How Can Leaders Build High Performance Remote Work Teams?

The innovation and change we saw from the computer to the smart phone to help every business is upon us on with Remote Work.

Now the ability for any company to secure and manage talent from anywhere is not only a reality, but a part of the next important skill for every business to master!

Let me introduce myself. My name is Chris Dyer and I am the Founder of PeopleG2, a fully remote company since 2009.

With over 13+ years of experience leading successful remote teams, I have refined a five-point approach that I call STOIC:

  1. Start with culture
  2. Tighten up with technology
  3. Optimize performance
  4. Incentivize performance
  5. Care about consequences.

Here is an overview of the approach, starting with the reason I embrace stoicism.

Originating in ancient Greece, stoicism is based on the belief that what happens in life is neither good nor bad — it just is. For stoics, there is no cosmic mechanism by which good people are automatically rewarded and bad people automatically punished.

“You have to play the hand you're dealt. While the cards can evoke emotions from joy to despair, your response, your actions, should NOT be based on emotions.”
Chris Dyer

Instead, stoics believe that the best approach to life is to use reason to determine how to respond to whatever life throws your way.

Nelson Mandela is an important and inspiring role model for me, and he practiced stoicism.

When you apply the STOIC approach, then you’ll lead successful remote teams too.

But before we get into the details, let’s start with a definition of what a Remote Team Actually is.

What Is A Remote Team?

A Remote Team is any team regularly operating in different places.  Even if they go to an office, but are spread between locations, they are remote.

Key components of Remote Teams are collaboration, defining success and failure, and navigating a conflict resolution strategy when we hit bumps in the road.

An example would be a team of people all working from home, a team with some in the office and some at home, a team of people always on the road! 

Now that we understand what a remote team is, here is an introduction to the STOIC process that will help you be successful.

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The STOIC Approach To Leading High-Performance Remote Work Teams

Here is how I use the word STOIC as an acronym for this approach.

  1. Start with culture
  2. Tighten up with technology
  3. Optimize performance
  4. Incentivize performance
  5. Care about consequences

Once you learn all five steps then you can use them in whatever order suits you, but I always recommend starting with culture first.

The STOIC Approach To Leading High-Performance Remote Work Teams​

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1. Start With Culture

Working remotely is much more than just sending people home with a laptop. Success in remote or hybrid models requires an investment in time and effort.

In our book, “Remote Work: Redesign Processes, Practices and Strategies to Engage a Remote Workforce”, my co-author Kim Shepherd and I emphasize the importance of careful thought, planning and execution in creating remote or hybrid models.

After all, if you don’t design what you want, you may end up having to deal with what you get.

In my book, “The Power of Company Culture: How Any Business Can Build a Culture that Improves Productivity, Performance and Profits”I describe seven pillars of successful culture.

There isn’t space for a lot of detail here, but they provide a good framework for building a strong remote culture.

Pillar I: Transparency

Transparency refers to an organization’s willingness to share relevant information with employees.

Promoting transparency will encourage employees to be transparent with you. This is especially important in remote work, as employees are dealing with different challenges that they did in the onsite model.

Your leadership approach should include supporting employees in the transition, and you can’t visit each one at home.

Pillar II: Positivity

Research has shown that positive thoughts, words and actions elevate performance at work.

We know that the COVID pandemic and the transition to remote has raised stress levels. Instead of thinking of those as “problems,” engage your teams in exploring solutions to those challenges.

Focus on what works well and build on it.

Pillar III: Measurement

In addition to the widely known benefits of using metrics, measurement lends integrity to your culture by providing objectivity, and brings teams together by minimizing blame.

We’ll get into performance metrics shortly, and they are essential to leading remote teams.

Pillar IV: Acknowledgement

When you acknowledge or recognize employees, particularly in front of the team, you help them meet basic human needs like gaining trust and improving self-esteem.

In remote, you need to be deliberate about sharing successes and bolstering the connections between and among team members.

Pillar V: Uniqueness

Unique shared experiences and attitudes bring employees together and contribute to a welcoming, positive culture.

Emphasizing your company’s unique facets and implementing distinctive practices helps promote a strong, cohesive culture, even when employees aren’t in the same office.

Pillar VI: Listening

Our world is full of distractions, and this is especially true when working from home. Other family members, TVs, smartphones — even the computer you’re working on — all vie for your attention.

The best way for you, as a leader, to promote good listening habits in employees is to practice them yourself.

Pillar VII: Mistakes

Honest mistakes happen despite someone’s best intentions and judgment, and they often offer an opportunity for learning and improvement.

Leaders can encourage employees to “own up” to mistakes by setting the example. Share your own mistakes and be sure to show how you used the mistake to course correct.

2. Tighten Up With Technology

Remote work would not be possible without technology.

Once you have a strong culture in the works, consider your people and what they need to achieve their goals.

Beyond the functional technology like ERP and human resources platforms, you should provide your team with three key solutions:

  •  Communication/collaboration/chat tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Chatwork, etc.
  •   Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, GoogleMeet, Skype, etc.
  •   Document sharing applications, like Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, goCanvas, etc.

Getting input from the team when identifying technology needs and solutions will promote greater buy-in as you implement new technology.

“Would you invest your money in a company that has no revenue and hasn’t closed any sales?”

3. Optimize Performance

To manage remote employees effectively, use performance metrics. Instead of focusing on work habits, focus on whether employees are hitting goals and targets. 

At PeopleG2 we adopted a Scrum approach to support managing to metrics. The team needs to establish goals and expectations, and in weekly virtual Scrums, or stand-up meetings, everyone reports on their progress to those expectations.

To motivate top performance, leverage autonomy, mastery and purpose. These are things that humans naturally want, so when you provide them, you empower and engage people.

By “autonomy” I mean giving an employee a license to work independently, in the way that works best for them, and make certain decisions on their own.

Promoting mastery, including providing professional development opportunities, leads to employees who are more motivated, have better skills and are more productive.

Purpose is essential to us all. You need a clear mission and vision for your company, and every employee should be able to tell you how their job is linked directly to the mission and vision.

4. Incentivize Performance

Incentive compensation is common for sales roles, but you can leverage it for just about any position. I’m suggesting a plan that goes beyond bonuses.

Consider making a meaningful portion of each employee’s compensation variable, based on performance metrics.

For employees, the proposition does suggest that they may fall short of a specific goal, but it also offers the opportunity to surpass that goal. This approach is ideally suited for remote work, as you need to evaluate performance based on metrics.

You also need to attract and retain people who are independent and self-motivated.

Performance-based incentives can drive three results: first, people should be motivated to perform at a high level to earn more money.

Second, those who consistently fall short of income targets should choose to move on. By all means, coach low performers to help them succeed, but at some point both employee and employer need to recognize when the fit is not good.

Third, consistent high performance means greater customer satisfaction, which means more repeat business, which means more rewards for you and your people.

5. Care About Consequences

Working remotely can be isolating, and individual performance incentives may seem counterproductive to promoting collaboration and a team spirit.

For that reason, you should help your team gain a big-picture understanding of what happens when individuals perform well and what happens when they don’t. 

By “big picture” I mean the impact on the team and the company — people need to understand how their part contributes to overall company success, as well as how their performance supports the success of teammates.

A great example of this in a remote model has to do with sharing information.

Your technology platforms probably include a customer relationship management (CRM) system, like Salesforce or MS Dynamics. When individuals are diligent about documenting interactions with customers, teammates can then provide a more seamless experience when they interact with the customers. In addition, documentation can support analytical insights. 

However, when individuals fail to document carefully, negative events can creep into customer interactions, including duplication of effort and confusion.

And your CRM can’t run analyses without data — weak documentation means weak insights. Make sure your team understands the consequences of both strong and weak performance, and that they care about sharing the successes and learning from mistakes together.

Conclusion

In this article I introduced you to the ‘STOIC Approach To Leading High-Performance Remote Work Teams.’

Here is a recap of the STOIC acronym.

  1. Start with culture
  2. Tighten up with technology
  3. Optimize performance
  4. Incentivize performance
  5. Care about consequences

When you apply all five steps then you’ll be in the best possible position to (fill in the rest here)

Maybe you thought being stoic meant being unemotional and even grim.

However, consider some famous people who embrace stoicism, like Olympic gold-medal cross-country skier Chandra Crawford, hip-hop artist LL Cool J and actress Anna Kendrick. Being stoic can be upbeat and using STOIC can help you thrive in the remote world.

Picture of Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer inspires audiences with a straightforward delivery, insightful candor, and engaging humor. His talks leave audiences permanently transformed, offering innovative perspectives on leadership to improve company culture, and empower organizations to create a people centric approach. His talks are consistently ranked at the top by conference attendees and organizers!

As a highly sought-after keynote speaker, consultant, and advisor he brings a unique perspective from his expertise in building, leading, and exiting successful organizations. Through his research from two best-selling books he is always engaged with leading companies to help transform their culture, leadership and flexible work strategies.

He is also the host of a popular radio show TalentTalk where he has had hundreds of conversations with the world’s best leaders for his audience of over 3 million annual listeners. Currently he is the founder PeopleG2, an Accusource company, with a fully remote organization. PeopleG2 is routinely ranked one of the best places to work and has been listed as one of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies five times.

Chris enjoys contributing to the leadership conversation and has been featured by leading media outlets such as the BBC, Fox Business, NBC, Telegraph, The Sun, INC, and Forbes.

Contact Chris

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