Effective Remote Teams

Why Habits are the new superpowers of effective remote teams

...And 3 simple ways to enable them in your organisation

It’s no secret. More and more research is revealing that the difference between people who achieve a lot in life and those who don’t, comes down to the simple reality of what they do every day. It comes down to their habits.

James Clear, in his powerful yet accessible masterpiece “Atomic Habits”, says that habits are not only powerful within themselves but that they are cumulative. The more consistent you are, the more impact on your life it will have. Good habits lead to successful outcomes. It’s hard work but those of us who achieve this level of consistency achieve momentum and seem to be sailing on a wind that others can’t see.

Okay, so habits are cool and clearly important. But why don’t we ever think about habits in teams? Team habits should be something we actively seek to understand, measure and form.

Effective distributed teams exhibit and maintain certain habits that pave the way for great teamwork. The research is showing that they do this better than face-to-face teams. How can remote teams be more effective? Here are 3 secrets that differentiate successful teams from mediocre ones.

1. Decide on habits that define success

Define your ways of working:

Goals are great but they’re not enough. Successful teams define their Ways of Work. I am not talking about just when we are working together and when we are working alone. I am talking about defining the daily, weekly, monthly habits that are necessary for us to practice to make us successful. Take time with your team to understand each other, pick up on what generates the most value for all and what habits are important to adopt for the team to do genius work consistently.

Define your values in behaviours

Let’s face it. Organisational values are problematic. Sure, they sound good on paper but what do they mean? What the word Integrity, for example, means to me might be very different from what it means to you. Also, integrity at work looks very different from how we exhibit integrity at home. Don’t leave it up to interpretation, make sure you work with your teams to effectively translate your values into behaviours that can be seen and identified in the day-to-day operations of your business. For example, Integrity for our teams here at GWork, means what you commit to doing, you achieve. On-time. It also means that you communicate when you are stuck. To be successful, and to truly live up to your values, you need to exhibit those behaviours.

2. Reflect on those habit

If you don’t create time to think, you’re not going to create genius in your teams. Exceptionally effective teams reflect on what they’ve done, both as individuals and collectively. Create processes for patterns to be uncovered that tell us if we are operating optimally. Reflection creates opportunities for learning and growth.

3. Hold each other accountable to those habits

Habits are not habits until they are practised frequently and naturally.

Create opportunities for peer feedback

In remote teams specifically, it is hard for managers because they spend less time with their teams. Because of this, it is hard to lead and shape your teams remotely. Colleagues see all and, if you build a proactive learning culture, utilising the perspectives of peers to define and measure successful habits can be super valuable.

Link habits to performance

If you measure only transactional metrics like burn rate if you’re a tech team or NPS if you’re in service, you’ll have a transactional team. Simple as that. Also, you won’t learn what creates that stellar outcome. Take time to link these critical metrics to habits. Think about how you can integrate these into your scorecards/KPI’s and OKR’s. At a minimum, they should be a percentage of performance. Organisations often forget to link culture and behaviours to performance and, therefore, these elements are not taken seriously enough by their teams.

In summary, habits are the spoke in the wheel. It is where performance, culture, skills gaps, ways of working, efficiency and even innovation are forged at work. Habits can be shaped and directed by managers. The more you learn to turn these into data, to define, reflect and account to them, the more you will set your teams up for success.

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