In many ways, managing a remote team is like managing a team in your office. The main difference is distance. But that distance removes some aspects of in-person interactions—like body language—that help make connections and clarify intended meanings.
Technology tools can help bridge these gaps, but it takes more than just tools to ensure your remote team is successful. There are countless ways to improve collaboration, further develop the team dynamic, and manage your remote team better. We’ve curated eight below that you can implement today.
Easily Manage Your Remote Team With These 8 Tips:
1. Provide clear instructions.
Giving clear directions is hard enough in person, let alone when you’re hundreds of miles apart. People tend to make assumptions in their instructions, which typically spring from in-person discussions. When working remotely, you don’t have that luxury, which is why you need to be crystal clear about what you want your team to do. “Don’t assume your team knows what you’re talking about. Spell it out,” explains Emily Reynolds, founder of R Public Relations. “Add notes that you normally wouldn’t in person because you can’t support your instructions by, say, pointing to something.”
You can be extra vigilant by creating well-documented standard operating procedures (SOPs). Whether in written or video form, SOPs provide your team with detailed instructions on a variety of tasks, minimizing errors and maximizing consistent outcomes. Sean Pour, co-founder of SellMax, notes that his team regularly records themselves doing common tasks to ensure everyone who performs them gets the desired result. “Your teammates aren’t always around to ask questions, but a quick video often gives you the answers you’re looking for.”
2. Require weekly status reports.
As a manager, you need to stay in the loop about what your team is working on and the progress they’ve made. This enables you to make informed decisions, such as adjusting individual workloads and determining whether you can take on new business. Having the report be a weekly task gives you enough time to take action if something is amiss, but doesn’t overburden your team with paperwork.
What would a weekly report look like? It will differ depending on the type of work your team does, but Shania Khan, CEO of FLP Consulting Group, shares one example. “I have my team fill out a one-page sheet that includes items such as accounts visited, goals met, challenges faced, action plan for the week ahead, and any needs they may have. Those are the most important aspects I’m looking for every week so I can do my job as a leader.”
3. Use collaboration software.
There are a number of technological tools remote teams use to collaborate and complete their day-to-day work. Chief among them are communication, file sharing, and project management solutions, which are sometimes combined into a single collaboration suite. These solutions enable your team to easily discuss ideas, share documents, and track their tasks so nothing is forgotten.
However, Ben Taylor, founder of HomeWorkingClub, cautions that streamlining things with technology has its limitations. He says that it can be tempting to lean too heavily on instant messaging apps and project management systems and lose sight of the team dynamic. “These definitely have their uses but can make everything feel overly systemized and impersonal. Instant message conversations can also go around in circles without any decisions being made. Sometimes it’s better just to jump onto a call and do things the ‘old fashioned’ way, hashing out any issues synchronously and reestablishing human connections between team members.”
4. Always confirm communications you’ve received.
In the daily shuffle of emails, instant messages, calendar invites, and more, it’s easy to get distracted. Even if you’ve read that last message, you may forget to respond or think it’s not necessary. “It’s always necessary,” notes Tomas Uribe, CEO of Stereotheque.
Uribe says that you should always acknowledge a teammate’s communication to make sure you’re both on the same page, even if it’s a simple ‘okay’ or an emoji. “You’re just confirming to the person you’ve received and understood their message. This helps avoid confusion and unnecessary follow-ups,” he adds.
Stay tuned for part two of this series we’ll be releasing soon.