5 Ways to Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Philip Manzano • Sep 06, 2016

Learn a few simple tips and tricks that help you to manage your remote team like they are in the office next door. The post 5 Ways to Successfully Manage a Remote Team appeared first on Keela.

It’s the era of the internet. It’s supposed to be  EASY  to manage a team from anywhere. Right?

People work from home, in an office on another side of the country, or even in a remote village on the other side of the world. The nonprofit sector is scattered far and wide, and we’re learning that managing a team remotely isn’t as easy as they said it would be.

Few things can replace the insights you get from face-to-face interactions. You can sense emotions, body language and build trust in a way that emails and phone calls never will.

But there’s work to be done everyone, and we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves that will help you open up communication lines across towns, states, and even borders.

1. Keep a Schedule 

Schedule regular phone or Skype calls with your remote staff and don’t miss them. Rescheduling with your local staff is of course, not ideal, but they see you everyday and can catch pieces of your time to run through new ideas, problems or victories even without a formal meeting. A remote team member has often kept all these pieces of information for the scheduled time. Skipping this meeting can create roadblocks in their work and make them feel disconnected from the larger team.

Even with a schedule you need to make sure that the conversations have purpose, direction and a clear ending. Zapier provides a few tips on how to build strong relationships in a remote team.

2. Break the Schedule

Do you schedule all your calls with your best friend? Probably not. And while your supervisor-employee relationship will not mimic a close friendship, there is a thing or two we can learn about the element of surprise in relationships.

So we want you to break the schedule. It’s super counterintuitive right? The Harvard Business Review highlights the importance of  initiating impromptu interactions with your remote team. You are literally trying to replicate the “water cooler moments.” Seems a bit awkward at first, but a little effort goes a long way. There’s a lot you can learn in a conversation that isn’t scheduled and has no agenda. 

3. Consistency in Employee Treatment

Did you take your local team out for a treat last Friday because of a big win? Do you regularly sit and have coffee with your local team members? All these little interactions build strong relationships. They show your team how much they are valued. While it isn’t possible to replicate these over distance, you can make sure your team in Africa is eating a cake to celebrate a new project the same day your team in the US is. 

Bridging the Gap provides some tips and tricks on how they celebrate success with a distributed team. Simple things like having a virtual celebration that engages your whole team, not just segments, can have a huge impact on morale. 

4. Keep Communication Lines Open

I’ve seen it all too many times before. Remote teams are often dealing with issues head on and coming to you for advice or permission to move forward. If your team is working in another cultural context, they often may have a better solution than you already lined up. But you’re the boss and they look to you for insight. Make sure you hear out their proposed solutions to any problems, no matter how big or small. 

Keep the communication line open and consistent. Know how your team prefers to communicate and meet them on their territory. For example, a study shows that 77% of remote teams prefer communication by email (44%) and phone (43%). However, 23% noted that long email chains were also one of their greatest problems in communication. Identify what isn’t working and address it. 

Someday your remote team may be the only ones that know how to effectively fix a problem based on the strong networks they have built in their location. You want them to know that you trust and respect their opinions and know how to effectively communicate with you.

5. Leverage Technology

Technology is what makes remote work possible and technology is what’s going to help you succeed. Technology is our friend. You have cell phones with you all the time. You have Skype. Different messenger systems. All these things let you keep contact with your teams in a way we never could before.

Better yet, there’s free project management tools.

You can know exactly what tasks your team is working on, how they’re progressing and what struggles they’re facing – all with a click of a button. Know exactly when to follow up with helpful reminders. Know if things are late and know why.

There are lots of platforms out there that let you manage your projects and tasks with your team members. A lot even let you do it for free. Check out Capterra’s list of their top 6 free and open source project management software for small businesses. You can also check out what Keela is doing.

Whatever you do, know you have all the tools you need to positively manage teams across borders. You just need to find the tricks that work best for the group of unique individuals that make up your team.