Remote Multi-Generational Teams
A lot has changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be hard enough leading a multi-generational team in an office environment, where you have the luxury of interacting face-to-face. What do you do when you find yourself leading a diverse team that’s working remotely for the first time? At Five Q, we have been leading multi-generational teams in a remote environment for the past 16 years. Here are a few things we have learned over the years.
When you are leading and working remotely, you may feel out of touch with your co-workers and team members. Here are five mindset guidelines that will help you connect and lead your team well:
- Value Relationships. In a remote office environment, relationships are just as important as being productive. Make sure your team is interacting beyond just sharing when something goes wrong. Take time out of your day to check in on coworkers and catch up about more than the projects at hand. Some people would say this is especially important to the millennial generation. I would disagree. I think this is more tied to personality and personal motivators. If you know one person on your team is more extroverted and draws energy from working with people, plan to give them more time to connect each week. Also, consider helping them to organize their work so they can actually be on video calls with team members working on the same project.
- Assume the best. How many times have you had a team member complete a project or task, but it was done differently than how you would do it? Instead of automatically jumping down the person’s throat, assume that they had a logical reason for what they produced. Go into the conversation by assuming the best, and seeking to understand. You will find the path forward may be better than both of you thought possible.
- Be proactive. If you see someone deserving of praise, don’t wait; tell them they’re doing a wonderful job! Even better, give them praise in front of their co-workers – whether that means a group chat or team video meeting. Likewise, if you have questions, don’t assume – jump on a video call and talk it through. Clarity is kindness.
As a leader in a remote setting, be prepared to communicate vision and expectation in multiple formats.
- Over communicate. Working remotely can make it more difficult to be on the same page compared to in face-to-face interactions. It is easy for texts, emails or chats to be misinterpreted. As a leader in a remote setting, be prepared to communicate vision and expectation in multiple formats. For example, after each zoom video meeting, have someone send over the bullet-point notes of what was decided and the action items, so everybody is on the same page.
- Be positive. Positivity is a key trait in any team member – but it is especially important when you are leading remote teams. People can more easily have feelings of isolation, loneliness, and a sense of being siloed when working remotely. Leading with a positive attitude will not only help lift your team’s spirit, but will also put you in the right mindset to overcome the unique challenges of working remotely with multi-generational teams.
Before you can lead effectively in a remote environment, you must first be able to model what it looks like to work effectively. Here are some simple tips to work effectively in a new remote space. They may seem like no-brainers, but as you train and model these for your team, you will be more productive.
- Start your day like normal. This means wake up early, shower, get dressed, and have some breakfast. Stick to the same routine you had when you worked in the office. This will keep you motivated and alert for work like usual. Wearing pajamas with dirty hair has never made anyone feel ready to tackle a day’s work.
- Change scenery throughout the day. This is especially helpful if you and your spouse are both home and you can’t work in the same room. By consistently rotating which room you work in, you can keep your mind refreshed. If it’s nice out, try sitting outside!
- Be sure to take breaks. Staring at a computer screen alone all day is very different than working in the office. So every few hours, take fifteen minutes to walk around, stretch, drink some water and play with the kids.
- Avoid time wasters. Sometimes it’s easy to start working in the morning and get stuck checking your email, scrolling through Twitter, or texting friends/coworkers. Before you know it, an hour has gone by! Instead, make your “to-do” list at the end of each work day to set your priorities for tomorrow. Then, when you start the day clear priorities will result in productivity rather than wasted time.
Leading multi-generational teams in a remote environment can be a challenge, but also a blessing.
We have found that as you approach leadership in a remote setting with the right mindset, a vitally important ingredient to leading well is to have consistent organizational rhythms. These rhythms are healthy if you are in an office environment or working remotely. But we’ve found that when you are working remotely, the regular rhythms really help people to know what to expect.
We have drawn from two sources to help establish our meeting rhythm: Scaling Up by Verne Harnish (Gazelles, Inc., 2014) and Traction by Gino Wickman (BenBella Books, 2012). Here are a few of the rhythms that our company uses.
The daily standup is like the heartbeat of the organization. Every day, each team meets for no more than 15 minutes. This meeting is possibly the most important tool for keeping your team focused in a remote environment. Each person should answer three questions:
- What are my priorities for the day?
- Where am I stuck?
- How am I doing on my daily metric?
Keep it short and simple! If the meeting goes longer than fifteen minutes, you’re talking too much. Use the 10x15 rule: No more than 10 people in the meeting, which lasts for no more than 15 minutes.
Weekly team meeting:
Each team meets weekly and covers a similar structure.
- Wins from last week
- Review team metrics
- Priorities for upcoming week
- Issues to address
These weekly team meetings are either one or one and a half hours long, depending on the team. They are vital for laying out the plan for the week. They also give team members the ability to raise and solve any key issues that need to be addressed as a team.
Each supervisor meets with each direct report for 30 minutes bi-weekly – to catch up, discuss priorities, and see how they can help to better serve each individual to be successful in their role.
Quarterly and annual planning meetings:
Our executive team meets quarterly for organizational strategizing and planning. These are critical for laying out the direction and planning the areas to be executed in the coming weeks and months. Blocking out one and a half days for quarterly, and three days for annual planning, is critical for bringing leadership and direction for the organization.
Twice a year in-person company-wide meeting:
As much as we love the flexibility that working remotely brings, there is no substitution for face-to-face interaction. We try to bring our entire company together twice per year. These are times of learning, culture development, solving big problems together and just having fun. When your team is diverse, we have found these in-person times to be especially vital for developing common understanding between team members.
Leading multi-generational teams in a remote environment can be a challenge, but also a blessing. If you start by applying the above principles, and always keep an open mind to learn how to be more effective, you will grow your ability to lead remote teams well.