How Managers Can Lead Remote Teams
Remote work is not a new thing and today’s most agile and modern organizations are at the top of this trend and are hiring top talent from around the globe. In the face of natural calamities and health crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic, remote teams are not an option but a necessity. Managing remote teams is the responsibility of managers and many managers and team leaders are finding themselves in the midst of dealing with the current remote workforce surge. It can be a challenge to manage it, especially if your organization is not accustomed to it, so this guide will help managers to handle remote teams effectively and build nurturing relationships with employees as well as customers.
Before moving on to the best practices, recognizing the shift coupled with the humanitarian toll crises can bring is the first thing leaders must do. Especially if you’re a CEO, taking care of people is vital so this list will help you take your team and business to success.
What is a remote team?
A remote team consists of a group of professionals with diverse backgrounds, skillsets and time zones working collaboratively on a project. It also involves individuals working from wherever they’re comfortable, be it an office space, a coffeehouse or from their home. Remote work is everywhere but managing a remote team is a different ballgame.
For when you are managing remote employees, you also have to ensure that you overcome the challenges, be available, encourage team bonding and deliver projects on time.
Remote teams are on the rise, but here are some pressing challenges managers need to take note of:
- Hiring the right resources
- Lack of communication
- No clearly defined roles or responsibilities
- Lacking time management including consideration of differences among members
- Making everyone feel part of the team
- Lacking cohesive project management
So the best practices to manage remote teams include:
1. Hiring the right people
Managing a remote team starts with hiring the right person to be part of that team. Working remotely requires a lot of self-discipline and the right go-to attitude so as a manager you must look for someone who is a self-starter. It will be a hassle if you have to micro-manage remote workers so make sure to hire people who are independent, communicate well and have the right motivation, and tools like LinkedIn and Freelancer can help you find the right fit.
A good remote employee will not wait for you to ask for updates or assign tasks. Rather, he or she will proactively update you on the status and schedule.
2. Encouraging team bonding
Leaders must relinquish being hierarchical, along with the belief that a top-down response will engender stability. To promote rapid problem solving, managers must first ensure that the remote teams are a tightly-knit bond of individuals that are united by a common purpose, a common office culture so that they don’t feel left out and thus work towards achieving those goals.
In times of crises like these especially, demonstrating empathy is fundamental to getting the most out of your remote team. Investing their time in the well-being of their employees as well as their own will allow them to sustain the team’s effectiveness as well as be able to counter functional deficiencies. Some common ways to do this include:
- Having a virtual get-together
- Checking in on employees via Zoom or Google’s Team Hangouts
- Celebrating their achievements
3. Ensuring communication
Needless to say, communication is key to successfully managing remote teams. Managers need to ensure regular communication with the team to reduce feelings of isolation especially in times of social distancing. Tools like Slack, Asana, Trello all help in keeping teams updated.
For manager’s communication also involves asking employees about their preferences. Involving employees in minor things like these can make a huge difference. Managers should ask about their preferred feedback style or meeting preferences to better understand how to manage diverse and distributed teams. This makes for good communication, clears out any ambiguities and the information to be grasped more easily.
4. Setting expectations
From the start, managers must create realistic expectations for their work and also communicate it to the team. Managers must clearly state the tasks, the agendas and help the team also understand the reasoning behind it. The scope, deadlines and key deliverables for all tasks must be clearly defined along with the work culture so that everyone is clear about how to proceed. In short, managers should set expectations for:
- Work hours
- Communication tools
- Meeting agendas
- Key projects and deadlines
5. Minimizing your tool stack
It is always better to have a minimal tool stack while functioning remotely to promote productivity and avoid any confusion. As mentioned earlier, tools like Google Suite and video conferencing platforms like Zoom are sufficient to start with.
Keeping tool stack to a minimum is especially important for managers if the company did not already have a culture of documentation; thereby facilitating the shift to remote working.
6. Being flexible and focusing on productivity
Trusting your team and giving them the freedom to get work done on schedule is absolutely essential to boosting productivity. Managers must understand that it is not possible to micromanage each aspect of their remote team and must allow room for flexibility so that the output is maximized instead of being concerned with the activity or the number of hours worked.
Remote teams can be a crucial asset for companies and managers must, therefore, ensure they nature their teams to drive their organizational growth.