Stacy Tuschl: “Keeping people motivated is different in a remote work environment”

Keeping people motivated is different in a remote work environment. You can have an entire team that lives in various states, so happy hour and weekend get-togethers are not taking place. As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy […]

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Keeping people motivated is different in a remote work environment. You can have an entire team that lives in various states, so happy hour and weekend get-togethers are not taking place.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Tuschl.

Stacy Tuschl is a small business Growth Coach, who has multiple seven figure businesses (which literally began from her parents’ backyard). Additionally, she is an author, podcast host of the top-ranked Foot Traffic podcast, and was given the Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year Award for 2019. Stacy’s podcast guest list includes Suze Orman, Geoff Woods, and Dave Hollis.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

Thanks for having me-I’m happy to share! When I was in high school, I fell in love with dance and I really wanted to teach dance lessons. I was 18 years old and didn’t own a physical space for lessons. So, I began hosting dance lessons for area kids-in my parents’ backyard. Eventually, I bought 2 dance studios. As my business grew, other business leaders noticed that growth and asked me for tips. They were seeking my advice about how they could grow their own businesses. That continued to happen, and it was clear that I was providing something other business owners needed, which was coaching. That laid the groundwork for me to start my small business growth coaching business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I find it interesting how my personal brand has affected my dance studio in a positive way. I used to not realize they were connected. I was doing FB lives and trainings for my dance studios and US Bank saw them. They were looking to feature small business owners in a series, but were finding many owners were not comfortable being on camera. They knew I was comfortable, so they approached me about the project they were working on. I ended up being chosen to take part in the series. After that, they (US Bank) nominated me for the SBA Small Business Person of the Year in 2019, for which I was awarded.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first year in business I had people sign waivers and registration forms. At the end of the year I threw them away. I didn’t think anyone would ever sue me. I also thought they would re register on their own-that they would just remember to do it, so I wouldn’t need their contact information from those forms. I threw away documents that were not only legal, but important for continued business.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

You need to be crystal clear on expectations of what you need from your employees. It’s also important to give them an opportunity to ask questions. Agree on mutual deadlines. Saying, “When do you think you can have this done?” rather than, “I need this done by Friday.” can make a big difference.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I have had a remote team for over five years.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

One challenge is getting to know people. In a remote world there are no water cooler moments.

Another challenge is because you are not working physically near one another, it can be difficult to know what team members are working on. You might begin to wonder what your team is actually doing.

In a remote situation the training process can be a challenge. When you are working in the same location, it’s common to have a new hire literally be on site to learn the job.

Keeping people motivated is different in a remote work environment. You can have an entire team that lives in various states, so happy hour and weekend get-togethers are not taking place.

In a remote work environment, you are relying more heavily on platforms such as Zoom. Your team may feel like they are constantly in meetings.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

We have our team members share one personal and one professional “win” at our weekly meeting. This has allowed us to get to know each other on a deeper level.

One of the best tools we use is a project management software. This allows each team member to specify what tasks they are working on and provide updates on a daily basis.

You can still have people to watch via Zoom and screen share and chat, so no hires can have the “over the shoulder” type moments.

It’s important to have common goals and rewards that team members can work towards. Some ideas can include commission incentives, or an in-person retreat, or a virtual happy hour.

It may seem that the Zoom or online meetings are constant, but in essence they help productivity. These meetings help reassess expectations, update progress, and allow for questions to be asked. Ultimately, these interactions can help your team stay on task more efficiently.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

We don’t do phone calls or conference calls where you can’t see each other. I feel that facial expressions and body language are so important so we are very intentional about doing everything on Zoom.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Giving feedback by way of email has a lot to do with interpretation. It is critical that you know and understand your team members’ personalities. You need to know who will perceive that information negatively versus who will can handle the feedback and move on. Knowing personalities it may be best to have a Zoom call. One Zoom call could be 15 minutes, whereas one email could spiral because the team member is upset with the content of the email.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Be very clear on the expectations. They may be used to things running a certain way, but these are different times. Some people are not used to or comfortable with working from home. I encourage people to still get up, get dressed, keep a schedule.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Every day we do the “Who’s been caught being awesome?” and every Monday we acknowledge a team member who exemplifies one of our company values. This way we are constantly shouting people out.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Dream big, but one step at a time. Have that big vision, but be realistic on what can be done.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

You can never be the smartest person the room. I learn from others around me. You have a chance to dream big and learn from others who share their dreams and their unique stories.

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