We’re living in exciting times. The modern workplace is a very different environment than in the past. One of the reasons is the growing ability of people to work remotely. But as more people work away from a typical office setting, the manager’s job is also evolving.
How do you effectively manage people you rarely see face-to-face? How do you adapt? How do you connect and stay connected with remote workers? How do you build a cohesive team when no one is physical contact? How do you create opportunities for team members’ growth and development?
We explore the wide world of managing virtual
Priorities remote team manager
We’re going to start with the good news. Study after study shows that on the whole, remote workers are significantly more productive than their office-bound colleagues, and significantly more satisfied with their jobs as well.
Don’t just take our word for this. You can find a multitude of articles and studies backing this up. For instance, Stanford University did a two-year study that reached the same conclusion, and you can read about it on Inc. Magazine. Now, there are some caveats. First of all, not every job can be done remotely.
Some work requires a physical presence. Sorry, but that’s the reality. Manufacturing, distribution, and a lot of other jobs pretty much necessitate somebody being on-site. And some people don’t flourish working remotely. Maybe they’re distracted by their environment.
Maybe they’re not disciplined enough to effectively manage their time and efforts, or maybe they just really need the human interaction that comes from working alongside other people.
1. Building Trust at a Distance
Providing consistency and structure in a virtual team
The first goal of the remote manager is to build trust, not only between themselves and the individual workers but between the remote workers on the team as well.
Developing working agreements and defined norms in a virtual team
– Now, just because it’s the manager’s responsibility to make sure procedures and expectations are in place, that doesn’t mean that they are the only ones developing them. Managers must get the input of the team whenever they are standardizing process or setting goals. First of all, your team members are the experts at what it takes to get the job done. They’re the ones who know what steps need to be taken, and in what order.
Fostering equality and transparency in a remote team
As we alluded to before with setting a team agreement, making sure that there’s parity between the workers on the team is important.
If some people are getting special consideration or are not being held to the same levels of service, it’s going to become common knowledge at some point, and when it does, the rest of the team is going to be annoyed at best. I think a useful approach, other than just not playing favorites, is to be careful to share information openly amongst the entire team unless it needs to be confidential.
Rewarding and recognizing individuals at a distance
So, as we say, treat everyone equally, until it’s time to treat people special. No, I’m not contradicting myself. Sometimes people will excel and when they do, you want to recognize that, but the key to this is in how you do it.
When a team member has a victory, the whole team has won and the whole team should know who and why they’re celebrating.
Distributing authority in a remote team
Here is another way to build trust and a sense of common purpose on a team. Allow team members who are experts to lead in their fields of expertise.
2. Removing Roadblocks
Giving remote workers the tools to be successful
One of the challenges to a successful remote team is infrastructure. This has a few different aspects. First of all, who supplies your remote workers with the equipment that they use in performing their job? Your company probably provides computers for in-house workers.
Cultivating cross-cultural awareness in a virtual team
Here’s something to think about, especially when your remote workers are in other countries or regions of the world. When’s the next national holiday? Americans are often accused of cultural insensitivity, and there’s, unfortunately, a lot of truth to that. Many people in the US just don’t seem to grasp that other countries have their traditions, their ways of doing things, and their days when a business shuts down.
Creating opportunities for in-person team interactions
We’re a big fan of connecting to people via video chat, and over the years We’ve used it to develop strong relationships with people worldwide, some of whom we have never yet met in the flesh. However, nothing strengthens a personal connection like interacting with someone physically, face-to-face in real life. We think this is just human nature.
Managing mixed remote and on-site teams
We think that the mixed model where some team members are virtual and some are in-house is probably more prevalent. Even if remote workers greatly outnumber the co-located ones, there is often somebody in the office. Unfortunately, this can set up a little bit of a negative dynamic.
3. Nurturing Team Connections
Understanding the manager’s connecting role in a remote team
The main purpose of the manager is the care and feeling of the team members, making sure that they have everything they need to complete their jobs. The manager may roll up their sleeves at the time to pitch in, but that’s not their primary purpose.
Rather, they have the responsibility for monitoring overall team performance, schedule, and workload and making sure everything comes together as planned. In addition to these tasks, the manager of a remote team has some special responsibilities.
Maintaining regular contact with team members
Special consideration number one for managers of remote teams, you need to make sure that lines of communication are open and kept open. This means having frequent and regular contact with all your team members, both individually and as a group.
This is important for all managers, but especially the remote manager since there’s not going to be opportunities for chance encounters. These are your only contacts with your team, you need to make them count.
Deepening relationships with remote team members
It’s pretty much universally accepted wisdom that a strong team is more likely to be a high-performing team. With a remote team, the ability to have team-building experiences is small, so you have to use whatever you have.
That’s one of the reasons why I think regularly scheduled meetings matter so much. Even if there isn’t a lot of business to discuss, every meeting is an opportunity to build connections between the members of the team. I think the manager should encourage team members to share information that may not be team-related, other projects they’re working on, or non-work-related personal topics.
Encouraging team vs individual identity in a remote team
As the manager of a remote team, you’ve got people scattered all over the place. But the mindset you want to instill is that your workers are a team, that they’re a group who are working towards a common purpose, not just a bunch of isolated individuals.
That’s why I think it’s important for the remote manager to be looking for opportunities that will allow team members to work together and collaborate whenever possible. Having shared goals creates multiple team-building benefits.
4. Managing Workloads and Deliverables
Setting clear goals in a remote team
Here we want to dive deeper into some specific actions that can have a major impact on team cohesion and performance.
Thing number one We’d like to address is making sure that you set very clear goals and priorities for your team. Now, this is always important, of course. But We think it’s even more so, with a remote workforce. Probably the easiest way to achieve this is to make sure that you always communicate fully with the whole team, what these priorities are.
Use your regular meetings to recap frequently, and give lots of opportunities for people to share any challenges.
Providing feedback to a remote employee
Now hopefully, you’ve been having regular and meaningful communication with your team members, so you’ve got a good relationship already established. But even with strong connections, giving feedback to remote workers comes with special challenges.
There’s a conscious effort involved that you don’t have to worry about when you can bump into someone at the coffee machine. All of your conversations with your distributed staff are the result of your action of connecting, so it’s a lot more intentional providing feedback to remote workers.
The first consideration is what communication tool fits the message? For instance, you do not want to use text messaging or even email to provide important feedback.
Communicating change in a remote team
The reality, things change. Projects get dropped or suddenly become hyper-critical. Strategic goals move in new directions. Leadership and other workers move into new roles or new people come in, or people leave.