When you are suddenly forced to lead your team remotely, with little to no preparation, how can you establish continuity, both professionally and personally? Henkel asked their managers for their best tips and tricks on how to keep a sense of community and direction going in their teams. 

Listen to your employees
“It is critical now more than ever to be connecting frequently throughout your organization, not just to your direct reports. Openly asking questions and listening…recognizing the anxieties and concerns your teams are feeling. Helping them to prioritize and acknowledge their health and the health of their families comes first.” 

– David DiBernardino, senior vice president, sales beauty care, North America

Give your team some structure and guidance
Help your employees establish a routine. Communicate clearly what the short-term priorities and long-term priorities are and make sure everyone is working towards a common goal.

“When your team is based in different locations, it is crucial to have absolute clarity of tasks and expected outcome in order not to lose traction due to double-work or interpretations of tasks and objectives. Writing skills also become more important: Emails must clarify requests, address questions, and get their point across – all while not wasting either the reader’s or writer’s time.” 

-Thomas Holenia, head of purchasing Asia-Pacific & president Henkel Singapore

Connect with your employees on a personal level
“Especially in this exceptional situation, it is essential to maintain an even more regular exchange than usual with your Direct Reports, and to inquire about their personal circumstances. The exchange should be as personal as possible for example by showing your home office environment, letting your child waive into the picture or showing your cat. This promotes cohesion and increases motivation – if it comes from the heart – since the direct supervisor represents the lifeline to the company for the employee.”

– Katrin Sulzmann, head of corporate communications Europe, India, Middle East & Africa

Keep track of what each team member is working on
This does not mean micromanaging. Some team members might struggle using their time effectively, while others risk of burning out because they don’t know when to switch off. Respect both types and encourage finding a balance by regularly checking in with them. Think about how team members can support each other or what employees can do if they cannot work on their usual tasks. 

“Working remotely has motivated us to learn about and explore new digital resources that we might not have previously recognized – but now, don’t want to miss out on. With the many trainings available on our Learning Hub, we can manage our own upskilling journey and together, drive the digital transformation at Henkel!

– Katrin Kieven, head of global talent acquisition      

Do not expect employees to be available 24/7 and allow flexibility
Working hours may vary a lot among your team members, make sure that your employees clearly communicate their availability and so do you.  

“The home may not always be a controlled environment, therefore as a leader you should respect the time of your team and your own time, allowing extra flexibility for unexpected situations or adaptability to new ones.”

– Marianela Garcia,  head of shared service center, Mexico

Ensure that there is an overlap of a few hours where the whole team is working
“When working across time zones, it’s hard to maintain a normal working day for all. Therefore, it’s important to allow everyone to set their boundaries of what is an acceptable extension for them, whether it’s an earlier start or a later finish. While flexibility is needed to bring the team together, boundaries avoid conflicts and frustrations.”

– Amira Kamel, head of sales and channel excellence, adhesive technologies, United Arab Emirates

Don’t put yourself under too much pressure
There will be days where you just don’t feel well, where you have to take care of your family, and where the whole situation feels overwhelming and unmanageable. This is okay and shows your team that you are only human as well and that it is totally fine to struggle sometimes.     

Build or maintain a culture of trust
When leading from a distance, communicate even more and show that you’re there: when your team asks you for feedback, let them know that you received their request and give them an expected time for your response. This will create predictability, security and ensures that everybody feels heard. 

A clear structure, good and frequent communication as well as showing understanding for the different situations your team members are facing are the foundations for successfully managing remote teams. If possible, organize a face-to-face event that brings the whole team together and give them the chance to get to know each other in person. No virtual communication tool will ever replace human connection.      

Source: Henkel