Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Establishing team norms, part of Managing Virtual Teams.
As a parent, nothing is better than having your kids display normal and predictable behaviors. It really makes your life easier because you can count on a degree of reliability and trust with your children. To do this, most parents use phrases like "call me when you get there," "text me when practice is over," "be home by eight-thirty." Now, while you might not want to enforce an eight-thirty curfew with your employees, you can create an opportunity to establish norms.
And instead of it being accidental, you can create them on purpose with your remote employees, which helps establish trust and a sense of reliability. First, let's talk about communication response times. It's kind of hard to stalk your remote employees and pop into their office and say "hey, did you get my message?" So, here are a few tips to help you establish some response norms. Let's start with text messages. I'd recommend setting norms for when your calendar says you're available and unavailable.
It might seem safe to assume the answer to the latter is "I'll respond when I'm free again." But when creating these norms, I suggest being as specific and clear as possible. One hour response time for text messages when you're available, and three hours when you aren't is usually achievable. But polling your team for what is reasonable is a best practice. E-mails can be tricky, so it's good to use response time categories. For example, you could create urgent, needs follow-up, and informative categories.
Urgent e-mails might have a four hour response, while informative e-mails might have a 24 hour response time. Pick reasonable times. Just make sure it works for you. With missed phone calls and voice mails, you might want to differentiate between clients and team members. If it's a client, you might want to respond by the end of the day. Amongst team members, I've found that a text or e-mail that includes both an acknowledgement of the call and a time when you intend to call back is usually sufficient.
The second type of team norm I recommend is respecting established schedules. When it comes to anything scheduled, be it phone calls or meetings, I recommend the [Five] Minute Rule. If you or any of your employees are going to be more than five minutes late, send a text to let someone on the team know that you are running late and when you expect to arrive. Then, have that person share that info with the rest of the team. Finally, my last best practice norm is to capitalize on the e-mail auto-reply feature.
Frequent use of this feature can be quite helpful with remote employees. Set norms for using the feature, such as "if you think you'll be unresponsive for more "than two hours, please use an auto-reply." The purpose for doing this is to provide useful and concise information. For example, "Out for a bit, will respond when I return" is neither particularly useful nor concise. I recommend something like "I am currently in a meeting and anticipate "returning to the office around 3 pm.
"I will respond to your e-mail at that time. "If this is an urgent matter, please contact "John Smith at 888-123-4567." Just be sure to give John a heads-up, so he knows about potential phone calls. Creating these norms can help instill dependability, efficiency, and collaboration. Hopefully, some of these suggestions can help you establish your norms. Oh, but if you do take a crack at creating an employee curfew, let me know how that goes.
Discover how to build rapport, set mutual expectations, communicate, connect, overcome conflict, get work done, and grow the team. Also included is a look at the top five challenges managers face in leading remote teams and helpful solutions that will get your team on track.
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