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More companies are moving to a remote-work option, which poses benefits and challenges in equal measure. Through trial and error, I’ve come to consider these to be best practices when it comes to leading a high-performance remote proposal team (while being remote myself).
Establish Clear Processes
There is nothing more frustrating than showing up to a new job or team and there being no clear onboarding plan. Your remote proposal team definitely needs such a plan. At minimum, the basics of how the team communicates and handles proposals should be available in an easy-to-access location. Maintain a handbook that all new hires contribute to as they learn the job. That way, the body of knowledge is never lost and always growing. APMP’s Foundation Certification can be an excellent tool for ensuring everyone is on the same page
A major advantage to maintaining clear processes is the interdepartmental reliability it builds. Proposals often require input and approvals from multiple departments. When remote, your team cannot simply drop by someone’s desk to check on a deliverable. By building processes for these functions with the departments, your team is empowered to point to something that has been co-authored if they ever receive pushback. Everything runs more smoothly when expectations are understood by all parties.
Make Set Work Hours
Proposals can mean long hours. Working from a home office makes it even more difficult to shut down for the night. The easiest way to ensure your team’s work-life balance and prevent burnout is to create set work hours for all team members—even if everyone’s hours are slightly different due to time zones. Enforcing set work hours makes it that much easier to manage overtime and related budgets. Just be sure to schedule team meetings during hours that everyone is available.
Effective communication is the key to any successful relationship. Remote teams are no different.
Maintain Flexible and Open Communication
Effective communication is the key to any successful relationship. Remote teams are no different. Offer multiple ways for your team to connect. Chat, text, phone calls, video calls, and email all have a place. Figure out what works and be adaptable.
When you’re in a busy period, implement an escalation process for communication so nothing critical is missed. For example, instead of overusing high-importance email markers, try a color-coded alert in the subject line, such as orange for “potential issue” and red for “escalation required.”
Beyond ad hoc communication, enforcing a structure is necessary when everyone is not in the same place. Scheduled Monday morning check-ins and monthly reviews get everyone on the same page, highlight potential obstacles, drive team solutions, and build trust among co-workers. Additionally, one-on-one meetings each week ensure all concerns are heard by individual team members. These meetings are essential for reinforcing behavior, and they allow for ongoing coaching and development.
Beyond the proposal team, scheduled bimonthly or monthly meetings with key subject matter experts (SMEs) can mean the difference between a good response and a great one. These meetings enable the SMEs to relay updates and changes. They also allow the proposal team to ask questions and gain clarification. Since SMEs can be difficult to pin down as deadlines loom, avoid that headache by getting the most information you can in one sitting.
Don’t overlook the benefits of an annual on-site meeting where the whole team gets together in person. The face-to-face exposure is critical for team bonding. Using this time for professional development and team building provides a fun way for the team to grow. There’s no reason to limit the fun to just once a year, though. Offer performance incentives, team member spotlights, and silly themes for regular meetings to boost morale and encourage employee engagement.
APMP’s annual or regional conferences can also be an excellent time to hold one of these team meetups, with both structured learning opportunities and downtime to meet as a team.