Managing Your Team Remotely
In early 2003, I had an opportunity to work with a large client on the East Coast. The client had 3 other offices in the Midwest and wanted a team on site, due to the scope of work. I would work 2 weeks here and traveled the other 2 weeks to the East Coast. My team was scattered around the country. It actually worked very well for all involved, but having a good foundation in place was the key.
1. Make sure you have good people.
Working remotely isn’t for everyone. Employees must be self motivated and have a genuine desire to get the job done in the most efficient way possible. For managers, it is critical to be a strong leader who can build trusting relationships with teams located in different geographical areas.
2. Technology is critical.
Making sure your team is equipped to work remotely with the right technology, is very important. Organizations that encourage working remotely, should have mobile devices for their employees to use – laptops, tablets and smartphones are all essential tools. A bring your own device policy is another way to be flexible toward employees’ preferences, while simultaneously cutting overhead costs.
Use instant messaging tools like Skype or Google Hangouts that allow face-to-face interaction with remote teams for free. A screen sharing tool like TeamViewer helps in troubleshooting long-distance.
3. Set expectations and goals upfront.
In a regular workplace, employees learn about what is expected of them not just from the goals penned down in black and white, but also during face-to-face interactions with their managers and other coworkers.
Remote workers lack the benefit of these numerous daily face-to-face interactions and water-cooler conversations that regular employees enjoy. For this reason, it becomes imperative to set clear expectations from them.
4. Make Daily Contact – It Matters
Reach out as much as you can to the extent that it adds value to your working relationships. For example, let your manager know when you’re working on a particular assignment and offer updates. In a remote setting, your supervisors (and teammates!) will not know when you’re working on something unless you tell them.
As pointed out earlier, remote workers lack the one-on-one interactions that colleagues in an office have on a daily basis. These interactions help in building a team spirit, in understanding workplace dynamics, and in building a sense of belonging among employees.
Foster these feelings in your remote workers by ensuring that they interact with their manager and other functional teams on a daily basis.
Including away messages when you’re not working can also be helpful in keeping the lines of communication open and everyone on the same page. This kind of interaction, although virtual, is still significant and creates a more accessible community culture.
5. Treat your team like the adults they are.
This is my favorite. The most important in my book. I have seen leaders continue to get this wrong every single day. It astounds me. You hired this team for a reason – because you felt very confident they could do the work and they were the best people to do the job.
Trust is the most powerful, and most fragile, asset in an organization, and it is almost exclusively created, or hampered, by the actions of the senior leader on the team.
A working environment of trust is a place where teams stay focused, give their utmost effort, and in the end do their best work. It’s a place where we can trust ourselves, trust others, trust our surroundings, or—best of all—trust all three.
Let’s face it. It is now fairly common to have dispersed employees that work across the country. With the advantages of modern technology, open communication and an environment built on trust and integrity, you are setting your remote team up for great success.