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Many companies have been familiar with remote work for a while now, while for others it is a recent development imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. To remain effective, companies were forced to swiftly adjust their working habits, leadership style and strategy, which is not an easy task. Any sudden change, especially during a crisis, takes people out of their comfort zone. The challenge then is for management to know how to form a high-performance team motivated to perform well and deliver even under conditions of uncertainty.
Leon van der Laan, a growth strategist who has been consulting teams and leaders on remote performance for years, recently shared his tips with BMI students on the key factors for boosting a team’s productivity when working remotely.
1. Say a strict “No” to micromanagement
The term high-performance team refers to people who, even if remote, are aligned and committed to a common purpose, show high levels of collaboration, are eager to innovate, and are highly adaptive and motivated. Building a high-performance team while working remotely is a challenging task for management.
“Leaders are responsible for creating a remote work environment that inspires and motivates us,” Leon van der Laan states. However, leading a virtual team quite often results in micromanagement, blocking the way to autonomy and psychological safety, which are the foundations of high-performance.
“Research shows that 40 percent of people working remotely feel they are being continuously micromanaged, which neither makes them feel good nor brings value to the company. In contrast, companies where trust in employees is high demonstrated 286 percent better results than those where the trust level is low,” van der Laan notes. But trust is not just saying “I trust you”, most importantly it is showing your trust to employees.
Trust is the basis of the psychological safety needed to achieve high-performance. To develop psychological safety on a team, it is important that each individual has autonomy and a sense of belonging (meaningful relationships) and is provided with all the necessary means and tools for developing their ability to deliver great results.
2. Give your team a meaningful goal
“Instead of giving a person a sales target, give him a learning goal,” Leon van der Laan suggests.
When an organization is purely result-oriented, that deters employees from making every effort to succeed. Instead, employees usually want to have a sense of belonging and contributing to something meaningful, making a lasting impact. When this need is satisfied, their efficiency can surpass all expectations.
3. Make sure the whole team knows the company’s values
If the primary aim is to build a strong value-driven remote team, your values must be clearly defined and communicated. That is imperative not only for getting to know your current team’s beliefs and core motivators, but also for having an open dialogue with future hires. In this way you will quickly understand whether your company’s values and the personal values of potential employees match and whether these people will find a sense of belonging on the team.
“Job titles might no longer exist in the future because all that matters is whether we are quick learners able to operate well in a collaborative environment,” van der Laan believes.
In our private life, we look for people with whom we share the same values. In a corporate environment we should have the same objective. So, candidates who aim for personal growth and have multiple intrinsic strengths will be an excellent asset to the company.
4. Use convenient digital tools
Requiring your employees to be online for extended periods can make them feel a lack of control, which might eventually lead to discontent. So, for remote work to go smoothly, it is essential to automate your processes. Procedures like customer onboarding, team hiring, team member onboarding, monthly closures, social media planning, and others can all be automated with digital tools like Asana (which can also serve as a project management tool if you use its functionality to its limit).
And Slack can replace email and text messaging, helping your team to coordinate their work no matter where they are. Microsoft Teams is another digital communication platform where co-workers can easily store and share files, host video meetings, and chat.
“Some companies are now experiencing a slump – a stage of depression of sorts due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. But other companies are really starting to understand that the rules of the game have changed and that means we need to change the leadership style as well. Those companies that adapt faster may be the ones that get far better business results in the nearest future,” the strategist summarizes.