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Managing Remote Teams | LHH

March 24, 2020

Consistent, scheduled communication across and among teams working from home is critical. One example of this communication is the one-on-one meetings between managers and each of their remote reports. This piece will take a deeper dive into some additional best practices that our team has found very helpful in keeping these meetings dynamic, efficient and productive.

The value of virtual “face-to-face” meetings whenever possible cannot be understated. Leveraging a video chat platform (like Zoom or Skype) will go a long way towards helping managers and their reports get the most out of these interactions. However, if this is not currently an option for your meetings, there are other practices you can put in place to optimize the time you have on these one-on-ones and the continuity and forward-progress between meetings.

Your remote employees will be looking to you to set priorities for the team, as well as the immediate goals of your organization as we transition during these disruptive times. Hence, the importance you place on their individual one-on-one meetings will shape the attention they give them as well.


Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees

Most of us working in brick-and-mortar office settings are accustomed to a schedule of individual meetings with our reports. Sometimes these meetings get pushed aside or postponed because of changes in our days and other more pressing business needs that arise last minute. In a virtual office environment, there may be times when one-on-ones also need to be rescheduled for the same reasons — but managing a work-from-home team is different, and the need for this consistent communication will take on much greater importance.

Below are 6 tips to successful one-on-ones with a remote workforce:

  1. Prioritize Remote Meetings

    Whenever you can, keep remote meetings as scheduled. If you have to move them, be sure to communicate the need to move before the meeting should begin and reschedule the meeting immediately. This will send a message to your employee that your time with them is a priority for you.

  2. Be On Time

    Being on time is often easier said than done. Some days you’re on back to back calls and late for practically every one of them. It happens. However, texting or sending a chat to your report who is anticipating the start of the call to share that you may be a little late or rescheduling for a time when you are both free goes a long way. As many of us are sharing homes with loved ones, roommates, children and pets, etc., it’s important to be mindful of each others’ schedules and realize that people may have taken steps to ensure they could attend the meetings without disruption.

  3. Block Enough Time

    Block the meetings for a little more time than you think you will really need, at least at the outset. As people adapt to their new “work” surroundings, they may have more to share with you than usual and you may need the padded time. If not, you can always end early. Ideally the meetings should not feel rushed, and should have time built in for some creative brainstorming and discussions outside of the usual business check.

  4. Be Present During the Remote One-On-One Meeting

    On days when someone else is home—day off, sick day, etc. — don’t be afraid to take calls in your car or your garage or wherever else you can ensure there are no distractions. Now, more than ever, your teams will need your undivided attention and presence and shutting down everything else during these meetings, to the extent possible, is the ideal situation.

  5. Agenda Setting & One-On-One Sharing With a Remote Workforce

    One of our best practices for all virtual meetings is to send out an agenda beforehand — to ensure that all the relevant, necessary points get tackled, to help people be prepared and organized, and to garner buy-in and participation in the meeting by making them as efficient and productive as possible. Individual one-on-ones with your reports are no different.

    When you manage a remote team, especially one with flex schedules, it’s helpful to create a one-page form for your reports to complete prior to your one-on-one. They can then update the form with notes and action items from the meeting and share the completed form with you to make sure you’re both on the same page post-call.

    Below is a sample of the type of bullet points to include in this form:

    • Action items completed/outstanding from last week’s meeting
    • Employee’s topics for today’s meeting (the “Must” Discuss List)
    • Your topics for today’s meeting (the “Must” Discuss List)
    • Business check: discussion of KPIs, meetings, proposals, obstacles, wins
    • QTD, YTD goal achievement status
    • Action Items for Report
    • Action Items for Manager

    These forms have many benefits:

    • predictable structure to meetings
    • ensures “must” discuss items on both lists were not forgotten or missed
    • you as a manager are be better prepared to discuss your report’s list of obstacles and arrive at the call with relevant information
    • serve as a history of your conversations and their progression, which aids in holding your team accountable for their traction
    • hold you accountable for the items you promised to look into on someone’s behalf
  6. Don’t Forget the Human Touch When Managing Remote Teams

    In addition to the business agenda you set, in a remote setting, you will want to make sure to build in a little time for the social conversations that would otherwise happen naturally in an office environment. Through these social discussions, we learn more about our employees as people and strengthen our relationship with them. Sharing something personal but timely and relevant about yourself may help kick this conversation off, and asking them specific questions to see if they have a similar story or are in a similar position will likely help this type of valuable “small talk” become a part of your one-on-ones.


Supporting Remote Workers to Maintain a Successful Team

The relationship that managers and supervisors build with their direct reports is one of the critical ingredients of a successful team. When trust, transparency, and a sense of “team” are the foundations of these relationships, we find employees who come to work each day striving to be their best selves. The commitment to one-on-one meetings will surely impact the relationships managers have built with staff who now work remotely and may find themselves feeling isolated or unsupported without this valuable, consistent interaction.

Contact an LHH expert to learn more about building a successful remote team.