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Top five tips to manage remote teams successfully

Remote teams are becoming increasingly important in today’s business environment because they allow companies to tap into a wider pool of professionals, provide their workforce with flexible working options and expand their presence across multiple markets. 

However, unlike their ‘traditional’ counterparts, remote teams present a set of unique challenges that are a direct consequence of their geographically dispersed nature. Since face-to-face interaction is limited, building rapport and communicating effectively becomes even more critical. 

So which are the key practices that can help managers mitigate the disadvantages and leverage the strengths of such teams?

  1. Build the right team. The perfect team doesn’t exist, but when choosing the members of a geographically dispersed group, a manager should look for individuals with specific characteristics like high levels of self-motivation, open mindedness, independence and a result-driven mindset.
     
  2. Set defined objectives and responsibilities. It is essential that each team member has a clear idea of his or her role and what it entails as well as its importance and relevance within the project framework. This will increase the level of buy-in and motivation of the team.
     
  3. Use a coaching management style. A lot has been said about the advantages of this management style compared to the more traditional ‘command and control’ one. It would definitely be beneficial in managing remote teams because it promotes a higher level of independence for each team member, less dependency on the manager and, as a result, less or no need for the manager to be present onsite at all times.
     
  4. Provide regular and fair feedback. Without the direct interaction that a traditional team promotes, it is difficult for managers to create a team culture and to communicate efficiently with the team, especially when it comes to delivering feedback or discussing performance. This can be avoided by providing regular feedback in a consistent and suitable way.
     
  5. Monitor morale and performance closely. This is key in the management of any team but it becomes crucial when dealing with a geographically dispersed one. Managers need to pay attention to any early warnings of dissatisfaction and poor performance. At the same time, tracking progress on a regular basis should not compromise the flexibility and independence that characterise remote teams.

View Techniques for managing remote teams successfully by Valentina Lorenzon.

3 comments

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  1. Valentina Lorenzon
    Valentina Lorenzon 28 June 2016, 09:19 AM

    Thanks for your comment. When team members do choose to be part of virtual teams, the dynamics can be slightly different but, in my experience,  most of the challenges - in particular, from the manager point of view - still stand. I mostly worked with virtual teams where individuals didn't choose to be part of the team so it would be interesting to exchange notes with somebody with a completely different experience. 

  2. John Boyd
    John Boyd 04 July 2016, 10:14 AM

    Valentina, I work in the engineering / construction industry and as such many of the virtual teams with which I work did not choose to be part of the team. Where individual performance starts to decline I've found that having a rapport with the team lead in that particular office is essential - as is a process for escalation where solutions cannot be found. I agree that it would be very interesting to compare notes with someone who manages "voluntary" virtual teams.

  3. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 25 June 2016, 11:00 AM

    Great set of ideas, except, most virtual teams are made up of people who chose to be part of the team, not people chosen to be part of the team.