Managing remote teams is similar to managing regular teams, but requires greater emphasis on building trust, fostering communication, implementing team processes and using technology.
90% of your problems will be people related.
Start by working with your team to create a team plan – the team plan might take this form:
1. Set up your communication plan
Outline what needs to be communicated, how it will be communicated, who needs this information, when do they need it and what happens if communication breaks down
2. Outline the decision making process
How, as a group, will you make decisions: what is your back up plan to make a decision: what escalation path have you set when a decision cannot be made if your prime decision maker is either unavailable or unable to decide.
3. Determine your conflict resolution strategy
How will you deal with conflict and what are your rules for avoiding them.
4. Distribute goals, roles and responsibilities
Set out the goals, then communicate who does what, including their specific responsibilities.
5. Ensure fair work distribution
This some times need to be adjusted as time goes along and work changes.
6. Decide your leadership level
What will your leadership be? It needs to be appropriate both to your team and its individuals.
7. Face to face
If at all possible have face to face meetings, especially vital if a new team or a team with new team members. Face to face connections help build trust quickly. If your budget permits travel to a central location, or at the very least, use video conferencing or teleconferencing.
8. Can’t meet face to face
Then try distributing photos of team members on a communication list, or attached to their chat identity so that team members will be able to relate to each other personally.
Encourage social interactions between remote teams
10. Virtual meetings
Test video conferencing equipment thoroughly before each and every meeting. At any virtual meeting, have someone make introductions at the beginning of meeting and include what their responsibilities to the team are. Make sure everyone participates, otherwise, silence will be taken as agreement.
11. Personal communication
Encourage personal communication whenever possible such as face to face or over the telephone, as long as it does not interfere with the work being done – technology tends to be very impersonal and can easily lead to misunderstandings.
Keep your information tight, such as up to date mailing lists, to keep everyone informed of current questions, answers, and general progress
And 8 ways to motivate
13. How about buying some really great postcards & sending one out occasionally – either just as (in the words off Royal Mail) “I saw this and thought of you” or to recognise a specific effort, or achievement.
Or if sending email then find something great to send – a quote (loads of great quote websites around) or a cartoon (I think dilbert is great!) or an interesting article or fact or website link?
14. How about printing up & sending vouchers that say something like THIS VOUCHER IS IN RECOGNITION OF…..& ENTITLES YOU TO FINISH WORK AT LUNCHTIME ONE DAY OF YOUR CHOICE NEXT WEEK (or other rewards that will be valued by the individual people – and for this I’d suggest asking them what would be great for them?).
15. Send a great poster that can be put up somewhere everyone will see it.
16. Make use of “community pages” on company intranet or internet. Have a newsletter.
17. Remember birthdays & send a card – or an e-card. Know when someone has been unwell and contact them on their return, know when someone has been absent with a sick child or relative, or attending a funeral, and ask them how they are doing on their return. Remote geographically doesn’t have to mean not involved, aware or interested in workers lives.
18. Do the things that would happen if the team worked in the same place – flowers when a baby is born, a gift if getting married etc. Collections might be more tricky but I worked in one place where a central kitty was held by everyone (optional) having a pound taken directly from their wages each month and the company matching that, then collections were not necessary.
19. This depends on budget – Get people together sometimes when it is possible – pay the costs & if the geographical spread is far, invite partners along & put on an evening do & pay for or subsidise accommodation?
20. Give people a voucher to take themselves & a partner or guest out for dinner at a restaurant local to them – their own “Christmas Do” (or alternative celebration) perhaps?.