The five secrets of energised remote teams

Written by Bruce Daisley Wednesday 02 September 2020
Remote working can make it challenging to gauge your team’s energy – but here is a handy checklist you can use to reinvigorate from afar!
Teams sharing different cups of coffee

Working virtually, it’s incredibly hard to tell how well your teams are working together. New challenges arise every day – now you don’t have sight of them physically talking over coffee, huddling over action plans, or stepping into meetings together, how can you tell how collaborative, how energetic, how energised they are?

As leaders, we need to create a safe environment for our employees that also challenges them to do their best thinking. Now more than ever, when our days are monotonous and our personal and professional lives have collided, we need to pay special attention to how we energise them, while we’re largely working remotely for the foreseeable future. Here are five tips.

Frame work as a problem you’re solving

Sometimes we find it easier to go along with things, even when we suspect they are wrong. It’s all a question of how we frame the challenge that faces us.

If we frame the challenge as a problem that we all need to solve (and solve with a degree of open-minded humility) we’re far more likely to emerge intact at the other end. Framing, as the term suggests entirely shapes the way we view things. Instead of framing things in narrow or personal terms, we need to zoom out. Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different angle – ‘what could go wrong here?’ is a valuable question to ask.

Admit to mistakes

When it comes to building the culture of openness and honest feedback to which all companies say that they aspire, there’s cause to be sceptical about organisations that put this in their statement of values but don't specifically explain how that works in practice.

There are simple ways to ensure that feedback can be given without causing collateral damage:

  • Talk about issues and problems straight away
  • Make sure the leader kicks off by saying what he or she did wrong or might have done better
  • Never say ‘Sorry, but…’ That’s the opposite of an apology

Keep teams lean

We’ve complicated work to such an extent that even simple projects (‘design a logo’, draft a new brochure for customers’, ‘build a new ordering process for the website’) become complicated and constipated by excessive procrastination. We get caught up in endless reviews and discussions. This very problem caused the invention of the Scrum: use it.

Focus on issues, not people

You need straight talking in an organisation, but if that is achieved at the expense of psychological safety and by telling individuals in a group that they might not cut it, you’ve lost the potential for any tight, efficient teams. Teams are there to achieve things, not to criticise each other. It may also be worth getting team members to present problems and issues in diagram form so that others focus on the message rather than the messenger.

Conduct a pre-mortem

Pre-mortems in the business world are rather more constructive than post-mortems. Rather than inviting us to wring out hands over something that’s gone pear-shaped, at a point when there’s nothing we can do about it, imagine instead how something might turn out and then plan for it.

This is an edited extract from Bruce Daisley's book, The Joy of Work, published by Penguin Books and shortlisted for this year’s CMI Management Book of the Year.

Have you checked out the winner of CMI’s Management Book of the Year awards? There are loads of titles you should check out. You can also watch our interview with the winner here!

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