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Tips for managing remote teams


I run a weekly 'people management tip of the week' at my company and I've been asked for tips on managing remote teams. I've thought of a couple but need some more!
Dick Barton

7 Responses

  1. Get them together
    Sounds crazy I know, but find opportunities to get them together either as a whole group or in parts.

  2. Praise works better than criticism
    Managing remote teams brings special challenges. “Inputs” are often difficult to observe and “Outputs” (often in terms of sales figures) do not tell the whole story – especially in the short term.

    Particularly in remote sales teams there is a tendency to “crack the whip” with underperformers. Recent research by the GoodBoss Company suggests that this is the wrong approach.

    A focus on the negative produces negative behaviour on the part of those being managed – measurable in terms of “taking fake sick days”, “not working as hard as they might” and even “looking for another job” or “resigning”.

    This is particularly true with remote management because comments made – positive or negative – have a much bigger impact because the frequency of contact is greatly reduced.

    The research evidence suggests that a possible tip should be:

    “Always look to find a positive and build on that rather than breed resentment by focussing on the negative”

    Tony Bennett

  3. KIT
    Tony makes the comment below….

    “This is particularly true with remote management because comments made – positive or negative – have a much bigger impact because the frequency of contact is greatly reduced.”

    Managers of remote teams have it easier now than ever in the past in regards of Keeping In Touch.

    Take time to contact every member of your team as frequently as possible….text them, fax them, e-mail them, visit them, conference call them, get them together.
    Don’t let them feel that they are “remote”!


  4. Outcomes Based Leadership and Building Trust
    Two key drivers in leading successful remote teams are:

    1. Outcomes Based Leadership
    Leading remote teams, you can no longer manage activities. You need to manage people to deliver outcomes and coach them on how to achieve them.

    2. Building Trust
    Everything you do needs to build trust. That goes from your communications and the way you assign work to drive natural interdependence across your remote team. You need to organise “mini-project” work in a way that they need each other’s help and support to be successful.

    I offer coaching for leaders who need to manage remote teams and also workshops with the team to get everyone understanding how they can all work together better and be much more successful.

    Mark Fritz

  5. Communication is the key
    I have 2 trainers that report to me who are 5 thousand miles away. What I found works well is:
    (1)hold a weekly meeting via teleconference. Make sure you have an agenda and minutes.
    (2)Avoid sending emails for everything, phone calls are more personal.
    (3) Empower them as much as possible.
    (4) If financially possible, visit them and work with them at their site.
    Hope this helps.

  6. Thanks for your help
    Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions for this tip. Below is what I published in my weekly column:
    A while back I was asked for tips on managing remote teams (I think the enquirer had a team split between Aston and Mumbai). I’ve done some research and offer the following set.

    Outcomes-based Management. You can no longer manage activities. Inputs are hard to observe so agree precise outcomes to be delivered and coach people towards achieving them. However, raw outcomes do not always tell the whole story, and it has been suggested that managers tend to ‘crack the whip’ on under-performing remote team members. So…

    Build trust. Always easier to break than to build, trust needs special nurturing when frequent, close contact and subtle body language are not there to help. Because the frequency of contact is lower, its impact (positive or negative) is greater. The ‘praise is stronger than criticism’ rule increases with physical separation. Build trust in the way you allocate tasks, in how you respond to problems and ideas, and with…

    Planned communication. Contact every member of your team regularly: text, email, telephone, fax, visit. Make opportunities to get them together, either as a whole group or in parts. Encourage team members to share difficulties and successes. Keep everyone up to date and aware of what is expected of them. Don’t let any of them feel they are ‘remote’. An essential element of your communication plan is…

    Regular conference calls. Keep in mind time differences and public holidays; publish a forward schedule of calls. Conference calls need to be run like other meetings but with even stronger chairing: challenge those who dominate or drift; and go round the virtual table, inviting everyone to speak in turn. Arrange video conference calls, at least on some occasions, so you see eachother eye-to-eye. Listen actively, in particular to team members who say little. Check whether both you and they have understood, and are committed to what has been agreed. And as you listen…

    Be aware of cultural differences. Some cultures are reluctant to say no, and may agree to things they cannot deliver. How closely people expect to be managed differs from culture to culture. Even with a common language, words may be understood differently in other parts of the world – and remember to use ‘Offshore English’ (English but with clearer enunciation) for non-English speakers.


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