Seven Tips For Leading A Team That Works Remotely

by · June 27, 20145 comments

Last week, our team member Danielle Terreri wrote a fantastic post full of tips for working remotely. Today I’d like to continue this topic with some tips on managing remotely. As the Director of Client Services for SME Digital, I head up our account management team. A team that is currently spread out across three states and two countries. The very definition of a remote team (I’m in Sayulita, Mexico for the month in case anyone’s curious). Here are some of the tips I abide by for leading this group of outstanding individuals.

Be Proactive With Your Communications

Virtual WorkforceWhen you aren’t working together in an office, your team can lose the luxury of pop-up conversations. There’s no doors to knock on, no cubicles to swing by. These impromptu conversations can be important, especially when it comes to a team member letting you know of an immediate need or asking for a mid-project review. As a remote leader, it’s up to you to be proactive and instigate these conversations. You can’t wait for your team to come to you. Get on the line and check in with them on a regular basis to make sure they have everything they need to complete their work.

Make Your Communications Crystal Clear

When you give directions to a remote team, it’s imperative that those instructions are delivered with absolute clarity. Often our team works at different hours across different time zones. This sometimes makes it tricky to provide additional clarification on a project on the same day. Be as specific as possible in your communications. Provide file paths, deadlines, reference materials, whatever is needed to complete the assignment in the first communication.

Get On The Phone

While texting and emails do wonders for promoting frequent communication, it’s hard to replace a quick phone call. No other medium provides an easier way to build rapport, address questions and replace that “water-cooler” feel than some good old fashioned voice-to-voice communication. Our team has a daily call, it’s no more then 15 – 30 minutes, and it does wonders to ensure that everyone is up to speed on everything.

Invest In Effective Tools And Let Go Of Ineffective Tools

Nothing can make or break communication with your team faster then technology. The right tool can make managing your remote team a breeze, the wrong tool can cut your team off at the knees. Our team uses a combination of email, 15five, Basecamp, Gchat, Skype, GoToMeeting, Join.me, just to name a couple tools. We do this for a number of reasons, chief among them being that if one of these platforms go down (for whatever reason), we have other methods of communication. As we add new tools, we also look at tools that we are no longer using. There’s no need to bog your team down with ineffective platforms.

Be Available And Respond Quickly

Although we work remotely, I would say that I am more connected with this team than many teams that I’ve worked with in an office. My team knows that they can reach out to me through a myriad of channels. It’s not uncommon for the team to use a combination of Gchat, texting and Skype during the course of the day to reach out to me. When this happens, it’s all about the response time. If a team member reaches out to me, it’s usually with a question about a specific tasks. So getting these questions addressed quickly is imperative to ensuring that we over deliver on our client’s expectations.

Trust Your Team

You cannot look over the shoulders of a remote team. Physically, it’s impossible, or at the very least would require an awkward webcam set up. When you’re thousands of miles away from your team, you cannot micromanage. For a remote team to be truly functional, you have to trust them. Trust them to complete the work. Trust them to reach out with issues. Trust them to be available when you need them (during reasonable hours of course). The point is you need to have faith in your team and treat them like the adults they are. If you’re worried about a team member not living up to their bargain, consider that perhaps a remote working gig isn’t the best fit for them.

Lead by Example

Most imporant, your actions set the tone for the team. If you’re not working and following up with your obligations, how can you expect your team to meet theirs? No one wants to work for a manager that they believe is sipping Mai Tai’s on the beach. Roll up your sleeves and get the work done. If the team member is expected to be available for calls from 9 – 5, then you are too. Be the example that you want from your team. Anything else is just being a hypocrite.

Do you lead a remote team? If so, share your tips in the comments below.

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About Jason Spooner

Jason Spooner

Jason Spooner is the Director of Client Services for SME Digital, the digital marketing extension of Social Media Explorer. During his career as a digital strategist, Jason has worked with a variety of large and small companies including: NAPA AUTO PARTS, NASCAR, Kraft, Wal-Mart and Wrangler. His passion: creating powerful digital marketing strategies that drive results. Oh, and he does improv comedy. Follow his antics @jaspooner.

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  • David D

    For remote teams where
    shifts and scheduling is important you need to use cloud based software that
    encourages communication whilst eliminating duplication, unnecessary emails, phone
    calls and paper.

    This means that more
    management time and any actual direct communication is focused and concentrates
    on the important issues involved in the running of the day to day business.

    Extend this
    possibility to a clients and client communication through their own self
    service portal and efficiencies increase and more time and resource is saved.

  • Elizabeth Hall

    These are all great tips. I especially agree with trust your team. Although it is important to make sure you stay in touch often, micro management can kill the remote working arrangement. Thanks for Sharing Jason.

  • Denis Phares

    Well written. Aside for the enhanced technology needed for effective remote management, many of the same attributes are required for a healthy local working environment. These include trust, communication, clarity, and leading by example. The extension to remote situations makes perfect sense. Thanks.

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