The ones that are getting stuff done, despite transitioning a team to working remotely
The ones that are moving more slowly toward their team goals than they were before, due to figuring out how to lead a team that’s now working from home
If you’re the former, we would like to invite you to write this article for us. You’re a superhuman with a bloodline that dates back to Hercules and we want to know what you’re putting in your morning coffee, because we want in.
If you’re the latter, you’re like the rest of us. Transitioning a team to work from home AND hitting your goals is like having a baby and thinking, “This is going to be a breeze.” It’s not a breeze.
It’s tiring. It’s difficult. And sometimes it’s incredibly overwhelming.
At DigitalMarketer, we can’t say we’ve perfected working from home to a point that we’re descendants of Hercules, but we’re definitely doing an above adequate job at it (if we do say so ourselves). We’re changing directions faster than a hockey player in the Stanley Cup, and we’re hitting our goals—all while our team works from home.
Here’s how we’ve figured out how to lead a team that gets stuff done from home, so you can too.
1: Move Recurring Meetings Online & Use Action Items for Accountability
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that the meetings stop. Your All Hands meeting needs to be happening. Your one-on-ones need to happen. Every meeting that was happening when water cooler conversations were still a thing—need to keep happening.
Running a team that gets stuff done means that everyone is updated at all times. If your marketing team doesn’t know that you just pivoted your core product, how are they going to know to create content that promotes it?
Every meeting needs to have a calendar invite link. Don’t expect people to just remember the meeting is happening—it needs to go in their calendar so everyone is present when it’s time for the video call. Make sure to use a video call software (like Zoom or Google Hangouts) that lets you (and your team) share their screens as well. Just because you’re not in a conference room together doesn’t mean you need to be describing a document to each other vs. showing it.
For both in-person and video meetings, make sure you end with Action Items for each person that was in the meeting. Everyone should be able to say exactly what they’re going to do and when it’s going to be done, based on the context of the meeting. If you don’t have Action Items, you’re risking everyone moving on to the next task of the day and completely forgetting what they were assigned in the meeting.
If you want to get stuff done, you need regular team meetings that create action that then push you towards your goals—hopefully as fast as you were moving towards them when you were still in the office.
2: Discuss New Expectations & Recap in a Company-Wide Email
If you’ve looked at the numbers and you know that you’re not going to hit the goals you initially set at the beginning of this year—it’s crucial that you communicate this to your team.
You don’t want them to be scared to tell you that content views are down, subscriptions aren’t what they used to be, and high-tier products aren’t selling. You want to be the one that tells them, “Don’t worry about it. We’re changing our numbers and aiming for THESE instead.”
Discussing expectations with your team is essential right now. They can only get stuff done if they know what they’re trying to get done. Everyone’s working toward a goal and if that goal is unclear—how can you expect them to know what they’re aiming for?
Discuss expectations with your team and see what’s realistic for the current climate. That’s Step One. Step Two is to recap all of those expectations to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. This is something you were probably doing before your team went remote and it’s a practice that needs to keep happening.
You can discuss expectations on a Zoom call and have everyone create and share their Action Items based on the new expectations. Then send a company wide follow-up email to loop everyone in, using a platform like Recess.
Create a concise email from your leader (like your CEO) or lead management (like your Marketing Manager) that tells your entire team, or a subdivision of your team, what the new expectations are.
3: Create a Place for Team Members to Discuss Roadblocks
Once you have your meetings scheduled and your overall expectations sent to your company and specific expectations sent to relevant teams, it’s time to make sure there’s a place to discuss updates and roadblocks.
What Action Items did someone get assigned at the all-hands meeting that can’t be completed until another team member does something else first? That person is blocked from completing their Action Items until their team member situates theirs. For example, does your advertising team need your managers to approve new ad creative before uploading to Facebook? The advertising team can’t move forward until management approves.
Having a place to put this is essential to productivity. This isn’t meant to make road blocking team members feel badly, everyone is going to be a roadblock at some point (including you!). It’s meant to ensure that the roadblock is able to immediately update their team members when they’ve cleared the way for them to get their Action Items done.
Roadblocks can also be software problems or questions that just haven’t been answered yet. Whatever the roadblock is, having it in plain sight is going to help everyone remember what we’re waiting on to get stuff done and create updates when the roadblock is removed.
4: Practice Strategic Over-communication
Obviously, you don’t want to be pinging your team every 5 minutes with new expectations, questions about their Action Items, or asking for updates on roadblocks. That doesn’t create a workflow for anyone; it just distracts your team.
These are messages that can be sent at the beginning or end of the day and the beginning and/or end of the week.
This keeps everyone in the loop without incessantly asking them to stay up-to-date in group threads where, if they miss the initial notification, they’ll spend more time catching up on everyone’s comments than doing something that relates to the initial notification.
The key to over-communication is remaining efficient. Figure out when you’re going to communicate to your whole team and parts of your team (sales, customer support, etc.).
We do this regularly at DigitalMarketer. Our CEO, Ryan Deiss, sends a company wide newsletter every Tuesday to recap the week, expectations, and anything else the team needs to know regarding business. This has turned into a very important touch point between El Capitán and his crew members in the past few weeks.
Our ship is sailing and sometimes we’re changing direction fast. This newsletter keeps everyone at DigitalMarketer up-to-date and on what’s going on, how we can help, and what Ryan needs from us to sail smoothly toward our goals. We use Recess to send these emails.
Like we said at the start of this article, we’re not perfect when it comes from working from home but we’re definitely adapting efficiently. We’ve realized that communication is still our main ally, just as it was when we were in office, but now we need to do it a bit differently.
Practice moving all of your regularly scheduled meetings online, discussing and sharing new expectations, being transparent about roadblocks, and over-communicating strategically to be able to get stuff done while your team is at home.
Because this is more than an excuse to work in your pajamas all day, it’s an opportunity to be a wartime leader (or a really efficient leader with just the right amount of caffeine)—you can choose how you want to describe yourself.