One of the biggest challenges that most team leaders are facing these days is -- how to sustain team morale and engagement in this new distributed environment. The risk of employee burnout or feeling disengaged and unmotivated is something that almost every manager is concerned about. Not having as many touch points into a team member’s day to day makes it even more challenging to diagnose this problem. We all know that micromanagement and dialing up the frequency of meetings is of course not the answer, but what is?
1) Set Up Processes that Improve Transparency
On my team, we are able to measure output and almost all of the requests inbounding to the team are tracked centrally so everyone can see what others are working on. This stops anyone from feeling like they are working in a silo and also makes it easy for the team lead to track productivity. Having access to metrics, such as the throughput of each team member across a period of time, has also made it easier for me to gauge whether the work distribution has been equal. These processes have enabled us to transition pretty seamlessly to a distributed environment.
2) Create Public Awareness of Your Team’s Work
One thing that has been largely missing during these long stretches of shelter-in-place are events that we look forward to, provide a sense of achievement, and break up the monotony. While we may no longer have as much of that in our personal lives, we can still create some of the endorphin rush that comes with accomplishing something tangible at work.
I’ve been encouraging my team to deliver training sessions to our business orgs, because it gives them something tangible to prepare for and helps them to showcase the most recent developments that they’ve been working on. We recently had a very successful training on a new contracting process that a team member of mine had worked on for months, and without this event, it would have just gone by largely uncelebrated and unnoticed. Make sure that as a manager, you attend or participate in these training sessions so that you can be a cheerleader and deliver feedback later.
I use public channels to help my team’s successes stay visible to our broader legal team, such as via our Slack group and team meetings. When I receive positive feedback from internal clients about someone on my team, I forward that to leadership and copy my report, which has the dual benefit of helping management stay in touch with what’s happening and the report to feel like their work has been elevated. These actions only take a few minutes of your time and make a difference to the level of appreciation your reports feel for the work that they are doing.
3) Keep focusing on growth and development
It’s easy to want to write off this entire year as a bad dream and tempting just to let projects fall to the wayside because it’s hard enough as it is to keep the lights on. This attitude unfortunately has the opposite effect because it takes much of the momentum and purpose out of our work. While it’s important for us to express empathy for someone who may be in a particularly challenging situation and adjust accordingly, as managers we should still be setting team OKRs and coaching each individual on how they can keep improving and developing their careers.
I’ve made it a point of collecting feedback from business partners who frequently work with my reports. Positive feedback helps an employee to feel like their work has made a tangible impact and that their contribution matters. Constructive feedback helps to keep folks accountable and gives them momentum for improvement. It’s also very beneficial to ask your report to provide you with direct feedback. Directing them with a few open-ended questions will help them feel more comfortable with sharing. Keeping an open forum and encouraging your reports to provide you with feedback will strengthen the trust between you and make you a more effective manager.
Ultimately, even though your team is no longer within ear-shot or eye-shot, by doing the above you are demonstrating that you are in touch with what’s happening, you care about each individual’s growth, and you’re helping them feel that what they are doing matters.
The LegalDesk Team