Managing remote teams is not nearly as straightforward as it seems, especially in organizations where work is based around face-to-face interaction. Creative teams especially rely heavily on sitting in a space together for brainstorming sessions, where individuals collaborate together on ideas and doodle on post-it notes for inspiration. Due to the quick and sudden shift to remote teams brought on by the pandemic, managing these difficult waters while keeping the spirit of creativity flowing virtually has been a challenge.
But it is a challenge worth overcoming. Even virtually, there are new opportunities to lead and inspire our designers. Rudy Manning, the Chief Creative Officer for Pastilla, spoke at AIGA Chicago for the Managing Remote Teams virtual event.
“It is even more important working remotely, because [we’re not physically together], so those serendipitous conversations don’t happen.”
Rudy spoke on growing this year as a leader, and what he’s doing to be a better lead for his team at Pastilla. “Being more attentive to understanding and clarifying your vision and goals for the company,” Rudy says was one of his challenges. “It is even more important working remotely, because [we’re not physically together], so those serendipitous conversations don’t happen.” Because of that, when virtual meetings happen, Rudy says it’s very important to be more attentive, clear, and understanding where the company is going when weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings are happening, because those spur-of-the-moment conversations just don’t happen right now. A vision has to be clearly communicated when working remotely.
Understanding and knowing where your team is personally and what they’re looking for is integral to successfully managing a remote team as well.
This is why annual reviews are important, Rudy says. “Getting a sense of where they want to go and getting a ‘temperature check’ working for us” is important. We need to know if team members “feel aligned with our goals and where we’re going, the kind of projects and culture that we have. And we want [to find out] what we can do to help them progress, too.”
Team culture and cohesiveness, online, is more important than ever in remote teams, too.
Team culture and cohesiveness, online, is more important than ever in remote teams, too. Panelist Jon Bader of Newell Brands stressed the importance of “laughing through the chaos” and making sure teams feel connected. Jon stresses the importance of the little things, recounting a story of one of the women on his team who recently had a birthday. “Her team dropped off gifts at her driveway every day of the week,” he says.
On the other hand, everyone is looking at 2020 and the switch to remote teams in more of a negative light, but that’s not the case for panelist Payal Gandhi. Payal says she has actually gotten “closer to a lot of people” through technology–Zoom, phone calls, FaceTime, etc–and not just in her circle of friends and coworkers, but all the way back home in India and London as well. “We just connected this year, thanks to technology,” Payal says. “That’s my positive for 2020, just connecting with a lot of people, literally around the world.”
Being thrust into managing a remote team can be daunting, but a little less so if your team was already moving in that direction. Either way, maintaining company vision, team culture, time efficiency, and investing in relationships are so important in virtual teams. Investing in those values are different remotely, but Rudy Manning, Jon Bader, Payal Gandhi, and Elle Abarca are leading by example and showing us what they’re doing, what has worked, what hasn’t, allowing you to learn from their successes and mistakes to lead a thriving remote team.