Collaboration is essential for every organisation! From a systemic perspective, the level of collaboration is a direct reflection of the quality of relationships across the organisation.
So how then do we create effective remote team collaboration?
With the sudden shift to remote working, the impact of these organisational challenges has been exacerbated.
Remote working invites leaders to review their leadership style and adjust to a style that focuses on and strengthens relationships in their team to enhance collaboration.
Remote team working is not new!
Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, a famed British technology pioneer, ran a remote tech company in the 1960s. She said:
“Remote work has less to do with the tools and more to do with effective management practice.”
We are fortunate that in 2020 we have a huge selection of collaboration tools that support remote collaboration.
Organisations have, to some degree collaborated remotely, for instance between offices globally. Teams have also been working with external vendors successfully for many years. So we do have some skills to build on.
Here are 5 steps to make sure you and your teams are set up for successful collaboration as a work from home team:
(1) Taking care of the basics - Setting up:
What do you know about your employee’s situation at home?
Organisations typically focus on having the right quality of internet connection and assess if there is sufficient security for their staff members and the equipment provided.
And what else do you need to know about their home situation?
This depends on which geographic region you are in and which socio-economic situation your staff are in.
Working from home might mean that there isn’t enough private space, or the private space can only be guaranteed for certain times of the day. There might even be family tensions that make working from home very stressful.
This information is important as employers will want to assist their employees in coping effectively with their situation.
Receiving this information might be difficult, as it is a balancing act of prying too much into their private lives, and at the same time caring for their wellbeing. As day to day remote working takes the organisation deeper into their employee’s private lives, leaders will need to sharp[en their sensitivity about navigating this fine line.
Showing a deep sense of care and empathy towards your employees will be reciprocated with a commitment to you as their leader and to the organisation, setting a strong foundation for remote collaboration.
(2) Designing the new - co-creating Agreements:
Assumptions are horrible! With any big change, we are often caught assuming that some things will remain the same.
If your team is new to remote working, or you have been remote working for some time, co-creating team agreements help teams define how to optimally collaborate and is an essential foundational step.
The key here is to ensure that everyone’s input about ways of working is heard:
What qualities positively influence how teams collaborate?
How do we want to keep in touch?
How and how often do we hold meetings?
What flexibility is possible around working hours, break times etc.
What works best when there are various time zones to be considered?
The type of questions asked can vary immensely depending on the teams and organisational setup.
The key point here is to open up the co-creation/collaboration process, to acknowledge and leverage off the diversity in the team to establish its agreements.
(3) Keeping each other informed - Communication:
How teams communicate changes significantly when teams are remote.
A simple example of working together in an office is observing people coming into a meeting. Their body language, who is greeting whom, who is sitting next to each other and how are things between them provides essential information.
Remote communication requires deliberate attention from the leader and the team members, as we are not able to observe this detail nor see the full response of how our messages land.
Here are a couple of guidelines:
Find alignment: amongst the team on how best to communicate with each other. Keep the co-creation open.
Be clear: being conscious and intentional about your exact expectations and the tone of the message is essential to sustain good remote team collaboration. Don’t assume!
Channels: agree on which channels will be used for what, and don’t create too many channels. When does the team benefit from video chat and when is group chat sufficient?
Volume vs quality: Choose carefully what message and what information needs to be shared with whom. Don't flood all the channels to get your point across.
Transparency: make sure you fill the information gap. The gap left by the lack of transparency will be filled by the team’s own narratives. Make sure you have regular and frequent updates.
Time to share: set up team meetings in such a way that each team member has equal time to put their views forward. If this has not been standard practice in your teams, then this is the time to implement.
The core of the messages needs to be very clear: ‘you matter’ and ‘we care’.
To strengthen virtual communications always use respect, positive affirmations, and gratitude to set the right tone and proper context.
(4) Stay Connected - Creating Belonging:
Creating belonging requires some additional focus. In the office, we see each other and that can often be enough acknowledgement that we are a team.
With remote teams, this needs to be done deliberately. Usually, the extroverts instinctively find ways to stay connected, but that is not true for everyone in a diverse team.
As the leader of the team make some notes about how you can stay connected with your various remote workers. Part of these notes ideally comes from the 1-2-1 conversations you have had with them in which you think together about how to stay connected.
(5) Every day is a good day - Appreciation & Celebration:
Challenging times are always …. well … full of challenges. There are, however, also thousands of great events that happen in the mix of things going wrong.
Good team collaboration, especially in remote teams, is nurtured through acknowledgement and by creating opportunities to appreciate each other. Build this into team meetings, even when, or especially when, things have been hot and difficult.
Appreciation helps us find our way back into relationships. It reminds us that good things are going on and that we can acknowledge them and lean into them.
Do this deliberately! It might feel awkward at first but do it. You will be amazed at what comes to the surface. Use team meetings to include team building activities.
Creating the conditions for remote collaboration by leveraging Relationship Systems Intelligence™
The work environment has dramatically changed, and it has done so very rapidly. This requires adjustment from both leaders and their team members.
By leaders understanding how to leverage Relationship Systems Intelligence (RSI™) in teams, they start to create the favourable conditions in which team members care for each other, acknowledge each other, tap into each other’s diversity, intelligence and creativity to cultivate remote collaboration.
Effective collaboration is much more than a transactional arrangement. True collaboration is full of engagement, care for the organisation and the customer, and fosters a spirit of togetherness in the organisation.
Start by creating an experience that you are all in this together, and that each person in the team has a role to play in co-creating the new norms.
When collaboration is fostered in the team itself, it also develops collaboration with the partners and stakeholders in and out of the organisation.