Q: When we first started remote work, everyone on my team leaned in and just made things work. Now that we are several months in, it seems that energy if fading a bit – what can I do to keep my team motivated while we are all still remote?
A: Whew – this is a tough one, especially with the complications for many of managing some form of back to school. It is great that you are noticing the dip on your team and are looking to do something about it. Here are a few things to consider for you and your team:
Set Clear Expectations and Goals – the more clear you can be about expectations and goals, the easier it is for people to rally and meet those expectations. During times like this where stress can be high, including your team in conversations and negotiations around those goals is key as well. Set expectations and get agreements on those expectations with your team and invite them to have input in how they will meet those expectations.
Be Consistent in Communications – one thing that stresses people out is getting inconsistent feedback, constantly changing priorities and every changing deadlines and expectations. If you are in a highly uncertain area at work and expectations may need to change rapidly – set that as an expectations. Prioritize what you can, tell your team how confident you are that the thing they are working on will remain the priority – if you are only 50% sure – let them know – right now, this is top priority, but we could get information in the next 2 days that requires a pivot. Let’s put our energy into knocking this out so we are ready if a change comes. Being transparent about the likelihood of change or when you might know more can help the team feel more aware of what is happening and less jarred when a change does come.
Communicate Clearly and Regularly – you may need to communicate more often than feels necessary or comfortable to you. In this environment, we can’t get as good a sense of the “vibe” of what is going on in the company or our team day to day because we aren’t physically together. This means you will need to find ways to check in and communicate with your team more and be sure they are getting their questions answered and are clear on your expectations and goals. In the absence of information, people will assume the worst case scenario and this can lead people on a downward spiral just because they are unclear.
Treat individual team members as individuals – take time to understand capacity of each team member and what is really required and what they are capable of. Each of us have different pressures we are dealing with right now and if you can be flexible with each team member and allow them to co-author agreements with you about when and how they get work done, that can go a long way toward helping people feel empowered and energized about work. Look for ways to use team member strengths and minimize areas where they will need to work in areas of struggle to be successful.
Minimize number of Top Priorities – if everything is a top priority then nothing is. While many things that your team is working on may be important, see if you can get them to focus on no more than 3 priorities at a time. This will help them make good decisions about where to spend time and energy and will help you get more of your priorities addressed, because once one has been addressed, you can assign another.
While this is not an exhaustive list of ways you can address keeping your team engaged, my hope is to give you some actionable ideas you can use right not with your teams. Think about how clear you are with your expectations and how you hold accountability – could it be clearer? Are you prioritizing the right things? Are you maximizing strengths of team members? Can you be more flexible about how work is delivered or allow the team more of a voice in setting agreements?
If you need more ideas or support on helping your team, I’d love to talk with you. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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