5 Ways Leaders Can Uplevel Remote Team Culture

As a modern leader, the challenges you face are unique and constant. If you are operating in a fully-remote work environment, you are likely facing a continuous barrage of emails, instant messages and virtual meetings–and that’s just on an individual basis! So, how do you balance all of this while also creating opportunities for your team culture to grow and flourish? Here are five tips to help you take your team culture to the next level:

  1. Be available. One of the best ways to improve your remote team’s culture is to show your team that you are available to them and their development. Having regular 1:1 meetings with each of your team members (particularly any direct reports), hosting virtual “office hours” and using language that expresses support for their development, or encourages them to come to you with any challenge, can make all the difference in how supported your team feels. The more available you are to support them, the more authentically they will show up for you and your team’s mission.
  2. Create time and space for real connection. If your team members have spent most or all of their time working remotely, they likely haven’t had the opportunity to connect through synchronous moments, like in the mini kitchen or bumping into each other in the hallway. These are crucial moments because they help team members grow to understand each other on a deeper level, which increases trust and confidence. To create moments like these in a remote setting, you can add a chat thread that’s specifically for “Water Cooler Conversations” or even something silly like “Meme of the Day.” Even better, you can plan a weekly “Virtual Trivia Hour” and divide your team into smaller groups to encourage a fun and healthy competition. Any kind of dedicated time together where you are not focusing on work-related discussion, will make all the difference!
  3. Model and encourage work-life balance. If you are the manager, teammates will follow your lead when it comes to hours worked and how to practice healthy work-life balance. This means you have the chance to set some of the standards by modeling them yourself. If you are able, set specific work hours when you will be available, rather than responding to emails or messages far into the night hours. When you take time off, be clear that you will not be able to respond to emails during that time and stick to that boundary. This will encourage your team to really take time off and set clear boundaries with their personal lives that help to keep their attention fresh and on point during working hours.
  4. Ask for feedback often. When I worked at Facebook, our COO Sheryl Sandberg would often say “Feedback is a gift.” She regularly encouraged leaders in the company to seek out and receive feedback with an open mind, which allowed them and their teammates to grow through mutual understanding. As a leader, you can seek feedback by dedicating a few minutes of your weekly 1:1s to “constructive upward feedback,” or by creating a monthly team-level “Pulse Survey,” that asks your teammates to anonymously rate their experience of various aspects of team culture. Over time, this consistent exchange of feedback will create a culture that will encourage others to have a growth mindset and be active participants in creating the best environment for everyone.
  5. Be authentic & vulnerable. One of the toughest things to do in our corporate culture is to show up in your most authentic self and be vulnerable with your emotional challenges. However, you as the leader can change these stereotypes and emulate the values that you stand for. If you are having health issues that may affect your ability to work, it is important to share what you’re comfortable sharing with both your own manager as well as your teammates. Or perhaps you are going through a divorce and know that you’ll need to be unavailable during some work hours to attend legal proceedings–remember that all of these are very human problems and you can encourage your team to be honest about their life challenges by modeling this behavior yourself. You may be surprised how much your team will support you (and each other), when you show up in your most authentic self!

As a leader, you likely have goals to rise above the rest while caring for your team. Take a page out of the book of many great leaders before you and consider partnering with a coach who can take your leadership, life and business to the next level. If you’re looking to start your search, email Susannah Stokes, a leadership coach and team facilitator, at susannah@dounto.co today!

Susannah Stokes is the President and CEO of DoUnto, Inc., a leadership development organization that provides 1:1 Leadership Coaching, Team Workshops, Corporate Diversity & Anti-Discrimination Training. She is a former Marine Corps Captain, a graduate of the US Naval Academy and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. She is dedicated to helping leaders Be the Change they wish to see in the world!