Managing Remote Teams - 5 Tips to Make You More Successful

Managing Remote Teams

Most companies today have some form of “onshore/offshore” and/or “in office/out of office” team mix. The team could be employees located in distant offices, employees working from home, or a delivery partner that is based in a distant location.

Global project delivery teams are often forged to achieve business and/or financial goals. Whether it is to reduce geographic risk, reduce costs, or provide a broader range of support hours, these teams are becoming the norm, not the exception. Managing those teams to a successful outcome will be critical to achieving your organizations goals and objectives.

Many project managers that are new to the remote worker / offshore team will be paranoid about the team “slacking off” or “not being efficient”. They resort to Draconian tactics like micro-managing or overly frequent status meetings. This is a mistake and is the fasted way to derail the delivery process. More experienced managers, and possibly those that have read this blog, will take the approach of having confidence in their team and establishing trust. Keep in mind that trust and confidence is a two way street between you and your team members.

These five tips should help in the early days of establishing and maintaining your virtual team:

  1. Establish clear expectations – In the beginning of the collaboration establish and communicate your expectations. This should include, but not be limited to, reporting frequency and medium, communication methods, and work hours. Just as much as you are establishing what you expect from them, you should also establish what they should expect from you. Remember, you are building a relationship, not a dictatorship.
  2. Setup regular team meetings – Have a regularly scheduled meeting including both your remote and local members. Having both sides hear the same message is important in building trust. The ideal frequency of these meetings will depend on the project type, the duration of the project, and the strength of the team. If you don’t know where to start I recommend starting with one daily team meeting. Typically this is a morning meeting for our US team members that translates to an end of day meeting for our remote team members. As your working relationship matures, you can adjust the meeting frequency to one that best serves the team.
  3. Optimize your communication channels – In this day and age there are a wide array of communication options available for delivery teams. Some mediums work better than others for various types of interactions. As an example, WebEx and Go-To-Meeting allow you to share audio, video, and desktop screens, these tools are great for meetings. Skype can work well for urgent requests ( don’t abuse this as it disrupts workflow ). Email can work well for meeting recaps. Whatever the medium is, give it some thought to get it right. Misusing your communication channels at the very least will frustrate your team members and worse could lead to total disruption of productivity.
  4. Have personal interaction with your team members – In most configurations there is a local manager coordinating the remote team. Don’t make the mistake of interacting with just that manager. This can create bottlenecks and fiefdoms. When employees feel that they are an equal part of your team they are more creative and committed to your success.
  5. Create and share your vision – Leadership is primarily built upon trust and respect. Don’t just expect that your remote teams will follow and support you because you said so. Trust them; share your vision and goals and don’t treat them like minions. When you have their trust and respect they will go out of their way to help you succeed.

Agreeing on mutual expectations is a key to make your relationship open and equal. Setting your expectations will go a long way to bridging the gap when misunderstandings and/or conflicts arise.

Building trust between teams is of high importance. Managers and leaders must be inspiring and passionate to invoke the best in their teams and allow them to deliver at their full potential.

If your interested in an integrated collaboration tool to help manage your teams, please check out the vPMO

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