FlexDealer’s own Briar Latam was a keynote speaker at the fifth annual Women & Automotive Conference earlier this week, where she delivered an insightful talk about remote leadership, and strategies for promoting a successful work-from-home culture within your business.
When Briar agreed to speak about remote leadership at this year’s W&A Conference, she never could have imagined that just weeks later our world would be forever changed by a global pandemic, forcing millions of Canadians to adopt a work-from-home lifestyle overnight. As remote work becomes our new normal, her topic-of-choice is more relevant than ever. She addresses many of the challenges that remote teams experience, and provides valuable tools for setting your team up for work-from-home success.
The mission of W&A: “The Women & Automotive Canadian Leadership Forum is a forum for revolutionary leaders, risk takers and agents of change to share and discuss practical approaches for advancing women into leadership roles in the Canadian automotive industry. We promote an atmosphere for the dissemination of knowledge from women leaders, employers and programs supporting these leaders and women who aspire to lead the industry themselves.”
Briar starts by discussing the unique challenges that remote teams face:
1. Technical Difficulties. From remembering to mute your mic during a Zoom meeting to learning how to share your screen with a coworker, managing every aspect of your work day via technology comes with many challenges for even the most tech-savvy user.
2. Forging Relationships. Healthy relationships within your team are vital to the success of just about every business. When you take away the natural interactions that occur in a face-to-face environment, how will you forge relationships among coworkers in order to develop a strong team?
3. Distractions at Home. Learning to separate work from home is not easy when you’re a remote employee. How can you help your team overcome distractions in order to remain productive?
So what has proven useful for Briar and her team within their remote work culture? After several years in a leadership role with FlexDealer, she believes that teams who learn to ‘READ’ have the best chance of setting themselves up for work-from-home success. No, she’s not talking about your ABC’s - ‘READ’ is an acronym for four useful strategies that will help you and your team maneuver the world of remote work.
R - Routine. Stick to a daily schedule! It may sound simple, but simple isn’t always easy. Briar notes that she finds Time-Blocking to be a really effective way to organize her day, and suggests that you start by dividing your workday into 1-hour blocks with a general task in each. This can include everything from team meetings, to customer calls, to replying to emails, to a lunchtime workout. Test out your schedule for a week at a time, and make adjustments as needed - it’s easier to switch a few blocks around as you learn what works and what doesn't, rather than continuously re-arranging your entire day.
E - Engage. When you lose face-to-face time with coworkers, you need to be willing to engage with your team on a regular basis. Briar discusses how FlexDealer uses consistent meeting times each week as a way to bring the whole team together digitally and “gather around the same campfire”. The day, time and purpose of each meeting remains consistent each week, which helps with routine, predictability and engagement from all employees involved.
A - Adaptability. Adaptability is a strong quality in any leader, but when you’re working in a remote environment it’s particularly valuable to recognize that some people have different communication needs - and being a good leader means meeting your team where they’re at. To lead a remote team, you need to trust your people, and Briar speaks to the fact that it was important for her to learn to let go of more traditional expectations that would exist in a physical office space. It becomes more about, “can I trust you to get your job done?” and less about, “are you at your desk from 9-to-5?”
D - Drive. Having a sense of personal drive is important to productivity and the quality of your work. If you are not the type of individual who has some level of innate drive, then unfortunately you might struggle as a remote employee. A proactive attitude will help you overcome many work-from-home challenges, demonstrate to your coworkers that you are a dedicated team member, and help you produce quality work. Drive is also important when it comes to professional development, and Briar mentions that dedication to self-regulated training is a key value at FlexDealer.
Briar finishes her W&A talk by answering some specific questions about how she and the FlexDealer team continue to thrive as a remote business:
1. Consider Your Tech-Stack. FlexDealer uses a broad tech-stack that works well for its team, including Zoom, Discord, Asana and Everhour, among other platforms. But it’s important to consider your specific needs when choosing the tech that will work for you. You’re not re-inventing workflow - you’re just translating something that should happen organically onto a digital platform.
2. WFH Benefits. Briar mentions that there are some major benefits to managing a remote team, such as being able to source talent from anywhere in the world, overhead cost savings that can free up money to invest in other areas of the business, and employee retention typically being higher among remote employees.
3. Keeping on Task. Managing meetings is a major work in progress for many remote teams, and Briar shares that learning to edit discussion topics and following a strict structure has helped FlexDealer become more effective during standing meetings. Sure, it’s OK for conversation to veer every once in a while, but it’s important to make note of everyone’s ‘aha’ moments so that they can be revisited during another meeting.
Briar, alongside FlexDealer, couldn’t be more thankful for the chance to be part of such an incredible event. Experiencing the presence and stories of powerful women in the automotive industry, sharing thoughts and absorbing insights, will no doubt help build the careers of so many more in the future. We’re eagerly anticipating next year’s event and look forward to learning how the industry can continue to work on eliminating bias and overcoming some of the challenges we’ll face before then!
To learn more about Women & Automotive and how you can take part in their amazing conference, head over to their website. If you’re interested in learning about the tools & resources Briar mentioned (and some she might not have!) fill out a quick form here and we’ll send the information your way!