As more of us work from home, or even just in different locations from our co-workers, leaders need to continuously evolve and lead in a different way.

Although we have amazing virtual connectivity tools available to us here at Telstra, as a leader I’ve learned that it requires a truly conscious effort on my part to ensure that my remote teams remain engaged.

How I’ve approached my role as a leader when it comes to creating a cohesive team culture

It is leaders who set the culture of a team and who are responsible for fostering an environment of connection and cohesion, regardless of where everyone is located. Physically separated people don’t get the hallway conversation, the quick desk huddle or the ad hoc whiteboard session. Because of this, I’ve made sure to keep inclusiveness and team connectivity front of mind.

I’ve also continued to set clear and achievable goals, encourage active engagement from everyone in the team, have open communication and ensure that every single member of my team can directly attribute their effort and output to our greater team purpose.

My team at Telstra has recently moved to an agile working methodology, which has further strengthened our cohesiveness – every member of the team is required to help deliver the end-to-end outcome.

What I’ve been doing to foster connectivity with my remote team

Despite being physically apart, I’ve been working to keep my team feeling connected by doing the following things:

  • Having open conversations, building trust within the team and amongst team members, and having regular team bonding sessions. One great example of the success of my team bonding activities is from a team member of mine who was overwhelmed by an upcoming deadline. I asked her to think about what she could ask of her peers in terms of contribution and we planned out a “who does what”. She then set up a session with her plan, asking for input from everyone in the team, facilitated by a shared document on Microsoft Teams. By that afternoon, everything she’d asked for (and more) was updated in the document, ready to be presented the following day. I know this relieved a huge burden for her, not only for the deadline, but also in knowing that she could genuinely rely on her teammates to help her when asked.
  • Making sure that the team has a clear purpose. I continue to set ambitious but achievable goals and make it clear to every person in the team exactly how their contribution will deliver part or all the outcome.
  • Ensuring everyone feels comfortable seeking help and knows that support is available. I’ve observed people in the past try to resolve big issues by themselves and often if they had just asked for support, someone in their team could have offered valuable input.

Aaliah working from home with her family dog

The most important leadership skill I possess, especially when it comes to a remote workforce, is communication

No two people are the same, so it’s been important for me to work out the most effective method of communication for each of my team members.

I believe that my communication as a leader should be consistent and regular for certain things, like performance discussions. Aside from that though, ad hoc conversations can really be left up to the relationship I have with the individual and their personal needs and style.

In terms of channels used and the frequency of communication, I’ve determined what works best for each member of my team and gone with that when communicating with that individual. Some of them are entirely autonomous and only need to speak to me occasionally, whilst others demand more time. Some people prefer emails, some are happier for me to just give them a call.

Telstra makes remote working easy for its people

Telstra has always been amazing with supporting leaders and teams when it comes to flexible and remote working. The COVID-19 restrictions have just reinforced this.

We have a top-notch collaboration tools, which I appreciate more each day. I have realised during lockdown how lucky I am to have such readily available and effective tools that help me to do my work.

In a time of increasingly remote workforces, I’ve been reminded how crucial it is to continuously approach the leadership of my team with their connectivity top of mind. By maintaining appropriate communication patterns and inclusive initiatives, I’ve ensured that my team remains cohesive, no matter how physically far apart they may be.

Are you interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Telstra? Head to the Telstra Careers website.