Are you one of the millions of professionals who have had to quickly adapt to a new work-from-home life due to the global pandemic? If so, you’re probably feeling used to the new routine by now, and maybe even wondering if #WFH will become a part of the “new normal” at your company.
But, as you’ve discovered by now, while working from home certainly has its benefits, it also has its challenges, especially when it comes to managing a remote team.
At Centric Software, 90% of our workforce was already working remotely for years before the COVID-19 outbreak, which is why we’ve leveraged our expertise to craft a series of #WFHtips for you.
In this 4th edition, our VP Sales EMEAR, Christophe Therrey, is offering up his #WFH advice to help you better manage your remote team!
4 Effective Hacks for Managing a Remote team
Ten years ago, I was in a leadership sales position at a small French software security startup. Days were long and nights were short. My team and I were all hard at work, establishing our market dominance, and we had a lot of fun in the process! That was until the winter of 2009 when Mother Nature decided to send us a warning.
The H1N1 outbreak suddenly materialized and one of our colleagues was suspected of infection. We closed down the office and sent everyone home for a couple of weeks. This was my first #WFH experience, before joining Centric Software.
With over 10 years of remote work experience under my belt, I can now offer insights on what works (and what doesn’t) for me and the Centric team.
1. Have a team ritual.
While this may seem obvious, I can’t emphasize how important this is.
Having a team ritual — whether it be weekly meetings, monthly one-to-ones, or any other form of routine catch-ups — is absolutely essential. It allows for transparency, especially when discussing the status of projects and or progress on other endeavors. Keeping a time limit is also key, that way no one’s attention drifts away and they’re all contributing to the meeting. Of course, some meetings are more productive than others, but what matters is sticking to the ritual, which keeps everyone on the ball!
2. Use informal means of communication.
We use a messenger App as a backup for our formal channels, and for off-topic chatting in general.
Such tools can be used to convey thoughts or ideas outside of traditional means, and they serve as social link enablers, especially now. I’ve also noticed that they are increasingly used by small sub-networks of trusted customers or partners to set up a privileged channel of frankness and transparency when required. To me, such tools are also a testimony of the blurring line between the personal and professional spheres. That said, these channels must be managed with care!
3. Indulge in the right digital tools.
Flexibility is another “must” for managing teams remotely (and this is facilitated by having the right digital tools).
Half of my schedule is booked up in advance, while the other half remains open for unexpected “fire drills”, ad hoc support and other incidents. We’re used to managing any last-minute issues remotely, either through Skype, Microsoft Teams or Webex. We switch between these and other platforms, adapting to what our customers use.
While these tools might suffice for day to day communications, it’s certainly not the case for managing complex product-related processes. Professionals in product development, design, buying, merchandising, sourcing or other departments require more robust platforms like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) which allows them to seamlessly manage products from ideation to launch…even when working remotely! Having a digital platform like Centric PLM enables managers to have full visibility on the status of each product, without having to chase their teams. All information is up-to-date in real-time and accessible from any location.
During the crisis, we’ve been hearing excellent feedback from our customers. Thanks to our technologies — PLM, 3D integration, AI, Quick-start remote collaboration packages, mobile Apps, digital visual collaboration boards, cloud technology and others — they’ve been able to easily transition even their most nomadic teams, like buying and sourcing, into isolation with no issues!
4. Motivate your team!
There is no magic recipe for motivating teams, especially when operating remotely, but here are a few tips:
- Give them attention: Everyone likes and deserves attention. Some more than others. It also varies depending on the underlying culture and the individual’s personality. It’s important to gauge and offer availability to give each team member the attention they need.
- Play games: I found games and challenges work well! I am lucky enough to have champagne makers in my family, so I always ship a nice bottle of champagne to the winner.
- Delegate missions: Another technique I’ve found to be effective is to delegate specific missions that can have an impact on the entire team’s performance. Making team members responsible for different missions keeps them fully engaged and creates a great dynamic among the team.
- Praise in public, reprimand in private. When working remotely you still need to encourage positive behavior while fixing mistakes. And, this needs to be managed extra carefully when working from home. People who get reprimanded in public tend to lose their motivation afterward. So, a basic principle for me has always been to praise in public and reprimand in private.
- Leverage the theory of multiple intelligences. This model was proposed by Howard Gardner in the mid-80s. Something that never fails to fascinate me. In a nutshell, the theory states we were all born with 8 different types of “intelligences” and a somewhat similar potential for each one of them. The way we develop one more than another depends on genetics, education and life experience in general.
For example, one of my team members has amazing spatial intelligence. He needs to draw out a sales campaign on a piece of paper, tablet or whiteboard, in order to understand it. No need for a lengthy, detailed email with him. He just needs to visualize the process and then he is able to fully memorize all the steps in detail.
The future of remote team management
I personally believe that the future of remote working is one of full disconnection between the job and its actual, physical location. No surprise there!
And, if there is anything we can learn from this current crisis, it is that digital collaboration solutions have become the enablers for business continuity, and empower leaders to better manage their teams.
It will not be long before corporations realize that #WFH must be encouraged, managed and considered as a strategic approach to ensuring business continuity. As Stephen Hawking said, “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” and I think the time has come for proving how adaptable we can be as organizations and how much smarter we can become as individuals.