How To Implement Strategic Change While Maximizing Success In A Remote Setup

Dr. Amit SawantSophia Broomfield

Amit Sawant, Chief Product & Business Officer at Somatix, and Sophia Broomfield decode how to manage the unknown with confidence during the difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Change" is a word that either leaves one perplexed or sends shivers down the spine. The small word holds a great deal of power and affinity, primarily because it involves dealing with the unknown. For the most part, it requires you to move outside of your comfort zone, and at times, even edit the rule book as you go.

In any product or engineering organization, change is no less daunting. As Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and social distancing came into view as a critical solution, a change in management approach became prominent. Companies strengthened their workforce through open and honest communication, internal and external collaborations, and resilient leadership with a holistic change management approach.

Here are the answers to the top three burning questions frequently asked by budding remote managers:

How to Become a Successful Remote Manager?

The change in the workplace presents brand new challenges daily, and as a result, a whole different breed of managers is in need. With lesser visibility over their groups, coupled with their teammates' expectations, here are the top three 'must-have' qualities for remote managers:

Higher Emotional Intelligence: Managers set the tone for their team and the organization as a whole. With an innate ability to sense unspoken feelings and being empathetic, emotionally intelligent managers have a knack for building a better connection with their team members. Simply asking your reports a "how's everything at home?" can make their day. You can create a positive work environment by valorizing others' concerns.

Model Positive Behavior: When managers' words don't align with their actions, their direct reports might become somewhat disillusioned — so leaders need to practice what they preach. As the freedom of remote work brings in more responsibilities, connecting with team members, taking initiatives, and setting clear goals helps you become an effective manager.

Well-being Focused: Many teammates might want flexibility, while others may not. On both sides of the coin, the effect on mental health might be harder to spot and determine whether people are struggling or not. It is, therefore, crucial for managers to keep a close eye on individuals and keep their impact in mind when making long-term decisions.

Three dimensions that new remote managers must address to execute on an efficient remote work model:

  • People: While removing blockers and helping your team members to work effectively should be a focus, you should also emphasize providing psychological safety.

  • Structure: Remote work may give birth to a lack of clarity and difficulty navigating through the organizational processes. The way out of this is to shift from siloed, large teams to smaller, cross-functional teams with clear and outcome-driven objectives.

  • Processes: As a leader, take the lead on establishing a proper cadence of scheduled daily vs. weekly meetings for remote work. Remember that this approach is a massive shift in the work culture, and you must adapt to dealing with more ambiguity.

How to Effectively Connect With Your Team Members?

It's no surprise setting up a remote workplace is not easy. However, often, managers fall into the trap of skipping over the nitty-gritty of team building in a rush to begin achieving goals.

There is no 'one size fits all approach to this, but these are some tried-and-tested impactful strategies.

  • Use Business Communications Tools Like a Pro: The usefulness of Microsoft Teams and Slack goes beyond chatting. Having different channels not only helps with bi-directional communication but also asynchronous interaction. Instead of waiting for an email, or a meeting to be set up, such steps can be minimized by having a quick chat among team members.

  • Keep Virtual Social Hours: The bottom line of work-from-home is that anyone can start feeling lonely. Spending almost no time in an office environment brings in a lesser social bond with colleagues, but fun remote team-building activities could be the savior. Whether it's a practical activity or just for fun, it's a chance for your preternatural teammates to best get along and communicate with each other.

  • Create Peer Mentorship Programs: Teams that learn, grow and stay together. Virtual activities might become saturated because not everyone wants to participate, but having peer-mentorship programs can be a champion. After all, knowledge is power! Mentorship programs send a powerful message that personal growth and knowledge sharing are dependent on social connections in several ways.

  • Set Up Communities of Interest: Not everybody likes to party — some are more keen on playing chess or cooking. Establish different communities where individuals with similar interests can partake in the most passionate activities. The best part of it all is that: participants don't have to be an expert in any of the topics discussed; all they need are interest to develop a connection with their peers.

How Can Remote Managers Deal With Change?

Individuals who feel that their opinions are valued are more likely to pour their heart into their jobs, and successful managers know how to love such schools of thought. Here's the answer to the question of the era: how can managers tackle the management process effectively?

Understand the Process: The first step towards managing change is grasping why it is necessary. Without understanding, it may become difficult for you to craft a plan that boils down to the root concerns and pressing questions of your team members, such as:

  • How does the change affect me or my day-to-day work?
  • Does the change mean I should be fearful about my job?
  • Will I be moved to a different team?
  • Am I going to have a new manager?

Once you understand the precipitating factors of the change, you'll be better suited to address the concerns.

Communicate: When it comes to guiding your teammates and your company through a significant period of change, open and honest communication is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. Ultimately, communicate the changes to your audiences — your team members and the key stakeholders within the company.

Your team members need to understand the need for the change and how it is likely to impact their roles and responsibilities. Acknowledge the importance of listening to their concerns so that you can assuage the fear that they may have.

If you're the person initiating a change, you need to keep the other members of management, board members, and the C-suite members well informed about the processes. Communicate the initiated change by regularly updating them on its status to help them stay convinced. Although it's easier said than done, transparency embodies honesty and is the basis for trust between you and your team.

Prepare for Roadblocks: No matter how prepared you are for the change, some things may not go as planned. You have to begird yourself for a number of potential outcomes and be able to respond without delay and hesitation.

You can pull some mystery out of the equation by anticipating the roadblocks ahead of time. Empower your team members to adapt their behavior by removing blockers that prevent them from working toward the change. When the hindrances are well taken care of, the complex problems can be handled correctly.

Learning to Manage Change

Change is a big deal — and nobody is born with a knack for managing organizational change. In reality, it's a skill that takes years of hands-on experience and expertise to build. Bearing this in mind, you can take steps to bring in the change strategically to prepare better for the job.

In the process, you can embrace as many opportunities to flex your muscles on change management, pursue online courses, other professional development opportunities, or even speak with a mentor. Those are some excellent ways to hone your skills to become an effective manager.

Ensure that you understand the rationale behind the change, address the questions and inhibitions your team may have, and ensure everyone is on the same page. Keep an open dialogue with your team members, and only then will they be able to inspire their scrum teams further, thus leading to a productive move.

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