How to align remote teams with your company vision
TL;DR: Vision gives companies a goal to work towards. It gives teams — especially remote teams — specific objectives that offer step-by-step guidance for accomplishing important goals. Even when remote teams are separated by several time zones, a clear vision statement helps individual team members understand how every decision they make can have a positive impact for the entire company. Here’s how to get started.
A vision statement is a lot like your company’s North Star. Its purpose is to make sure that your company stays on track with the goals you’ve set for yourself. Without a company vision, it isn’t clear to teams where you want to be in five years, ten years, and beyond. What do you want your company’s legacy to be? What do you want to accomplish? Your company vision influences the decisions you make to ensure that your short-term actions help you achieve your long-term goals. But how do you make your vision more than just words on your website and into a guide that remote teams in particular can get behind?
Getting to the root of why alignment is hard
Getting people aligned behind a vision is hard even when teams are in the same office. When you add remote teams into the mix, alignment becomes an even bigger challenge. Unlike in-office teams working in a shared space and talking frequently about goals, conversations around vision don’t happen organically with remote teams. Remote team communication is more likely to focus on day-to-day work responsibilities and tasks via chat and video-calling apps than on in-depth conversations about vision. When you’re working remotely, it’s harder to strategize tactics that contribute to the vision, because you’re often focused on the everyday things and not the big picture. And without the right tools, it can take longer to clarify ideas — which slows progress — compared to a team sitting around a whiteboard hashing out ideas together. Let’s look at strategies companies can use to help their remote teams find — and maintain — alignment with the vision despite the distance.
Get remote team buy-in early on
Leadership spends a lot of time in the early days of their business thinking about what they want for the company. All of the decisions they’ve made about how the company should function on a daily basis and perform years into the future gives them a deep level of drive and commitment. This isn’t necessarily the case for teams, whether remote or in-office, because they don’t have insight into why leadership has made certain decisions or why the vision is even important. Yes, teams are prepared to work hard, but what does the company vision really mean to them? How do you get them just as excited and motivated as the leadership team? Development teams might think, “I’m just here to write code,” and don’t give the company vision much thought. One simple way to get teams to care about (and commit to) the vision is to document it using a content collaboration workspace. With the vision laid out for every team member to see, each person can become familiar with it — and refamiliarize themselves with it if they start to lose sight of what’s important. Once the vision is documented and your team has read it, talk to them about how their experience matches up with the vision as it currently stands. Get to know their experience with the company by asking questions about their day-to-day tasks, how well they feel their teams collaborate, and their satisfaction with what they do. The reason for this is to get your teams engaged — and that starts with you listening to their needs and expectations. If they tell you that regular meetings will help them see how their daily tasks relate back to the vision, then set up a meeting schedule that makes it possible to hear from each remote team. Run meetings with each remote team via video call to answer questions and explain how their latest task impacts the vision.
Emphasize how today’s actions impact the vision of tomorrow
Every team is tasked with some kind of goal. Your remote marketing team’s goal might be to plan and launch campaigns that will improve customer acquisition. The development team’s goal might be to fix product bugs to improve the customer experience. These are both great goals to work towards but in order to align your remote team behind your vision, their goals have to be aligned with the vision. This means that rather than focus on goals that only deal with short-term issues or market pressures, you have to look at how your remote team’s short-term goals will impact your long-term vision. In other words, look at what teams do today to move you closer to the outcomes you want to see in the future. Let’s say your vision is “to be a partner to customers.” It’s a big and bold statement, but it’s achievable. In order to evolve into a company that works with its customers to give them the best products and services they need, team goals have to impact this vision. And to do that, you need to break down the bigger vision into manageable, measurable goals. For example, customer support’s goal would be to follow up on all customer questions and comments regardless of how positive or negative the feedback was. By consistently responding to customer comments and incorporating customer feedback into the product or service, your company will gradually start to see a shift in how customers perceive you. Over time customers will see you as a partner because you’ve worked to make them feel like part of the team by incorporating their feedback. The more that customers engage with your resources, the more referrals and positive reviews you’ll receive. So in terms of manageable and measurable KPIs, the metrics associated with these actions — blog traffic, number of recommendations from advocates, number of testimonials and five-star ratings — can become an indication of whether you’re on the path to realizing your vision.
Encourage more involvement from the leadership team
Without alignment, it’s easy for teams working on day-to-day projects to lose sight of the big picture. A salesperson might not see how sending emails to prospective customers every week impacts the company vision. They likely see it as just another task to do and not something that will define what the company will stand for years into the future. To help keep the vision top of mind, the leadership team needs to be vocal about how the team’s work has impacted the vision. Leadership has to show specific examples of where the team followed through and created something that impacted the vision. This proves to the remote team that they’re working towards specific goals that impact the company or the customers they serve — but it also helps to make people feel like their work actually means something and builds a culture of appreciation. These leadership updates can be as simple as a monthly town hall video chat or livestream to highlight successes. Each town hall meeting can dedicate ten to fifteen minutes to feature one remote team and team member that has done work over the last month that aligns with the vision and has had a positive impact on it. Each meeting will give all teams a chance to talk about and showcase their work. This motivates teams to keep working towards the goals leadership has established because they are specific and create positive momentum toward the vision.
Get your teams aligned
Whether you were always working with a fully distributed team or you’re brand new to the challenges of working remotely, it’s important for remote teams’ goals to stay aligned with your overall company vision. This way, everything remote teams work on, from responding to customer emails to launching new marketing campaigns, takes the vision from a lofty idea to a reality. Look at alignment as a process that starts with telling teams why your company vision is crucial for success and how their daily tasks directly impact the vision. Make the vision matter to them by showing your teams that they play a valuable role in helping the company achieve its goals. Project management software is a great way of visualizing how each task contributes to bigger company milestones — and the improved visibility and planning it enables can save teams up to $100k. Your company vision has the power to change how your teams work. Don’t lose sight of it when you’re working remotely; instead, let it be a living, breathing thing that helps to guide all of your remote teams in the right direction, every day.