5 Essential Steps to Get the Most Out of your Remote Team
Great people build great businesses
How do you get your people to work together when you can’t even get them in the same city?
How do you get past home challenges to have a productive conversation?
How can you help your staff trust teammates they’ve never laid eyes on?
I founded a gaming company in 2012. In 2014, I decided to get rid of the office. At that time, I had two employees working with me. I had no idea how to get the most out of them as a remote company.
Understanding how to do that helped me build a profitable six-figure business. I grew to a fantastic team of 13 people. Two of them lived in Germany, and the rest lived throughout Brazil (that’s where I am from).
Remote work is the “new normal.” If you want to build a profitable remote business, you need to know how to work well with your remote team.
#1 Get the right people on the team
Jim Collins developed in the book Good to Great the “First Who, Then What” concept. As a leader, your first task is to get the right people on the bus.
Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus. They also make sure the right people are in the key seats before figuring out where to drive it. They always think first about who and then about what.
Working from home isn’t for everyone. I had to organize different processes to allow remote work for my company and me. Also, I needed to hire people that could adapt to that environment.
Great people build great companies. However, some professionals aren’t prepared to work from home. You need to find, interview and hire the right people for your remote company.
If you want to build a successful remote business, you need to learn how to hire employees that can work from their homes. You need to find people that:
- Manage themselves
- Work well with others
- Pursue growth and learning
Your best strategy is to have a busload of people who can adapt to and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next. That is vital for when you’re facing chaos, uncertainty, and you cannot possibly predict what’s coming around the corner. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
Sometimes, an existing employee cannot perform from home, unfortunately. In times like these, you need to make the hard decision of firing that person. A bad employee is like a bad apple. They are like a virus to their teams and can upset or spoil the whole apple cart.
#2 Get to work
When you work from home, you can’t see if your team is working or not. You cannot look through the office to check how everyone is doing. You need to trust your team. You need to make clear what you expect from them. Once they know what to do, they will figure out how to do it.
At my company, I used the Collins-Porras Vision Framework, presented in the book Beyond Entrepreneurship. It contains:
- Purpose: the fundamental reason for your company’s existence.
- Mission: a bold, compelling, audacious long-term goal.
- Core values and beliefs: principles that are to be held inviolate.
Your purpose is the guiding star, always out there on the horizon, never attainable, but still pulling you forward. Your mission, on the other hand, is the specific mountain you are climbing at any moment.
You should share the results of your team’s work to keep them engaged. Otherwise, they won’t know if they are getting closer or not to their goals.
At my remote company, we talked about our goals every quarter. We had two meetings for that.
The first one was at the end of the quarter to talk about the new goals for the next one. Everybody could ask questions to understand the direction the company intends to go. The second one was at the beginning of the quarter to review how we did relate to the past quarter’s goals.
I also shared a weekly report showing how much money our products had made for the past week. That let them understand the impact of their work. Everybody wanted to see the revenue growth.
When employees don’t understand their work’s meaning, they will perform the minimum to not get fired. They will get bored. They won’t be motivated and won’t finish tasks properly.
When you share a clear and exciting vision of your company’s future with your employees, they will get excited about that. Their work from home means more when they understand why they are building what they are building.
#3 Communicate effectively
I genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if we knew how to communicate better. Communication is something essential in our day-to-day. The challenge is higher when working remotely.
I used Slack to talk via text with my team. There, the communication happens in channels. It helps bring the right people together to share ideas, make decisions and get on with the job. We had different channels to talk about different topics.
When we needed to have a more profound talk, we used Zoom as a video conference. Talking via text is good when you don’t need a quick response. However, when you need to enter a more considerable discussion, talking via video is the best option.
We also had a bunch of scheduled meetings. They helped improve our communication. We had a daily meeting that couldn’t last more than 15 minutes. That was our fastest meeting. Everybody should say:
- What they have done the day before;
- What they are going to do today;
- If they need any help from anyone.
This meeting helps create a better commitment to the work. Professionals see others finishing stuff and don’t like to be late. It also helps to solve problems faster. Everybody has a clear opportunity to ask for help instead of waiting days for that.
If you want to have work done, you need to communicate in the best way possible. Information needs to be clear for everyone inside a team.
#4 Manage the environment
Jurgen Appelo wrote that is harder to change people’s behavior. Instead of changing the people themselves, you might want to consider changing the environment. After you do that, you let the people reorganize themselves.
You may think that you need to create a bunch of rules for remote work. But that is not necessary. That will only make things slower at your company.
After months of working with me, I saw many employees buying new stuff for their home offices. Many of them purchased new chairs, new tables, new computers. Some decided to work in coworking spaces.
They wanted to give their best to my company. I never told them how they should work. They can work any way they want. What I did was to create an environment where they were happy.
You should create environments where people can thrive and be more productive. Let them organize themselves and do their work.
#5 Improve continuously
There is always space for improvement in a team. That’s something that never ends. You need to learn what is and isn’t working in your remote team. You may learn from individual and group feedback.
Through feedback, we grow as we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. We’ll keep doing the exact wrong thing if we believe it’s right. People learn faster when giving and receiving feedback is common. That allows them to improve their performance at work.
I had an individual formal monthly conversation with every employee. However, I didn’t wait for this meeting to give any critical feedback. I couldn’t wait days or weeks to share something that could improve my employees’ performance.
We also had a bi-weekly meeting to learn how we could improve as a team. We started talking about the work we have been doing for the past two weeks. People could share with everyone what they have finished. That allowed everybody to see how things were progressing.
We also had a moment to praise others. We used our company values to illustrate what we meant. That helped us create a more integrated team.
In the end, we talked about our feelings related to the last two weeks. The goal was to try to reduce the negative things said and maximize the positive ones. That was an amazing opportunity to learn with the team what was and wasn’t working.
As a leader, you should help to improve the performance of your remote team constantly.
Every semester I brought my whole company to a specific place. It was my chance to meet for the first time most of the people that I’ve been working with for the past couple of months.
Coordinating many people’s work in many places will scramble your instincts. It will stretch your skills. It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran team leader or new to the role. Successful leaders make the most of these challenges. They:
- Get the right people on the team
- Get to work
- Communicate effectively
- Manage the environment
- Improve continuously