Managing a team is hard enough on its own. When you go from working in the same office to operating remotely, it becomes even more difficult. But that’s the way things are at the moment, and the sooner you embrace it, the better.
5 Tips for Smooth Remote Team Management
People are people. Whether they’re crammed into cubicles in a downtown office building, or they’re spread out across dozens of home offices, the same basic psychology applies. But that doesn’t mean you can plan on the same leadership techniques and management strategies. How you manage a remote team is starkly different from how you manage a traditional “in-person” team in a face-to-face setting.
Remote teams present challenges with communication, oversight, bonding and interpersonal relationships, distractions, trust, and even morale. And though it’s certainly different, there are plenty of successful companies that are winning big with remote teams. In order to follow suit, you must shift your approach and be mindful of your execution.
Here are a few tips you can use to manage your remote team without missing a beat:
1. Establish a Digital “Workplace”
You might not be in the same physical office as everyone else, but there are still ways to bring your team together and create some cohesiveness in a digital environment.
An intranet is one of the best options. Intranet software, which is basically like your company’s own private internet/social networking platform, allows you to store and share files, send messages, access company resources, publish company news and announcements, and more. It provides opportunities for increased productivity and security, no matter where a team is located.
2. Assume Good Intentions
While an intranet platform can improve collaboration and accessibility, many teams still have trouble with how they communicate. In other words, they find it difficult to convey the proper message when there are no context clues like inflection, tone, facial expressions, or body language.
“People tend to interpret messages differently depending on their mood or what they assume about the writer. Train your team to assume good intentions for every message,” entrepreneur Heather McGough writes. “Because my team assumes my positive regard, I don’t have to add smiley faces and exclamation points to soften the tone of compact messages. This saves us a significant amount of time and allows us all to focus on what’s really important.”
Set ground rules ahead of time so that people know what to expect. This limits the amount of time you have to spend thinking about how someone will receive/perceive what you’re saying.
3. Require Video for Meetings
Nobody likes video meetings. You have to put on real clothes, brush your hair, and make sure your office is tidy. But truth be told, we need to do these things anyway. So requiring video for all meetings is a good policy.
By requiring video, you force people to tidy up, look professional, and get in the right frame of mind. You can also make sure people are focused, which is impossible to know if your team is using audio/voice only and spends 90 percent of the meeting on mute.
4. Conduct Daily Check-Ins
You don’t want to be overbearing, but there’s something to be said for making sure your team is on track throughout the week. Daily five-minute check-ins with each team member will help you track progress and deal with small fires before they become major issues.
5. Prioritize Outcomes Over Activity
Somewhere along the line, we’ve become conditioned to think that activity is more important than outcomes. We praise the person who shows up to work first and clocks out after everyone else has already gone home. But is this really what we want to emphasize?
In reality, outcomes are more important than activity. If someone can do the same amount of work in six hours as someone else can in nine hours, why make the more efficient worker slave away for another three hours?
You can’t micromanage a remote team. So instead of focusing on how long someone is sitting at their desk, prioritize the work they get done. So long as your employees are doing what you ask of them, it shouldn’t matter to you if they’re working 30 hours a week or 45 hours a week.
Set Your Team Up for Success
If you suddenly find yourself managing a remote team, you need to develop a plan. Winging it is not an option. From communication and file sharing to project management and productivity, it’s up to you to empower your team with the tools, systems, and freedoms they need to be successful.