In times of uncertainty, people turn to their leaders for guidance and reassurance. However, leading teams during a crisis can be daunting. As a successful remote-first workplace for over 3-years we wanted to share some leadership advice that we’ve found useful for managing our remote teams:

  • 1. Stop trying to micromanage as way to control the chaos

    I used to think that my ability to be a ‘good’ micromanager was what made me special. But, after our business scaled past the point where I could no longer sustain the hours, I had to learn to let go. Once I did, something amazing happened. We became a more profitable, higher performing team and I started feeling happier than I ever had in a long time. I strongly feel this Corona crisis is your opportunity to learn that same lesson – and I promise that if you can pull it off, you won’t look back.

    What makes remote work so rewarding is the fact that you and your team have more freedom. More freedom to choose the best time to be creative, the best time to learn, the best way to collaborate. Freedom also means the freedom to make mistakes, and the team will definitely make some. But, by letting the team find their own rhythm rather than conforming to yours they will begin to be happier and more productive too.

  • 2. Quantify your objectives and key results

    Giving your team members freedom doesn’t mean that you can sit back and do nothing. It just means you have to pivot and focus more on a supportive role. It’s your new job to keep an eye on the distant target so the team doesn’t have to – they need to stay focused on solving one problem at a time.

    To do this you need to have a clear OKRs/KPIs setup so that you can track your team’s progress towards the goal. You can use these numbers to help steer the team and to decide where or who needs extra support going forwards. If you’re not quantifying work, then it’s even harder to hit your objectives remotely. 

  • 3. Establish new ways of working

    A remote workforce buys you a lot of flexibility but you have to make sure that you follow a basic routine. You still need to act as a unit and that means team members need to maintain the social norms. This includes respecting a certain level of remote working etiquette too.

    We recommend having a daily standup for 10 minutes or less, before breaking out to have individual or group meetings as necessary. That way you all connect at least once. Use this time to acknowledge achievements or to listen to concerns. A weekly planning meeting for at least an hour is also useful to plan the week ahead and collaborate on the big issues as a team. You can use this time to share important news or discuss strategic issues with everyone, and come up with ideas on how the team can improve.

  • 4. Clarify responsibilities

    It’s often difficult to keep track of responsibilities and priorities when working at a distance. Face-to-face meetings should usually have a written follow-up so there’s a record and less confusion. With a remote team you have to work harder to make sure people are on the same page. A bullet point summary of topics discussed and required actions from each team member is often enough, but consider investing in a good project management tool for your team.

  • 5. Maintain a sense of calm

    In these times of uncertainty it’s important that as a manager you bring a sense of calm to the team. Stay positive and focus on the silver lining in all team interactions.Try to emphasise personal interactions as much as possible and remember to ask emotion based questions in your 1:1’s with team members. Remember to keep everyone in mind and not just those that shout loudest. Last but not least make sure to take care of yourself!

  • 6. Trust your people until proven otherwise

    Remote work also means that you have to trust your team. This trust will be critical due to the distractions that are involved with COVID-19. Schools are closed, supermarkets are empty and some workers have shelter-in-place restrictions. There are going to be distractions and that’s unavoidable. You’ll have to trust your people to work through the distractions and deliver.

  • 7. Learn from this experience

    After some growing pains, it’s likely that you’ll find your team happier and more productive. Pay attention and think through how the future of work for your team needs to evolve. Businesses are using this coronavirus crisis as a giant A/B test for expenses ranging from sales and marketing to travel to real estate. The old way of doing things will not make sense in the future so start thinking about how your team can adapt for the long haul.

Who are MATES?

MATES Inc is a marketing agency that specialises in delivering amazing customer experiences for the sports and retail sector.

Looking for help with your remote team during this crisis?


We believe that as a business community we need to stick together now more than ever. So if you’re a manager or executive that’s feeling ill prepared for this transition to remote working and would like some friendly advice from a team that’s made the leap already please feel free to reach out for a free chat.