Top tips for leading remote teams
Martin Baker shares best practice from the Toolkit for Managers. Managing employees in different locations is an increasingly common challenge. These tips will help you support your remote team members.
Create a team plan
Creating and sharing a plan for your team will help prevent misunderstandings which may arise across different sites. By having a plan which clearly sets out things like communication levels and responsibilities, you may prevent potential issues from arising later. Employees will be aware of when they will be in contact with each other and what each team member has responsibility for. This can help them plan effectively and can also be useful when reacting to developing situations.
When leading a remote team, you tend to have less regular face-to-face time with its members. This can sometimes be an obstacle to establishing close working relationships, so it’s important to schedule regular meetings with everyone and spend as much time as possible in each location as circumstances allow. Observing employees in their normal working environment can also help you gain a better understanding of their skills, preferred ways of working and any development needs they may have.
Some employees will need to be in contact with you more than others. However, it’s important that all team members are aware of your presence within the organisation. It can be tempting to focus your attention on certain team members, such as someone who is underperforming but this can cause other members of the team to feel undervalued or even neglected. Schedule regular time with all team members and stay in close contact with everyone. You may have to dedicate resources to specific team members on occasion, but this should not be at the long-term expense of others.
Build team spirit through regular team contact
It’s important for a team’s manager to foster the belief that their employees are a team, rather than a group of individuals working on related issues. Encouraging team members to get to know what their colleagues are doing, and how it relates to them, can help to create a greater sense of team spirit. You might also encourage employees to work alongside their colleagues in other locations on occasion, as this will help them think of themselves as part of a collective unit. By scheduling regular meetings or workshops together, and linking them to a social event such as a group meal, you can help team members gain a clearer understanding of the people they’re working with. It also allows an opportunity to develop personal relationships face-to-face and share experiences and ideas in a more laid-back setting.
Keep in touch
Staying in contact with individual team members is vital to help ensure they feel part of the greater team. Planning updates at agreed times means you can maintain a regular level of contact with your remote team. It’s useful to use these updates as two-way conversations to avoid creating the impression that you are simply ‘checking up’ on the employee. Use these regular conversations to seek updates on progress, share any feedback or important organisational news. Also make each employee aware that this is an opportunity for them to ask any questions or share concerns with you.
Get the most from meetings
Make sure your meeting time with team members is fully utilised. When meetings are taking place, have an agenda and ensure you have plenty of time to complete business. Be fully prepared and ask others to do the same. Stress to your employees that meetings are extremely valuable because of the limited time the team has together. This will ensure you get maximum results from each meeting you have together.
Try to schedule regular conference calls amongst the team members. By interacting with each other regularly as a group, they can begin to develop more positive team relationships. Email communication is less personal - while it may be a necessary tool, use other communication methods and encourage team members to do the same.
Using technology such as videoconferencing may also allow team members to become more familiar and comfortable with each other.
Have a conflict resolution strategy
Conflicts may arise from time to time, but these can be more complicated to resolve between remote employees as there is less opportunity to deal with issues face-to-face. By having a plan in place, employees know they can follow certain steps to deal with any conflicts quickly and without the problem spiralling. This can reduce the risk of resentment growing between employees in different locations.
Be aware of differences
Along with geographical differences come some cultural differences. While this may be more obvious from country to country, it will also be true on a regional basis. For example, an employee who is based predominantly in a major city may have a different outlook to someone who is based in a provincial environment. When dealing with employees, be aware of their individual backgrounds and be mindful of how this may affect their approach to work.
To download more great tips go tohttps://www.trainingzone.co.uk/connect/corporate-learning-consortium
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Martin Baker is the founder and chief executive of Clear Lessons, The Charity Learning Consortium and the Clear Lessons Foundation.
He’s an advocate of collaboration in the L&D industry and is proud to support the unique research of Towards Maturity as a founding Ambassador.