Managing remote teams: how to be the best
Why would any company choose to work with a remote team? They’re essentially a team of monkeys sitting in some far away office banging out inferior product, right? Wrong.
More and more tech companies are using remote teams (a.k.a. nearshore or extended development teams) to give them a competitive edge. Benefits include hiring highly competent software developers with strong, unique skillsets, filling roles that are difficult to fill locally and getting a full, transparent understanding of the cost of building your product. As a bonus, you get to increase the number of hours of code written per day, and ultimately, increase productivity.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. As with any team, managing remote teams comes with challenges. You need to support your remote teams effectively to make the setup a success. Here are some top tips for being a rockstar remote team manager.
Don’t set things up and forget
When it comes to remote or nearshore teams, out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. For maximum success, you need to first work at fully integrating the team into your business. To do this, it’s important to get the right channels of communication in place before you’ve even uttered the word go. This means implementing not only the right tools, but also the right behaviours between you, your in-house and your remote teams.
Meet face to face
Whether it’s working together or letting your hair down as a team (or ideally both), there’s nothing quite like face to face time for building rapport. Pure and simple. And onboarding is a great place to start. Getting the team together, ideally at HQ, is a great way to make the remote team feel part of the company and fast-track the development of positive working relationships.
Thereafter it’s ideal to meet regularly, face to face. For some teams it can be as little as once or twice a year and for others it might be monthly or quarterly — ultimately you should find the right level for your team.
Get your daily communication tools and behaviour sorted
There are countless communication apps and channels out there. The important thing is to choose the right tools for your situation and don’t overcomplicate it. The right balance between instant chat, email, voice and video calls is important, along with whatever filesharing and productivity tools are right for you. Tools like Google Hangouts, Messenger, Zoom and Slack feature regularly in reviews like this. But don’t let apps get in the way of quality conversations. A good rule of thumb for communicating is that if it takes more than three lines of text to communicate, then pick up the phone or jump on a video call! You’ll save time in the long run, avoid misunderstandings and make everyone’s life easier.
Define success, set goals
It’s important to set clear expectations with the team. Focus on outputs and don’t confuse presence (or time online) with productivity. Give the team ownership over their work and let them get on with it. The human side of managing people you can’t see is possibly the single most important factor in managing a remote team.
Get the whole company on board
Being open and transparent from day one about the reasons for setting up a remote team will help to secure buy-in from the whole company. This ultimately avoids any fear among existing teams that they are being replaced or undervalued. This will also help the remote team build good relationships, integrate successfully and ultimately be more productive.
Spend time getting the culture right
In an ideal situation, you want your remote team to capture the best bits of the company culture and augment and adopt the best elements of their local culture, merging the two. Any differences should be embraced rather than resisted! Allowing the remote team the freedom to express themselves and welcoming their local culture goes a long way.
Talk about it
The key to any healthy business partnership or working relation is transparency. This is even more relevant in the case of working with remote teams. Check in regularly with the team both individually and as a group and discuss any challenges and/or anticipated challenges.
Colm Flood is Client Services Director at Zartis.com. Zartis helps clients build high performing remote (a.k.a. nearshore or extended software development) teams in Southern and Eastern Europe. Get in touch Colm@zartis.com if you are interested in learning more.