In part one of this series, I talked about how the foundation for any healthy (remote) team is culture—which is really rooted in your purpose and values.
After all, your company needs live by its purpose. That purpose has to be for an existence bigger than just work itself.
In this blog post, we continue looking at our 4 C’ model: Culture, Communication, Collaboration and Coordination. Together, these are the foundation for a thriving, high-performing remote team.
Thinking about collaboration in a remote setup first and
foremost requires forward-thinking leadership. Be open minded about the
potential for remote work. If you feel people have to work 9-5, at a desk you
can see, at all times—remote work is going to be an uphill battle for you.
Here’s another example of being mindful about collaboration: be sure you have overlap across time zones. It sounds simple, but it’s essential for seamless collaboration to happen. Yes, you want to encourage people the ability to have freedom, but efficiency, timeliness, and having an overlap of hours is just going to be critical for getting work done.
Next, once you’ve chosen your video conferencing tool for meetings, really utilize it. Since people know face-to-face meetings are great, be sure to turn your video on! Ask that participants not work on other activities during the meeting. Last, don’t be afraid to screen share or to use a tool that mimics a whiteboard.
Think of it this way: you want to treat all your meetings with the same level of respect you would with an in-person, face-to-face meeting. That means coming prepared to contribute, having an objective for every meeting (not the same as an agenda), reducing distractions when possible, and following up when necessary post-meeting.
Last but not least, make sure you have your version of a “virtual water cooler.” Is that Slack? Is that another tool…or is that some sort of internal forum? At Edoc, we use Slack. Every day we are having conversations with each other, just like we would in the office. Whatever you choose, this is your chance to create a way for more social interaction for team members.
It’s not up to leadership to implement this either, unless that’s the best way you’ve found to get this started.
One of the best way to improve coordination is to know how others you work with tend to operate.
This can be accomplished in a number of ways. How we do it:
we learn more about our own and others’ “team role” tendency, based on the
Belbin Team Inventory, an analysis of how people tend to behave in a team
Here’s a look at how the inventory breaks down certain team role tendencies:
Information taken directly from https://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/research/dmg/tools-and-techniques/belbins-team-roles/
First, this is a great tool that gives you the ability to improve your self-awareness in how you work and interact with others. In turn, that allows you to improve how you typically communicate with others.
For example, I tend to be a Completer/Finisher and Implementer. That means I tend to want to create a strategy and gets things done, efficiently, and all the way to completion. I may tend to want to turn ideas into action, but I also can take perfection to an extreme. Another area of potential weakness: I can be reluctant to let go of certain tasks, and I sometimes may not want to let go of plans I’ve set in motion. Knowing these tendencies helps you to work with others and it helps to remove friction and tension before it becomes a real problem.
Take for an example a Monitor—a person who tends to make
judgements, and they may often be that person who sees flaws or weaknesses in a
plan. They offer the ability to weigh options and to see things in a different
perspective. It’s great to have a Monitor on your team because they are so
discerning and they see all the available options. They are also extremely
From my perspective—as a Completer/Finisher—I may see some of their remarks and feedback in a meeting as “slowing the process down” or I may even see some of their feedback as too critical. In other ways, I may interpret a Monitor as stifling, or can see it as holding back the progression of an idea.
But the reality is, these Monitors are critical to seeing things objectively and seeing potential problems, gaps, or blindspots in a project. You can see how knowing more about a person who tends to behave in this way can help me better work alongside this person, and value their ongoing input with a whole new lens.
Also remember this: You can also use Belbin’s team roles to find gaps and roles that need to be filled so that you have a high-functioning team. That means not only can we improve our existing team and how we work together, but we can use this to keep an eye out for a team member that would add a ton of value to your existing team.
Just as important: if you really utilize the tool to grow, it gives you a great deal of empathy and perspective in how to best deal with others, based on their own preferred style and way of working.
I love the idea of living and working on your terms, and no longer “deferring living” to a later date.
It also helps to foster individuals who are engaged in all aspects of their lives. That’s fulfilling for me to see, and to be a part of.
What do others report as the benefits of remote work?
Buffer (a full remote team) asked this very question—”What’s the biggest benefit to remote work”—to 2,500 people and here were the answers:
All in all, it’s rewarding to see and hear how so many companies today are valuing the health and well-being of their workers by offering them the ability to own their own time. Part of the idea of remote work is inherently about giving team members more flexibility—and, not to be forgotten—more trust in getting their work done to the best of their ability.
As you incorporate more virtual work into your business, don’t forget that idea.
Kim Sykes leads the eSign division at Edoc Service, Inc.