100 leaders were asked about their #1 “little thing” to help them connect with remote teams. Here’s what they said:

June 15, 2020
7 min

Little things that can help connect remote teams

So far in 2020, it’s been one unprecedented challenge after another. And, as the challenges mount, the role of leadership at all organizational levels has continued to grow. 

The world of work has changed drastically since our last little things article.  All teams that can work remotely, are doing so. For everyone else, there are now strange new work conditions — complete with masks, distancing measures, and temperature checks. Meanwhile, the market, reacting to this new world, has applied new pressures from all sides. 

Leaders are having to meet this barrage of challenges and inspire confidence for their teams’ future — all while leading remotely. This isn’t to mention the personal strain any individual leader may be feeling at a given time. 

Through all of this, what are leaders to do?

Despite the unprecedented nature of the situation leaders are facing, human-focused strategies remain as effective as they have always been. 

New challenges, time tested solutions

When things break down, many organizations opt for opportunism. They might break from their previously held strategy for a few moments of free advertising — or to secure short term gain. Such myopic thinking is never a solid strategy, but in a crisis, it backfires more quickly than ever. This is especially true at the team level. 

As teams are compelled to work remotely, or under strange new conditions, people are seeking a sense of normalcy and human connection more than ever.

No, new challenges don’t mean you need to scramble for a new strategy. An untested new scheme is not what will inspire confidence in your team. Rather, leaders should hone in on the aspects of their time tested strategy that has always held true. 

For many organizations, these consistent truths are represented by their core values. These values offer a clear path when every direction seems to have its own pitfalls. 

It’s all about the little things 

Amidst all the chaos and turbulence this year has brought us, the idea of living values may seem more confusing than ever. When you don’t know which way is up, how do you know which way to go? 

To live your values, simply put, is to focus on the little things. 

Today’s forward-thinking leaders recognize that focusing on the little things — identifiable positive actions — is essential for leaders no matter what challenges they are currently facing. To identify what the best little things are in these trying times, we’ve asked top leaders at progressive organizations what their little things are. 

In our last article covering leaders’ #1 little thing, we found that elevating human relationships was the defining factor. Despite the new challenges that have emerged, this essential strategy is more relevant than ever. 

In their own words

Sarah Bird

CEO, Moz

“While we’ve turned to remote work, for the time being, our company’s values have stayed the same. We lean on our values to guide us through any situation within our company. That must continue to be the case today. For example, Transparency has helped us be clear and direct with one another and we’ve also encouraged generosity since people inside and outside our company need help. Last and certainly not least, we’re trying to have some fun. I’m a believer in the power of laughter, so we’re also finding ways to bring joy to our teams and those around us.

Amanda Felkey 

Behavioral Economist, Lake Forest College

“In this remote landscape, where people are even more affected by their personal situations, empathy is key. Everyone’s situation is so different, which makes taking the time to listen and really hear matters more than ever. As leaders it is important we are not only empathetic of those we lead but that we convey how important this empathy is so our team members prioritize empathy when interacting with others. In my role, not only did I need to be empathetic of the single mother putting her courses online, but it was important to remind professors to be empathetic of their students who were asymmetrically affected by the switch to remote learning.

Joe Gianni

CEO, 2logical 

“I have countless quotes that I admire…. But this is a quote about, well, Fighting Back, Not Allowing outside circumstances to end our dreams:

‘There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.’ Ella Wheeler Wilcox …”

Rosalie Hakker 

President, Contract Trainers

“My suggestion is frequent, on-going communication that is open and honest.  Perhaps a personal Zoom or Team meeting every other week to all employees sharing both the good and the bad news. And finally, specific feedback as a show of appreciation and support for the trials and tribulations of working during the COVID age. For example, thank each department or division with a specific achievement during these challenging times.”

David R. Jarczyk 

Principal, KPMG

Have a personal interaction with everyone you work with, every day. The connection drives everything.”

Kathryn Minshew

Founder & CEO, The Muse

“We are seeing the integration of work and life as we’ve never seen it before – family members in the background, children, and pets popping into zoom calls – and the best leaders recognize that this shared humanity can bring us all together. Take time to ask how your colleagues are doing (truly), say hello to their kids or family members who pop into video – even set up a “Bring your family to Zoom” call to get to know each other. The more our people understand and celebrate each other’s full humanity, the stronger we’ll be as teams.

Chris  Michaud

VP, EPAM Continuum 

Camera On. Always. Even when you are tired and don’t look your best. We need to see each other. And, in many ways, seeing each other in our homes, with kids running wild in the background, or a cat jumping up onto your lap, looking for attention, these things help to make us all more human. It helps to keep us connected.” 

Christopher Mulligan

CEO, TalentKeepers

“Leaders are the lens through which their team members see everything else in the organization. Now more than ever, leaders need to be communicating frequently with their team members, especially those who are now working in modified work settings. Scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member provides a consistent communication channel team members can rely upon to provide and receive updates on how they are feeling and what they need to be effective.”

Mike Myatt

Chairman, N2Growth

“Leaders should take off their executive hat, and put on their human being hat. Stop thinking about what you need from your team and give them what they need from you.

Joanna Zucker

Chief Executive Officer at PCA SKIN

“As my leadership team and myself navigate COVID-19, I have relied on learnings from past times of crisis to determine what our organization needs – they need to know we care, that their safety is our top priority. They need to feel connected despite being miles vs. feet away. They need to know the state of the business and how we are pivoting to win in these tough times. They need to know how they can contribute in new ways.  They need to feel supported, regardless of the context. Leading with empathy, kindness, transparency, and agility is what I strive for.”


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