How to Manage Remote Teams

July 20, 2015

managing remote teams

There’s no doubt that the last twenty years have brought some of the biggest changes to work processes ever. Technology now allows us to work from anywhere, see colleagues on live video from around the world, and collaborate live on documents and other work products. While advances in remote access and flexible work options have been multiplying rapidly, management practices have been slower to catch up. Many companies are still reluctant to allow people to work from anywhere except the office, even though their technology supports it. The old school thinking assumes that if you can’t see your people working, they must not be.

In one sense, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite the difference in location, many of the fundamentals of running a team stay exactly the same.

1. Communication – You will still need to keep the lines of communication open between you and your team, as well as your team members. Create collaboration spaces where people can work at different times and leave updates. Schedule phone and video meetings. Make sure to connect both as a team and one-on-one.

2. Clear Goals – Whether your people are in the next room or halfway around the world, clearly defined goals are the best way to get results. Spend some time using the SMART goal planning process so that you know you and your team are on the same page about what’s important and when it’s due. Teams with clear goals move forward efficiently – teams that lack direction flounder and waste time.

3. Feedback – It’s actually harder to stay motivated when you are working alone than when you are surrounded by activity. This is especially true if you’re struggling with a challenge. Keep on top of what the people on your team are working on and offer support, feedback, and direction on a regular basis. Be responsive if questions or concerns arise, and hold people to deadlines. Small corrections to steer your team in the right direction are much easier than drastic adjustments if things go off the rails.

New Tools

While the fundamentals are the same, the processes of running a remote team are different. Remote teams require some different tools to keep everyone up to date. Here are some of the most useful tools you can use to keep remote teams on track:

  • Instant Messaging – Being able to ask a quick question or check in with someone is as easy as popping into IM. This is a great tool for exchanging small snippets of information without filling up your inbox. Google chat or Skype are both free and easy instant messaging tools. If your company requires secure communications for all business related work, you may need to use a tool with encryption.
  • Video Chat – Being able to see someone face to face, even across the globe, is a great way to have virtual meetings and more interactive conversations. Tools like Facetime and Skype let you quickly connect with your team anywhere they may be, either individually or in groups.
  • Collaboration Spaces – Keeping everything your team is working on in a central location makes working together easy and keeps things from getting lost. Tools like SharePoint, BaseCamp, Google Apps, and others are great ways to connect and share using document libraries, discussion boards, project plans, and other tools.

As companies continue to expand globally, the ability to manage remote teams has become critical. It all starts with building a team with strong connections and a shared set of goals, and then layering on the technology you need to make the communication work.

For more management tips and insights, check out Katy Tynan’s website.

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The ability to incorporate up-to-date technology allows for effective management of remote teams. Learn more leadership skills though these AMA tools and resources.

About The Author

Katy Tynan is an expert in the future of work. She is the author of How Did I Not See This Coming: The New Manager’s Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster (ATD Press, 2017) and Survive Your Promotion (Personal Focus Press, 2010). Tynan is the founder and chief talent strategist at Liteskip Consulting Group.

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