Technology is a wonderful thing. It has allowed managers to use their manager skills to build teams that no longer have to be located in the same location. However, when a team is distributed, there are set of new challenges that managers need to be aware of and find ways to deal with. A team that does not have to work side by side may not develop the same sense of team spirit that can help a team to be successful. What this means for managers is that we need to find ways to create a sense of teamwork among our remote teams.
Finding Ways To Connect Teams
Managers have had to manage the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic by quickly rolling out technology and overseeing new ways of working that will likely continue into the future. In addition, many managers have also taken on the added responsibility, without any manager training, of ensuring employees and teams feel connected to each other, despite being physically far apart. Teams have been called on to deliver laptops to employees so they could work remotely. Many companies experienced a sea change in work location almost overnight. At the same time, teams were being hit with the intensity of the need for great work.
To rally employees during the stress of these changes, it has been critical for managers to let them understand their purpose and to connect themselves and their work to the larger companywide vision. Covid-19 has fundamentally changed how companies work. One characteristic of having teams work remotely is that the use of Microsoft Corp.’s Microsoft Teams virtual collaboration tool has increased. As lockdown restrictions were enforced in various locations across the world, managers had to make individual calls to employees to make sure they were ready to transition to remote work. As managers, what we need to understand is that responsible leadership and leading with compassion take on a deeper meaning as team members find themselves in an unfamiliar, fast-moving global environment.
Many managers have adopted a concept called “silent meetings”. During these types of meetings, teams actively collaborate at the same time in a single cloud-based document, discussing and evaluating notes rather than just listening to speakers and viewing slides. Silent meetings provide a way to get all attendees to participate and share their ideas instead of having one voice dominate the conversation. The meetings can be more productive and engaging than many in-person meetings before the pandemic. They almost become a form of team building.
Remote Collaboration Is the Key
Managers are always looking for new ways to allow their remote team to collaborate better. This includes looking at tools that allow teams to collaborate online using virtual whiteboards. The goal is to help re-create the brainstorming process that teams had when they worked physically together using whiteboards, sticky-notes and markers. Managers had to quickly ramp up virtual private networks and videoconferencing capabilities so employees could work remotely from home.
Managers have had to scale VPN capabilities to accommodate employees working from home. Managers are finding that videoconferencing technology has been beneficial to meetings and plan to continue using it through next year. More frequent use of cameras during remote meetings can increase productivity and teamwork.
Some managers, though, will continue to face challenges related to employees feeling disconnected from each other despite technological enhancements such as videoconferencing. Managers are hearing from their team members that what they miss most is a sense of belonging, particularly for recent hires. Managers have to constantly ask team members how they are doing and what they can do to make their remote work life easier. One way that managers can make all of this easier is to provide some levity for the team members. This can be done by smiling, joking, and trying to help others to relax.
What All Of This Means For You
The world has changed and it’s up to managers to find ways to keep their teams connected even when we are all working remotely. We find ourselves treading new paths that we’ve never been down before and this means that we need to take things carefully as we try to find out what is going to work the best for our team.
Managers have had two new job requirements. The first is to quickly roll out new technology that would allow the members of their teams to work remotely. After that, they needed to find ways to help the members of their team feel connected to each other. A key way to keep team members connected is to make sure that they are aware of the bigger picture. Collaboration tools have helped to keep teams working together. A new idea, called silent meetings, can be used to draw more team members into remote meetings. Finding ways to simulate the brainstorming that happens when workers are together is a key manager challenge. VPN technology is a key to allowing teams to collaborate. Managers have to find ways to help team members who are starting to feel disconnected.
One of the key manager skills that we all need to have is the ability to deal with change. When our worlds were turned upside down and all of a sudden everyone started to work from home, managers had to deal with both the change and the impacts of the change. We’ve been doing a good job of this. However, as we move forward we need to understand that this amount of change may impact each member of our team differently. We need to keep an eye on them and do our best to help them navigate the changes as best we can.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: What should a manager do if a teammate starts to fell disconnected?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
So here’s a bit of a stumper for you. A manager had run into a problem. His company conducted those ubiquitous “how are things going” surveys of their employees and the results for his team were awful. Everyone on his team was miserable. This was in comparison to everyone else who was working at the company. The people who worked on his team had talents that the company desperately needed and losing them would be a big blow. He needed to find a way to use his manager skills to keep them from leaving. What he had to do was to find out why his team was unhappier than everyone else.