The Best Practices for How to Successfully Lead a Remote Team
Have you ever led a conference where people are clearly not engaged? Have you ever written an email you felt was clear only to find that people responded either with vague, unhelpful information or don’t respond at all? Have you made assumptions about a remote team member that were not accurate? Leading remote teams has its challenges.
What are the challenges?
While you may be able to list quite a few challenges if you have worked with a remote team, in my experience most of the challenges come down to three things:
- Distance makes communication that much more difficult. Communication in written form can be misunderstood, lacking verbal and non-verbal cues.
- Monitoring productivity. When you can’t see what your team members are doing in real time it can be difficult to feel like you know what they are accomplishing.
- Helping remote workers to feel they are truly part of the team. Ensuring they know they matter as people, and are important to the success of the group.
These challenges exist, but learning to work with remote teams is not something we have the luxury of ignoring.
Distance leading is a skill most of us will need to cultivate.
Leading remote teams is and will continue to be required of many leaders. This is because remote working grew by nearly 80% between 2005 and 2012, and there’s no end in sight. (Redbooth.com) More companies are becoming global, increasing the need for remote teams. As the search for remote talent becomes easier through technology, hiring from a much bigger pool of talent than location-based companies can be a plus. The desire for flexibility and “work from home” options contribute to dispersed teams. And, the gig economy brings consultants into the mix, often from different locations.
What are best practices for leading a remote team?
Surprisingly, leading a remote team is not all that different, in principle, than leading a local team. Moving past the idea that it will be more difficult will help you lead well from the strengths a leader currently possess.
- Set expectations for productivity, communication, clear work hours and off hours. This will give them boundaries without micromanaging.
- Treat all team members the same regardless of whether they are remote or not. This means use the same evaluation processes, the same reporting, the same amount of time meeting with them, the same expectations for procedures. Focus on meaningful metrics more than face-time at the office.…you get the picture.
- Promote opportunities for non-work interactions and informal communication. Providing a place for posting of personal happenings, events, family pictures, etc. will help remote employees feel they are cared for as people, not just a faceless person that produces. Pair up remote workers with local ones for added interaction and connection.
- Set regular meeting times. Make sure these meetings are focused with a clear agenda so people can prepare. Don’t cancel these meetings, keep them as sacred. Be cognizant of the time differences and find time that is convenient for everyone.
- Stack the deck for success. Be disciplined in your hiring process, on-board well, giving remote workers a test period to begin so you can gauge success factors. Regularly ask for feedback on how they are doing. Be clear and consistent with organizational structure and company culture. Give them the necessary resources to do their job.
- Purchase a robust collaboration system and technology that prioritizes collaboration such as clearly articulated workflows and project procedures.
- Make sure remote workers see their career path with your company. This will help with retention and engagement.
Written by Dr. Liz Selzer