Engaging Remote Teams

The subject of remote working is one that is hotly debated, is it good or bad for an organisation? Does it increase or hinder productivity and engagement?

As a leader, managing and overseeing a remote team and monitoring performance presents a unique set of challenges. It also takes a highly skilled leader to successfully build and manage a remote team.

Here are 4 key leadership skills required for managing a virtual team:

1. Excellent Communication

Superior communication skills are critical for any leader. For leaders who manage remote teams and don’t have the ease of face to face communication it becomes even more crucial. Virtual teams have to rely on technology to communicate and cannot easily use non-verbal clues to dissect and interpret messages and intentions making it harder to fully grasp what people are thinking. Virtual communicators must ensure that they are being as clear as possible so their message is being conveyed correctly.

Top tips for successful virtual communication:

  • Check in frequently with your team one on one and as a group, ideally sticking to a regular date and time to keep focus
  • Actively and attentively listen, summarise what people are saying to ensure you have understood correctly
  • Keep it simple: Eliminate any language that could be misinterpreted
  • Understand the needs of others, respect their boundaries and establish methods of communication that work for everyone

2. Deliver clear expectations

Clarity of expectations becomes all the more pressing with virtual workers. Ensure that each individual fully understands their role and the impact it has on results. Be clear about hours, deadlines, availability, tasks, project briefs, meetings dates and times and time tracking.

You need to be direct with your team and offer concise, explicit instructions or goals, or better still co-create the desired outcomes so that full responsibility is taken by each team member for the thing they have been a part of developing.

3. Availability and access

As a leader of a remote team people will expect you to be available to answer questions, provide feedback and address issues. Ensure that people know they can contact you as needed for assistance or further instruction or clarification. You are responsible for setting an example and illustrating how success is achieved by working in collaboration remotely.

Remote working requires open-minded and digitally savvy leaders who think outside the box and find innovative solutions for boosting creativity and productivity in remote teams. They utilise a variety of digital tools to maximise their team’s effectiveness. Some of the digital tools savvy leaders use to boost productivity and collaboration with remote teams include Trello (great for organising projects with virtual teams), Asana (allows you to create to-do lists, collaborate with your team, comment on tasks and track progress), Slack, (Brings people, projects and communications together in one place), and Calendly (Makes scheduling meetings easier for everyone and integrates with Google, Outlook, Office 365 and iCloud calendars).

4. Team Building Skills

In the absence of in person interactions, leaders need to give greater thought to how they’ll create the same level of connection when working remotely and how to ensure their team maintain a sense of loyalty and belonging to the organisation. One option is to hold the occasional in person event (a creative ‘bash’, or a social gathering). Another option is to hold virtual meet ups where attention is given to people’s personal interests — we build trust in teams more quickly when people get to know one another as a human rather than simply as a colleague.

Lastly, it’s important to enable the full potential of your remote team. Hold regular performance reviews to ensure your people receive the feedback and guidance they need to fulfil their role as diligently and happily as they can.

Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at tania@twcreativecoaching.com.