Managing Remote Teams
When managing remote teams whilst working from home, there are 3 things that need a lot more time and focus:
- Team connection: Ensuring your whole team stay connect and collaborate with each other regularly.
- Communication: Keeping your team up to date with news, information and changes.
- Managing team performance: Setting expectations, goals and tracking progress.
#1 Team Connection
Be a role model. Use instant chat, say good morning, and ask how everyone is and what they are working on today. Tell them how you’re feeling, what you’re working on that day, maybe share a photo of your workspace, your garden or the pet who’s keeping you company. Be a manager yes, but also be human.
Try to find new ways and reasons for different team members to work together. Yes, it is best to have team members volunteer for projects, however, sometimes (to ensure people don’t always work with the same people) it is worth choosing project teams yourself. Perhaps, try randomly pairing different team members for weekly calls, just to chat.
In team meetings, make time for small talk. At first (whilst people are getting used to the technology), you might want to choose a discussion topic and/or pose a question to everyone.
Organise a weekly virtual team get together. Have everyone attend with a drink, possibly their favourite snack, or even have lunch together. Keep the conversation lite, fun and focused on them and not the work.
Keep asking and collecting regular feedback from all of your team. Ask them how they are and how they would rate team collaboration and happiness.
Whilst working remotely, try to use video collaboration tools as much as possible. It helps maintain relationships and increases human interaction when working remotely. Video enables you to pick up on nonverbal communication and limits distractions. It’s easy to zone out on a conference call and become distracted with emails, but video is much more engaging. For more information, take a look at my Guide to Virtual Meetings.
When you work in an office it’s easy to catch up, ask questions, and have quick up-dates. Yet, when working from home, these easy interactions are no longer there. When managing remote teams, it is, therefore, advisable to increase your 1-2-1’s with every team member.
Remember, no matter how small a decision or short a conversation, summarise important updates and share them with the team. When you receive information in management meetings share everything you can. If in doubt as to whether you’re allowed – ask. The majority of the time you should share.
At first, you might feel you are over-communicating, but your team might feel otherwise. Keep asking your team if they feel informed.
#3 Managing Team Performance
When managing remote teams’ performance, start by discussing working hours and availability with each team member. Show respect for their personal responsibilities and that you care for their time. Remember, a degree of flexibility is needed on both sides.
It is important to have a culture of accountability by setting clear goals and tasks. Every team member should fully understand: what is expected of them, who should be involved in this work, and the completion date. If any of these things are unclear, team members won’t always feel they can ask for confirmation.
As when working in the office, it is important to have a way of tracking individual and team performance. This is not micro-management, this is so you and the rest of the team are informed as to what has and hasn’t been completed.
It is best to track projects/tasks in a central source where everyone can access, if not you will need to keep detailed records and up-date the whole team regularly.
Your time and workloads should be equally distributed across your team. You are the role model, if you leave people out and/or overly involve others, your team will notice.
And finally, give your team members flexibility, but certainly do not leave them on their own. Though you may be out of sight, don’t ever let them be out of your mind.