In today’s business world, remote teams are more common than ever. They come with a number of unique benefits, but also present a handful of challenges. If you’re tasked with leading a virtual team of employees or contractors, it’s imperative that you approach the responsibility with great care.
The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
For all of the benefits that remote teams offer a company – including cost savings and flexibility – they also present a number of challenges. They include:
- How do you schedule a remote team and ensure they’re actually working when they’re supposed to be on the clock? This is a common issue that remote team managers encounter.
- When your team is in a physical office building together, it’s easy to communicate. You just walk down the hallway and knock on someone’s door. With a remote team, it requires a bit more effort (and there can be considerable delays, which slow down efficiency).
- Geographical barriers. It isn’t really an issue if your entire remote team is in the same city or state, but geographical barriers can be a problem when people are spread across different parts of the country or globe. From time zones and languages to cultural tendencies and social expectations, it can be hard to get everyone synced up.
In the grand scheme of things, these are all relatively minor points of friction. But the sooner you address them, the less problematic they’ll be.
3 Tips for Remote Leadership and Management
There’s no question that remote teams present distinct challenges, but this doesn’t mean they’re impossible to manage. With the right understanding of how remote teams work and what they need, you can lead them with skill and expertise. Here are some helpful tips:
- Prioritize Clear Communication
Let’s start with the issue of communication. While it’s a big one, it doesn’t have to be a sticking point for your team. There’s plenty of technology that’s designed with the sole intention of helping businesses overcome this issue. This includes video-based tools that allow for face-to-face communication among teams that are spread out across multiple locations.
The key to using these tools is to coach your team up on how they can use them to communicate effectively and convey their ideas clearly.
“When you communicate virtually, with or without a camera, you’ll find that you need to amplify your energy beyond what may be comfortable for you in order to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment,” Heather Muir writes for Mandel.
When it comes to written communication – whether email or instant message – team members need to be coached to cut out the small talk and get straight to the point. Simple, concise messages leave less room for error or misinterpretation.
- Instill Accountability
As a leader of a remote team, it’s up to you to keep everyone on the same page. Part of this requires you to instill a sense of accountability. Each individual team member must understand that their actions have a direct impact on everyone around them.
Instead of trying to hold each team member accountable yourself, divvy up the responsibility. By making individuals accountable to each other, they’re less likely to carelessly let someone down.
- Foster Community
Remote teams arguably need better rapport than physical teams that are in close proximity each day. And while there are plenty of ways to foster community in a virtual setting, make it a point to get everyone together at least once a year.
“Nothing beats getting everyone together face to face,” Lighthouse explains. “You’ll always get at least a few, ‘wow, you look different than you did on video’ and other funny reactions. More importantly though, you’ll build more rapport in a few days of team work in person than months of remote efforts.”
Learn As You Go
At the end of the day, this whole idea of managing virtual and remote teams is still relatively new. While there are plenty of people doing it, most have to learn as they go – and you should be open to doing the same. As you gain more experience with real-world scenarios and challenges, you’ll become better equipped to set your team up for future success.