Tips for teams near and distant.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your business is to build and maintain strong connections with your team members and with customers. Here are some ways to build and maintain those connections, even when you’re at a distance.

Mark Important Dates

One of the ways to stay connected to your team is to remember birthdays and anniversaries. Sending a text, e-card, or even a hand-written note will mean a lot to the individual. It doesn’t need to be extravagant. “It’s the thought that counts” is a cliché for a reason. This also works great for strengthening customer relationships, too. 

Utilize Technology

Whether it’s a pandemic or simply a large geographic distance keeping you apart, technology offers several ways of staying in touch. Using apps like Zoom and FaceTime to video chat with team members will help bridge the distance in a way voice calls, texts, and emails can’t. If you just need to dash off quick missives (like texts) recorded videos or apps like Marco Polo can let you do so with all the nuances of facial expressions, voice inflection, and your animated personality.

Make Time for Fun

Invite your team members to a Zoom meeting and surprise them with a game night. Don’t like playing games? Catch up with each other instead. Not only will this help strengthen the relationships between you and your team members, but cooperative game play and competition can help build relationships between the members on your team. Keep things fun!

Be Available

Make sure your team members know that you’re available to them if they need help or have questions. If you have limited availability, make sure your team members know what that availability is and then stick to it. The more consistent you are, the more likely they will be to come to you when they need to. This is also true for your customers. Customers can’t resolve issues or get questions answered if they can never reach you. Great customer service will keep the customers you have and bring in new customers. This is why routines and “office hours” are important, even if you’re free-wheeling entrepreneur.

Quality Over Quantity

You don’t have to schedule meetings constantly or for long periods of time in order to maintain your relationship with your team members. The keys are to make sure you offer quality interactions and to maximize the time you spend together by efficiently grouping discussion topics. 

Recognize Achievements

Everyone appreciates having their achievements recognized, and your team members are no different. Whether it’s a quick text to say, “Great job!” or a mention during a meeting, show them you see and value what they bring to the team. This could be performance-related or it could be those insanely great cookies they bake for celebrations. Whatever it is—big and small—recognize it.

Serve Critique as a Sandwich

Sometimes part of leading a team means giving less than pleasant feedback. To offer critique without it feeling like an attack, layer the negative comment between two sincere compliments on things your teammate does well. 

As in, “Jenny, thank you for being so great at follow-up. You’re always the person I know never lets a lead slip through the cracks. I’d love it if you could work on turning in your expense reports each month by the 30th. It really helps accounting stay on track. You’re doing a great job in your new role—especially considering we’re all working at home. That’s not easy, so great job!” 

Ask for Feedback

Check in with your team members regularly and ask them how you can better support them. Ask for suggestions on meeting topics or for social activities. Not only will they be involved with the process, but you’ll also know exactly what they need from you so you don’t waste time covering things that aren’t helpful.