I got into management earlier than many of my friends and colleagues, and now I find myself becoming the go-to resource for when they’re struggling to get the results they need from their teams. I hope to provide you with some tools to better support your team and improve the quality and productivity of your team’s work. An all-too-familiar experience for managers of front-line employees is when you find yourself back in the trenches trying to support the front-line work to meet client deadlines because somehow, something slipped through the cracks. Now more than ever, it is imperative that you create a regular schedule for check-ins and set clear expectations with your team to ensure they remain productive in the remote work environment.
1. Set Clear Time Expectations For Tasks And Projects
After studying and applying Scrum methodology when I was leading development teams in the past, I decided to apply some Scrum principles to everyday work. One of the scrum principles, “timeboxing,” involves dedicating certain amounts of time to certain activities. For many employees, this is their first time experiencing a remote work environment, and it is surprisingly easy to get sidetracked and lose track of time in an out-of-office environment. By setting expectations for their work, you can enable better time management for your employees. For example, if you have monthly decks for clients due in a week, don’t just set a due date. It can be helpful to also note, “You should be spending about two hours per day completing 10 slides per client.” Obviously, the exact time and amount of work you expect them to complete should be adjusted to your current process. You can then keep track of these activities through daily meetings, which I’ll discuss more in the next section.
2. Ask For Daily Recaps
Whether it’s through a daily email recap you expect to receive from your employees or through a daily quick call, I’ve found that it’s important to do an end-of-day briefing in the remote workplace. By setting a regular schedule for this sort of check-in, you can create a sense of accountability, which some people need — especially in this remote environment. You should also set a clear “end of day” for those who have trouble with work-life balance in the home-office space. The recap shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes of the employee’s day and should be fairly casual. Create a template for the check-in to make it quick and easy to accomplish. Here are the bullets I like to tackle daily:
• Completed tasks
• Ongoing tasks
• Tasks for tomorrow
• Tasks that require support
3. Schedule Weekly Check-Ins
I like to set aside 30-minute meetings with each of my employees each week to check in with them in a more formal way. I create a shared Google Document with a meeting agenda, as well as a clear section where my employees can add discussion topics. This provides an opportunity for you to discuss any issues that may have come up during daily briefings in more depth. Weekly check-ins are a great opportunity to discuss projects outside of the daily task work that your team members are working on. They are also a great opportunity to provide ongoing feedback for any performance issues you are working on.
4. Provide Clear Feedback
Sometimes the expectations you set with your team were clear to you but not to them. I personally love the motto “praise in public, coach in private” for managing my teams. When someone on your team does something you want the whole team to do, don’t be afraid to find a venue for team-wide positive feedback. If you have a team-wide weekly meeting, set aside a time on the agenda to provide regular positive feedback. For example, you could say, “Last week, Anita completed her site audit within the two-day window, which allowed us to review and prepare better for the presentation meeting. Great job!” And when something goes wrong, reach out to your employee with clear feedback about what they did wrong and how they could have done it right. Many people appreciate knowing the “why” when they’re being coached, so don’t be afraid to give detail and explicit examples. But use your judgment so as not to patronize those who may already understand why they should have done something differently and just made an honest mistake.
5. Check And Adjust For Continued Improvement
Try some of these tips to see how they work for you and your team. The overall goal here is to solve the problem of productivity in the remote work environment. I’m a big fan of the A3 problem-solving methodology, and part of that process is to check and adjust once you’ve put a solution in place. Set a clear goal for what you expect to see as a result of any changes you enact. Then set a timeline to check whether you’ve achieved those goals. For example, “After implementing daily check-ins, I expect client decks to be completed two days prior to their presentation date and that they won’t require anyone outside of the front-line team to create slides.” Then set a date to check for results and find gaps that may have caused any team members to fail to complete that goal.
Hopefully, at least one of the tips I covered here will help you better support your teams in this new, changing work environment. My personal takeaway is not to be afraid to apply general business principles and best practices to your specific needs.