As the creative brain of a company, you might think that marketing teams would benefit the most from in-person collaboration. In an office setting, impromptu meetings and brainstorming sessions are common, and can often lead to great ideas. But more people are working remotely now than ever before, and marketing managers must adapt to new ways of leading their teams. A mindset shift is the first order of business when leading a remote marketing team. You need to realize that work is a thing that you do, rather than a place that you go. There really isn’t any reason that a team can’t be just as productive and creative outside of the office, given the abundance of collaboration tools and technology we have available.
In fact, 86% of workers say they feel more productive working remotely. However, according to Hubspot’s remote work report, most also said they needed more support from managers and better technology to do their job. That need for additional support can be hard to balance with the added layer of technology between you and your team. If you previously had an open-door policy, or a culture of deskside problem solving with your team, it can be a challenge to replicate that ease of communication online. But the solution is not to try replicating those in-office collaboration tactics. Instead, you’ll need to explore new ways of communicating with your team and find what works best for everyone.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to work primarily remotely for more than a decade, leading employees in different work environments across various time zones. While I admit, it can be hectic at times, I’ve learned a lot about how to connect with people in a meaningful way in our increasingly digital world. To that end, here are the three things I found to be most important for effectively leading a remote marketing team.
Don’t expect your team to know what you want from them. Give them more direction than you would in the office. When you’re in the office and interacting with your team every day, it’s much easier to keep track of what everyone is working on. You may not need as many formal meetings or status updates when a quick deskside chat will do. When everyone is working remotely, it can be a challenge to effectively keep everyone informed. Communication issues are a problem often cited by employees and managers alike.
To combat this, whether it’s setting targets, assigning tasks, or asking for updates, communicate often what’s needed and what you expect. This is especially important when you are communicating primarily online. Email, messaging services and collaboration tools add an extra layer of communication with your team, and they can simplify many things within your overall workflow. Rather than assigning tasks in a meeting and expecting them to get done, use a project management tool to aggregate tasks, deadlines and resources. Provide as much information as you can and outline specific outcomes you want to achieve and be sure to provide feedback and discuss those outcomes.
With as much information as possible laid out up-front and an easy way to provide updates, you can communicate frequently without anyone feeling micro-managed. It’s still important to have one-on-one chats with your team and communicate with them outside of a single platform. But by creating an information hub where progress is tracked, you are giving yourself better oversight as a manager while giving your team the space to work independently.
Focus on Outcomes
One of the many wonderful things about remote work is the flexibility it provides. If someone on your team needs to pick up their children from school or go to a doctor’s appointment, they shouldn’t feel like they need to ask for permission or that it will reflect negatively on them. Working hours are important for functional reasons, like scheduling meetings, but ultimately there isn’t any specific time that work can be done. Effectively leading a remote marketing team isn’t about making sure everyone looks busy. Instead of focusing on whether your team looks online on Teams or Slack all day, create a trusting atmosphere where you encourage your team to own their work. Their ability to produce positive results and meet goals is a lot more important than whether they are physically at their desk every minute of the workday.
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip about communication. When you set clear goals and communicate about expectations and priorities, you can more confidently trust your team to manage their own schedules and workload. From there, you can evaluate their performance based on the outcomes they achieved. You’ll likely find that giving your team a higher level of autonomy and independence will pay dividends in productivity and creativity.
Feedback Needs to be Two-Way
When you work in an office environment, you often have more visibility into things that may be impeding progress for your team. With a remote team, you may not be able to spot out inefficiencies or issues as quickly. Maybe someone on your team is struggling with their workload, or they are dealing with meeting overload. To provide empathetic, actionable feedback, you’ll need to start by asking questions rather than offering observations and suggestions right out of the gate.
Effectively leading a remote marketing team requires feedback to be a conversation rather than a directive. If members of your team are not producing desired outcomes, have an honest discussion about what may be causing them to miss targets or fall short on goals. With that information, you can determine areas for development, find ways to remove obstacles and collaboratively come up with solutions that work well for everyone. In turn, everyone on your team will feel more engaged in their own development. The insight and perspective they provide you will also give you a better overview as a manager, allowing you to make improvements where needed.
Ultimately, effectively leading a remote marketing team is all about mindset. As a leader, you are responsible for your team’s outcomes. It’s natural to feel apprehension about moving to a remote working model with less oversight into what your team is doing. But with so many tools available to enable and enhance remote collaboration, its easier than ever to stay connected with your team.
Everyone is getting used to new ways of working and determining what works best. If you want your team to succeed, establish processes collaboratively so that everyone is on the same page. By creating a system that works for everyone, your team will find it easier to stay connected and engaged. In turn, you can trust that they will produce the results you are looking for.