10 Questions To Keep Your Remote Team Focused On Their Work

By David Hassell

Building and maintaining a strong company culture can be difficult when you only see your team for several minutes each week. While facetime is rapidly becoming a luxury in the world of remote work, it is far from the only way to check-in with your team.

Asking the right questions at the right cadence builds structure and team cohesion and turns your imaginary office into something tangible. This practice allows company leaders to connect the team, and gives employees the opportunity to share triumphs, great ideas, and the challenges they are facing.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If your employee is failing and no one is around to ask why, will he speak up? While you meditate on that one, here are 10 questions designed to help you support your remote team to do their best.

1) Who on the team would you like to get to know better? Tag them here to set up a virtual or actual coffee date.

How do you create workforce-wide cohesion when your employees are distributed nationally or globally? Encourage your employees to set up time to get to know someone else at the company via video conference. This is particularly beneficial when it takes place across-teams and goes a long way towards preventing the dreaded silo effect.

2)  Since we are predominantly a remote team, what do you think could help us to improve daily communication?

I am certain that you, my fellow leader, are very creative…a born problem-solver. But the best solutions often come from the people who deal with the same problem every day. The answer may lie just behind the sealed lips of one of your talented employees. For example, improving day to day communication could mean blocking times when individuals are unavailable so they can stay in flow.

3) How have you improved your remote working skills this month? Have you identified any challenges?

Remote work absolutely comes with its own set of skills. Time management, prioritization, consolidation, collaboration and a whole slew of other “-ations”. Offer people a platform to suggest a new technology or a system that helped them stay organized and productive from a distance.

4) What value do you get out of the daily/weekly call? How would you feel if we held it less frequently?

A great strategy for keeping the team connected is frequently bringing them together for facetime. Ours is a Monday-Friday ritual we call the Daily Boost. We check-in for 15 minutes every morning (or every afternoon for the NYC crew and every evening for our folks in Europe) and ask about triumphs from the previous day as well as that day’s priorities.

We recently asked the team this question to see if the meeting is beneficial or if that time could be better spent, and the overwhelming response was positive. This is a good one to pause and then resurrect every few months as the team grows or dynamics shift.

5) How are you feeling? How’s the morale in your virtual office? What challenges are you facing? How are you going to fix them and where do you need help?

Ok, technically that’s 5 questions. But lumped together, this is basically a morale check-in. When everyone works in the same physical space, managers can pick up on visual cues that let them know how people are feeling. Is that person one more assignment away from burnout? Are the last two hires bringing down the team?

Asking this question lets people know that you care how they feel about their performance and work environment, and allows you to celebrate the positives and remedy the negatives.

6) Are you out of the office or traveling in the near future?

Like many startups, 15Five doesn’t have a vacation policy. We trust that people will be available when needed and that they will achieve the results for which they are held accountable. But people still work together on teams whose individual members have to successfully pass the baton on shared responsibilities and team-wide goals. Everyone needs to know if they will be running the race alone for 3 or 4 days.

7) What has communication been like with team leaders, managers, and directors?

We don’t have an open-door policy, we have an open-door culture. But there are many companies whose leaders say, “I am always available, just ping me”. The only problem is that those pings go unanswered.

This question is a critical barometer for organizational health all the way up and down the ladder, since communication deficits are responsible for so many failures.

8) What are your primary goals this quarter?

People can be extremely busy and still contribute very little to overall company goals. Asking this question lets you know how effective your internal communications really are.

Did your two-hour marketing meeting fall on deaf ears? Here is your chance to see what the team took away from meetings and how well they understand how their efforts fit into the big picture. You can then re-align them so that they will have a successful quarter.

9) Would any additional training be helpful?

Few employees will show up at your desk and say, “Hey thanks for hiring me for that one thing and now that I’ve evolved into more, I need to adopt and sharpen some new skill sets.”

Every week technology shifts. Google develops new algorithms for SEO or a new coding platform is created. Your staff is moving backwards simply because they are standing still. You don’t necessarily have to spend thousands on training or hiring someone with a different skill-set, but this question presents you with necessary information so you can keep flowing.

10) What has become harder and easier in our work and business? What should we consider changing?

The road to hell is paved with organizational procedure. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Procedure is an inevitable byproduct of growth, but not every system will work well at every company. Wouldn’t you like to know if everyone liked it better the way that it used to be and why?

To keep your remote team focused, you have a choice — ask questions or become a mindreader. The good new is that new technologies are emerging that will one day make mind-reading a reality. The bad news is that you will need a $3 million, 15-ton fMRI machine and someone who is willing to lie inside of it while thinking secret thoughts.

For now, maybe just take your chances with employee feedback software.

How do you keep your remote team focused on achieving company goals? Leave a comment below. 

This post originally appeared on FirmologyImage Credit: McScrooge54


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