be increasing hybrid team collaboration. That is the result goal.  The process goals would be how many team meetings do we have, how often we interact one-on-one, how often people are contributing in meetings, etc.

Prioritize skill and career development

It is common for more remote employees to feel that they are falling behind with career development. Tell your direct reports when they’re doing well, where they can improve, be sure to have informal meetings as well as formal meetings (make it a conversation– ask them questions about how they’re doing and any ideas on how to make hybrid working better for them or the team).

To lead remote and hybrid teams provide more context

Giving more context about the “big picture”.  In the office, information is spread more freely: team members overhear others, more ad hoc meetings, etc.   Providing context gives them a sense of purpose. They know why they are asked to do things.

Communicate with remote team members more frequently

You might say something to a team member in person and forget that the rest of your team never received that same information. Be wary of how, when, and what you communicate to whom to manage your own expectations of your direct reports.

Schedule informal, virtual get-togethers (1-1 and team)

Encourage more informal, virtual get-togethers. Depending on your team, set the expectation for team members to join meetings a few minutes early (or spend the first few minutes of meetings to casually connect with one another) or schedule a virtual coffee or get-together if that works better for your team

Remote and Hybrid Team Communication Channels

Determine how to communicate digitally

Another idea is to use email to summarize projects (internal/external).  Use emojis effectively. Chat apps don’t have to be boring, and you can express yourself with some fun emojis, memes, etc. Just be careful about overdoing it and making your colleagues uncomfortable.  Keep messages concise and to the point.  Remember, this is about saving time, so short and concise messages are the norm. Check the availability status before starting to chat. Availability status is there for a reason. Be aware of statuses and message your colleagues accordingly.

Use video or audio call for quick resolution needs

Another ideas is understand that Chat can be slower sometimes. For things that need the quickest resolution and/or if there are multiple emails back and forth–jump on a voice or video call.

Contact us for remote, virtual, and hybrid team training

With these best practices and recommendations, you will lead remote and hybrid teams more effectively.  For more information about our training courses to improve virtual communication and build high performing remote and hybrid teams, click here.

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