Tips for leading creative teams remotely

by Emma Sexton.

1 May 2020.

With so many businesses taking critical action to send the majority of their workforce to work at home, where does that leave you as a manager?

While there are plenty of employees excited by this enforced flexible working, how can you lead your team and make sure they get the work done?

Here at MYWW™, we have been working as a remote-first agency since 2013. At first, we found it tricky, but over 7 years later we have it totally nailed. At this difficult and surreal time of the Coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to share our learnings so you too can embrace this future-proof way of working and discover how this could be the perfect opportunity to make your team perform better.

Measure outputs not time

When you can’t see your team, how do you know what they are up to? It is always the first concern. Remote working means no ‘presentism’ which can give you a false sense of security. Relying on the idea that if you can see them, then surely they must be working, is dangerous and false.

Make remote working work for you by letting go of measuring time and keeping your focus on clear project objectives. This is where the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) methodology works really well. By achieving absolute clarity on what your team needs to do, and when they need to do it, really helps to keep your team focused and more productive.

Great communication becomes critical

When your team members are suddenly not all in the same office together you realise how much of day-to-day project information has been going into their minds via osmosis. This was definitely something we underestimated in the early days of MYWW™ and it led to wasted time and frustration. As a rule, no level of information is too much. We find people have to understand the bigger picture and where their particular piece of work fits in to make better decisions and work efficiently.

Better communication is ultimately the key to better business. See our current business climate as an opportunity to improve communication. Not only will this get you through the now, but this will also benefit your team’s way of working in the long term too.

Daily scrums

We’ve found that the more senior a team member is, the more you can leave them to get on with the work. Teams with less experienced staff may need more regular interaction and direction – especially now it’s not possible for them to come over and hover over your desk.

Try a daily ‘scrum’ – it’s a 5-10-minute team meeting, traditionally used for digital, to decide what needs to be done in the short term. When we are working on any big project with many moving parts and a tight deadline, we do these every day to prioritise what is needed. It really helps our remote teams to stay focused and not become overwhelmed.

Get off email

When people can’t just tap you on the shoulder they turn to email – suddenly your inbox is overwhelmed with minor questions and requests. At MYWW™ we get as much of our day-to-day project admin as possible off our emails and onto Slack. Slack is better than something like What’s App because you can create ‘channels’ which are basically categories or topics. This also helps your team to know what messages they need to immediately respond to and what they can leave until later, and you can turn notifications off really easily when focus is needed.

Here’s how we set up Slack for our core team. We have a channel for the key business topics, using our ‘inspiration’ channel for fun things and our ‘randomchat’ for that team banter and those memes you need to get everyone through the day.

How we have set up Slack at MYWW™

Ask your team what they need

Different people like to work in different ways and some people really struggle to work by themselves at home. It is always a good leadership skill to spend a little bit of time talking to each team member individually to find out what they need to feel supported and still part of the team at this time.

Do some regular check-ins to understand their ‘work/life language’. What is going on at home which might affect their work? Do they need to work at different times to the standard office hours? If you have been clear on their work objectives and outcomes try giving them full autonomy and trust them to get their work completed by the deadline you have set.

What we have found at MYWW™ is that remote working has given us a happy, productive, highly motivated team and we are sure you can do the same.

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