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View from a startup founder: How to manage a remote team in the time of Covid-19, lockdowns and volatility?

This is not the 21th century sequel of the Gabriel García Márquez book “Love In The Times of Cholera”, although the similarity is there. How do you create a meaningful work life and team bond when you can’t be together? 

I head up a startup and we can’t be together as a team due to the lockdown. Many of our clients have larger marketing teams and some haven’t been in their office since March 2020. That’s almost a year, in a crazy volatile time! 

Are people in your team living alone in small apartments? Are you a mother or father who is forced to be an employee, homeschool teacher and 24/7 kids entertainer? How do you work well when our world is stressful, changing fast and we can’t be together?

I’m an ENTJ personality and that reflects in my management style. ENTJs love momentum. We use drive, determination and ruthless rationality to achieve whatever goal is set. 

During the last months I realized that focusing on productivity and managing accordingly doesn’t suffice. In this blog I want to share what we’ve done to adjust our working together in these crazy times. It’s a practical blog and you get links to our team collaboration templates! 

How I manage my team during lockdowns

So what changed? There is much more room for frequent emotional check-ins. Each team member with me and vice versa. More openness and vulnerability with each other. To be honest, this doesn’t come naturally to me.

Every day: 

  1. At the start of the day: we all write 2-3 goals for the day in our WIP channel on Slack. What’s WIP? Work in Progress. 
  2. A 9:15 am stand-up. We have a “watercooler” good morning chat. Everyone shares the “win” they want to achieve that day. 
  3. A 5 pm stand-down. We share anecdotes and learnings. We go around to share if the “win” of the day is achieved. 

Every week: 

  1. Fuck up Friday: virtual drinks suck, but it’s a way to wind down. Sharing a fuck up or two makes it much better. It shows it’s okay to not succeed and have a laugh about it. We often end up brainstorming how to prevent the fuck up from happening again. But sometimes a fuck up is just what it is. 
  2. 1:1 meeting or walk for 15-30 minutes. We use this template that each team member fills out prior. This meeting is quite personal. As a manager I learn how I can be more supportive. We also talk about the tasks at hand to reach our team goals. If needed we shuffle priorities based on people’s personal state of mind.

Every month: 

  1. An all hand strategy and goal presentation. We review last month’s targets across growth and product with our Pirate Metrics dashboard. Our team brainstorms on new ideas for growth and we finetune priorities for the month ahead.
  2. 1:1 performance review: each team member has a monthly review with their manager. We use this template that we fill out prior to the meeting. The reports are shared side by side and a conversation takes place to compare. It’s a way to learn from each other about personal productivity and work happiness. We’ve been using this format for over 8 months now and in most cases there is a 80% overlap in “scores”.  
  3. Team Happiness Score. We built a tool in the HelloMaaS platform to track client <> freelancer happiness in bi-weekly intervals. Of course, we use it ourselves. Read about it more very soon!

What I learned so far

We’ve carved a way to stay mentally engaged, have fun and aim to reach our goals. We talk that it sucks we can’t invite friends at home, lack of good sleep, weekends with limited freedom. All these things impact how you feel at work.

In a nutshell: 

  • When you don’t meet in person it’s crucial to have emotional check-ins with each team member
  • Creating a safe space where it’s okay to share how we feel and what we struggle with is very important 
  • Team management in  this crazy time requires an adjusted approach. It’s an evolving space that needs ongoing calibration.

How do you cope? 

I would love to learn how you survive and thrive with your team in this time. Love to read about it in the comments below or email me at louise@hellomaas.com

Thanks for your openness and contribution so we can learn from each other!

Upwards and onwards,

Louise 

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