January 19, 2023 by Andrea Rajic
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While every company loves to brag about having exceptional, driven, talented employees on board, it’s only when they come together as effective teams that the results show and are often unstoppable.
So as an HR/People Ops expert or a remote team manager, your #1 focus for performance and success should be to build high-performing teams that bring the energies of every individual employee together.
With everything we know about how distributed workplaces function, we are bringing you the essential secrets to building strong remote teams 👇
A single recipe for a strong team doesn’t really exist — after all, people are different, and so are companies. Different situations, industries, products, and personality traits give varying results when combined.
What does exist are some best practices that help you shape the culture, communication, and alignment in your team and tailor them to your circumstances.
If you strive to reduce misunderstandings, eliminate delays, and make sure everyone knows their role, make team communication your #1 priority. Here are a few ways to do that:
Cross-team collaboration doesn’t come naturally to most departments because, well, every department is busy doing its fair share of smashing milestones and reaching goals. But truly great teams make it a habit to reach out to other departments and touch base on how they can help, brainstorm, or work on a shared project.
By implementing a regular cadence for cross-department check-ins — e.g. a monthly sync between all departments — you’ll reduce double efforts, cut redundancies, and get new ideas on how to improve workflows. After all, it’s always good to get another pair of eyes to look at something and give their unbiased point of view.
Put simply, don’t play the blame game. While certain roles have responsibilities, and it’s okay to lead efforts and get credited with their success and failures, this approach has more to do with adopting an analytical mindset.
Instead of getting carried away celebrating or wallowing after a project, leave some time to analyze why something succeeded or failed. In either case, it will help everyone understand how to do better next time or which specific action to replicate next time to ensure another win.
This is essential for remote teams, who won’t always meet for a water cooler chat to discuss their thoughts. Every quarter, schedule a review session with your remote employees and go over what works and what doesn’t.
Use the quarterly review sessions as an opportunity to connect in person, collaborate, and share ideas. Host an offsite for your remote team >>>
A great McKinsey article covers the topic of how sometimes teams that consist of individual rock stars can end up working together poorly. Whether it’s conflated egos, an unclear picture, or misaligned expectations, these outcomes are something you want to avoid.
Pay close attention to the team composition and make sure the shared goals and ways to achieve them are clear, transparent, and communicated with everyone. You can achieve this by ensuring everyone is measured on both individual performance and the team goals — this will motivate people to think about what the team needs, not just their personal pathways to success.
In remote teams, employees spend most of the time during the year collaborating through tools and apps, with video calls sprinkled in. And that’s great, as it can help improve focus, increase productivity, and achieve more.
But that doesn’t mean they should never see other face-to-face. Just the opposite, actually: purposeful and intentional time together can help your remote team bond, connect, and create relationships that will last and bring benefits to the team long-term.
Give your distributed teams a place to connect whenever they need to. No subscriptions, no reimbursement processes — just a simple portal to find a place, book, and connect in person. Try Gable today >>>
Employees want to grow, make progress and improve their skill sets, especially if they are part of a strong team that is used to achieving results. Investing in their professional development is really an investment into the company’s profitability, bottom line, and success.
Provide training programs, L&D resources, and even budgets for courses and conferences. It will make your team eager to learn new skills, expand horizons, and stay up to date with industry trends. The improvements don’t necessarily have to be competency-related — improving soft skills like resilience, emotional intelligence, or conflict resolution can pay dividends, too.
There are some high-level traits and characteristics that many high-performing teams have in common, so it’s worth looking into them for guidance, especially if you manage a remote workforce:
If we had to choose one trait that all excellent teams share, it would have to be communication. No matter how well you set everything else in your company, if the team is misaligned on goals, has trouble getting messages across, and is always stuck in who-said-what, the odds of achieving anything outstanding lower substantially.
This has double the importance in a remote team, where virtual communication channels often deprive words of tone, context, and mood of the speaker, and things often get lost in translation.
Members of high-performing teams are aligned on company goals and vision, their department OKRs and milestones, and their daily communication is purposeful and designed to make their work smoother and more efficient.
Psychological safety is often overlooked as a contributing factor to the performance of great teams, but it’s pretty essential. You want your team members to feel safe to experiment, brainstorm, suggest new ideas, and, yes, be wrong.
The best teams out there throw ideas at each other, rely on their managers for support, and don’t feel self-aware when asking questions or making mistakes. Take a look at this video of Simon Sinek explaining why psychological safety is essential for a team’s success 👇
What’s your team goal, and how does it contribute to the company’s vision, results, and profitability? Any team that doesn’t have these answers ready should go back to the drawing board and work on answering them.
Exceptional team leaders and managers go out of their way to ensure employees have the same shared understanding of what they are doing, how to achieve team goals, and how everyone’s individual performance contributes to the big picture.
You’ll often encounter amazing teams that are diverse, with different personality traits, backgrounds, and skill sets, and their superpower is making all those traits come together. How do they do it?
The foundation of every great team is respect and kindness, and there’s no way around that. Building trust, nurturing open communication, aligning on shared goals, and feeling safe with your team — all these traits stem from respecting one another as people and professionals.
The final point that brings outstanding individuals together and makes them into extraordinary teams — the cherry on top, if you will — is a strong and shared sense of the team culture. For teams working remotely, culture and connection can be a challenge because in-person connections aren’t an everyday part of the work experience.
In fact, 44% of remote employees say connecting with their teams is their most significant challenge. To bridge this gap, HR and People teams in remote companies can implement many tactics, from team-building activities to facilitating in-person connections.
We’ve compiled 18 tried-and-tested ideas to connect and engage remote teams. See the list >>>
Put simply, a high-performing team is a group of people working together in the same or different departments towards common goals. They bring their individual skill sets and create synergy to achieve the best results and achieve company objectives.
Strong teams are aligned on decision-making, focused on innovation, and often show outstanding results, setting their companies apart from competitors.
So is it possible to build high-performing teams remotely? We’d say it’s absolutely possible, but HR/People Operations managers, as well as team leaders, have to be intentional about it.
Here’s what we mean by that:
Foster connections in your remote team
Cater to employees’ needs and give them flexibility without burdening your workload. Provide workspaces, set budgets and policies, and track usage and trends to stay in the loop.