Working with remote teams is more the norm today than the exception. With cloud-based technologies, working remotely can be effective and inclusive, but there are still a few steps you will need to be purposeful about maintaining efficient collaboration.
1: Get to know your remote teammates.
You may not be able to fly to their location(s), but with today’s technologies, you can still host a virtual face-to-face meeting. Putting a face to a name is always helpful, and getting to know your teammates on a deeper level is a must. Right up front, agree to norms around how you will work together, along with the expectations, the deliverables, and the timelines associated with your project. Spend some time getting to know your teammates’ work preferences and learning styles. This can be very quick and easy to do—three minutes or less—but will go a long way in creating effective relationships. Take a few minutes to understand how they prefer to focus their time and energy and what the necessary conditions are to create success and satisfaction for all.
2: Align around the overall goals.
Make sure your remote team members understand the big picture. What are you hoping to accomplish? How does this project fit into the larger scope of things? What dependencies come into play? How does each team member’s task or tasks fit into the overall project? Spending a little time up front to help your team members understand how they fit into the big picture will make the overall effort more successful and satisfying. Be sure to utilize online collaboration tools as they make it easy to stay connected in real time. Being able to reach out at any time and get an immediate response ensures that everyone stays connected and aligned.
3: Develop and adhere to a well-defined plan.
It is always important to have a well-defined plan, but it is doubly important for a remote team. Often times, remote teams are in different time zones which means that your team members are working while you are sleeping and vice-versa. You don’t want to wake up one morning to find that your team members have spent their day working on the wrong things; so be sure to develop a detailed plan that the entire team can follow and adhere to. It helps to keep everyone aligned and moving forward.
4: Establish Accountability Measures
To ensure that no team member is falling behind in productivity, adopt a cloud-based project management tool that the entire team can use to set deadlines and keep all activities up to date so gaps are obvious when they occur. Managers of remote teams need to encourage their employees to be as visible as possible to avoid team members accidentally falling into work siloes. These managers need to be exceptionally skilled at managing to each employee’s needs vs. adopting a single management style so the virtual team is as functional and happy as possible.
If one thing’s clear it’s that virtual teams are here to stay. With proper planning, virtual teams can be wildly successful. Executing on these four simple steps will get you and your team off to a great start.