When your career is progressing and you are moving into management roles, one of the biggest challenges can be when you are asked to take on responsibility for a remote team. As businesses become more global and more complex, it is becoming increasingly common to use remote teams to provide geographic or time-zone coverage, and also to have work completed at a lower cost-base, or where the required skills can be located.
In some ways, managing a remote team of people is very similar to managing a team of people that sit in the same office as you, but there are some important distinctions and variations.
In this article we will share some hints and tips on how to prepare yourself to effectively manage your first remote team.
Know your people
If possible, you should make a point of going to visit each of your team members and spending some ‘face-time’ with each of them. If you can introduce yourself in person at the start of your working relationship, then you will be able to quickly build an understanding of who they are, what motivates them, their strengths and weaknesses. If it’s not possible to visit in person, you will have to work extra hard to build that initial rapport – make sure you use video as your primary means of communication, try and find opportunities to take your conversations beyond the immediate concerns of work and find out more about their personal lives and their personalities.
Create some structure
Feedback that we often see from remote teams that are underperforming is that people are not sure what is expected of them, that they lack direction. Things about some of the management basics that you would use if your team was all located in the same office as you. Most likely, you will have daily huddles, planning meetings, performance reviews, and you will set targets and objectives and measure progress towards them. All of those principles and that performance management framework applies equally to your remote team members, it just takes a bit more effort to make it all happen. Bring in the discipline of project management, ensure that everyone understands how their work contributes to the overall success of the team and the business. Use tools that enable real-time collaboration, and adopt CRM systems such as Microsoft Dynamics that enable knowledge sharing and team-building.
Think about how you can translate some of the everyday team reward behaviors that you use for people in your office across to the people in your remote team. You may not be able to spontaneously present them with a bottle of champagne, but you can send gift vouchers. You may not be able to make announcement at team drinks, but you can dedicate part of a team video call to sharing success stories and highlighting when things have gone well.
The prospect of managing a remote team of people can be a bit daunting and a bit overwhelming, but the key thing is to be yourself. Be authentic, connect with your team members as people, and communicate, communicate, communicate. With a strong foundation, your remote team will be able to exceed expectations and deliver the results that your business needs.