As amazing as the benefits of having a remote workforce can be, some professionals are leery of setting up this type of work arrangement because of the perception that the team would be difficult to manage. When you approach the matter with the right expectations and have a suitable management strategy in mind, you may discover that your management efforts are not as complicated as you might have thought.
To enjoy the most productive and least complicated remote work team experience, you need to get the relationship with your team members started on the right foot. This means that you must define and clarify expectations with each new hire.
Your expectations should ideally create structure and organization to the leader-worker relationship. Remember that this holds true regardless of whether you are hiring remote workers or if you plan to let your in-office workers spend time working from home periodically.
A smart idea is to create a dedicated meeting time for all team members to come together at least monthly. Ideally, everyone will come into the office to meet personally. If the distance is a challenge, video conferencing technology should be used. If your team is located in different time zones, choose a meeting time that is convenient for most of your workers.
Communication is a major obstacle when it comes to managing a remote work team. After all, you cannot walk directly to them to communicate face-to-face. Technological communication tools and resources improve communication dramatically regardless of how far away your employees are located.
Locate the right tools for easy communication as well as for collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Boring tasks can be automated so that more time and effort can be spent on group collaboration and effective communication. This enables you to take full advantage of the potential of each of your employees.
For each tool that you introduce to your team, you must understand how it works and what its benefits are. More than that, you need to inform your team about the proper and expected uses of each technological tool.
Remember that chat messages and email text can often be misconstrued, and this can create emotionally tense situations. Use verbal communication when you believe wording may be taken the wrong way, or you can make use of emoticons. The last thing that you want is to come across as aggressive, combative, angry or aggressive and to let that image stew in the back of your team’s minds.
Remember that you can also use animated gifs rather than emoticons when appropriate. While you always want to remain professional and choose appropriate gifs, there is something to be said for brightening someone’s day with a gif of Minions jumping and dancing around or Leonardo DiCaprio raising his glass to toast a great accomplishment.
Communication and availability
Written communication is a convenient way to communicate with your team in many cases. But remember that constant and regular written communication can make your remote workers lonely and it can also result in turnover in some cases.
You can combat the element of loneliness by getting in the habit of reaching out to each team member individually. During these conversations, ask your workers about their emotional state, their overall efficiency and their workload. Identify what their concerns are, and actively look for solutions.
Remember that some employees will openly communicate their needs and concerns, but others may not be open to sharing their thoughts. You may have to push harder to get honest information from some individuals. This can be particularly true if they have an issue communicating with you. For example, Skype may have shown that you are “available,” but you may rarely respond to Skype messages in a timely manner.
During these meetings, take the time to share information with your workers about events, milestones and more they otherwise may be privy to if they worked in the office. This gives them a feeling of belonging. Remember that this may be more than a five-minute meeting. In fact, you should plan to devote approximately one hour per week to communicate with each of your remote workers.
Some people prefer to avoid eye contact and in-person meetings. After all, written communication may be less stressful and less direct or confrontational. However, live
contact with your team is critical. If funds allow, bring your remote workers into the office from time to time. If this is not possible, use video conferencing technology regularly. This is essential for developing a deeper bond with your employees and for helping them to feel connected to the company.
During these in-person meetings, focus on showing your remote workers your company’s culture. It may be ideal to bring all remote workers together at one time so that the entire team can be together periodically. Regardless of whether you meet in-person or through video conferencing, offer them company swag to further include them in your culture.
Characteristics of a remote team leader
As you can see, being a remote team leader does require the right strategy and thoughtful efforts. To be truly successful, you also should have or should actively improve your personal characteristics. These include:
- Flexibility. With differences in work styles, communication preferences, time zones and more, a remote team leader must be flexible.
- Optimism. Your team will feed off of your energy, so you must remain positive and optimistic in all of your communications.
- Motivational. All employees need to be motivated and encouraged, and successful remote team leaders must actively focus on this when workers are not located in-house.
- Approachable. Your remote workers should feel comfortable approaching you about minor or major issues without fear of ramifications or negative results.
- Reliability. You may be one of your worker’s only or primary points of contact in the office, so you must be reliable when addressing all of their communications and needs.
- Constructive. All employees have room to improve in various ways, and you must find an effective way to help your team improve in a positive way.
- Communicator. Successful communicators can relay messages, instructions and more verbally and in writing.
You can see that managing a remote team successfully is actually not as challenging as you may have originally thought. Now that you understand what it takes to be successful, do you think that you have what it takes to lead a remote team?
About the author:
Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. When she’s not being all serious and busy, she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, and delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88