How to get the best out of your remote teams …

Managing a remote team often requires different skills to leading a team you can see.  How can you tell if your remote workers are happy?  What is moral like?  Are you even aware of what your teams are doing? 

Not every leader can handle the management of virtual teams so here are some top tips to help you succeed!  Derived from WMP’s Leading Remote and Virtual Teams, a one day programme  for managers led by L&D expert Joseph Grech, our suggestions are a great way of keeping your employees motivated wherever they are based! 

Managers who manage or lead teams remotely need a whole set of skills. They need to be able to manage, motivate and handle team progress and performance remotely, using new communication and shared online technology to make sure that their team meets its objectives.

What are the key differences between managing remotely and face-to-face?

There are several key differences. When you can see the members of your team you know where they are, what they are doing, and they can reach out to you for help when needed. Managing from a distance relies more on input from your team which essentially means your role as a manager changes.   You have to develop team members to be proactive so they can deal with issues as they arise while at the same time ensure they feel comfortable to ask for support when required.  You have to learn to be more of a coach. The big mistake many managers make is they think they have to manage their remote teams more when they actually have to manage less!

What are the pitfalls of remote team leading and how to avoid them?

Building engagement and commitment from a distance presents a unique set of challenges but when done well can lead to increased productivity and well-being resulting in a motivated, flexible and adaptable workforce.  Good communication skills are key and managers need to understand the technology to set up meetings remotely, to know the time zones involved and to be aware of cultural differences.  Communicating with the right people at the right time about the right thing in the right way is vital for creating a sense of unity and value within a dispersed team.

A major pitfall is for managers to think they have two teams – the home team and the virtual team.  This defines the team in two and can create slight biases towards one team over another.  Think of having one whole team which is interacting virtually all the time.    Fairness is of paramount importance so be aware of the difference in time zones and don’t always hold your meetings at 10am because it is convenient to the home team. Ensure everyone is treated equitably. Remember it will be noticed if the home team receives more training and development than those working remotely. Aim to accommodate reasonable requests and be unbiased in your decision making.

How to influence remotely, how to motivate, how to develop a team spirit and meet goals?

As a remote leader, your role is to remove the obstacles that stop teams performing and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.  Watson Martin Partnership runs a wide range of in-company courses and qualifications to help individuals and organisations reach their full potential.  Our Leading Remote and Virtual Teams programme, part of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) level 4 qualification, includes a five step approach to extending your REACH* as a remote manager:

  • Emphasise Responsiveness – make yourself as available to remote team members as office-based team members.
  • Use Empathy – tune in to others’ feelings, viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Accelerate Accountability – build ownership for results in individuals and the team as a whole.
  • Create Connection – build links between remote team members, other team members and the organisation as a whole.
  • Help – provide support for individuals and teams to achieve success.

In addition, if you have the budget, organise a social event for your teams once a year so people can get to know each other. Set goals but give each team member the autonomy to do their job which, in turn, boosts motivation. Provide regular feedback and support. Recognise and reward the contribution of individuals and above all build and maintain trust in your remote team.

WMP offers over 100 management qualifications and soft skills courses delivered in-company.  To find out more about our in-company training portfolio see our website or call us on 020 7932 2760.

*Source: Forum, Leading Remote Teams is Virtually the Same, Maggie Walsh, 2011