Managing remote teams is a much sought-after leadership skill as more and more people in Maryland work from home. Although managing remote teams can seem daunting and overwhelming, with a little creativity and the aid of technology, such as Unified Communications apps – you will be a remote team leadership expert! And remember, your team members are adjusting to working from home, just as you are adjusting to managing them while they work at home. Read on for 12 tips to help you and your team maximize remote working. In the Mid-Atlantic, it is not uncommon for Maryland workers to commute to DC, Northern Virginia, and Delaware. Now that commutes are decreasing with Marylanders working from home, we have put together a list of tips to help manage and lead your teams.
Top 12 Tips for Managing Remote Teams
To skip to an in-depth explanation of each tip, click the specific bullet point – this will take you to the exact section of this article:
- Humanize Each Team Member
- Use Video Conferencing
- Host Virtual Team Meetings
- Schedule Regular Check Ins At All Levels
- Create Casual Team Building
- Simple Touches Matter
- Don’t Multi Task
- Set Working Hours and Expectations
- Require Meeting Objectives
- Model the Right Meeting Behavior
- Track Actions
- Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
How Do You Manage Remote Teams in Maryland?
First, take comfort in knowing that leaders all over the “Free State” are facing similar challenges as businesses pivot to more remote working environments. Although it takes some getting used to and requires learning some new skills, leadership in regards to remote teams is a natural evolution from traditional team leadership to one in an ever-changing digitized world. If you’ve only led teams who are physically located in a Maryland office, the notion of extending to a distributed team environment can open a lot of new opportunities for you, as the manager. However, acquiring these skills to lead and manage your team will become the norm, and are skills that we believe leaders will need for the foreseeable future. Leaders are always growing and evolving, taking on new challenges to ensure they are taking the steps necessary to set their teams and company up for success. Leadership and management in regards to remote teams is no different – embrace the challenge, learn new skills and emerge as an expert by implementing the following tips.
For more information on how our Unified Communications and UCaaS services can help support your remote working needs, contact us today!
Below are 12 tips for managing remote workers in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic:
Humanize Each Team Member
Ensure all team members have their photos entered into your email, chat, and conferencing systems. It may sound trite but in a distributed environment, using every opportunity to humanize each team member is important.
Use Video Conferencing
Distributed teams tend to require a lot more meetings. That’s because the impromptu water-cooler discussions and white-boarding sessions don’t take place when the team isn’t physically in the office. When you do meet, lead with a culture of video conferencing over voice only. Nothing matches facial expressions and eye contact, even if across a network environment, for understanding and connection. Not everyone is used to video conferencing but by leading by example, video will quickly becomes the norm.
Host Virtual Team Meetings
You can use voice or video to host virtual team meetings. In addition to individual conversations and group-based discussions, make it a priority to host regular audio and/or video meetings for your team. I host a one-hour meeting with my direct reports weekly and an all-hands every month.
Schedule Regular Check Ins At All Levels
In a distributed environment, you’ll notice that you interact with some employees a lot and a lot of employees a little. When you’re not able to walk by a desk and stop for a quick chat, those who you don’t have a lot of direct contact with may fade into the background for you. For them, it could mean a feeling of disconnectedness with the team. Make it your responsibility to check in with employees across the team at regular intervals and do so with a phone call. Text via email or chat applications may help to identify an action but voice or video is best for reconnecting. When you do so, be sure to compliment the individual on something accomplished at work and ask for feedback in general or on a specific topic. You may not see it, but doing this simple act is important for remote workers.
Create Casual Team Building
In several teams that I’ve been a part of, a creative individual has typically come up with a fun virtual team building idea. One employee featured a different team member every two weeks in a humorous write up that she called ‘the blawg’. Another company had a full intranet area for pet owners to share stories and photos. One employee hosted a ‘guess where I am’ photo area that garnered a lot of conversation across the teams. Since you can’t take your distributed team out to lunch or dinner for bonding, these casual team-building exercises, only if they are natural and authentic, tend to bring out personalities and provide more color to the virtual team.
Simple Touches Matter
Nothing beats receiving a gift or a hand-written note in the mail. For those who worked hard to achieve something great, send them a gift card, and award or something else. Always include a hand-written note along with whatever you send. Over the holidays, get hand-written holiday cards out to everyone. Simple touches are often overlooked in distributed environments but if you want someone to feel appreciated, make the effort to appreciate them.
Don’t Multi Task
When you have more meetings with your team-members and colleagues (because you will have more meetings in a distributed environment) it is tempting and easy to multi-task during your calls. Don’t do it. If you’ve made the time to discuss a topic with your team or an individual – be present. When the conversation stops and your name is mentioned, the silence from lack of following the conversation sets a tone of irreverence and discourtesy. Treat virtual conversations the very same way you’d treat an in-person conversation.
Set Working Hours And Expectations
Employees who are physically in the office have much more of a feeling that their presence or absence, is noticeable. Some remote employees, on the other hand, who are more self-managed, may begin exercising flexible or creative working hours. It is up to the manager to set expectations for business hours and availability. In the eventual case where an individual is consistently offline for several business hours, a 1:1 conversation to reinforce expectations may be needed.
Require Meeting Objectives
As humans naturally gravitate toward social interaction, a remote work environment often blossoms into far more meetings scheduled than a physical office environment. While interactions are good for team building, too many meetings may drain the hours for acting rather than talking. One way to manage the meeting volume is to require meeting objectives. The most productive meetings are those focused on solving problems and making decisions. The meetings types that tend to proliferate coming with no objections, focusing on reporting out, exchanging information or data gathering. Drive to a culture where meetings are welcomed but must come with a clear objective that is action oriented.
Model The Right Meeting Behavior
As the most productive meetings begin with clear objectives and conclude with documented actions (owner, deliverable, and date), many meeting owners may not be aware of effective meeting management practices. As the manager or management team, conduct your meetings in this manner so that others can understand what effective meeting management looks like and then encourage them to do the same.
Without the ability to check in on progress with a quick walk-by, tracking actions becomes much more important for the team leader in a distributed team. One way for everyone to stay aligned on actions and priorities is to maintain a shared project plan and action list. Always make sure the action list includes the action owner, deliverable, and due date. I like to include a simple green, yellow, red next to each action so everyone is clear where actions stand and push to get deliverables in by the due date. Another hint from years of doing this, watch for those who just keep changing the due date when they don’t deliver on their initial date. If task owners agree on their deliverable and date, short of a discussion that changes expectations, individual accountability is important for an action-driven team.
Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
If the company is embracing a remote work environment, it is your responsibility to ensure they are set up with the right work environment. Aside from the chair and desk they’ll provide, you need to arm them with a good PC, screen, video conferencing, chat, email, business phone system, file sharing, and collaboration tools. Employees without the right tools will not be able to put their best foot forward and will soon get frustrated with their work environment. They need the basics.
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