It won’t be long before many of us will be super experts at managing a remote team. I have had the pleasure and flexibility of working remotely for several years now, and that includes managing a team of marketing professionals for one client along with interacting with my consulting firm team members who are primarily virtual workers.
Some advice for effective remote teams can be broken down into two big chunks: 1) what is essential to do with your team no matter where everyone works and 2) extra steps required because everyone works remotely.
Keep on keeping on:
Developing your team members. Good development on at least an annual basis is important – quarterly frequency is even more effective. Ask your team members to rate their prior year’s performance with a plus/delta format. What went really well and what could have been better or could be changed going into a fresh year. Then you weigh in with the same format – what were their memorable accomplishments and what should be worked on for development and growth.
Having regular meetings that allow for collaboration and discussion. The frequency of these is dependent on the size and needs of your team – we have found that a regular meeting every two weeks works well. Sending out an agenda ahead of time with minutes that quickly follow is great. Always allow for the flexibility of adding agenda items at the beginning along with time at the end for some Q&A. Make sure everyone has a chance to participate.
Professional rigor and personal care. Strike a balance with your team of professional expectations and discipline along with understanding personal joys and challenges of your team members. Your team should know what’s expected and what the goals are, but they should also know that you’re ready to listen when things aren’t going as planned.
Technical tools for communication. Make sure that you’re investing in the right conference calling or web conferencing systems depending on your team’s needs for meetings and collaboration. And don’t think that you have to perform exhaustive research and stick with something forever. Try them and be open-minded to suggestions from the team.
Did we mention professional rigor and personal care? This becomes even more important when everyone does not see each other in a brick & mortar setting every day. Professional expectations set the stage while personal interest and questions (within good boundaries) help build trust and work comfort.
Respecting boundaries. There’s a tremendous temptation and risk to working 24/7 within remote teams or virtual work environments. Be respectful of family and personal time. Consider setting reasonable workday schedules with your team members then stick to them. As a remote team member, give plenty of notice for vacation or personal time off so that others can plan around you.
What are some effective techniques that you have used with your remote team?