Management Communication

Managing Teams Remotely

Remote working is increasing, and with it the challenges of managing people remotely. One of the biggest problems is making people feel that they are connected that, as their manager, you are interested in them and that they are working in the right direction, aligned to agreed business goals.

It's really important to allocate regular time to talk to your people. Daily 5-minute webinars or phone calls enable an active connection to be maintained - and are an opportunity to motivate, and identify and resolve problems early. 

A weekly meeting with your managers helps to create cohesion. Team meetings are vital for information sharing, idea generation and generally improving communication throughout the business. They are also an important tool for getting buy-in to new developments, gaining understanding of changes and ensuring performance is on track, and that divisional activity is aligned to company strategy.

Meetings need to be prepared just like any other type of communication:

Prepare an agenda so that the meeting time is spent in a focussed way.

Prepare your messages in advance - including what you want to say and how you going to say it. Be clear and succinct. If your messages sound like this:

'Essentially, what I am saying is that, in my opinion, we are rather falling behind where we need to be...'

then you need to work on distilling your message, removing the 'noise' which is produced by the use of qualifiers such as 'essentially' and ‘rather’, and choosing your words more carefully to convey what you want to say.

In the meeting try to encourage participation from others to make the discussions as productive as possible. Your role will therefore change from manager to facilitator and even arbitrator. Inevitably one or more people will dominate the conversation so make sure that you draw others in, give them the floor and encourage them to voice their views.

To manage your meeting effectively:

Speak at a steady pace

You don't want people to feel rushed, and if they feel intimidated it may take them a little longer to formulate their thoughts. Speaking quickly may have this detrimental effect so deliver your messages clearly and in a measured way.

Use a tone of voice which encourages

If your tone of voice sounds abrupt or sharp, you may not have the desired effect. Use a tone of voice which will encourage and motivate. Echo the tone in your words for example, 'we're all keen to hear your ideas, Dave, as you worked on a similar project last year...' A little flattery and recognition of experience will give confidence not just to Dave but to everyone in the team.

Use open questions to encourage people to speak up

Open questions are questions which can't be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Begin your questions with a 'what', 'how' or 'why' word to get someone to speak more freely.

Manage interruptions

Make sure the team listens to each other's views and doesn't interrupt while someone is speaking. If someone does interrupt, it's a sure sign that they are listening to speak and not to understand.

Listen

Really listen to your team members and try to understand what's behind what they are saying. An encouraging nod and smile, combined with positive verbal feedback, will signal your focussed attention. If you feel that there is some other issue which is not being addressed, follow up with that person on an individual basis to try and get to the bottom of it. Make sure that each and every member of your team feel they are being heard, whether in the meeting or outside of it.

Summarise authoritatively

At the end of the meeting summarise the points agreed and points for action to ensure that the whole team has understood. Here you need to use lots of falling inflections to sound authoritative and definite. And follow up by circulating a record of these points and follow through to make sure they happen in your daily conversations.

Your meetings will reward the effort you put into them. By creating a supportive, open and creative atmosphere your team will be more motivated, more productive and help you to get the results you want.

If you manage a team remotely and would like to improve your communication style on the telephone and in webinars, please contact us on:

+44 (0)208 579 6662

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