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Managing a Cohesive, Remote Team: Q&A with David Donatelli

With the pace of work and life changing each day in the face of COVID-19, businesses have no choice but adapt to the realities of remote work to maintain business continuity. We are currently living in a time where flexibility, transparency and leadership are paramount to keeping business strategy moving forward. 

As Senior Vice President of Global Support at Fuze, it is my team’s responsibility to be a driving force behind sustaining these three key pillars of success. My team works across the globe in countries including the U.S., U.K., Portugal and Australia. While remote and distributed work is our norm, it’s important in current times to understand that many workers are facing a makeshift kitchen-turned-office with little notice and without choice. 

To scale a remote team as quickly and seamlessly as possible, managers should focus on three key imperatives to support the most important aspect of any business: its workforce. 

1. Flexibility creates a productive space 

Over many years of managing remote teams, I have learned that flexibility often kickstarts the ease to working in a new environment. When considering quick adaptation, a flexible approach can ease the stress of rigid schedules and strict working hours, especially when workers are grappling with a new routine both professionally and personally. At Fuze, we rely on the ease of flexibility that comes with unified communications and collaboration tools. From chat to calling to video meetings, these tools help us remain connected when and where we prefer. Yet, I believe that flexibility in a newly adapted remote work environment can go even a step further.

Regular all-hands meetings are vital to supporting a team and its productivity while physically apart. With a team over 100 people in different time zones, it can be challenging to align all our calendars. To accommodate this, we often operate two video calls on meeting days that allow for time zone and working preference flexibility. This flexibility enables individual team members to feel more comfortable and in control of their own schedules when their realities are rapidly changing. 

allhandsmeeting

Over 100 team members across the globe virtually connected for an all-hands meeting.

2. Crystal-clear transparency sets the tone

Organizational transparency is critical to keeping workers informed and engaged. But when fully remote, this nice-to-have becomes a necessity. Creating an open, communicative virtual work environment ensures that employees feel connected to an otherwise disconnected space. Management should be transparent with teams on all company announcements as they would under normal circumstances. Encouraging transparency in every conversation — whether it's about major company news or a small team update — helps newly remote teams continue to feel in the loop.

On my team, we value full transparency to streamline communications and encourage a two-way channel of feedback. Most importantly, I ensure that my team feels comfortable in sharing questions and offering responses. This allows each worker to have the right information at the right time and eliminates the opportunity for misinformation to spread or for anyone to feel left out of the conversation. Openly sharing that your chat, calling and video are open to all employees whenever they want to connect makes transparency easy and sets a positive tone across the entire team. 

3. Strong leadership builds stronger teams

In times of flux, managers must work hard to lead their teams to maintain operations and productivity. Set well-defined and realistic goals, keeping teams on track from the very beginning of any project. Managers must work closely to build support where needed and make sure that their teams find purpose in their work. When people feel like they have a voice, they will be more willing to do whatever is needed to get things done.  

Throughout my time at Fuze, our customer base grew at a dramatic rate in which we had to work at a high speed to build a foundation for success. The unique part about it? None of us work in the same location for daily huddles and strategy meetings. Because of this, it was more important than ever for this large, remote team to work cohesively. From the moment we mobilized, each team member knew their role in the initiative and how we were going to achieve our goals as a unit. This type of cross-functional, adaptive communication is imperative to strong team operations, and it starts with leadership. Agility was built into the expectations of this team from the start, enabling us to take on any rapid change in strategy. 

When teams are faced with new challenges, understanding it is a process can help managers find solace in the chaos. The size, scale or location of a team become mere descriptors when flexibility, transparency and strong leadership are prioritized. Through my experience as a remote worker and team manager, I know that change may be intimidating, but it can never stifle a cohesive, connected team. 

To learn more about working remotely, check out our Ultimate Guide to Remote Work:  

ultimateguidetoremotework

 

David Donatelli

David Donatelli

As Senior Vice President of Global Customer Support, David is responsible for managing Fuze support resources worldwide. David brings critical technical knowledge and understanding to the support organization with more than 20 years of experience in customer support organizations as well as a solid background in software development. 

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