How to Lead a Remote Team
In the last 10 years, technology has completed changed the way we work. While there are many advantages to working in a typical office, there are many people who are now looking for remote work. This gives them the comfort of doing work from their home, at the local coffee shop, or even while travelling. And while technology is changing the way people work, it is also changing the way we lead. As technology continues to advance and we look for ways to lead remote teams, business managers must adapt. Today we will talk about two different topics: the characteristics needed to be a great remote lead team leader, and some tips to help you lead.
What does it take to be a good Remote Leader?
1) Energy, Flexibility, and Enthusiasm
If you want to lead a remote team, you’re going to need the energy to do so. No longer will you have the benefit of leading a 9-5 job. Rather, you will be working with different time zones. This means 3:00am meetings, long hours, and work sprints. To make it work, you will need a tireless stream of energy, the ability to be flexible, and endless enthusiasm to keep you motivated.
Because your remote team is not working with you in office, it will be more difficult to keep them motivated to work for you. They need to be bombarded with positive stories about the brand, company culture, and values. If you want your lead remote teams to be enthusiastic about working for you, you need to be enthusiastic yourself. As a manager, you need to have a deep connection with the company and embrace the same goals and values. If you don’t, its going to be very difficult to keep employees that live half way around the world interested. Share success stories about the company, and give your employees a reason to have a heartfelt connection that will keep them motivated to do you well.
Just like we mentioned above, you want your employees to maintain a positive image of your company. The best way to do this is a) by remaining positive yourself, and b) by offering constant encouragement. As a remote team leader, it is your job to make new opportunities seem interesting, cool, and exciting. Welcome new ideas, and encourage participation in the company. If an employee does something well, reward them. If an employee hits a bump in the road (which they will), help to keep them focused with positive and encouraging messages. Seek to overcome rather than to deplete.
4) Be Approachable
Communication can be difficult when you are separated by an office. But when you are separated by a country, communication difficulties increase tenfold. As a manager, it is your job to make sure that employees feel comfortable approaching you and communicating with you. You should be the first one to hear about problems or bad news, not the last. If you are the last, you may need to work on your approachability skills.
Doe this mean you need to be everyone’s best friend? Absolutely not. It just means you need to have a safe and welcoming open-door policy so that employees feel comfortable to talk to you when issues arise.
5) Offer Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a great way to keep your employees faithful. How does it work? It’s as simple as, “Hey Sam, you did a really great job on that report!” When employees receive positive reinforcement for a job well done, they will be more likely to repeat that behaviour in the future. Furthermore, they will be motivated to work harder to receive further reinforcement in the future.
Okay, so we’ve been through all the characteristics of a good remote team manager and you meet the expectations. Now what? Now you start leading. Here are some tips to help you:
1) Set your expectations
One of the biggest fears of remote managers is that their staff will take advantages of the “remoteness”. Are you really hiring a motivated and productive team member? Or are you actually hiring a lazy couch potato that doesn’t want to leave their house to go to work everyday? Luckily, you’ll know pretty quickly which of the two categories your employee falls into. In the meantime, here are some expectations that you need to set:
- Your employee needs to be available. Because this isn’t the typical 9-5 job, you will need to let your employees know when you expect them to be available. What hours do you expect them to be reachable? Are they expected to work weekends? How often should they be checking emails? The more expectations you set, the better they will be able to follow them.
- Your employee needs to be productive. When managing lead remote teams, you need to let them know that you expect them to be just as productive as if they were at the office. Set measurable objectives for your employees to meet to prevent the temptation of slacking.
- Your employee needs to attend meetings – Just because you aren’t in an office doesn’t mean you don’t have team meetings, and your employees need to make time for them.
2) Make use of technology
No, you won’t be doing face to face meetings in the office everyday with your team. But that doesn’t mean that all communication should be thrown out of the window. Email and text will be your main forms of communication, but you can also leverage other technologies like GoToMeeting, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts to have face-to-face time. And while many of us do, please don’t forget the value of a good old fashion phone call. You can relay messages much more clearly and quickly via phone than via text and email.
3) Make yourself available
Remember before how we said your employees need to make themselves available? Well this is a revolving door concept. Just as they need to make themselves available for you, you need to make yourself available for them. Have an “open door policy” where your employees can feel safe and comfortable speaking to you. To prevent constant calls, you can designate a certain amount of time each moth where the team knows they can have your undivided attention. In emergency situations, make yourself available quickly. This will help to build trust and respect for you among employees.
4) Don’t forget the value of face-to-face communication
When you manage lead remote teams, there is a good chance that you won’t even work in the same country as your employees. But when opportunity arises to meet in person, take the time. With the power of the internet, face-to-face meetings become a rare commodity. But the truth is, it is a very valuable commodity. Face-to-face communication is a great way to build rapport and develop long lasting relationships with your workers. If you can find money in the budget for travel, make the time to actually meet your team members.
5) Have trust
Trust is what holds people together. Without trust, a team will never work. Trust that your team has your back and will do what they need to do to get the job done. Offering flexibility in arrangements will show your team that you trust them to do what they need to do, even if they aren’t being monitored 24 hours a day.
If you are new management for lead remote teams, you may need to adapt to a new type of work environment. Use your skills and the tips listed above to help you lead a great team to success.