How to effectively manage a remote team
- Published on
A lot has changed since the internet started to define the way we interact with the world. Today’s digital world, augmented by globalization, has set the perfect stage for remote work which has become increasingly prevalent. Lots of companies have since adopted a remote work model, some going fully remote, allowing their employees to work from anywhere in the world while others only for certain locations.
Like most important changes, the shift in work culture has brought numerous benefits, including an increased access to a global talent pool, general cost savings and an improved work-life balance for employees.
However, not everything has been a soft ride and managing a remote team brings its unique challenges. If you’re a manager, you need to ensure that your direct team is productive, engaged, taken care and successful even if they are not physically in the same location, sometimes even spread across continents. In this article, we’ll discuss some effective and proven strategies that could help you manage a remote team to ensure everyone’s success.
Establishing team communication channels
Communication is an essential and key part for any team, so it won’t come as a surprise that while managing a remote team, effective communication becomes a top priority. Establishing one or several clear communication channels is crucial for keeping everyone involved on the same page, preventing costly errors or misunderstandings, and ensuring a smooth workflow.
As a manager, you’ll need to choose the right tools for your team, whatever the preferences are, to allow for an approachable communication method that suits most necessities. Some popular options include Slack, Microsoft Teams, Webex or Google Chat. As a first step, make sure your team is comfortable with the chosen platform and ensure they have the necessary resources and time to use it effectively, as some of these require some time to get used to.
Once proper channels are selected, you can then focus on setting clear communication expectations. You should attempt to be transparent about them with the rest the team and address any concerns. This includes reasonable expected response times, how and when to contact key team members, and preferred methods of communication.
Encouraging open communication will foster a culture where your team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas & concerns. We recommend that you regularly check in with your teammates to ensure they have the necessary support and resources to perform their tasks effectively. Regular one on one sessions are a common way to address this.
Setting clear team goals and objectives
So, how can you keep your team focused and motivated? As a manager you’ll need to invest time to get to know your team. It’s essential to set clear goals and objectives, whether they’re annual, quarterly or just for the next sprint. This helps team members understand their role and how it contributes to the overall success of the organization.
A go-to way to establish team goals is to work with your team to discuss & develop realistic, achievable goals that align with the company’s objectives and each member’s expectations. You’ll need to ensure that the discussed goals are clearly communicated and understood by everyone to avoid future conflicts.
While aiming for the team’s success, you’ll also need to set individual objectives, in other words, each team member should own specific work that best suites their skills and expertise. These objectives should align with the overall team goals and should be measurable, attainable, and relevant to the individual’s role.
Lastly, don’t forget to provide them with timely feedback, support, and guidance as needed to help them stay on track.
Implement regular check-ins and meetings
While most of us hate meetings, specially those without a valid purpose or structure, regular check-ins and some meetings are essential to maintain team cohesion and ensuring that all team members are working towards the same goals. They also provide an opportunity to address any issues or concerns that may arise.
We recommend to set up weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member, keep it casual, the main purpose is to discuss their progress, provide any feedback or address any concerns or challenges they may be facing. Some small talk can go a long way to break the ice, just don’t push it, we don’t want it to become uncomfortable.
Meetings are a powerful resource, but it’s easy to overuse them, diminishing the team’s productivity and engagement. Organize just some regular team meetings to discuss important updates and progress reports. Make sure to also include optional time for team bonding and informal conversations.
Some teams go for “no meetings Mondays” or “no meetings Wednesdays”, you’ll know what best work for your team, it’s always a matter of balance.
And let’s not forget to be flexible with time zones and be mindful of the different regions your team members may be located at. Attempt to find a time that works best for everyone, and consider recording important meetings for those who cannot attend.
Promoting a strong team culture
While team culture is sometimes overseen in the effort of improving productivity, building a strong one is essential to keep remote employees engaged & motivated. Accomplishing a positive and inclusive culture can help your team members to feel more connected to each other and the organization.
Encourage team bonding by organizing virtual team-building activities, such as happy hours, team lunches or even online games. These sort of activities can help teammates to better know each other on an individual level and develop more a robust relationship.
Recognizing and celebrating your team’s achievements, both big and small, is equally important. This can involve acknowledging individual accomplishments and records, team milestones or project completions.
By promoting a healthy work-life balance and encouraging your team members to set and maintain boundaries between their personal life and office tasks, you’ll notice an enhancement of the work ambient. Taking regular breaks and disconnecting when needed can drastically improve mental health. Demonstrating such behavior yourself can help nurturing a culture that values well-being and mitigates the risk of burnout.
Monitor team performance and provide feedback
As a manager you should aim for regular performance monitoring and feedback provision, as these are essential for ensuring the ongoing growth and success of your remote team. Providing constructive and timely feedback can help your teammates to easily identify improvement areas and work towards achieving their set objectives.
By providing constructive team feedback, you’ll create trust and your teammates will feel taken care of. Feedback must be regular, specific, and actionable in order to help your team members improve and grow in their roles. Remember to focus on both: their strengths and areas for improvement.
Encourage peer-to-peer feedback, sometimes as the leader, it’s easy to lose perspective, so feedback from another team member could provide valuable insights about each other, while this can also help promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
To conduct performance evaluations you can implement different systems, which may include regular performance reviews, goal tracking, or any other methods you find helpful to monitor progress and success.
Be adaptable and embrace change
Managing a remote team is no easy task, it requires adaptability and strong willingness to embrace change. As a manager, you need to be prepared, expect times to adjust your strategies to address the unique challenges and opportunities that remote work brings. Some go-to ways to approach constant changes are:
✅ Stay informed: Stay up-to-date with the latest trends, tools, and best practices for remote work. Continuously update and refine your management strategies to ensure their effectiveness.
✅ Experiment with new approaches: Be open to testing new approaches to better support your remote team. Try out new communication tools, project management methodologies, or team-building activities to see what works best for your team.
✅ Seek feedback: Constantly ask your team for input on how you can better provide support for them and improve your management efforts. You must be willing to adjust your approach based on received feedback and the evolving needs of your team.
Maintain your focus on results
When managing a remote team, it’s important to maintain the focus on the results rather than simply tracking each team member’s worked hours. While there are people that are “underachievers” to the eyes of stakeholders, sometimes these are the ones that keep the wheel spinning, soft-skills are equally important, and as always we’re aiming for balance.
Set clear expectations early on, communicate the desired outcomes and results for each project. This will help your team to stay focused on what needs to be achieved while it helps creating a culture of accountability pushing everyone to remain productive and focused on achieving their objectives.
You can also establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your team’s efforts. Constantly reviewing these KPIs will help you make sure your team is meeting the proposed objectives and making progress towards its expected goals.
Finally, don’t forget to reward and recognize accomplishments, acknowledging the hard work of your team will only generate incentives for them to continue doing what’s already working and improve it.
Whether you’re an experimented manager experimenting with your first remote team, or just starting out at a new management role, it’s clear that managing a remote team can be a rewarding experience when approached with the right mindset and strategies.
By encouraging effective communication, setting clear goals, providing the necessary resources & support, and maintaining a focus on results, managing a remote team can be like a walk in the park. Of course you’ll find road blocks or not so shiny days, but in the end a team is there to support each other, and with your guidance, only good things can come.
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