April 3, 2020


This guest post is authored by Rebecca Dopart, director of development at Wisconsin Public Radio

Grabbing coffee with your sales rep to review numbers, or gathering team members in a conference room for a quick update are conveniences you just don’t have when you manage a remote team. Many of us so instinctively rely on these daily communication opportunities that the idea of leading a remote team can be daunting. How do you build team spirit and trust when you don’t see your team every day? It is possible to do! It just takes some intentional planning and a focus on fun.

schedule in-person retreats for remote workers

Team Retreats

Eyeball-to-eyeball communication reigns supreme, and if your team is remote you need to invest time and money to make face-time possible. At WPR, we invest in travel and resources to make two-day team retreats happen three to four times annually. Face-time builds trust and makes all other communication more effective. I call this the benefit-of-the-doubt factor. When trust is built through face-time, people are more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt when something might otherwise be read the wrong way in daily remote communication. For example, an email between two colleagues may have potential to be misconstrued, but a misunderstanding is much less likely if they have recently had dinner together at a team retreat, shared a few laughs and built some trust and rapport.

cultivate geographic leadership amongst remote workers

Territory Leadership

Speaking of face-time, because it is THAT important, consider adding a team leader in each geographical grouping of sales representatives. At WPR, we have three territory managers for the east, west and south-central regions of Wisconsin. These territory managers are high-performing salespeople who have added supervisory duties to their plates. They have regular in-person check-ins with the sales staff in their region, providing the invaluable face-time every team member deserves. The territory managers report to the underwriting manager.

have fun with remote staff

Add FUN Wherever Possible

  • Cross-Team Contests

Encourage collaboration and fun by running a sales contest where staff from different geographies are paired together on cross-office teams

  • Weekly Whatcha Up To? updates

Keep the whole team feeling connected by doing a weekly email update with photos of each team member where everyone shares two bullet points about their week (one work, one personal). Ours is called “DTW” (Development Team Weekly) … ok, not the most creative name, but fun nonetheless!

  • Nothing Is More Fun Than Success

Start every team conference call with a round robin of success stories where each person shares their biggest success of the week. And, when monthly reports come out, highlight superstars with an all-team email.

In-depth resource for Greater Public members: Managing and Motivating Your Underwriting Team

Rebecca Dopart is the director of development at Wisconsin Public Radio. Before moving into this role, she served as the director of membership and corporate support at WPR. She has been at WPR in various development roles for nearly 12 years. In 2012, she was awarded Development Professional of the Year by PRADO.

The WPR Underwriting sales team is composed of 12 full-time salespeople across six geographical regions in Wisconsin. They have grown from $1.7 million in annual sales in FY12 to a projected $2.8 million in FY16.