Getting and staying aligned with your team is a challenge even when you are all in the same office. When everyone is remote or working from home, how do you know you are all still rowing in the same direction and working on the right projects? How can you be sure you are aligned to achieve the most important goals to help your company survive, recover, and thrive in a crisis?
With all the distractions in the current environment—from the seemingly endless stream of bad news to constant interruptions from kids and pets—it can feel more challenging to align your team around common goals than ever. That said, if you don’t have all of your best people working hard on the right things, your company’s future could be at risk. The stakes are high, and you need a way to be sure everyone is contributing their best efforts (whatever that looks like) to the right things.
Here are some tips for staying aligned with your remote team in these distracting times:
- Create a focused plan. Now is not the time to have 15 things on your priority list. Get very focused with your team on a few projects that matter most. Leave room for handling unexpected twists and turns, and be sure the top few projects you choose are going to be the ones that will help your company most at this time. Maybe you need to focus completely on helping your customers, or pivot to a new market or adjust your product or service line to fit the needs of your customers. Some of our clients have started manufacturing PPE or offering remote services, for example. The key is to agree with the team on a few priorities to focus on right now and share that plan with everyone so the whole team can do what they can to make it successful.
- Agree on success. Speaking of success, in order to be aligned with the team on the projects you pick, you have to agree on success criteria at the outset. You need to clearly define the goal (Green) for your projects. Often, we make assumptions about what the goal is without painting a clear picture of what it looks like to be done on a project. For example, if you have a priority to “Create a remote hiring protocol,” and you are thinking that “done” on this means documenting the steps and sharing it with the team, but others are thinking that the new protocol will be used to hire at least three people this quarter, then you are misaligned on success. You might think you are on the right track while others are wondering why you haven’t even started hiring yet. Avoid this pitfall by getting aligned on the goal from the beginning using Red-Yellow-Green success criteria.
- Communicate. Don’t think of communicating the plan as a one-and-done event. You worked hard to get aligned on the right priorities, and people in the company need to understand them well to be able to focus and get them done. Get into an ongoing rhythm to communicate well as a team. The rhythm should include your team meetings: Daily Huddles, weekly meetings, quarterly planning sessions, monthly reviews...anything you would normally do in the office. Transition your rhythm of work to a remote platform like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Webex, etc. Also, include 1:1 touchpoints and a cadence for written communication. In a crisis, people will naturally assume the worst without a steady stream of information. Even if you don’t know all the answers, be as transparent as possible and give as much information as you can so your team can be in the loop and rest assured that you are doing all you can to give them what they need to know. Remember that communication has two parts - transmitter and receiver—so even if you’ve sent an email or done a virtual town hall to share the priorities, you need to circle back with each person who reports to you and find out what they heard. Do they know what they are going to do to help the company achieve those goals?
- Use a dashboard to monitor progress. Once you’ve agreed on your goals and success criteria for each and done the hard work of communicating the plan and ensuring it was understood, you need to remain aligned throughout the execution of the project. Using dashboard software where everyone can see the progress on each goal will help you stay on track. If you can’t pull your project team together for a quick sync-up in the office or drop by and ask how part of the project is coming along, having a way to get a quick update whenever you need it remotely is key. Using a software like Rhythm can help you know what the status is on all the elements of your plan at any time.
- Collaborate on a regular basis. You can also use Rhythm to make comments back and forth and collaborate in real-time. If you see that someone is behind schedule or a status is Red or Yellow on one of your priorities, you can find out why and offer help. Alternatively, if you see that something else is going well, you can see what that person may have learned that could accelerate others who are working on similar projects. In addition to comments, use your Weekly Meetings to be sure everyone is still in sync on the most important priorities for your company. Talk through adjustments and roadblocks as they come up, and continuously focus on the top key items.
It might take some extra effort and talk time to keep aligned with a remote team, but this time is well-spent if you can successfully execute the few key priorities you need for your company to make it. Uncover any areas where your team may be misaligned early, and get everyone back on the same page quickly so you don’t waste precious time and energy working on the wrong things.
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