How to Coach Strong Performances in Remote Work Environments

Facing the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis is essential for leaders managing their remote workers from a social distance. This includes common challenges such as declines in job performance and lack of voluntary engagement[1] due to social isolation and home distractions. One best practice is to not wait until the team morale is low – address it now. Set the stage with expectations for team success, build meaningful connections, and reward strong performance.

Getting in front of these challenges requires an unselfish, generous and creative leader who understands the value for rewarding strong performances. Here are some tips for investing in your team, learning from mistakes, and managing team behaviours.

Invest in Your Team

When it comes to workplace distractions, it’s safe to say that focus at work is the exception — not the rule[2]. If you want to reinforce the behaviours you want to see, start by looking at performance rewards as more than monetary compensation. Widen your optics, think creatively, and, most importantly — know your team. Rewards come in many different forms, and while money does make the world go round, a sound investment in developing your team is the gift that keeps on giving[3]. Think of more creative ways to reward your team, and consider other rewards such as flexibility for paid time off.

This is the time to be a remote and visible team leader, share great work going on in the company, and recognize team members[4]. Brag about their great work at stand-up meetings and appreciate your team for their efforts. Offer incentives and rewards for the team to win together as a group. Create a team holiday and reward everyone for their meeting significant deadlines. Collaborate with your high-performing remote workers and ask them what they want. Have a brainstorm session for creative reward ideas outside of annual bonuses or salary bumps[5].

How to Learn From Mistakes

Open dialogue is critical to establishing a culture of accountability. To build and develop team trust, you have to let mistakes grow organically. As a leader, it is easier to take care of things yourself, but it makes more sense to resist the urge to jump in and save your team[6]. See naturally occurring consequences as a learning moment to discuss failures and lapses in team processes. Fail early and let your team learn quickly from incoming train wreck situations — you are setting the stage for good teachable moments. Sometimes, the best time to step back and support your team is to let them miss the mark — so they can feel the disappointment.

Avoid common pitfalls and choose the right timing for teachable moments — a high-profile deliverable is not the right time for a learning experience. Avoid saving the day. Let your team learn from the disappointment and frustration of failure. Don’t sugarcoat the mistake, but embrace the experience and grow from it as a result.

Sometimes, train wrecks need to happen. By letting naturally occurring consequences run its course, you can teach and support your team to discuss failures and lapses in team processes. Open the conversation during stand-up meetings to prevent the same mistake twice. Understanding how to prevent mistakes as a team makes for a great business story. Now, they can grow through the growing pains, develop their game plans for reading warning signals, and avoid future pitfalls. You can’t give them the answers — but you can celebrate the overall learning. Play the same game and not the blame game.

Managing Team Behaviours

Problematic behaviour or underperformance can create issues for your team in any work environment. The first step in any issue management is to acknowledge there is an issue — hopefully, identified by a fine-tuned early warning system. This is a teachable moment and a valuable opportunity for you as a leader. Approach the problem with transparency and schedule time to sit down for an open and two-way discussion.

See this through the lens of the employee and understand the source of the behaviour. There might be potential reasons for the challenges that could indicate bigger issues. Maybe team morale is low, and remote work is making them feel insecure about their skills. Approach your discussion with an outcome in mind and source the root of the problematic behaviour. See it as a learning moment and place the responsibility in the employee’s hands. Document the management and team action plan to encourage future prevention methods. By leaving it up to the employee to come up with ideas for success, you simultaneously address the issue and demonstrate trust. Place the responsibility on the employee and open up opportunities to create pride of ownership in behaviour. It is also a solution for increasing positive change for future issues.

Difficult behaviour is an energy drain. The best way to deal with it is to address it quickly — and get the results you and your team want. Bring up concerns and observations — but resist the urge to point fingers. Play the same game instead and make a long-term investment in your team — and your productivity.

Remote work comes with challenges and requires an unselfish, generous and creative leader who understands the value for rewarding strong performances. Create realistic expectations and hold your team accountable — but let the team learn from the disappointment and frustration of failure. See problematic behaviour or underperformance issues through the lens of the employee. Understand the source and identify indications of bigger issues. Use it as a learning moment to coach your team to improve and grow.


[1] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[2] Thibodeaux, W. (2018). Distractions Are Costing Companies Millions. Here’s Why 66 Percent Of Workers Won’t Talk About It. Inc.

[3] Lovelace, D. (2020). Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[4] Davies, N. (2020). Remote Team Morale Is About To Plummet, Here’s What Leaders Must Do. Forbes.

[5] Lovelace, D. (2020). Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[6] Lovelace, D. (2020). Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

How to Share the Value of Accountability in Remote Work Environments

As the COVID-19 crisis shifts a radical departure from traditional office environments, it also opens many opportunities for embracing a culture of accountability for your remote work teams. A culture of accountability comes with many advantages. It can encourage trust, motivate high standards, and establish credibility for leaders.

The freelancer, the copywriter, the founder — everyone is working remotely. So, how do you engage them with meaningful responsibility[1]? Start here with some tips and best practices for sharing the value of accountability and promoting pride of ownership across your remote work teams.

Ask the Right Questions

Fundamental to any business or organizational success is understanding why your team exists. One way to understand what makes an actual team is first to determine work that’s better suited for team collaboration. Resist the urge to task each individual to do their own thing, and instead, shift focus to the employee group. The challenge of communicating effectively with remote team members is not easy — but it can be. Creating and facilitating better collaboration opportunities can be done in multiple ways, such as asking why your team is a team?[2] Why is your work important — and why does that matter?

You might be surprised at how these answers set the stage to discuss your work’s essence and uncover the reasons why your team contribution is valuable to overall business success. Facilitate this discussion at your weekly stand-ups, or in the new normal — your weekly sit-downs. Have each team member share their answers, note overlaps or wild departures from why the work matters, and boil down solutions to find mutual agreements[3]. This will help your core purpose, align your team, and garner a broader understanding of why your team is essential. This will do more that put work into perspective — it also adds a bonus layer of appreciation for that same work.

Connected Teams Are Responsible Teams

Building a successful remote work environment requires a collaborative approach and voluntary engagement[4]. In a nutshell, connected teams are stronger teams. That being said, with the COVID-19 crisis, how will businesses and organizations face the challenge of getting all of its team into one room[5]? Start by setting expectations for shared responsibility of work. There are subtle differences between how teams and groups look at work projects. A group flaw is to focus on individual goals, and it defeats the purpose of being on the same page with a shared vision or objective. See your team as a group of individual fingers[6]. Although you need each finger, and each can operate on its own, it causes a challenge since each finger can shift in different directions. Instead, see your team as a fist. It’s much stronger with everyone grouped and working toward common goals. Your role as a leader is to connect your team to a shared purpose and operate in unison.

Learn to manage expectations, job demands and personal work styles of your team — and yourself. The team defines a shared goal approach — and not by a manager or leader. Your role is to give your voice to the team — including the quiet ones. Adjust your perspective and adapt to needs. The more you can help your team contribute to the overall purpose, the more you can show their true value to the bottom line. A connected remote team knows that their insights and contributions are valued. It accepts the shift in responsibility to the overall team because it has a voice in the decision-making. This includes having a say on the potential and future direction for work projects. The key to success here is authenticity — don’t open the floor for team voting and make a solo decision. Create an opportunity for them to take meaningful responsibility[7].

It might not always be possible to develop a connection with your team. But, effective team management requires connecting your organization as a unit. By sharing responsibility for the work, you foster more than a culture of accountability — you also foster a culture of belonging. Your team will feel connected and will see the bigger picture of contributing to overall success.

 

Pride and Ownership of Shared Work

Taking an inclusive and collaborative approach to creating a culture of accountability is a critical factor for getting your team on the same page – but it does take time and attention to detail. Start the ball rolling by removing formal and informal hierarchies, and associations with higher titles[8]. Encourage a culture of democracy — and applaud collaboration, problem-solving, and the bottom line of completing work projects. A team that takes pride in high-level work is a team that delivers on its promises.

See your team’s potential, make your expectations clear, freely trust others to do their work, and let them take charge. You already assembled a strong team. Now your job is to step out of the way and empower them to proceed. A leader’s role is to embrace discomfort and give away control — it demonstrates trust and frees up time for you to deliver on other tasks. Always make time to circle back with open dialogue for any potential ideas, questions and concerns. When you establish clear channels of communication, you are telling your team more than the fact that you trust them — it also indicates that you care about their psychological health and safety.

Asking the right questions to your team is critical for developing a broader understanding of why they are essential. It connects your team to a shared purpose and helps put your overall work picture into a bigger perspective.


[1] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[2] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[3] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[4] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[5] Neely, T. (2020) 15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered. Harvard Business Review.

[6] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[7] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[8] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.