Millions of knowledge workers are suddenly forced to work from home thrusting managers into unfamiliar territory facing the challenge of maintaining continuity and cohesion. Creating a healthy remote sales culture for your team is a deliberate act whether your team is working in a physical office, working remotely, or in a hybrid environment. The difference between office culture and remote work culture is that culture happens in a physical environment where the big risk is toxicity, in remote worker teams the big risk is a cultural void.
Understanding the Remote Sales Culture Challenge
I manage a remote sales team. Our company employs thousands of people all working remotely. When interviewing candidate team members, the fear most people express is losing their connection with their coworkers and thus their sense of belonging. Their secondary fear is self-doubt that they may not be able to be effective in working remotely without a physical work structure around them. These are the same fears people express when changing jobs in the physical world exacerbated by a larger fear of the unknown experience of working alone physically.
Educated managers will recognize these concerns as the two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy addressing psychological fulfillment. These consist of belongingness and love needs, and esteem needs. Although some find love in the workplace, work and career contribute strongly to a sense of belonging and connection for most employed people and contribute heavily to esteem and a sense of accomplishment, recognition, and strength. Accomplishments at work ultimately contribute to Maslow’s top tier, self-actualization, the desire to become the best that one can be in work, community, and life. People who achieve self-actualization are the people who are the most motivated and most likely to become leaders. Managers must be mindful of these needs to create a healthy culture that engenders self-fulfillment and self-actualization.
This is not an option for you or your remote sales team, as this is your primary culture tool. My team spans four continents, 9000 miles, and eleven time zones. This creates some inconvenience for team members on either end of the time spectrum; I know because I’m one of them. Nonetheless, you must make your daily meeting an essential part of the workday to create a sense of belonging and togetherness. Given my team’s physical distance it is highly unlikely that most of us will ever have the chance to meet in person, and even more unlikely that all of us will have that chance, but the daily meeting ritual allows us to bridge the time and distance between us.
Choose Scalable Collaborative Tools
Collaborative tools such as Office 365 or G Suite, and a reliable meeting platform including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx, or Hangouts are essential. Since our company acquired Sococo our virtual office space has become an essential extension to improved team communications adding a dimension of presence and a sense of togetherness that promotes serendipitous water-cooler encounters igniting collaborative innovation. Create a prescription for the use of your collaborative tools and incorporate them into the way you do business.
Video is essential. Rule number one is cameras on. Using video is the difference between mere communication and creating a connection. You need to see your colleagues to know them. Video does an adequate job of conveying the emotional primitives we need to connect with each other. Visual cues of anger, fear, happiness, and sadness allow us to interact with appropriate empathy.
Provide Structure and Purpose
Beyond daily agenda items such as identifying and mitigating blockers, for my team, every daily meeting has a purpose. On Mondays, we review our deal progress and set our goals for the week. Our Tuesday meeting is for reviewing our methods and discipline. Wednesday is the quality day when we review elements of our work product and provide each other with constructive critiques. Our Thursday theme is “teach me something I don’t know,” and on Fridays, we try to incorporate something fun after reviewing our performance metrics for the week. This type of structure will help you keep your management approach and your team on track.
Share Leadership in Remote Sales
Everyone on your team deserves a chance to grow their career and responsibilities and everyone has good ideas to share regardless of whether they have management ambitions. You can incent and create growth opportunities by sharing leadership responsibilities for your daily meetings. For instance, one of our team members has responsibility for coordinating our quality reviews on Wednesday, and everyone is expected to turn in a peer review, which promotes a high degree of calibration on our quality standards. A couple of our team members share responsibility for coordinating our Thursday learning topics and everyone on the team is expected to lead one of these meetings in rotation. Sharing leadership responsibility improves accountability and overall job satisfaction.
Make it Fun
Comedian Victor Borge is famous for his quip that “laughter’s the shortest distance between two people.” I say that a team that laughs together works well together. Laughter is a critical ingredient to a healthy culture recipe. Make humor part of your daily meetings. Team spirit flourishes when you know each other well enough to poke fun at each other’s foibles and laugh together every day.
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