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Why leading remote teams isn't difficult anymore

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7th Apr 2015
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For more and more businesses today, a flexible workforce that is linked only by technology is now a reality. Bostjan Bregar gives us advice to keep everyone, remote or otherwise - engaged.

Many teams that work together daily may never be in the same location together, but actually these companies that have embraced a flexible working policy have given themselves a competitive advantage by stretching budgets, boosting productivity and maybe even helping to save the planet in the process.

Increasingly, the success of business leaders hinges on their ability to co-lead both an office and a team of remote employees. However, leading satellite teams is actually less different to leading proximal ones than you might think, with offsite individuals and teams just requiring a little more process structure and communication in order to thrive. Making flexible working advantageous for an organisation might require leaders to pay attention to the things they normally take for granted with office-based employees.

To help you invest wisely in making flexible working a reality for your business, here's a list of effective practices you can follow to successfully manage and direct a remote team:

Focus on responsiveness

One of the key things a leader must do is make themselves as available to remote employees as they would for workplace employees. By extending your reach and availability to everyone in the team you can construct a culture as a reactive organisation from the top down, so ensure there is continuous contact between key employees. Communications between team members is vital, so imposing some simple house rules such as, everyone has to say hello and goodbye every day, will give remote employees a ritual that's similar to the daily routine of walking in and out of the office. You need your vision for the brand to filter down the organisation in order to get everyone working towards the same common goals.

Support strong culture

Understanding your team and what makes each individuals tick can be more difficult when they're not in the same room as you or other staff members. Try to create ways for your team to learn about each other’s roles so they learn to mutually appreciate the value each individual brings to the company – it will enrich company culture and help when it comes to working better together, providing an understanding of each other’s feelings, perspectives and ideas no matter where they're located. Don’t be afraid to inject and encourage fun every day so your team feels part of a rewarding culture where they can express themselves.

Accelerate ownership

By giving individuals responsibility, ownership and accountability it can be a powerful way of making them feel confident to be proactive for themselves, their team, and the company as a whole. An empowered team is a productive one and by building a framework of processes, response times and protocols, flexible employees will understand what is required to realise and attain common goals together. If you can identify the motivations of individuals, you should work closely with them (directly or via a team manager) to offer incentives and recognition every time they accomplish objectives. You could go one step further and provide career coaching or mentoring for those that show the most initiative and future potential.

Create connections

It can pay dividends to spend time building solid links between your satellite team and the rest of the company. It will make your workforce feel connected to your organisation as a whole, but you must take full responsibility for communicating overall business messages and wider company objectives. It is also vital to choose the right technology that will help staff visualise their workspace in the cloud, enable them to easily connect 24/7 anywhere, and give them the ability to establish online working groups where they can manage projects, set tasks, prioritise their workload and generally collaborate efficiently. Be sure to monitor the 'health status' of how your flexible and core teams are connecting, because if you feel it is lacking it may pay to set-up some face-to-face time between the team members who need to work on their real-life connections.

Anticipate help

Finally, as long as you have provided the right tools, processes and culture, there is no reason your team cannot thrive across various locations and time zones. However, you should give them the reassurance that even if you need to take a step back from the day-to-day operations to get perspective on the bigger changes needed for the business, you are there to respond speedily when your team needs guidance and support. Smart business leaders are increasingly recognising that by being open and transparent with a team and being happy to get involved in discussions, they can become a leader who trusts and is trusted by an empowered team.

Bostjan Bregar is the co-founder and CEO of The 4th Office, a structured cloud workspace that enables teams to collaborate remotely

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