May 29, 2020

Managing a Team Remotely Through Periodic Check-Ins

By Sarah Fay, Talent Advisor, Learning & Development & Jennifer Comella, Senior OD Specialist, Learning & Development

Managing a Team Remotely Through Periodic Check-Ins Advisory

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many of us to reckon with an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation in a place that has long felt supremely familiar and comfortable: our homes.

Under current stay-at-home orders, we are expanding the functionality of our homes way beyond just, well, living. Where once we associated our homes with activities like eating dinner with the kids, playing with the dog and watching TV, our homes today serve as schools, offices, day care facilities – and yes, residences.

In the midst of all this, business leaders must still manage relationships with colleagues and subordinates, many of whom are facing the same reality. For those of us “bosses” currently working from home, we have a few tricks up our sleeve to help you help your team members.

Say the term “check-in” out loud and then ask yourself, does it sound like you mean, “Just wanted to check in, are you done with that yet?” Or, “Hey, just checking in, how are you today?” Or, “Let’s stop for a second. I want to do a check-in. Where are you right now? Feeling productive? Feeling lost? Let’s connect.”

We challenge you to make the intent of your check-in request the latter. It’s important to conduct a real check-in with all of your team members individually and collectively more often that you may have done in your regular office setting. Why? The answer is simple: It makes a difference.

Working remotely can magnify feelings of isolation. Conducting a quick check-in will help combat those feelings. As humans, we crave interaction. Meaningful interactions help us feel validated, productive and wanted. We as leaders need to create opportunities for interactions among our team members to help them stay engaged in this new world.

Here’s how you can conduct a check-in:

During a group check-in call, ask each person on your team to say one word that describes how they are doing. You’ll get a lot from that one word. Pay attention to their tone, and if the call is a video conference, their body language. Try to pick up on the tone of the group and write down words that help you qualify it.

As a leader, it’s then important to acknowledge the tone you pick up, ask the group to validate it, and manage to it. And, don’t be afraid to acknowledge the wrong tone – the group will correct you, and that can open the door to a deeper conversation. We then encourage you to meet individually with your team members to dig deeper into their one word. It’s a conversation starter for connection and meaning to your relationship and your work.

The “check-in” is an effective strategy for managing virtually. Here are some others to consider:

  • Definite clear expectations, including how and when to communicate, expected response times, project leads and due dates.
  • Continue to build trust. Find fun ways to get to know your team in their “new” environment.
  • Communicate using video when possible. Ninety-three percent of our communication has nothing to do with the words that come out of our mouths, while 55% emanates through our body language and 38% comes through our tone of voice. Make sure you connect via video conference to help ensure that messages are not misconstrued. You want to avoid inciting panic and confusion within your team.
  • Connect people to purpose. It can be hard to keep people engaged and connected remotely. Helping them understand their purpose and how they contribute to the big picture and mission of the organization while working from home can help ensure they remain engaged and committed.
  • Facilitate impromptu interactions. Lots of great ideas come during those “water cooler” moments – make sure you are creating the space to continue that creativity – even when no physical water cooler currently exists.
  • Show empathy. Working from home can be hard for some people. Make sure to display empathy and support your team in any way you can. It may take a little extra effort but it is well worth it. Set regular times to check in as a team and also to meet individually with your team members. Doing so helps ensure that everyone feels like they are part of the team. Everyone will also know they are on the same page and working toward the same goal.

Coronavirus Resource Center

Have more questions about the impact of the coronavirus on your business? Visit Marcum’s Coronavirus Resource Center for up-to-date information.