In the first part of effectively Leading Remote Teams we introduced the ‘Personal-Connectedness’ (PC) factor, which we described as ‘creating the social conditions for trust to happen between remote teams and their bosses. We showed how a leader could easily start creating those conditions by introducing some simple yet powerful virtual tools.
In part 2 we want to focus on the face-to-face visit. Yes, even if you have very remote teams you should consider meeting them every quarter if possible. During those few visits usually the expectations are much higher – from both sides. Therefore face-to-face meetings/visits in an otherwise remote situation need more attention and thorough preparation. Here is what you want to consider – berofe and during the visit:
Before the Visit: Prepare to Share & Care
- What’s the Story – Connect to Corporate
Prepare specifically what you want to share with the team about the business and the company – what are key messages from corporate? Any strategic or other initiatives, any news from the HQ? What is happening in the business overall and in the region? Don’t assume just because everyone receives the corporate info emails, everyone knows what it means for them – translate it into their language, situation and location. Don’t prepare lengthy data slides – sit down and shorten where you can, think about the story behind it, make it interesting and focus on what is really important.
- Who are you – Connect to the Boss
What do you want to share about yourself? Some leaders do not feel comfortable to share personal stories, but many teams expect to get to know their boss better on a personal level. Prepare some personal stories – what is important for you at the moment, how is your family doing, what is a new hobby you picked up, what are topics beside business that interest you? The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will be.
- Prepare to Care – Know ‘Stuff’ about your Team
And what do you know about the team, their condition and location? Do you know when each of them is having their birthdays, or if one of your team members is getting married, having a baby or another important moment in his life? What are the team’s interests – a team of germans might be interested in soccer, an Indonesian team might do a regular Arisan together. Knowing those details about your team members show that you care and make an effort – it will change the world for your team if you come ready like this. Get to know those things and prepare yourself.
During the Visit: Personal, Empowering & Effective
- Start informal but focused
When you are there, try to start any interaction with the team by having lunch or dinner with them. In a relaxed atmosphere it is easier to get re-connected on a personal basis with the team. During the conversation focus more on the private aspects, share about yourself – but more importantly ask questions and listen. Try to get a sense of each team member and of the dynamics in the team.
- Check Team Dynamics first
When you have a day with your team, be clear about your agenda. Use the first two hours to discuss with them about the team dynamics. What is going well, what needs to be improved in terms of communication and the way the team works with each other and with you. If you do that regularly your team will start to open up and these ‘soft factor’ discussions will lead to empowerment and tangible results, like clarity of expectations, ways of working, responsibilities, how to deal with conflict etc.
- Effective Meeting-Management
When the focus turns to the business side, it is usually everyone sharing about their businesses. I am surprised still seeing teams not applying strict standard processes: you see different templates, different priorities and a great variety of time each participant needs, so that those meetings are usually overrunning and not focused at all. Maximize this time effectively: Get the team to use standard formats/templates for the presentation only and provide each person only a clear amount of time. Be clear and a role model, don’t get caught in details but take that offline. That way everyone in the team has the same amount of attention during the meeting and you don’t spend the whole day – because you need time for one more task during your visit:
- Meet One-on-One
During each visit make time for one-on-one conversations – always and with undivided attention. Be prepared for each conversation – know what type of feedback you want to give, ask good coaching questions and be specific. Do not only focus on the outcomes, but also discuss and design processes that need to happen and agree on regular review processes with clear milestones. And always provide that little extra time to ask each team member to give you feedback about what you can do to improve the communication with him or her.
In the next and last part about ‘Leading Remote Teams’ we will focus on the technical infrastructure and discuss how to maximize the quality of interaction between and your teams.