8 Tips for Successfully Leading Remote Teams

Spike Team
By Spike Team, April 28, 2022
Remote_teams

The pandemic changed the face of work forever, and while the number of remote white-collar workers has dropped since the height of the pandemic, it’s no longer a niche approach to work.

 

It’s no surprise that remote teams have stuck around since they offer a host of benefits for both employees and the organizations they work for. Working from home allows for greater flexibility, shorter (if not, non-existent) commutes, and more autonomy from an employee perspective. As a result, companies can reduce costs (such as expensive office space) and reap the benefits of happier, more motivated, and more productive employees.

 

However, while there are many benefits, remote teams also have their challenges – specifically, they require a new method of team management. That’s what we’ll be focusing on today, running through some of the top tips to successfully lead a remote team in this new work landscape.

 

 

Communication Is Key

Before we get into the tips for leading remote teams, a common thread will weave through them all: communication. It is vitally important for any team and made much trickier when every employee is in a different city, state, or even country.

 

The biggest pitfall of new remote team leaders is not paying enough attention to how, when, and why their team members communicate. Think about this as you work through the tips, and you’ll be well on your way to success. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at these tips!

 

 

 1. Have Clearly Defined Roles and Goals

First, ensure that all your team members know what they are doing and how they are doing it. While remote work might be new to employees, their role within the company shouldn’t be. If they aren’t given a clearly defined role, they can waste time figuring out what they should be doing, double up on work, and clash with other team members by stepping on toes.

 

 

In a traditional office environment, this kind of division is expected and easy to manage – in a remote team, people can slip through the cracks. Thus, make a point of having defined roles with clear goals for each individual and the team as a whole. 

 

 

 2. Make Those Goals Effective

When setting goals, you need to consider what kind of goal system you are using. One popular method is the SMART goal strategy. This focuses on five main aims in goal creation, each represented by a letter of SMART. 

 

Goals
  • Specific

    Goals should take big, unwieldy concepts and turn them into concrete targets for an employee or team to hit.

  • Measurable

    You need a way to track the progress and completion of your goals, which is why they should always be measurable.

  • Attainable

    Consider if the goal you’re setting is realistically achievable. If it is too big, the goal can backfire and lead to a loss of motivation and the onset of procrastination.

  • Relevant

    Ensure that the goal is connected to the right people, projects, and overall company ambitions.

  • Timely

    Deadlines are key! Deadlines push people to get things done, and in the flexible world of remote work, it is especially important to keep everyone on track and to work together.

Having a good goal system ensures that remote employees remain engaged with work and don’t feel like they’re being left out on their own.

 

 

 3. Give and Receive Regular Feedback

Fostering a good team dynamic is never more important than when your employees are remote – remember that team members will likely never have met in person, much less worked in a close-knit office environment.

 

Therefore, you need to develop an open culture and ensure team members can give and receive feedback in a beneficial way. This comes over time but can be encouraged in a number of ways. A few simple tricks to help are:

  • Asking for specific feedback. Rather than waiting for remote workers to give or receive feedback, simply ask them. “Hey Jane, do you have any thoughts on this new project idea I had?”.

  • Have good channels in place for sharing feedback as part of a group and privately. This could be as simple as an online form and a shared Online Note where people can note down feedback.

This should include aspects relating to remote work specifically. Ask your team if there are changes you (or they) can make in order to improve your remote team leadership.

 

 

4. Remember, This Is a New Way of Working

That is to say, don’t try to impose old management methods onto new styles of work. Clocking in and out at the same times each day – especially for a globally distributed team – is not feasible or desirable.

 

Remote working is flexible; embrace this, and you will reap the benefits rather than fighting a losing balance against your team’s schedule. Some people work better in the evenings, others in the morning, so long as people don’t have to be ‘on’ at the same time, go with it!

 

Remote2

 

For when people do need to work in synchrony, make this clear and arrange schedules to suit the employee’s needs – if you’ve got one team member on the East coast and another in Germany, don’t force one to work crazy hours, just look for the overlap and mark your meeting then.

 

There are plenty of tools that allow for this level of flexibility in a remote team, which we’ll take a look at now.

 

 

 5. Choose the Best Tool for the Job

Could that meeting have been an email, could that email have been a voice message, and did you really need to send anything at all? In short, are you communicating with the right method?

 

Email is still the backbone of business communication and has major benefits for remote teams – namely, it is an asynchronous tool, meaning you don’t need both parties online for it to work effectively. Someone can send a message when it suits them, and the recipient can reply hours (or even days) later without issue.

 

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However, if the topic at hand is complicated or requires a lot of back-and-forth discussions, an email probably isn’t the right choice, a meeting is. With remote teams, this means video conferencing, which allows team members to engage face-to-face, see body language, and hash out more complicated topics. However, this is a synchronous medium – all members of the meeting need to be online, in front of a computer, at the same time.

 

Then you have the middle ground, with tools such as voice messages or notes. They offer a way to communicate complex topics in a quick and, more importantly, asynchronous way. It doesn’t matter if your remote colleague isn’t online, you can record your explanation, and the recipient can listen and respond in their own time.

 

This is all to say that for remote teams, different types of communication require different tools, and it’s your job to know which to use when – nobody wants to be in a video meeting that should have been an email.

 

For the most effective remote team leadership, make sure you establish guidelines for when each of these tools should be used and how to use them.

 

 

 6. Create Shared Online Spaces

When a remote team is working on a project, they need the same support that you give in-office teams. Unlike traditional workspaces, remote teams are physically on their own. Shared online spaces.

 

Formal spaces – This should be a shared note, group chat channels, online messenger, and other virtual office tools set up for team members to be able to drop in and ask questions, share updates, request help, and do everything else they would normally pop into another colleague’s office for.

 

Informal space – In addition to the formal virtual office space, you should also establish an informal one – the office water cooler, if you will. A major part of building a cohesive and effective team is building rapport between its members. This would normally be done in the break rooms, the corridors, and, yes, around the water cooler in a traditional office environment. None of these spaces exist for remote teams, so you need to create some kind of virtual alternative for team members to talk about non-work-related things.

 

Exactly how these spaces look and work will depend on your team, but they are both important aspects of leading remote teams.

 

 

7. Consolidate Your Technology

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So far, many of these tips require tech – tools for virtual spaces, emails, video meetings, voice messages, even goal setting, and project management. All those apps can get overwhelming very quickly, leading to a breakdown in communication rather than its support.

 

The simple solution is to consolidate! Get all the tools you need in a single, manageable application, made specifically for remote teams like yours. We came up with Spike for exactly this situation — a single program that delivers all the tools you need for effective remote teams. Spike includes, for example:

  • Conversational Email

    The power of business email with the ease of an instant messenger

  • Video Meetings

    For when you need to talk through ideas with your team

  • Groups

    Keep teams together with customizable groups

  • Online Notes

    Share virtual spaces where team members can add text, images, video, code, and more

  • Tasks and To-Do Lists

    Manage your tasks and goals with interactive lists and task management

  • Calendar

    A single calendar that brings all your important events and deadlines into a single place

These are a few of the tools included in Spike to help you manage remote teams effectively.

 

 

 8. Consider the Solo Physical Spaces

While we’ve mainly been talking about the digital, because this is the world in which remote teams primarily operate, you have to remember that people are logging in from their sitting rooms, bedrooms, and home offices. These are real people in physical spaces, and you should treat those spaces as if they were part of your own office while remembering that they are not.

 

That means offering equipment to make your remote team’s lives easier – get high-quality technology such as computers and modems (if needed) as well as the best software to keep your team communicating. However, also consider non-tech equipment – does your team have good chairs? Desks? Mugs for the endless supply of coffee?

 

Talk to your team, see what they need, and try and make it happen. A good home office can make all the difference when leading remote teams.

 

On the other hand, you have to remember that your team is not operating in your space, they are working from theirs, and as such, allowances must be made, and extra steps are taken to respect people’s privacy.

 

 

Wrapping Up Tips for Remote Teams

Remote teams are here to stay and offer numerous benefits for both employees and organizations. However, there are challenges, especially when leading remote teams for the first time. Try following these eight tips to improve your remote team leadership, and above all else: remember that communication is key!

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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