Remote work is hardly a new topic these days: everyone knows what it is, and, if facilitated correctly, that it actually works. Instagram has been telling us for years that one can do his or her work from the beach.
Yet what about making everyone, including the remote beach lovers, to feel like a part of the company? What about ensuring that its team actually feels like a team when not sharing an office space, coffee or beers? The answers vary, yet three principles serve as a good start: set the right values, get the right people, and put conscious effort to keep them engaged.
Shared vision, shared motivation
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” says Simon Sinek, an organizational consultant, an author, and a popular TED Talk speaker. If you can articulate why your company exists, why you get out of bed every morning, and why the rest of your team should care, you’re on the right track, according to Sinek.
Without the shared vision, Sinek explains, it is challenging, if not impossible, to keep a happy team together: “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. <…> Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.”
What Stephen Covey invites companies to do in his best-selling The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People nicely complements Sinek’s ideas. In Covey’s book, he invites us to write our personal mission statement and, interestingly, extends this invitation to companies. Just like people need their guiding principles, organizations, too, should develop their mission statement based on shared values. And the more participatory the development of this mission statement is, the more employees are likely to adhere to and promote these values. The mission statement is like a lighthouse that all of the employees – from their remote couches, desks, or hammocks – will be able to orient themselves by.
Values are like buttons: they keep things together
Not only is a shared vision important, it is crucial: this is what consultants, authors and researchers are saying. Is it possible to have a group of unengaged people working together? Yes. Is there an incredible difference when that group is all enthusiastic and engaged? Definitely.
In the same book, Covey talks about the personal quality of being proactive: being able to choose our response to our circumstances. “The difference between people who exercise initiative and those who don’t is literally the difference between night and day. I’m not talking about a 25 to 50 percent difference in effectiveness; I’m talking about a 5000-plus percent difference, particularly if they are smart, aware, and sensitive to others.”
Setting the right values and communicating them clearly within remote teams can do miracles. In our next piece, we will see how several leadership principles that set a certain communication strategy can make those miracles sustainable.