Maybe it was an executive decision. Maybe it was a pandemic or another disaster. Regardless, your team is now working remotely, and since then, things just haven’t been the same. You feel cut off from the flow of information. Questions plague your mind. “Is Terra actually working on that assignment, or is she walking her dog again?” Ever since the switch, fear and doubt have crept in and set up shop in your head, making you suspicious of everyone.
When you are isolated in your home office, there are a lot of dynamics–interpersonal, emotional, & organizational, to name a few–that become more important. Don’t fret; everyone is at fault to some degree. It is up to you, as a leader, to help make things right. Let’s look at some of the key elements that are frequently out of whack when leaders don’t feel like remote work is working out.
Yes, it is capitalized for a reason. Trust is the number one factor that affects everything else. If you don’t trust your team, they have noticed, and are probably subconsciously undermining not only you, but the rest of the team as well. Or worse, they are consciously doing it.
How can I build trust with my team?
A great question, and one that deserves thought from every team member. Let me cite a popular phrase which goes as follows: “In the absence of rules, people tend to make up their own.” Trust is a measure of faith. There are no shortcuts to gaining trust other than to be trustworthy. A good first step to building trust is to create a set of rules, or a “code of honor,” that everyone adheres to. Creating these rules requires input from everyone—not just you. Once everyone on the team comes to a consensus about The Rules™, they then become the standard to which everyone is held. Not only will people on the team feel heard and understood thanks to having had input in creating the rules, but they will also be more likely to stick to the rules for the same reason. Make sure to keep the code at the forefront of your mind and in front of your team. This will help the entire team keep each other accountable, because anyone can reference the code and point out that everyone agreed on it.
Recommended resource: Team Code of Honor by Blair Singer (Amazon)
No all-caps emphasis here. However, communication is almost as important as trust. People thrive on information and without communication, that information is useless. Another exercise I recommend you undertake with your entire team is below. If you try to tackle everything by yourself, you are only seeing one side of the issue.
Communication can mean a lot of different things, from the words and meanings that are used, to the methods and tools. At least once a year, take the time to discuss communication holistically with your team. This could take the form of a team meeting. Everyone will be asked to bring examples of how they feel communication is going well and how it is going poorly. For example, grievances about not getting the right information or perhaps that a particular teammate communicates well. Everything is up for discussion in an open and collaborative manner.
If you have established a high level of trust with your team, everyone should feel comfortable bringing up issues and ideas to be discussed. This is an important conversation, so set aside a couple of hours to take the pressure of time out of the equation. Close out the meeting by writing down decisions and a master list of tasks. Make sure each task is assigned to the right person and has a follow-up date. Again, group consensus builds buy-in, raises morale, and adds to the pool of trust because your people feel heard and understood.
Recommended resource: Crucial Conversations by Switzler, Granny, & McMillan (Amazon)
Big shifts, like moving your team from an office to remote working, can help you spot issues with personnel. Things that are subtle or unnoticeable in an office setting can become glaring issues, and vice versa. Again, a huge reason to start building trust with your team right now!
Personnel issues can be harder to pin down. A helpful tool for discovering whether you have the right people in the right roles comes from Traction in the form of “Get It, Want It, Capacity To Do It.” In short, does person X understand what they are tasked with? Do they want to do it? And are they able to do it (i.e. do they have the right skills)? While these three factors may not constitute all the factors that influence your personnel issues, they are a great place to start. You can even incorporate this tool from Traction into your employee reviews with the free materials on their site (EOS Worldwide).
Recommended reading: Traction by Gino Wickman (Amazon)
Leading even a small team well can leave the best of us overwhelmed and exhausted at times. If you need someone to facilitate any of these broader meetings/workshops or just are looking for further ideas, there is no shame in working with an outside advisor from Protagonist. You can contact us for a free consultation right here on the site.
Now, go forth and be the hero your team deserves!