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Use the 3-C Framework

We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time…So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work.

May Wong, Stanford News

If you haven’t guessed by now, remote work is the new normal. What’s not new is that some teams are high performing and others languish in mediocrity.

Virtual work is not the barrier. The barrier is the “affinity distance”– the perception amongst team members of how mentally and emotionally connected they feel with each other.

So, why should managers pay attention to this soft and fuzzy notion?

Teams that have high virtual distance suffer a 90% drop in innovation effectiveness, more than 80% plunge in trust, and 60% decline in finishing projects on time and within budget, among other negative effects.

Keith Ferrazzi, Harvard Business Review

We know that high trust teams with a clear purpose, roles, and responsibilities, and shared accountability set the context for high performance. There’s actually nothing warm and fuzzy about creating these conditions.

Use the 3-C framework – get your team on track

Connection. The well-known Gallup Q12 survey statement “I have a best friend at work” correlates close interpersonal relationships with engagement and productivity.

Coaching Tip: Create remote buddy duos/trios. Require buddies to meet every week for 15-20 minute check-ins (that’s your management what). Let the buddies determine the how they want to meet and discuss. Rotate buddies monthly (the who changes, allowing for more diverse connections).

Communication. As goes communication, goes the team. Create a cadence of predictable and quality communication.

Coaching Tip: Apply the sturdy triad of communications:

  • Weekly team meetings. Keep it under 50 minutes.
  • Weekly one-on-ones. 20–30 minutes per employee.
  • Daily huddles. At beginning or end of day. Maximum of 10 minutes.

Collaboration. Require your teams to regularly co-develop solutions, action plans, and lines of accountability.

Coaching Tip: Proactively address these common pesky questions to effective team collaboration:

  • What are normal work hours?
    • For example, 9am to 5pm
  • What are common available blocks of time for collaborating?
    • For example, parents may only be available during school hours
  • What are healthy boundaries?
    • For example, are folks expected to answer emails and calls after agreed upon normal work hours?
  • What are designated channels of communications?
    • For example, is it appropriate to call a co-worker’s personal cellphone?
  • What are timeliness expectations for returning communications?
    • For example, emails must be responded to within 24 hours
  • What are the established processes for different scenarios?
    • For example, what decisions require the whole team (decision by committee) and what decisions can be made by individuals (executive action)?

To point out the obvious, there is nothing “soft” about building a high performing remote team. As the management adage goes – the soft skills are the hard skills. Managing remotely is difficult, especially for those of us doing it for the first time. However, by intentionally leveraging the 3-C Framework, your team will lower their “affinity distance,” grow closer, increase collaboration, and elevate performance.

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring. –Steve