Working from home often means staying out of a lot of noise and drama that take place in the office or co-located workplace. That can be a blessing, to be sure. But sometimes silence can be ominous. In fact, being left too much to our own devices can be one sign that your team is in trouble.
In working with our clients, we often hear about a problem within teams that, by its nature, isn’t discovered until there are real problems getting work done: exclusion. This means certain team members don’t get invited on conference calls in which they have a stake; or someone “forgets” (intentionally or not) to invite them to a meeting where important issues that impact them are decided; or they are no longer copied on emails that share valuable information.
One of the most insidious challenges on remote teams is consciously keeping people involved. They can’t wander the halls and overhear a conversation, or see someone working on a task and ask what’s going on. Usually, remote workers are doing whatever it is they are supposed to do, and outside information needs to come to them intentionally.
Unfortunately, if people are perceived as “hard to get along with”, or “they never speak up or add to the conversation anyway,” their teammates may start excluding them from important communication. Why invite someone to a webmeeting when they never say anything?
As a manager, it’s important that you are able to spot the signs of trouble:
- Are there certain team members who seem chronically uninformed about important events, or are consistently left off invitations to online meetings and conference calls?
- When you get emails that are sent to the team, do you ever scan the list of recipients to see who’s included—and who isn’t? Do you notice people who should be in the loop who are being left off?
- When doing one-on-one calls, are you checking people’s knowledge about the state of the team and the project? If you hear “I didn’t know that…”, you may want to pay some attention to signs of trouble.
- When speaking to team members, are you hearing signs of discontent within the team? “Do we really need to bring her into it?” or “I’m not going to bother asking ________, he never answers anyway,” should sound alarm bells.
As a manager, it’s important to help your team understand who needs to be included in communication and why. If team members are being left out, it’s our job to help both the person being excluded understand why they need to be involved, and help others know the role and importance of every member of the team.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.