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Modern Strategies for Managing Remote Teams

Jeffrey Lambert
Oct 20, 2020 6:12:59 PM

In the latest episode of our podcast Marketing for Martians, we'll go over some ways you can get started on unifying and building a more productive remote team with career expert and brand coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Listen to the Episode:



Show Highlights:


What are some of the factors that are driving an increase in companies adopting work from home policies?


"First of all, there's just a very practical matter of the pandemic and safety reasons, so depending on where you are, there are shelter in place restrictions. There are size restrictions in terms of how many people you can have in a particular sized area. And so work from home is necessary from those practical considerations, but then also in terms of cost, there's a cost savings on both sides.

So for the employee, of course, you're not commuting anymore, so it's really seen as a perk. And then for the employer, that's more longer term in terms of, can you get less space? Can you do with less equipment? Et cetera. And then also for the employer it's seen as a perk that you can give to employees. Many people enjoy the fact that they don't have a commute anymore, they can work more flexibly. And so they're able to give them this perk, it doesn't cost them anything. And at a time when they might be pulling back on raises or bonuses, things like that, it's very valuable to have a perk like that."


What are some issues that you've seen that have cropped up with this transition? Especially for people who are managing teams?

"Managing from home and then managing a dispersed team that is working from is not the same as managing in real life. So if you are a manager who historically loved to walk around and get a pulse for how your team is doing and really thrived off of looking at, how are people feeling? And let me make some eye contact here, let me bump into someone and check in on them. That's not going to happen, you're going to have to change your style of management.

I would also say that the processes even that you used, things like, do you have a weekly check-ins or when people have questions, do they just come find you? That obviously doesn't work anymore when you're not in real life and you have to set aside time to actually answer questions. You have to tell people to phone you or text you or put some time on your calendar. Again, you're not going to be bumping into people. You have to plan for this and reset expectations."


What are some solutions or adjustments managers can make to ensure that organizational success is happening?

"I think the first step of course is just to be aware of what your own tendency as a manager is. Have you been relying on that management by walking around or that ad hoc bumping into people? What are you going to have to change on your end? I would also be mindful of who is on your team, people have different comfort levels with technology, it is not a given that people are going to be able to manage their time well, manage their technology well, that they're as comfortable on, let's say a video call or in a video meeting as they would be in real life, or even on a phone conference call. So you have to be mindful of everybody else that you're managing and really think about, do I have to coach people a certain way? Do I have to support people a certain way? Do I have to be more available?

I would say that if you're thinking about your own communication style, I would err on the side of over communicating, don't be afraid to check in more often because you can always dial that back and readjust, but don't assume that your staff, that your team is going to come to you with every question that they have, or that they're going to come to you with concerns, because they're also dealing with this for the first time. They might not know how to manage themselves, they might not know how you're going to react. And so they're also confused and not necessarily ready to ask all the questions.

And so you, as the manager, have to take that lead, and that's why I say your own, self-awareness your awareness of the team. And then of course, even over-communicating is going to be something that's helpful."

Should there be a little bit more flexibility in terms of communication and response times in this new environment that we work in? Is that an important thing to remember?

"I think it's always important to be thinking about being more flexible regarding communication and regarding work styles. Even before the pandemic, we were moving with digital technology, for example, really tethering people to their office, even when they're outside the office, we're moving to a more fluid work environment, where it's not about clocking in at nine and clocking out at five. I mean, the reality is, is that people's workdays already, even before the pandemic were more fluid.

And so now on top of that, you have the fact that basically work-life boundaries have all but disappeared. And like you mentioned, there are childcare and elder care and homeschooling and all sorts of other responsibilities vying for our time. And so yes, absolutely, managers need to be more flexible around how people can get the best results for their work.

And that really means that managers need to be super clear about the results that they're trying to get from their team, so that they can judge by results and not just by how quickly an email gets answered or how responsive someone is on a particular issue. They might not be tethered to their desk, but that doesn't mean that they're not getting their work done."


Are there any businesses that are successfully fostering a successful WFH culture for their employees?

"I see it more, less company-wide by company-wide and more manager by manager. So I've seen even within the same company, that there are some managers who have managed to rally their team and get good results from their teams that they really, again, they check-in, they recognize that some people will need to work more flexibly. They support them when it comes to using the technology to their benefit.

And so they've really raised the stakes and raised their own performance around how they're leading their team. And then I've seen managers in the same company, struggle with this because they might be too tied to managing by walking around, or they really just haven't taken the time to adjust their style to the new normal. So I hesitate to say, "Oh, this company is doing it right. And this company is not doing it right." Because again, we're dealing with people managing people and you'll see wide variations when it comes to teams."


Do you have any predictions as to where this continued work from home culture will lead in one to five years from now?

"I think the best example is the fact that you have, let's say a company Twitter that says, "Okay, we're going to work from home indefinitely. This is going to be forever." And then very recently Netflix comes out and says, "Oh, this work from home stuff, this is terrible. We need to get people back into the office."

So there are lots of examples of, again, these are two companies in relatively, basically the same industry and yet they have very, very different philosophies around work from home. So how is this going to play out? I have no idea, I mean, I think it's going to depend company by company and frankly, potentially team by team, that there will be even within the same company, some people will find that it's working great for them. And if they have that flexibility, they're going to let their staff work from home.

Or they're going to ask their staff to come back to the office. I don't think that we know. And so to the rest of the points that I made in the podcast, where I was saying, you really have to check in with yourself and make sure that you're not making assumptions. You need to check in with your team, be aware of what they need, be aware of their needs for technology. We're just going to have to keep doing that going forward as the market changes and as this pandemic changes and as we learn more."

Additional Growth Resources:


Connect With Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

Marketing for Martians PodcastAbout the Show

Growth Marketing for Martians is a weekly podcast focused on discussing tomorrow's brand-building strategies.

Hosted by Rogelio Rodriguez and Jeff Lambert, these marketing Martians share an intergalactic love for learning and sharing with other podcast space travelers.

This podcast is brought to you by Rizen, a revenue growth firm focused on innovative strategies and proven tactics to scale your business.

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