Leading Your Association in a New, Remote Environment

By Jennifer Norman, Novi AMS

With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, you as a leader of your association, have the opportunity to provide some balance and normalcy for your employees.

As your team is moving out of the office and into a remote space for the unforeseeable future, consider the following to provide a framework for success to keep your association’s goals and mission moving forward.

Define How and When You Will Communicate
Email can’t be your only source of communication moving forward. How will you and the team communicate over the next several weeks? How often will you communicate? Consider a variety of online tools such as Slack for messaging, Zoom for meetings, and Dropbox for quick file storage.

Turn to video for conducting meetings. As a leader, you will have to participate and lead by example on this. While it may be a bit awkward at first, this was a game changer for our team to still be able to communicate "face-to-face" even though we are miles away.

Keep in mind that this is not the time to roll-out a ton of brand-new tech, so use what tools you may already have to your advantage. A lot of associations are already using G Suite (Google apps) for example, so use their messaging and meeting options versus trying to implement new ones.

No matter what you choose, schedule a team meeting to train on those tools and what the expectations are for responding. Just because someone sends an 'instant message' that doesn't necessarily mean you have to drop what you’re working on to respond. Make sure the entire team is clear on turnaround times.

Oh, and while you're at... over-communicate
In a remote environment, it’s even more important to keep the communication lines open. We’ve found that a quick daily standup does wonders for keeping everyone in the loop.

If you’re not familiar with standup meetings, they are 15-minute, daily video meetings usually held early in the workday. Each person spends about 30 seconds going through projects they worked on yesterday, what they will be working on today and any roadblocks they may have. This is not a rundown of every task they’re working on or a way to micromanage the team. Let your team know to keep their updates to high-level information that other teammates need to be in the loop about. 

Does your team ever have a hard time catching you when you are physically in the office? It’s even harder when there is no office to pop into, so you may also want to consider holding weekly or bi-weekly one-on-ones with each member of your staff. If you pre-book these meetings, your team will know when they can meet with you for a dedicated time to review projects and answer questions.

Don’t Neglect Company Culture
How do you continue those team-building connections that often occur in an office setting? Here are a few examples:

  • Consider dedicating a few minutes of your standup for someone to share something funny or a personal win
  • Create a channel in slack or a group in GChat for “watercooler” talk
  • Schedule a group video lunch or happy hour one day a week
  • Hold a “question of the week” on Fridays so team members can share what their favorite movie was growing up or maybe their first tape/CD

Lead with Compassion
This is an unprecedented and stressful time and your reaction will have an impact on both their work and home life. Some of your team may be thrown into homeschooling their kids while trying to work. Others may be fearing for family and friends while dealing with new levels of isolation.

While distracted work is usually not okay, this is the new normal for now. Communicate this to your team and it will go a long way. Also, be compassionate when you hear children playing or a dog barking in the background on a conference call – these things happen, even for us professional remote workers. 

Jenn Norman is the Director of Customer Experience for Novi AMS and has been working remote for almost five years. She is also the current President of the American Marketing Association, Tampa Bay Chapter.

For more information and resources on COVID-19, please visit fsae.org/COVID-19

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