Don’t skip the one-on-ones: Best practices for leading a team from anywhere
May 28, 2020
 

Remote work, virtual work, work from home, work from anywhere. Whatever you call it, working from any place other than a brick-and-mortar office is transforming the way we do business and live. 

For those new to remote work, it was likely born of necessity due to COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders. At Metis, we’ve long seen the value in remote and have been doing things this way for a while. We went fully remote last year. Previously, we primarily had a remote workforce but maintained a physical office in Boston. We were Inspired by the team who literally wrote the book on Remote -- Basecamp -- and adopted many of their best practices while sharpening our own skills and processes. 

Still, I’m sure your level of “remote fatigue” is pretty high. I’m guessing you might scream if you read one more “how to do remote” or “why not to work in your pajamas” blog. This, I hope, is a little different; some thoughts on how management and leadership in a remote setting differ from - and, in some cases, remain the same as - those in a traditional office setting. 

First, though, it’s understood these have been challenging times. For instance, many folks are working remotely while also full-time home-schooling. So, chances are things like those employee one-on-ones have not been top priority. Guess what? That’s OK, we’re all doing our best. 

But if the situation continues for months, or if you, or your company, decides to continue this remote exercise post-pandemic, things like one-on-ones need to resume. So let’s concentrate on how to make it work. Below are four areas of management to focus upon and some resources to help leaders thrive. 

Employee one-on-ones 

We love the sage advice provided by our friend Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Team, a leadership and management tool and resource hub. She’s often writing about the importance  and benefits of the one-on-one meeting, which is amplified in a remote environment. 

In fact, Know Your Team did a study in 2018 that surveyed 1,182 managers - 88% of whom said their one-on-ones positively impacted team performance. 

Here, Claire shares her advice on the best ways to hold a remote one-on-one meeting. If it’s been a while since your last one, now’s a great time to get one on the books. 

Employee onboarding 

Say you’re lucky enough to not only avoid layoffs or furloughs, you’re able to hire right now. Do you have a plan for onboarding? This is particularly important if the person you’ve hired is another manager. 

Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently polled leaders about employee onboarding in a remote setting. Results showed 75% said they were still onboarding, though at a slower pace than before (45%), while a mere 17% said they were now onboarding within systems and practices developed for a remote environment. 

There’s some good advice on how to onboard remotely - and why it’s important - in this HBR piece. 

Coaching and mentorship 

It’s everything you can do to walk the dog, prepare breakfast and get the kids’ school set up on Zoom before even thinking about your tasks. Finishing your own to-dos simply must take priority over the coaching and mentoring of your direct reports or other employees. 

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. 

Still, we also all know how important coaching and mentoring is for those who need it. Quartz at Work has launched a virtual series to help with such topics. Check it out

Gauging employee morale 

If you’re used to gauging morale based on team happy hours or how many employees attended the optional all-hands coffee, you might not have an accurate read on how things are right now. You also might not know how to begin addressing it, and because of that, perhaps you’ve pushed it to next week or next month. 

Our friend Claire is back with some timely advice and these four critical questions to ask remote  employees

I know I said four areas to focus on, but there’s one more and it’s pretty important. Don’t forget to be human (and humane). Many people are juggling more than ever, under unfamiliar circumstances. Some have new school-age or toddler co-workers, others four-legged “helpers” hovering nearby. 

It’s OK if productivity dips a bit or if they call into a Zoom meeting every once in a while with the video off. Your employees will certainly remember tomorrow how you treat them today. Be the leader they want to work for when times are tough and when things are going well. 

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