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Leading Remote Teams - Staying Connected Despite the Distance

 August 20, 2020   By Patrice McGuire


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Leading Remote Teams - Staying Connected Despite the Distance

Whether you run a start-up and are grappling with leading a remote team, or your employees are asking for the ability to work from home, there are many challenges to consider.

  • You can’t observe your employees, which makes it more difficult to provide timely and accurate feedback.  
  • Remote team members often struggle to feel connected as a part of the team because they miss the day-to-day discussions, challenges, relationship building, etc.   
  • Non-remote employees may envy or resent co-workers who have a role that allows them the flexibility to work remotely if their own role requires them to be physically present. 

As a leader, you must be mindful and intentional in leading from afar. The saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t apply if you want to keep your remote workers engaged and productive.

Here are 6 strategies to manage remote teams:
  1. Set clear expectations.

    The greater the clarity the better. Not only do expectations need to be defined for performance and conduct, they also need to be established for the rules of working remotely.  

    Are there core hours?
    When must they be available?
    What about calls after hours?  

    Accountability begins with clear expectations.
  2. Schedule regular 1:1 meetings.

    Remote doesn’t have to mean “removed.”

    Treat remote employees the same as you treat those in the office.  Schedule regular 1:1 meetings and don’t cancel!

    Give your employees your time, energy, direction and support just as you would for those that are physically present.
  3. Touch base frequently. 

    Look for opportunities throughout the week to touch base briefly and frequently. These can be planned and unplanned.

    Make yourself available when they reach out to you and get back to them in a timely manner. This shows that you value them and want to make sure they have what they need from you.
  4. Use technology effectively.

    You have so many more options for communicating these days: e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, video conferencing, web-based video chats and voice calls.  

    The challenge with all of these options is that it can be hard to track down and reference important information. 

    Did your IT manager email or Skype the spreadsheets?

    Should employees text, Instant Message, or call if they are going to be out sick?

    Set guidelines for the types of technology that should be used based on the circumstance and stay consistent as a team.

    It should be noted, some employees prefer to batch their emails and disable notifications while they focus on a project, while some prefer to avoid cell phone distractions. 

    Rather than wonder if the employee went AWOL, ask them what works best for their productivity so you can be sure that you’ll get a timely response when you need them.
  5. Provide regular feedback. 

    It can be hard to provide feedback when you can’t observe your team daily. You must rely on other metrics or other people to monitor performance and provide you with their feedback. 

    Your job is to guide people to achieve business results. Feedback helps to redirect and get them back on track.  

    Don’t forget to include positive feedback to reinforce what they are doing well. It lets them know you value them and goes a long way in reducing turnover.
  6. Invite them in.  

    Make time throughout the year to make your remote members feel like they are part of the local team.

    Invite them to your location for a day or two and schedule time for them to meet with other team members and peers.  

    Make remote workers feel important and special during their visit. If possible, take time to visit them on their turf, as it will not only help to achieve business results, it will allow you to create better relationships with the members of your remote team.

Less visibility doesn’t call for less leadership. As the remote workforce continues to increase, you will need to take a proactive approach to staying connected with your employees, no matter where they are.


About the Author

Patrice McGuire

Facilitator and Coach, Living As A Leader®

Patrice has more than 25 years of human resource and training experience, working with leaders at all levels from financial services, manufacturing, retail, engineering and service organizations.

Email Patrice Patrice's Bio

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