Over the last few months some leaders have been surprised to see that just because a team is forced to work remotely, it doesn’t mean there has to be a reduction in performance. In fact, many teams can achieve higher levels of performance working in this way. Those that are doing the best work are getting some key aspects of the way they work together right. 

1. Give people as much autonomy as possible

Autonomy is a recognised motivator of work performance. Giving people more freedom to choose how, when and where they work can make them feel more trusted, engaged and motivated. Why? Because feeling that we’re in control is a basic psychological need and, when it’s met, we feel more fulfilled. Working remotely doesn’t automatically mean people have more control, but there are some practical things you can do to enhance their sense that they do:

  • Start a discussion with the team about how they work, and let them make the decisions about it; talk about principles as well as the practical aspects
  • Let people work when they’re most productive, rather than the usual 9-5, if you can
  • Don’t try and manage the people, instead focus on co-ordinating and managing the work of the team

2. Ensure people know what they need to focus on

Even when we’re doing business as usual, ensuring people understand the long term aims of the team and the company is really helpful. It means that people can make better decisions about what they do in the short-term and spot opportunities for improving the way they work. In a time when nothing is ‘usual’, talking about future hopes and aims is even more important, so:

  • In this time of uncertainty, regularly share your hopes for the future with the team  
  • Always explain why you’re asking people to do certain things or work in a particular way, rather than just telling them what to do
  • Encourage people to challenge the way the team is working or what they’re working on, especially if they see it as wasteful in terms of time or resources

3. Enable feedback

Clear two-way communication is vital when working as a dispersed team and feedback is a valuable learning opportunity. The assumptions we make about others’ intentions are often way off the mark and this can undermine trust and performance. So curious conversations that aim to enhance our understanding of others and the thinking that drives their actions, are great development opportunities. Encourage those conversations within your team by:      

  • Positioning feedback as a learning opportunity for all  
  • Making the time for the team to review and evolve how it’s working together
  • Regularly asking for feedback about what you can do to support the team’s performance better

And finally, remember that high performance working and the ability to achieve amazing things is all about how the team works together, not about individual star performers.