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Promoting Innovation in Remote Teams

May 07, 2018

Don’t let distance keep you from getting the input you need to move your business forward.

Read the A Distributed Workforce Toolkit for the Long-Haul guide to learn how to get input that furthers your vision and objectives.

Remote employees need a means of expressing opinions, offering critiques, and proposing new ideas. At the same time, virtual managers must use a combination of technology and techniques to demonstrate that the company welcomes this input and recognizes and rewards those who promote innovation. So how can you get everyone involved?

  • Use technology. One technology remedy to uneven participation is using video rather than audio conferencing. Because everyone is on camera, the leader can monitor attention levels, body language, and nonverbal cues. Make sure you have the bandwidth necessary for seamless communication among all team members via videoconferencing.
  • Get input in advance. To elicit more participation from those who are normally reticent, sound them out in advance of a big group discussion. If they provide good input, ask: “Would it be O.K. if I called on you to express that opinion? I think everybody should hear it, and rather than me repeat it, I’d rather they hear it directly from you.” “Usually people say it’s fine, because they know it’s coming and they’ll have a chance to think about it. You don’t get your most productive work by putting people on the spot.”
  • Celebrate more. How do you get people who don’t work physically together to feel that they’re part of a team on an emotional level? If you can’t have spontaneity, you have to think about celebrations. Consider celebrating people at the start of meetings. Mention new client wins, project breakthroughs, and other milestones, and offer praise and congratulations to the individuals or teams responsible.

Workers who are quiet in the office—and, likewise, those inclined to dominate conversations—will exhibit those qualities even more strongly in a remote workplace. Leadership, then, requires an elevated awareness of and sensitivity to those dynamics.

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