3 Ground Rules for Managing Remote Teams

 

Remote working has been one of the coolest things that happened to workplaces in the last decade or so. You no longer need to be physically present at your desk in the office and can get the work done from anywhere in the world! How cool is that!!!

While it looks good from a distance, there are many things that you need to take care while working remotely. As a young manager, it can be difficult for you to manage your team remotely. After all, that isn’t really the thing they teach you in business schools!

Managing workflow for remote employees is also a challenge. According to the 2016 Harvard Business Review article “Collaborative Overload”, the time employees spend on collaboration has increased by 50% over the past two decades. Some other stats suggest that 63 per cent of companies in the US have remote workers and this number is expected to increase in next 3 years.

It can be a big challenge when most of your team is actually working remotely and you’re the only one in the office. A bigger challenge can be managing your team remotely from home. For most of the employees, the ability to work remotely is the pinnacle of corporate perks so its not going anywhere anytime soon. Hence, managing remote teams needs to be one of your top skills in times to come.

Technology has made teams evermore connected in the virtual world. Tools like Slack, Zoom, Outlook, G-suite, Whatsapp all have created the concept of remotely dispersed yet connected teams. Yet, when it comes to managing remote teams, you can feel directionless in the beginning. We have compiled a list of 3 Ground Rules that we feel can help you managing remote teams :

     1. Be noticeably clear

When you are working remotely, the important element of body language is missing over audio calls and text messages. If you can arrange a Zoom or Skype Meeting then always go for it. If you can’t, then your verbal and written communication should leave no room for ambiguity. From time to time, you need to set expectations in your team. This can mean setting expectations to responding to work emails and texts. Do you want it to be synchronous or asynchronous. Do you want you team to respond straightaway or you’re fine with waiting for some hours before they respond. Be honest and noticeably clear about your expectations with the team members. If possible create a written explicit document of ground rules and share it with your team. This helps in avoiding conflicts and gets the work done in smoother fashion and helps maintaining work-life balance.

 

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     2.  Don’t micromanage and build trust

One of the common mistakes that managers can do is micro-managing remote teams. It is not only going to kill your own productivity but also of your team. You may have tracking tools at your disposal and may be tempted to use them. However, your focus should be on the deliverable work instead of monitoring your teams computer activity, time tracking and chats. This isn’t the right approach. Focus on building trust in remote teams. You should learn to walk the talk with your team. As a manager, try to be available to your team members and be ready to answer them when they’re need your help. Mere lip service isn’t going to help. The idea is to make them feel valued and supported. Give your team members meaningful work that helps them develop in their career. Create a sense of accountability in your team members. Even if they are working remotely, it doesn’t mean that they are less accountable for the deliverable work. If you decide to implement time tracking, keep your team on-board and discuss the metrics with them on which you’d be monitoring them. When you create transparency in your team’s working, you help building trust.

     3. Don’t blame

Managing remote teams means that the workflow would be different from in-office teams. It also means that there are going to be mistakes in execution of work. This can arise from lack of clarity in communication from your side or some oversight on part of your team members. When something goes wrong, take the opportunity to troubleshoot and build trust through transparently collaborating on the solution, keeping the fault-causing team member in the loop. When you involve the fault-causing team member in the process, you help them learn and develop. They also feel that their mistake had an implication on the team and from the next time they need to be cautious. Don’t indulge in blame games as it can create a tense atmosphere even in remote teams. At the end of every remote call, spare some time to share a summary of discussion with the concerned to make expectations explicitly clear.

Remember that managing a remote team comes with its unique challenges. You can throw up your hands and say remote teamwork isn’t working here or you can come up with better more empathetic and more empowering ways to lead. You need to work through with your team and help build mutual trust and respect. Start preparing yourself for managing remote teams even if you aren’t doing them now.

Till you figure it out, reach out to me with your queries on managing remote team on [email protected]

I am waiting for your mails, remotely!!!!

 

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