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“Virtual High Five”: 5 things to focus on when managing remote teams

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

You know that feeling you get after doing something awesome? The post high-five smile that creeps up on the faces of both people involved. Well, what if I told you it is possible to create that feeling virtually, when managing distributed teams?

Having a human-centric approach will lead to engagement and efficiency, even with team-members spread out across multiple geographic locations. With stronger autonomy via location independence, workers produce results with “40% fewer quality defects…and have measured an output increase of at least 4.4%.”

Simply, success with remote work happens when you focus on the people behind the screen.

So without further ado, here are my five concepts to help you achieve that virtual high five! 🖐

1. Expectation Setting:

Mismatched expectations are the root cause to every type of interpersonal tension or conflict.

How many times have you lost patience when waiting for an important response from someone who said they would get back to you “soon”? Have you ever experienced that feeling, when you receive a deliverable from a team member that leaves you irked, even though technically the task has been completed?

All of those moments boil down to unclear expectations. Simply, if people are not on the same page, if they do not know what to anticipate, it will be impossible to build trust. And trust is the foundation for strong remote teams.

At a minimum, managers should set the following expectations for their teams around :

Availability & working hours · Guidelines on when and how to use various internal tools · Response times for asynchronous communication · Project deliverables and success metrics · Frequency and method of project updates · Documentation guidelines · Giving and receiving feedback · Meetings

2. Culture:

Culture is a dirty word, synonymous with happy hours, free swag and the infamous ping-pong tables, the techniques of the past have failed in truly creating a “set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”

Remote work can’t hide behind a fancy office for culture and instead relies on something much more impactful: intentionality.

Similar to setting expectations, cultivating culture, requires proactive design and consistent reinforcement of the following:

Decision making processes · Acceptable and unacceptable behaviors at work · Recognition and reward systems · Celebrated competencies · Mental models used · Approach to work / life balance · Operating values · Company meetups · and more!

Culture is present in everything a company does — from the creation of the handbook, to benefits /policies, to how teams work with each other.

As a manager, your role is to first fully understand and influence the way these core practices feel in the day-to-day, leading by example. Only after these basics are established is when the additional benefits of community building initiatives make sense, such as “donut-buddies,” employee interest groups and online game nights (to name a few).

3. Communication & Collaboration:

When it comes to communication in remote work just remember your ABC’s: Asynchronous Before Calls.

Asynchronous communication, the type where there is no immediate or real-time response required, allows team-members to be included in the conversation as a stakeholder despite their time zone, gives people more control to focus on their top priorities, provides more time to have thoughtful responses, and automatically documents information to provide transparency as a default.

Of course synchronous communication has it’s benefits such as relationship building, brainstorming and discussing complex decisions. Managers should focus on solidifying internal best practices for communication, creating triggers for employees to know when and how to communicate using the tools available to them.

4. Productivity & Time Management:

The following things are both true remote workers tend to be more productive than those in offices AND burnout is higher among remote workers. From the Pomodoro Technique to my favorite productivity hack there are many ways for remote workers to learn how to more effectively manage their time.

As a manager you can focus on the following things to support your remote workers when it comes to productivity and time management:

Working with your team to establish clear priorities · Encourage your team to only focus on the important and urgent tasks · Educate and inspire your team on various time management techniques · Coach team members on how to break down complex work into attainable tasks · Cultivate feedback loops that create self-awareness around productivity · Plan milestones and processes to clearly identify how time will be spent · Create triggers around potential scope creep to reign in team members and help them refocus

5. Routine:

Last but not least is routine, as a Sagittarius and a digital-nomad, routine for me is “evil” but as a leader of remote teams, I recognize the importance of routine for myself and others as it comes to putting the previous four concepts into action. Clear routines helps you and your team have increased accountability in accomplishing work and helps develop consistent behaviors.

When it comes to developing and sticking to a routine create a schedule that takes into account both your personal and professional obligations. Prioritize the things most important to you (for me it is working out and time-zone boundaries) and work around the things that are more flexible. This approach can be personalized for people that need more structure, by creating a more rigid schedule, having consistent working hours, etc. and for people like me it creates anchors in which to act around, and builds in the necessary spontaneity to work according to energy levels.

So there you have it. 5 things that when implemented and truly embraced by remote managers will lead to that delighted, “high-five” feeling of remote work truly working!

Looking for more remote work advice? Connect with me on LinkedIn and check out my website.

Have other great tips? Leave them in the comments below!

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