How do we manage remote teams?

“How do we manage remote teams?” I was asked this by a member of an audience from Warwick Business School I spoke to last month. Could this be one of the big challenges for the modern leader? Can we over come the challenges of distance, culture, time zones and time pressures?

My keynote was titled “Teams Under Pressure” and explored what teams in challenging situations do, or fail to do, which ensures success or brings on failure. The key messages are;

  • Set the Bearing
  • Create Engagement
  • Establish Alignment

And remote teams need exactly these 3 elements. Its just that remoteness can make this more of a challenge.

Set the Bearing

As leaders we need to provide the direction of travel for our teams, not the final destination and not the ‘how to’ but where our attention should focus. From here our people need to be part of shaping and deciding what and how things happen. There is no reason why remote teams are different from face to face teams in this respect. Set the bearing and take corrective action as the process unfolds but no micro management please – Direction of travel and milestones along the way.

Create Engagement

When we pay attention to our people we engage them, when we include them in decision-making we engage them, when we recognize and reward them we engage them – all of this can be done remotely. Sometimes 1:1 and some times in conference but the principles are the same. I know that when I have a voice I feel engaged, when my opinion matters I am engaged, when I am trusted and supported I am engaged so this also applies to our teams.

Establish Alignment

When we have the right direction of travel we have alignment; alignment with what is going on outside the team and alignment within the team. By ensuring that what we are doing is aligned with what other teams are doing we are establishing a connected, whole system approach to our work so that we are not operating in isolation. The best team in the world will be ineffective if the work they are doing is not aligned with those around them. A conference call paying particular attention to how peoples work is valued by other parts of the business and hearing from other unit leaders how our work helps and supports their outcomes can really help alignment and can open up lines of communication with other parts of our business. With alignment also comes engagement, reinforcing this part of our 3 key factors. When we know how we fit in and contribute we feel engaged.

So, your call to action is with any team;

Set the Bearing

Create Engagement

Establish Alignment