How to manage and motivate remotely: 7 tips for success

By Karl O’Connor and Cariona Neary of OCN Coaching Champions*

Working from home – control the controllables!

A period of crisis leadership under former Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey was described as GUBU: grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented. This acronynm helps to describe the current Covid 19 challenges.

For managers suddenly thrust into the role of managing remote teams, at a time when everyone in the community is feeling stressed, we need to adapt quickly and learn how to manage and motivate remote teams.  According to Prof. Finian Buckley of DCU,   wider psychological challenges arise from the limiting of natural social contact, such as the cessation of a natural daily (office work) routine and experiencing a lack of control over one’s life which can be debilitating and exhausting.

The key challenge for many managers is the need to adopt a new paradigm around remote working and focus on managing for results while trusting team members to work productively.

Based on our coaching assignments across the public, private and NGO sector, here are our 7 tips for managing and motivating remote teams effectively:

  1. Clarity. Agree how you will work remotely, your expectations,  how and when you plan to keep one another updated. Video meetings can be helpful but every meeting doesn’t have to involve a video catch up (like Zoom, Google Hangouts). One fallout from home working is that people are now jumping from one overly long video call to the next. Curb your enthusiasm!  
  2. Purpose. Refresh and remind your team that their daily work adds value to the overall purpose of your organisation. Where people feel stuck or dis-connected review short-term goals and keep up some momentum. Have regular 1:1s and start with the positive – what is working?
  3. Communicate regularly. Communicate more and not just when things go wrong! Without face to face connections, listen closely to what is being said and also tune into what isn’t being said by asking questions to clarify your own interpretation.
  4. Daily Huddles. Factor in short daily virtual huddles. They are even more relevant in the current uncertain environment. Huddles help team work, prioritisation and well being. Huddles can be your virtual ‘water cooler’ catchup.
  5. Manage for results. Agree goals first, then manage and motivate for results around projects and objectives. Avoid micro-managing.  Praise whenever possible and also challenge when necessary. Just because you can’t see team members doesn’t mean that they aren’t working!
  6. Trust your team. Once they are clear regarding their role, and have the necessary resources,  trust your team to get on with it. Ensure your calendar is visible and have a virtual open door when they need support.
  7. Wellbeing. During times of stress like Covid 19, make time for some social conversations. Ask team members how they are feeling. You don’t have to have all the answers but having a focus on wellbeing will increase rapport and people will feel your support. It also reduces feelings of isolation.
Ashling O’Connor of Zendesk

In Zendesk, Onboarding Manager Ashling O’Connor advises: Allow your team to talk. A lot of people are facing challenges right now so allowing your team to voice what’s going on for them, what’s important to them and how we may be of support, might just be the thing that gets them through that day. We finish off the week with virtual happy hour, where teams share a break and stories with colleagues.

As you manage your team members working remotely, use these seven tips as a checklist to help you focus and motivate them. Home working or remote working has become the new normal, so get used to it and upskill where necessary. There are also a myriad of resources to help managers. Check out for example, the CIPD Resource library for more tips. *Professor Finian Buckley, DCU is currently preparing two Webinars for general release on the whole psychology of working from home and the second more specific to ‘the challenge of leading – managing employees remotely’ a do’s and don’ts for managers-team leaders.

Any queries or manager coaching challenges, please contact Karl O’Connor or Cariona Neary at Cariona also heads up Neary Marketing & Communications.

This Blog first appeared in on 2 April 2020