Insights and Best Practices for Building Remote Team Resiliency
Many companies have gravitated to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Tech Leadership webinar co-hosted by TalentSeer and Robin.ly offers insights and tips on how to manage and work with a tech team from home.
As numerous companies around the globe shifted to remote working amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes more critical to effectively engage and manage a remote tech team and start developing a remote-friendly culture for the future. TalentSeer and Robin.ly co-hosted a special Tech Leadership Webinar on April 9, 2020, to offer timely insights and pro tips for the tech community during this challenging time. This article is authored by Margaret Laffan, Former Host of Robin.ly and VP of Business Development of Talent.
I had the pleasure to moderate a webinar with two prominent tech leaders -- Rong Yan, CTO @ Verishop and Former Sr Director of Engineering @ Snapchat, and Omar Rahman, Senior Manager of AI & ML @ Adobe. I've pulled together some of the best practices and thoughts they share on our “new normal”.
Watch the webinar recording:
Creating Trust and Having Empathy
Above all, most importantly, what is required to meet this moment is trust and empathy.
Trust is the foundation in every team, not just in a remote working environment. But remote working makes this become more important. If people don't trust each other no matter what process or what principle your setup is you're not going to set fixed issues. Creating team trust can be challenging.
It's important for leaders to make sure that we have the right type of mindset and overview with the team on generating and earning trust.
Having empathy for your team especially during the correct situation is crucial. It’s important to understand the challenges that people have been facing, for example, parenting/educating/caring for family members at home. And to be flexible, understand that everyone’s availability may not be during the core hours of the day but can be late at night or early morning etc. depending on their family situation.
And be a good listener, especially at these times, people have certain situations to deal with. Just listen to them and try to help them out as much as possible.
The Importance of Communication
Communication and information flow can be challenging in “normal times”, given multiple people, decisions, context, time-zones etc.
In distributed teams, few best practices to make this easier to manage:
- Over Communicate - with all the communication points it can be challenging to get your point across. If you want to discuss for example a technical topic make sure to do so with context, with an example, write down the logic and expectations on what you want to answer
- Proactively Communicate - people often tend not to communicate as frequently between remote teams and main/local teams for various reasons, can be cultural or due to distance etc. Take steps to proactively share and communicate information. Don’t wait for others to collect the information from you.
- Written Communication is the best way to distribute information more broadly to multiple audiences, not only does it create transparency, it can build trust and effective decision making. Make sure to communicate meeting minutes, weekly updates, main decisions, etc.
- Communication Tools such as Slack can get cumbersome with lengthy conversation threads – use this current situation to create more discipline and structure to the channels; assign team members to summarize slack conversation/decisions to mitigate against spending time going back through previous conversations. Be conscious of people's team and make it easy for them to get caught up on latest decisions etc.
- Put information into one single place - creates greater visibility and transparency for the entire company (depends on company size) to see what is happening, not just the stakeholders. Whilst some people may do this, some people don’t, forcing this process puts in place a discipline and best practice for all to follow
- Promote Active listening especially on team calls; take out the in-person distraction and everyone is forced to actively listen to each other; being mindful of when to respond on the call.
How Remote Working Changes Behaviors & Perceptions
An observation to date is that people are starting to realize that working from home can be more effective than many expected; we have greatly improved teleconferencing technologies and network infrastructure to enable a productive working environment.
It can also incentivize in several ways such as creating meetings only when necessary, creating less disruption for people especially when they need time to focus. For some reason meeting preparation tends to be done better when remote; the agenda is clear, structured and creates time efficiency. Meeting notes/action items are sent out afterwards.
Remote work is changing perceptions and inter-team collaboration as it relates to the existing inequity between headquarters and remote teams and is now creating a very different learning environment. Previously when there have been concerns about remote working, this can be due to the fact that you have a mixed set of people, some are at the ‘headquarters”, some are not, oftentimes the people based in the ‘headquarters” have the unfair advantage of being more vocal, more visible; this can make those remote sound less effective, less opportunity to have side conversations, input into meetings as visual clues are removed etc.
In this current environment, everyone is equal now, everyone is having to take equal positions, and those who have typically been at the “headquarters” are now experiencing what it is to be remote and this is changing the perception and dynamic of the team.
Ultimately as Rong states, “Remote management is still a difficult and unsolved problem. We are always trying to collect enough best practice for us to think about what we can do to make it better in the future”.
In spite of how we got here now is a good practice time to double down on the remote working environment and culture that leaders are looking to build across teams and their companies.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable - By Patrick M. Lencioni
Search Inside Yourself - By Chade-Meng Tan
Making Sense #194 The New Future of Work - Podcast by Sam Harris in conversation with Matt Mullenweg
CTO @ Verishop; Former Sr Director of Engineering @ Snapchat
Dr. Rong Yan is currently the CTO for Verishop Inc, an e-commerce platform that combines quality curation and discovery with the convenience you’ve come to expect. He also served in several engineering leadership roles previously in Snapchat, Square, and Facebook. Dr. Yan received his M.Sc. (2004) and Ph.D. (2006) degree from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science with research interests in large-scale machine learning, data mining, social media, multimedia information retrieval, and computer vision.
Senior Manager of AI & ML @ Adobe
Omar Rahman is a Senior Manager of AI/ML at Adobe. In his current role, Omar leads a team of Data Scientists, Machine Learning Engineers, and Data Engineers in creating state of the art machine learning solutions for Adobe’s customers. Omar holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University. Omar loves to play chess and volunteers his free time to guide and mentor graduate students in AI.
Vice President, Business Development @TalentSeer; Host @ Robin.ly; Venture Partner @BoomingStar Ventures
Margaret Laffan is the Vice President of Business Development at TalentSeer—a specialized AI talent partner dedicated to building and nurturing AI teams for companies at various growth stages—and a venture partner with BoomingStar Ventures—a $1.5b fund focused on AI, robotics, and autonomous driving early stage startups. Margaret leads the development of new partnerships to accelerate the expansion of TalentSeer’s AI talent ecosystem. Previously, Margaret drove sales and business development at SAP and has held leadership roles in various startups. Laffan is published on Forbes and contributes to other media. She earned her master’s degree in political science from the University of Dublin, and has 15+ years working in industry, nonprofit and startup sector. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretLaffan