In the past 2 decades I have recruited, managed and developed remote teams of people to deliver both mine and my client’s objectives around the world.  Balancing the 2 sets of objectives with remote teams (and different time zones) can be challenging and indeed a lot can go wrong.  Let’s look at some classic mistakes we sometimes make managing remote teams and then 7 Tips to manage and motivate a remote team.

Recruiting, managing and motivating remote teams can FAIL when managers make the classic mistakes including: not communicating effectively; not being clear in their goals and that of the clients or customers; assuming people know what they need to do on a daily basis;  not keeping people informed of progress, changes or updates; not providing adequate equipment or resources for the team member to successfully perform their role; not recognising or understanding cultural differences and the role they play in negotiation and motivation; not standardising systems and procedures; not providing the right training and induction; not providing a social element or recognising good performance within the team; not understanding the impact of local conditions for people to achieve their tasks; not having a risk register to plan and mitigate risks to the business and the team.

Currently with Covid-19 a whole new generation of people are learning how to work remotely from their colleagues and whilst this may be more standard practise for larger organisations or international projects the principles are the same for localised remote teams and global teams.  There is no doubt that technology supports remote teams like never before and there are so many new and cool systems for scheduling tasks, meetings and workflow.  If you have not implemented them in your business at this stage you may like to explore some of the more common ones and see how they are helping businesses manage their teams and grow.

Here are my Top 7 Tips for Managing and Motivating a Remote Team.

  1. Develop your own road map to success.  What does the end goal or continuing goal look like.  Define what success will look like to you and what will success look like to your client/s?
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Communicate your vision, your goals, your client’s goals, KPI’s, reporting mechanisms, templates, tips for troubleshooting, time for questions, performance reviews, management meetings, team engagement sessions and feedback.  There are so many simple ways you can implement effective communication with remote teams and using a few different mechanisms will keep the communication fresh and interesting for people.  Some of the best ideas happen at the coffee machine, the photocopier, the walk to get lunch.  Creating these moments virtually is also important.
  3. Define your Workstreams. Defining your workstreams and allocating tasks is critical to achieving the organisations goals.  Each person should know what they are accountable for and where they fit into the bigger picture.  Ensure there is a follow up mechanism with reminders for people of when they need to complete tasks or regular progress updates and check-ins.
  4. Allow people adequate time to get the work done. Often remote teams can spend all day on Conference Calls or Zoom Meetings with no actual time to plan, think, create and do the tasks they are responsible for.  We need to be mindful that if people are online all day, they may then have work in the evening to get the actual work done.  Ensure there are times in the day which are dedicated to just working as opposed to just talking.  Encourage people to shut down each day.
  5. Develop robust on-boarding processes. Ensure you have robust methods of on-boarding new team members so they can quickly integrate into the team and workflow.  On Boarding should be a mixture of learning including face time with key people in the team.  Recorded video introductions can also work well but make them fun and personal so the team members get a feel for the personalities in the team and the strengths of the other team members, to ensure knowledge transfer and sharing of information and skills.
  6. Ongoing motivation and recognition. The importance of continual motivation and recognition for the team and their individual and collective efforts cannot be forgotten.  Acknowledging people’s efforts or collective achievements is so important to foster a team spirit and social norming.  Remember the key elements of developing a strong team is to recognise the 4 stages of team development; 1. Forming, 2. Norming, 3. Storming, Performing.
  7. Understand the human element. Whilst our reliance on technology is a huge part of working remotely do not underestimate the human element for connectivity, compassion and accomplishment. Be personal, ensure people feel important and that their efforts matter.  Don’t rush through every meeting without taking time for banter, moral support, jokes or anecdotes as well as learning and transfer of skills.  Be mindful or your team members health and wellbeing and make this apart of your remote working culture.

In summary, a well-run remote team should function as every bit effectively as a non-remote team with allowances for some differences such as time zones, cultural practices, supply chains and localised events.  Managing a remote team to deliver to yours and your clients objectives is very rewarding and we can still celebrate our success.  Understanding your team members individual motivations, reward drivers and personal circumstances helps to maintain a good team ethos and hold the team together long term.