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tips for managing remote teams
December 29, 2021

5 Management Tips to Bring Remote Teams Together

tips for managing remote teams

Teamwork. The word evokes images of people working side by side, each contributing their part to a common goal. But in these changing times, employees have had to adjust their vision of how—and where—a team functions, leaving many to feel disconnected from one another and the common goal.

More than ever, successful managers are those who can create connections within their teams—no matter where they are located. Jeff Duckworth, president of John Hancock Investments, is a leader in this effort.

For over twenty years, Duckworth has held progressive sales leadership roles at John Hancock Investments. He is also a member of the firm’s executive management team that shapes and executes the firm’s vision and strategic planning.

Recently, I talked to Duckworth about how he’s leading his team in these changing times. Here, we share the top five strategies for managing remote teams:

1. Know that People Matter—Even More Than Ever

No matter where you and your teams are working, Duckworth believes that every single person is different and that managers need to treat them that way.

This was a lesson Duckworth learned early in his career. PaineWebber had just purchased his firm, and suddenly his team—people whom he had convinced to work for him—were all out of jobs, looking for work.

Duckworth immediately got busy, making phone calls and looking for places that would interview his salespeople. His focus was finding jobs for his entire sales team, which he was able to do.

“If you always do the right thing, and you’re always looking out for your people, things just work out. That was a great life lesson from that time, and it has stayed with me all these years later.”

2. Bring Creativity to Your Communications

Planning a national sales meeting in 2020 was a challenge no one had anticipated. But the situation stretched many teams to find creative approaches.

“It’s tough to feel like you’re part of a team when you’ve got thousands of people all around the country, just doing their own thing,” says Duckworth. “We needed to figure out a way to make people feel like a team.”

Duckworth started planning the meeting using a blank sheet of paper. “Don’t think about what you’ve done in live, face-to-face meetings in the past,” he says. “Every idea is worth discussing to make the meeting unique.”

The most recent sales meeting, held last summer, was full of successful new ideas. People who didn’t usually attend the meeting because of costs were able to attend and participate in the virtual meeting. This gave everyone insight into how their role contributes to the success of the overall team.

“When you’re put under pressure, you can go one of two ways: you can go down in the dumps, or you can rise above it and get your creative juices really going,” says Duckworth.

3. Embrace New Ways of Training and Learning

Throughout his career, Duckworth has found new ways to keep salespeople engaged and help them grow. For two decades, that has meant using video to capture best practices.

Back in the VHS era, Duckworth would gather the salespeople in a conference room every Friday and talk about the week.

During these Friday sessions, Duckworth would randomly ask a salesperson to tell the group how he or she positioned the current product. The salesperson’s response would be videotaped, and the whole group would then gather around the TV to review the presentation, steal good ideas, and identify things that needed to be corrected.

“It was a grueling process,” says Duckworth. “But I think if you’d ask anybody that was part of our organization back then, they would say it was probably the greatest sales training that they’ve ever had. Obviously, what we can do nowadays using Allego is a lot easier, but it has the same effect.”

Video also featured prominently in the most recent national sales meeting. To avoid any technical issues inherent in the live presentations, about 90% of the presentations were pre-recorded and 10% were live. For the next national sales meeting, Duckworth believes that although more of the meeting will be live, video will still play a key role.

4. Create Connections Across Teams

The sales meeting was a good start, but Duckworth also saw an opportunity to create connections among teams that don’t normally get video or presentation training.

Duckworth identified a team of specialists that had become an important part of the organization. These specialists covered areas like EFTs and separately managed accounts, which were areas of the business the company wanted to grow.

Duckworth believed these days of remote work would be the perfect time to start a video presentation contest just for the specialists.

The specialists record their presentations in the Allego sales enablement platform. A committee selects the top three presentations, and of these, the entire company gets to vote on the best presenter.

“This is a way to bring the community together. You need to figure out a way to make this group feel like a team,” says Duckworth.

5. Take Responsibility for All You Do

When reflecting on his career, Duckworth recalls how he went from his early days of selling mattresses for Simmons Bedding to his role today.

“When I worked for Simmons, my success was all on me,” says Duckworth. “I ran my own business, worked out of my home, covered my own expenses. I couldn’t necessarily count on people to help me out. I learned there are no excuses. If things aren’t working well, don’t complain; just jump in and fix it.”

Finding solutions to what’s not working has been how Duckworth has approached his work, driving his success as a leader for over three decades.

“Each individual owns their own destiny,” concludes Duckworth “I learned that lesson in my early days and I carried it with me throughout my career. In the last thirty years, nothing has changed about my mindset. I believe anything is possible.”

Learn More

Hear the complete interview on this episode of The Adapter’s Advantage. For more valuable advice on how to improve employee development, subscribe now: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | TuneIn

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