We sat down with Deidre Garrett, Director, HR Services & Total Rewards at MRA to talk about the ins and outs of leading remote teams. Many people are finding themselves as remote leaders these days, discovering it takes a special skill set to do it well. Read on to learn what Deidre does to succeed at leading from afar.
How do you stay connected with your teams?
DG: Communication, communication, communication! I touch base with my remote teams frequently. I intentionally reach out through our Salesforce channel to provide a regular connection and encourage team members to post and chat with each other to drive synergy. We have monthly team meetings where we cover all that’s going on as well as shorter bi-weekly meetings, where teams collaborate and share information. I leverage my leaders to promote ongoing communication with everyone since the teams are large and across various locations. This provides multiple leaders to connect with if they have questions or need help solving an issue.
What do you do to drive people’s personal development?
DG: I really get to know my team members by asking questions, listening, and understanding where their personal drive comes from. These conversations help develop a clear picture of why they are working at our organization, why they are in their role and what they enjoy doing in their career. It’s important to have ongoing discussions with employees to ensure they feel seen and heard and that you support their growth. I also have quarterly meetings with my teams that focus on their individual personal development, review any challenges they’ve encountered and offer solutions.
How do you reward and recognize team members?
DG: I send them cards and thank-you emails. I also forward positive comments that we have received about our employees to our CEO or COO. I call people personally to thank them for their hard work and send out recognition announcements through Salesforce to recognize team members in front of their peers. Ultimately, I think employees want to know their work is recognized, that they are appreciated, and their contributions and ideas matter—that’s what I strive to do every day.
What about setting a clear direction?
DG: It’s important to provide a consistent approach and structure so there isn’t any ambiguity or wasted time. I have well-defined expectations I share with my teams as well as our strategies and processes. Plus, I supply clear goals and communicate our progress against our goals via our metrics to help them understand where we are going and how we will get there.
How do you maintain good work standards?
DG: Teams take part in annual training to review and update their skill sets and strengths. We’ve created toolkits, resources, and templates for our teams to drive consistency and best practices. Plus, we work cohesively as a team and ask each other for help if there is a challenge or roadblock, making sure we can move quickly and drive solutions.
How can you tell if your team is engaged?
DG: There are certain signs I look for that clue me into their engagement, such as when they:
- Proactively communicate when they have challenges.
- Meet deadlines and exceed expectations.
- Want to contribute to the team’s success.
- Take pride in their work and the organization.
- Want to improve processes.
- Are interested in learning and growing as an individual.
As a leader, I am charged with knowing my employees’ temperament, so if any of them seem “off” that’s when I call, ask questions to see what’s up, and then figure out how we can refocus the employee’s efforts on being productive and engaged.
Tell us some ways to manage team projects.
DG: We manage our projects using Salesforce. It’s a great software tool that helps with organizational alignment by ensuring all projects begin and end the same way, by providing a vehicle for ongoing communication to stay on task, and by supporting our objectives to meet deadlines.
The biggest part of leading remote teams is always asking “How can I help you?” This has helped me a lot in my role since I manage large teams and don’t see everyone face to face regularly. It creates an environment of trust, influence, and reliability on me as their leader. Offering help and maintaining great communication impacts their engagement and productivity and assists my team to provide our members with excellent service.