Let’s be real: managing teams virtually is not the same as managing teams in person. Managing virtually requires leaders to reassess their mindsets, practices, and approaches to working with their teams. In person, leaders can initiate impromptu meetings in the break room, or they can “pop into” someone’s office to ask a question. Once casual project “touch bases” now require more detailed planning and intentional conversations.
While open and frequent communication is always important, it even more critical in a virtual workplace. In person, employees tend to see their supervisors daily. Virtually, unless a manager actively reaches out to an employee, the two may not communicate for days or even weeks. In a virtual workplace, the silence heard by an employee becomes deafening. Not hearing from a manager frequently can sow doubt, confusion, and mistrust among both parties.
We have put together some tips and best practices designed to help you manage remote teams. We believe you should equip employees with the knowledge and skills to effectively oversee their projects from start to finish.
The following are active steps you can take to better manage your distributed workforce.
- Lean on Technology: A virtual project management and/or collaboration tool will keep everyone in the loop and be the foundation of your team’s success. These tools will enhance and encourage collaboration and remove the headache of seeking constant status updates by providing project visibility at your fingertips. While it may be an investment upfront, the potential ROI on the time and money you save will be worth it.
- Find the Right Tools for YOUR Organization: Not all collaboration and project management products are created equal. Just because one might be the most robust or another was recommended by a colleague in another organization, does not mean it is the best fit for your needs and culture. Clearly define –
- What your team needs from a project management and/or collaboration tool(s)
- What features are most important to help you better manage your work and communicate with others
- Your budget and bandwidth to implement the tools
Once that is completed, then begin evaluating your options. Seek demos and expert advice to ensure this foundational investment supports the culture and workflow you want for your team.
- Train and Reinforce: When you transition or launch a remote team, there will undoubtedly be new tools to adopt and protocols to follow. Do not rely on a one-time training. Frequently touch-base on how new processes are going, hold each other accountable, and encourage your team to be champions of new protocols.
- Clarity is Crucial: Fostering a strong and open collaboration style will help ensure your team members, leaders, clients, and other various stakeholders understand the same objectives for all projects. Encourage team members to ask questions often and be extremely detailed in your instructions. Schedule regular check-ins with employees to ensure responsibilities are understood, and questions are answered. In the in-person environment, and even more importantly in the remote workforce, communication is the cornerstone of your team’s success.
- Foster Community: The stronger the relationships, the better the trust will be. Use video when possible to create closer experiences for teams. Spend time getting to know each other through informal digital meetups (e.g., virtual book clubs or lunch dates). Managers will play a large role in fostering community by encouraging frequent contact and informal communications. Coordinate team bonding and celebrate wins, birthdays, and other special occasions just as you would in an in-person environment. While this may seem like “extra fluff,” establishing closer relationships will lead to better trust, and ultimately more cohesive and fluid workflows.
- Evaluate Outcomes, Not Hours: It will be tempting to want to know what your team and peers are doing every hour of the day. For certain projects you may need to know that time from a budgetary perspective, but try to refrain from hour tracking and micromanaging as a primary method of employee evaluation. Start with trust. Align on expectations and clarify how you will communicate and track projects. Evaluate your team members by the products they produce not the hours they spend in front of the screen.
- Have Fun! Yes, we said it. We should have some fun doing our work! Individuals who enjoy their work and the people they work with are more engaged, better motivated, and perform better than their less enthused counterparts.
Managing distributed work teams is difficult and can be a roller coaster of a process. With the right tools, proper training (and the support of Achurch Consulting), your team will be well on their way to being more efficient, better organized, and ready to succeed in any project that comes your way!
If you would like to learn more about how we can help your distributed teams become successful working together virtually, contact us today.