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4 Lessons From Training a 7-Figure Remote Team

23rd Mar 2020
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Ensuring your team has the right mix of skills to execute your business objectives is one of your key responsibilities as a leader.

When the right mix of skills is in place, everyone wins.

Your team feels a sense of confidence, efficacy and being valued.

Your customers enjoy a quality experience that only is possible when your team is equipped with the knowledge and experience they need.

Your business thrives as you're more likely to retain both customers and staff, reducing the need for the pricey process of acquisition. Studies have shown training is a key reason for 70% of people choosing to stay with their companies, rising to 87% for millennials.

I feel this is especially true when you’re leading a remote team. When everyone is working in the same office, it’s easy to ask for help and assistance from a colleague. That’s still possible with remote work, but it’s far less easy.

Given the importance of skills, especially for remote teams, how can you ensure that you’re approaching training and development in this area in the right way?

Here are four lessons I’ve learned from leading and training a remote team that consistently climbs the Inc 5000 list year on year. 

Think In Terms of Depth Chart

There's nothing worse than having a point of vulnerability in your organization in terms of crucial skills.

If there is only one person, or a small number of people, who know how to do something important, you’re putting your business at massive risk.

As much as we might like to retain our best people indefinitely, life happens. People accept new roles, or get sick, or retire.

As a result, you should always think in terms of 'depth chart'. Just as a sports team needs people in place should the main stars end up out of action, so does your organization.

Of course, it might not be economically viable or efficient to have multiple people skilled up to the same level. You might want to think in terms of tiers. Your back up people might possess a valuable skill but to a lesser extent than the main team members. This means that should the main members depart, you can upskill the backups quicker than if they were starting from scratch.

It’s also worth having people in place who can acquire skills quickly. For example, you might have people with experience in a particular content management system. If they needed to learn a new CMS, they would be able to do so quicker than someone with no CMS experience at all. 

Align Skills With Tools and Purpose

To get the most out of your team, you need to ensure their skill sets are a good fit for the aims they will be pursuing, and the tools they will be working with.

I'll draw upon my experience running a remote team to illustrate this point. Let's say you hire some rockstar salespeople, but they happen to have the majority of their experience selling face to face. Your organization will be selling via Zoom or Skype calls.

In such a situation, these people might still be the right choice. After all, selling is a transferable skillset, and it’s key principles remain the same.

However, if you had a choice between someone with a better overall sales background and someone with a slightly less impressive background, but more experience selling via the channel you intend to choose, you may wish to opt for the latter.

I also coach writers. Part of that involves helping them find the optimal writing software and tools to maximize their output.

The key lesson is to never see skills and tools as isolated from each other. Always consider the skills you seek in light of the tools you will use, and vice versa. This will help you to get the best bang for your buck from the people and tools your organization invests in. 

Seek Out The 80/20

One of the guiding principles that helps me in every decision I make is the concept of 80/20.

You’ve probably heard of it, but if not, the key idea is that roughly 80% of your results in life will stem from 20% of your efforts.

How does this apply to the area of skill development and training?

Of all the skills you might be considering for your team, a small number of them are likely to produce the vast majority of results for your business.

If you've been in your current field for several years, you probably have an instinct about this. For example, you might notice that people with the most interpersonal warmth and empathy tend to perform highly for you. You'd therefore seek out people with the highest level of interpersonal skill possible, perhaps de-emphasizing the importance of some other technical skill. 

You can also use 80/20 as a guide when allocating training time. You should ensure that people are spending the lion’s share of their time on acquiring skills that are likely to produce the lion’s share of results.

It's easy to see various skills as equally important, but that's seldom true. Identify the 80/20 relating to skills in your organization, and your business is likely to thrive. 

Prepare For Tomorrow’s Challenges Today

Foreseeing the challenges your business will face in the future is an important part of choosing the right skills for your team.

Let’s consider the online world for a moment.

Some years back, the majority of searches were carried out via desktop. However, in recent years, the trend reversed, and people now do the majority of their searching via mobile devices, over 60% total and far higher in some niches.

This means that organizations need to have people skilled at producing web content that looks great and performs well on mobile. Businesses that foresaw that trend, and put the right skills in place ahead of time, would have a competitive advantage over those that did not.

Of course, you’ll never know for certain whether you’re correctly predicting the future challenges of your industry, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

If you notice a trend, and you feel it’s more than a flash in the pan, consider which skills you’d want your team to have in the future to capitalize on the trend.

Are You Asking The Right Questions?

I don’t want to waste your time by providing an interesting read without any practical steps to take.

So, if you want to take action on the concepts you’ve just read, take the time to answer these four questions:

Are there any important skills in my organization that only a few people have? Is there sufficient depth of skill in place? Should I train others to ensure depth?

Are the tools we currently use best aligned with the skills our people have? Could there be a better fit between tools and skills, and if so, what’s the first step to breaching the gap?

What's the 80/20 in terms of skills and results in my organization? Could people's training time be redistributed to better align with 80/20?

What are the trends in my industry I see continuing? Do we have the right skills in place to capitalize on them, or should people be acquiring skills in some other area?

The last thing I’ll say is to try and make training positive and communal for your remote team. For example, I run a company book club which my people seem to get a lot from. You might want to try this or find other ways to maximize the enjoyability and community of your training program.

The current situation with Covid-19 means more and more teams will be training remotely. Keep calm and ensure this is as beneficial and enjoyable as possible.

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