Leading Remote Teams – Webinar, Resources & More

The webinar, “Leading Remote Teams,” was recorded live on March 26, 2020.

We have included a recording of the webinar below, the webinar outline and notes (including links to resources mentioned), plus a few example templates we use for meetings to help you get started. Enjoy!

Jump to…

  1. Video + Webinar Outline & Notes
  2. Meetings
  3. Communication
  4. Accountability
  5. Culture
  6. Submitted Questions + Answers
  7. Conclusion

Webinar Outline & Notes

Download a PDF of presentation slides or view on SlideShare.

Introduction

Today is about giving you practical steps that you can implement today that will help your remote leadership. Leading a remote team is very similar to leading an co-located team, just more intentional in areas.

Panelists joining the webinar with host Trent Kocurek:

Meetings

  • Weekly Leads Meeting
    • Always have camera on.
    • Have an agenda.
      • Important metrics
      • Team morale.
      • Strategy decisions.
    • Run meeting off of shared document.
  • Weekly Team Meeting
    • Always have camera on.
    • Have an agenda. (Here’s a PDf version of our agenda template we use in Quip if you want to view an example!)
      • Celebrate wins.
      • Make announcements.
      • Answer any questions.
    • Allow for personal time upfront.
    • Allow for questions throughout, don’t do all the talking.
    • Run meeting off of shared document.
    • Record it for those not present.
    • Depending on team size, you may need to make this a recorded message and give everyone time to review.
  • Monthly Q&A for all team members
    • Keep open survey for questions so you can always be collecting.
      • We use Typeform (free version available)
    • Allow for anonymous questions.
    • Record the session.
    • Make answers available.
    • This needs to be given the top leader of the company.
    • Didn’t get any questions? No problem!
      • Propose one question that you suspect your team might be too nervous to ask and then answer
  • Daily Authority
    • People need to step away from problems some times.
    • Give your team the authority to meet and chat when they want.
    • If goals are set properly then they understand what’s expected and how to manage their time.
    • Random times people will open up a Zoom just to hang out while working.

Communication

  • The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
    • If it’s important, write it in a document that is accessible to all that need to see it.
    • Bring it up often.
  • Give your team authority to go offline and get heads down time.
  • Create a document showing them how to use the communication tools and have them communicate before going offline so others know.
    • Status settings in Slack are key.
    • Notification settings in Slack are key.

Accountability

  • It’s our job as leaders to make sure our teams look at work as predictable and calm as possible.
  • You do this by gaining trust and making sure the teams know what success looks like.
  • Write down what authority your direct reports have so they can make decisions more fluidly.
    • Example from Airship – Lead Product Designer role and authority defined:
      • Define and direct the Mapping service and Shipwright team structure.
      • Take full ownership of project work schedules including both Builders and Shipwrights so that we deliver projects successfully.
      • Ensure we have the proper team in place by
        • Hiring the right people:
          • Confirm the need with Elizabeth.
          • Confirm the salary budget with Adam.
        • Firing the wrong people:
          • Confirm with Trent before letting someone go.
  • The same as in person, you must write down your goals and make them public from anywhere.
  • Have daily stand-ups with you whole team (if small) or individual teams (if large).
  • Make sure your team knows what success looks like for their week ahead.
  • Do weekly 1-on-1 meetings with your direct reports. Do not skip these.

Culture

  • Start commending people for displaying your core values.
  • Make this public and prominent. We use a slack channel and an internal tool to make it easy and trackable.
  • Celebrate wins as they occur. Again, make them public and prominent.
  • Reward, if possible, those that had a great month.
    • Airship Commendations: we reward the person given the most “commendations” (praise, kudos, etc.), the person who gave the most commendations, and the Captain’s Choice

Submitted Q&A

How do we overcome the core difficulty of “Gemba Kaizen” (always improving) without walking around and talking directly to people in their place of work?

  • One of the benefits of remote is actually having the safety from someone walking up and interrupting a possible FLOW moment.
  • The goal of Gemba Kaizen is to always be looking for ways to improve at the point in which the value is created.
  • We do this by creating a culture where people feel empowered and take ownership of that improvement.
    • When you get this right, people will bring the suggestions to you for improvement.
  • We use 1:1s to gain this insight by asking the right questions to measure personal and professional improvement.
    • What are the biggest time wasters for you each week?
    • Is there anything we should START doing as a team?
    • Would you like more or less direction from me on your work?
    • What are you least clear about — in terms of our strategy and goals?

How do you keep everyone accountable since they are now remote and not a controlled environment?

  • The problem I most often see with holding people accountable is defining what success looks like.
  • If you are going to hold someone accountable, make sure you write down what you expect of them (not how to do it – that’s micromanaging – just what success looks like) and continuously follow up in 1:1s.

How do we avoid everyone working in their own vacuums — or, being heads-down doing the work, but not engaging/collaborating with the team at large?

  • You must set proper expectations around when you want people to engage and collaborate.
    • We also suggest documenting your expectations so everyone can refer to a baseline guide
  • Some people solve problems best when they are heads down while others like to talk it out.
    • We use Culture Index to learn more about our team members and their different styles of communication and collaboration
  • It’s important for you to give adequate opportunity for both sides of that coin.
  • How do you build trust?
    • Trust is built through transparency and psychological safety when remote.
    • You no longer have an office environment for safety so you must replace that with other means.
    • The more transparent information you give someone then less they make up stories.
    • If you see or think that a conversation could be taken in the wrong context if types out, stop and Zoom.

How do you build trust?

  • Trust is built through transparency and psychological safety when remote.
  • You no longer have an office environment for safety so you must replace that with other means.
  • The more transparent information you give someone then less they make up stories.
  • If you see or think that a conversation could be taken in the wrong context if types out, stop and Zoom.

How do you keep team members engaged?

  • Commend them publicly when they display a core value.
  • Commend them publicly when they succeed in something.
  • Ask fun and engaging questions.
  • Ask for their input in decisions at different levels.
  • Empower your team to find personal time to chat throughout the week.
    • The company is people, the deeper the relationships between them the deeper the relationship with the company.

How to you empower decision making?

  • Tell them that it’s okay to make the wrong choice.
  • Tell them what they have authority over, very clearly.
    • Have a shared document so you’re always clear
  • Your job is not to stop people from failing, you just need to stop catastrophic failures.
  • If you must, give insurance to people.
    • Level 1: Ask me, then go.
    • Level 2: Go, then report back.

How do you keep the team on the same page with communication?

  • Document everything.
  • Do not rely on Slack or any other chat system, you need a shared notes application.

What are the best tools for collaboration for a small team?

  • Slack for synchronous communication.
  • Zoom for video conferencing.
  • Quip or Notion for documentation and async collaboration.
  • Whimsical or excalidraw for flow diagrams.
  • What are the best practices for making sure staff have the resources they need?
    • Ask them, they will tell you.

What are the best practices for making sure staff have the resources they need?

  • Ask them, they will tell you.

How do you keep tabs on work vs breaks?

  • We don’t keep tabs on work vs breaks, we keep tabs on value created and objectives reached.
  • If you are setting proper, clear expectations for your team, you must trust that they are going to do it.
  • Follow up often to make sure they are on track.

What is the cadence of connecting? Or, how often should you meet with your teams remotely?

  • What is the cadence of connecting?
    • Daily, weekly, and monthly.
    • Give authority for organic communication.
  • What are ways to foster strong remote cultures?
    • Strong culture starts with trust and relationships at the crew level.
    • We are continuously looking for way for people to build deeper relationships.
    • We are continuously looking for ways to open up more information to gain trust.
    • We are always making sure people are working on the right things so they feel stable.
      • This is a big factor that causes lack of productivity, lack of clarity.

What are ways to foster strong remote cultures?

  • Strong culture starts with trust and relationships at the crew level.
  • We are continuously looking for way for people to build deeper relationships.
  • We are continuously looking for ways to open up more information to gain trust.
  • We are always making sure people are working on the right things so they feel stable.
    • This is a big factor that causes lack of productivity, lack of clarity.

What are the best ways to build community online?

  • Give them tools to connect and authority to do so.
  • Allow people to get personal with each other
    • Donut is a great tool in Slack that randomly pairs up team members to have a virtual “coffee break” together like you would at an office.

If you are new to working remotely, what should you know as a team leader?

  • You may feel like your purpose is at stake.
  • You may find that a lot of your day was spent reacting to what you saw.
  • You may find that what you thought was clear was not.
  • You may find that you now have time to think of upstream problems.
  • Know that people are looking at you more now than ever for ways to manage their time.

What challenges have you faced in having you team working remotely?

  • Clarity in communication is key.
  • Being okay with people failing.
    • You may have seen the failure coming in person.
  • Relationship building was hard at first.

How do you foster inclusion when leading a remote team? How do you best engage those who aren’t speaking up in the conference calls?

  • First, remember that not everyone feels comfortable speaking up in large crowds.
  • We run our meetings off of a collaborative shared document to allow people to type things in.
    • People put their names next to it if they want to cover the topic, else I read it out.
  • Identify those people and make sure to intentionally follow up with them after the meeting.
    • Many times I’ve messaged people directly and said “You were quiet on that topic, have anything to add? Did we miss something?”
  • Also, ask them for their ideas to make sure they feel included.

What’s the best (and cheapest) way to communicate on a daily basis with your team without sending dozens of emails out a day or creating handfuls of chat rooms?

  • Slack and Zoom for communication and video (both tools have free plans available)
  • Remember: It’s important to set expectations and guidelines with your communication tools so that all team members know what to use and when.

How do I motivate my staff remotely?

  • Set clear goals and celebrate when they hit them.
  • Set goals on a 1-2 week basis, monthly, quarterly, and yearly.
  • Have those tie together.
  • Make sure you call people out publicly when they succeed.
    • Do this when it happens – don’t wait for the next monthly meeting.
    • You can even share praises it in Slack.

Conclusion

  • During this time, home life can be hectic so giving some grace is very important.
  • Know your people and continue to ask for their input.
  • If you give your team the tools they need, the clarity of what is expected of them, the authority to make decisions, and the bandwidth to learn from their mistakes, you’ll have great success.