Leading people who all work in the same location is one thing, but leading people who all work in different locations is another matter entirely. The difficulties that exist in terms of coordinating them, planning tasks and projects and tracking productivity are rife, but there are a number of techniques and best practices that can be used to make life easier and ensure that the quality and efficiency of work being completed does not decrease.
Although it can never be said that it is easy to lead a team when everyone works in one office, it is much simpler than managing remote teams, either working from home or in another branch of the company’s offices. As a leader, the challenges of ensuring that work-rates and results stay high in addition to the team members remaining engaged and enthusiastic about their roles within the organisation can be difficult to conquer.
As hard as it can be to lead or manage a remote team, it is possible to do it successfully. With this in mind, here are some best practices to adopt in order to get the most out of your remote team.
Trust your team
When you can’t manage your team in person every day, a certain degree of trust has to be given to them (and vice versa). Self-motivation is one of the biggest detriments of productivity among remote workers, and while you might think you need to be on their back 24/7 in order for them to get things done, many appreciate being trusted to handle their work themselves. As long as you remain involved enough to receive regular updates, you will find that many remote workers thrives under minimal management.
Invoke the bigger picture
One of the best ways to motivate your team and engage them with what they’re doing is to reiterate the contribution they are making to the company’s overall operations. Being far away from the business means you can lose sight of why you’re doing something – who is benefiting? Why does it matter? As team leader, staying in regular contact with workers and ensuring that they know that what they’re doing is hugely beneficial to the company as a whole will keep morale and engagement high.
Utilize technology to communicate
There are so many different ways that people around the world can stay in touch with each other, from FaceTime to Skype to Viber to social media, that it should be easy to contact anyone that you need to talk to. Find a system with video and voice communication options that allows multiple people to join a conversation over a WiFi or 3G connection, so you can use it for conference calls and quick catch-ups alike.
Staying in regular contact with each other helps relationships and bonds to form, and as a result team spirit will naturally develop. As the team leader, workers will be reassured that you are there for them, available to help when things go wrong, guide them down the right path and encourage them to do everything possible to succeed.
Use software to manage projects
Project management is another part of regular work that can be affected by the way team members are scattered around the country or world. It is much easier to guide a project when everyone is in the same place so that they can ensure they are all on the same page with regard to what colleagues (as well as themselves) are supposed to be doing.
Online and cloud-based project management software is available for entire teams to log onto and track their progress anywhere they are in the world, often using any device they like to access their work and update their status. Projects can be overseen by the team leader who can use the information at their disposal to make decisions about current and future tasks. This system also instills accountability by clearly showing who is responsible for what on a daily basis.
Matt Driscoll is an L&D Consultant focusing on Leadership and Management at Thales L&D. Matt has over 13 years’ experience in learning and development, he is genuinely passionate about helping people improve themselves. Matt is a regular contributor to Enhance – The Magazine for Learning and Development.