Founder Resources

Managing Remote Teams

With the increasing need to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by working from home, M13 hosted a webinar on remote work hosted by M13’s Partner and Head of Talent Matt Hoffman featuring Jessica Marucci (Head of People and Places, Catalyst Software), Mark Frein (Chief People Officer, Lambda School), and Megan Wheeler (Director of Recruiting / Leadership Trainer, LifeLabs Learning). What we learned surprised us.

“We’re navigating a space where this isn’t everyone’s chosen path” - Megan Wheeler

In remote work, technology replaces IRL interaction to connect us. That said, our webinar conversation emphasized the importance of projecting humanity and empathy.

  • Acknowledge the anxiety of going remote and that it isn’t people’s chosen path; we are doing this in the interest and the safety of our community.
  • Be mindful that work setups may not be optimal. Some colleagues have young children at home and they -- neither the child who wants their attention (see BBC dad) nor the parent -- did not anticipate work to be like this.
  • Accept the learning curve of going fully remote (“people didn’t sign up for this environment!”), encourage questions in the ramp-up and give colleagues tools to gain confidence and succeed. Identify and practice digital etiquette such as being OK with awkward pauses as we wait for our colleagues to speak up on video chats.

Here are a few key takeaways.  

“For a lot of people, this is a first time experience, and we’re in a world where there’s a lot of anxiety in general.” -- Matt Hoffman

What are best practices to keep remote teams connected?

  • Intent matters. For remote to be successful, you have to want to connect.
  • Over-communicate as much as possible; make workflows visible, create feedback loops.
  • Try a test run: facilitate a one day test trial of everyone working from home. What did we learn about what our colleagues need to be set up for success?
  • Leadership: model working from home as well to help with communication flow and trust.
  • Host virtual lunches and ‘munch and learns’ that are not about work.
  • Experiment with virtual on-boarding and include/introduce other team members.
  • Keep the cameras on -- you may be having a bad hair day but the environment and how we truly are will foster trust, likability and collaboration.

What (tech) tools enable remote work?

  • Electric AI -- for clients transitioning to remote work for outsourced IT side.
  • Provide information and training, support for how to use the tools, encourage questions (“How do I get into google doc?”).
  • Etiquette: Embrace the pause and avoid side conversations.
  • Make tech as simple and interconnected as possible. That may require making hard choices about simplicity. Physical companies can give more local autonomy and collaborative tools but remote requires centralization for tools -- everyone on one video tech does wonders for remote but not if they had their own video technology (nightmare).
  • Create borders or else you will go crazy. Create processes for young children (a sign on the door, red for don’t come in, green for welcome) and family. Remind friends and family that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can do the laundry and the dishes.  

How do you manage performance when you can’t see it?

  • Productivity looks like how someone achieves their outcomes. What’s important is whether or not they arrive at the destination - not if they’re working ‘now,’ or at a computer, or on a walk.
  • Establish a cadence of team meetings -- and stick to them.
  • Be explicit about expectations, role and responsibilities.
  • Understand the psychological elements of trust.
  • Reliability: Am I doing what I set out to do? Consistent 1:1s
  • Benevolence: Am I showing up for you?
  • Credibility: Do I have the credentials? Self-orientation

If you attended the webinar and would like to provide feedback, please click here. Want More? Watch the full webinar below and take a look at other helpful resources recommended by our panelists.

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