The changing face of team management in the virtual world

Work from home is the new normal for most corporates in 2020, but what does it take to make it normal?

Managing domestic responsibilities alongside back-to-back virtual calls, wavering internet connectivity and unpredictable power cuts is one thing, but it takes another level of dedication when you are expected to mobilize an entire team and act as their role model!

Our curiosity and sincere appreciation for the captains steering our ships led us to interview some of our managers to find out how the experience has been for them and some of the best practices they are deploying for getting the best out of themselves and their teams in these strange times.

Prathap Chilukuri (Engineering)

As an individual contributor, you can run as fast as you want. As a manager, I believe my role is to let my teams run at their own pace and provide them a boost when they slow down and provide support from falling off the cliff.

One of my teams has started a successful series of book-reading sessions during WFH. I make a conscious effort to talk to everyone on a regular basis, exchanging information and stay on the same page. It is important to respect individuals’ working hours and support them in maintaining their schedule. What we need to do as managers is to give time for every individual and ensure they are fit, both mentally and physically.

Tips to fellow managers: Delegate | Make the individual successful at the job | Listen actively and adapt your communication style | Don’t let things pile up | Trust the team to get the job done

Anurag Mundra (Offline Sales)

Managing teams has always been challenging but intriguing. Being responsible for the performance of the team by giving constructive criticism, conducting performance reviews, resolving conflicts, making sometimes unpopular decisions — things that aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs.

The challenges posed by the sudden WFH have encouraged us to adapt to an improvised version of team management. In the beginning, we scheduled two team calls every day, used multiple approaches to track progress and after following this process with much rigour for the first few days, we realized such efforts were not only futile, but counterproductive! That’s when we improvised and reduced team calls and increased one-on-one calls for more productive discussions. We also turn some of our catch-ups into informal chit-chat sessions. The support and the rapid learning curve of the team is also much appreciated!

Tips to fellow managers: Avoid micromanagement | Be transparent | Encourage work-life balance | Give feedback

Sameer Seth (Enterprise Sales)

Keeping the team engaged all the time needs more discipline and punctuality — missing out on this one parameter sets precedence for a lenient culture. We are connected with each member in the team on a one-on-one basis regularly ensuring rigor.

We frequently engage in team-building exercises like games and music evenings post office hours. I like to think that nothing has changed and times are teaching us to do business more conveniently and smartly!

Tips to fellow managers: Be punctual, business first | One team, One goal | Focus on input parameters ex. training

Ashish Jaiswal (Marketplace & Taxation)

Something that has served me well as a manager is being a good listener and actively listening to ideas, solutions, problems. The time spent on communication during WFH increased but we have discovered that video calls are a lot better than voice calls. At ClearTax, one thing that you are sure to miss during WFH is the white-board and marker which were trusty resources in explaining anything — we are now using online alternatives to the same. We have found it useful to conduct regular stand-ups and daily catch-ups. Calendarizing meetings play an important role in managing time.

Tips for fellow managers: Over Communicate and elaborate | Focus on core work | Align team to common goal | Help them prioritize

Sumeeth Vohra (Finance)

Managing a team requires not just sound technical knowledge but good management skills as well. Empathizing with the team always leads to greater understanding, fewer conflicts, and builds a very productive team.

During WFH, we increased the frequency of team meetings, started a learning series where team members started up-skilling themselves and presenting on various topics, thereby educating the team.

Tips for fellow managers: Positivity and motivation for team | Transparency

Deepakh Arun (Key Account Management)

The key difference between being an individual contributor and managing a team is that your influence on the end output is indirect. Guiding, coaching and persuading the team becomes critical.

In my opinion, WFH has made life better. This schedule has made having a team sync up a part of the daily routine — something that was not regular in our team earlier. This has helped the team bond better and reflects positively on the results. More often than not, remote working comes with the challenge of being lost and not knowing what to do and being unsure how to overcome a roadblock when stuck. What has helped our team wade through these difficulties is a) clarity of the task to be done — clearer instructions go a long way, and b) following up cadence to check-in on the team’s progress and offering guidance where needed.

Tips for fellow managers: Clear goals | Value and respect people | Show them how it’s done | Don’t compare team members

Manmeet Singh (Enterprise Sales)

As an individual contributor I was the master of my destiny, whereas as a manager, it is my team that’s the master of my destiny! Trying to unlearn and learn new tricks during WFH seems to be the new normal. Remote working has been a boon for spending one-on-one time with the team which was nearly impossible before due to all the time spent in travels in the past. I have reserved half an hour each week to catch up with my teammates individually to review and plan the week. This gives me more clarity to intervene and course correct if necessary at the earliest.

Community learning has increased — the teammates are spending a lot of time inter-regionally to learn from each other. We have assigned buddies for new members of the team to improve the product knowledge/sales methodologies for higher throughput.

Tips for fellow managers: Give them time to prove themselves | Give full ownership to team members | Play on individual strengths of team members

Rabi Agrawal (Talent Acquisition)

My mantra is to remember my past managers and contemplate on which managerial practices of theirs I found effective and adopt them. Email, chats, video calls have replaced face to face interaction during WFH, but overall team bonding and work has not been affected for my team.

I believe in setting up periodic one-on-ones with team members and providing regular reviews. Some fun activities in a week are a must, with no talk of work.

Tips for fellow managers: Clarity on deliverables | Regular interactions | Two-way feedback | Transparency

Conclusion

Different people, different strokes is what we hear, loud and clear! Managing expectations and performance of others may be an uphill task, but some universally successful people practices our managers vouch for are transparency and one-on-one connect. Using your resources effectively, be it people, time or technology, is the key to unlocking your team’s potential.