As more organisations today work online, managers of traditional work teams now lead more geographically dispersed teams. In this new global virtual workspace, many managers are challenged with getting tasks done across locations, functions, cultures and time zones. In this post, we share some tips and ideas for how to be an effective leader of a remote team.

Use Technology

  • E-mail is great, but it wasn’t built for online collaboration. A truly effective remote work team will have all of the vital remote work tools. These tools can include: email, a file sharing capacity (e.g. Dropbox), an instant messaging platform, screen sharing software, project management software, and any tools or resources specific to your industry (e.g., creative software for marketing or advertising applications; Google Docs). This way everyone is on the same page as to what is going on in the company and on what everyone should be working on. Learning to use a variety of different online tools is a must for leading a remote team.
  • When an employee cannot see his or her manager in person, they miss the information provided by nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions. A solution to this is to gather the team once a month for a virtual meeting using Google Hangouts, Skype or other video conferencing software and discuss ways to grow skills collectively.

What you do matters

Everyone wants to feel important to the organisation they work for. Without that, there’s little reason to put forth a greater effort or excel in one’s position. Workers who feel as though their role in their company is an important one are much more likely to make a more invested effort in the work they do. While it can be a real challenge to keep remote employees in the loop, it’s crucial to make sure that they are, here are a few examples how:

  • Just as much as on-site workers are recognized for their achievements, so should those who work remotely.
  • Any meetings, brainstorm sessions, or other group communications should always include remote employees. To not include them will simply isolate them, which can quickly lead them to become disillusioned and inevitably unproductive members of the team. At Curran, Daly & Associates, we make sure to remind all our teams near and far of how their role and contributions tie into the overall vision of our company.
  • It’s much easier for a remote team to achieve what’s expected of it when everyone is on board with what’s needed at a project’s end. From the project start, it’s important to be sure to articulate goals and objectives clearly.
  • During an online meeting, when you cannot always see the faces of your remote workers, it is very important to take time to address each worker and give him or her a chance to speak and raise questions.
  • Since you won’t be seeing employees in person on a daily basis, it is important for you to check in regularly with your team to see how they are doing and if they are on track in terms of achieving their goal. These regular calls and/or meetings will keep everyone apprised of what’s been accomplished, any project setbacks, any important details related to individual worker responsibilities and duties, and other relevant information.

Respect Culture

  • A remote team is likely to include people from a wide range of cultures and multiple generations. This means that leaders must learn enough about these differences so that they can make some well-informed generalisations about the best methods, channels and frequency of team communications. For example, some cultures might be wary about candidly voicing opinions in front of the whole team, while others thrive on a good debate.
  • Managers need to be conscious of certain religious holidays and that weekends do not always fall on a Saturday or Sunday in other regions, as such factors can have an impact on performance and deadlines if managed incorrectly.
  • Managers should also consider the impact of any language barriers, check any possible misinterpretations and actively ensure that their team have thoroughly understood instructions.

Do you lead any remote teams? What are some tips you think help manage a globally dispersed team?

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