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Ten Top Tips For Managing Remote Teams: Part Two
In the last blog post we looked at the first five of Summit’s top ten tips for managing remote teams. There, we covered choosing the right team, defining the team’s purpose, establishing how your team members want to be managed, delegating effectively, and managing yourself better. Before we dive in to the final five tips, it’s important to remember that simply reading these articles isn’t going to make you a better manager overnight. The techniques here are proven, time-tested, practical, and easy-to-apply tools and tactics that are the result of extensive research, and will deliver fantastic results for you and your team – but only if you take the time to put them into practice. So, as you read through the next five tips, think "How can I use this in my team? Who can I use this with today?”
6. Clarify, clarify, clarify
At its core, effective management is about effective communication, and key to effective communication is clarity. If you ask me for something and I say I'll get it to you shortly, what does shortly actually mean? Most importantly – does it mean the same thing for me as it does for you? Lack of clarity in communication can lead to misunderstandings, which in turn lead to the breakdown of trust in relationships. If to you ‘shortly’ means ‘in twenty minutes’ and to me it means ‘by the end of the day,’ you’re going to feel let down in an hour’s time when that work is still not on your desk. Clarity of language manages expectations and strengthens trust.
7. Create a performance dashboard
A performance dashboard is an internal system where you and each individual team member can see in real time what progress is being made against what objectives, identify obstacles, and collaborate with their peers to overcome them. It may take the form of a spreadsheet, or some other type of document, but the most important thing is that it is available for the whole team to see and edit at all times – without getting caught up in endless versions of the same file. It’s important to remember that a performance dashboard isn’t a league table to pit team members against each other, it’s there to generate clarity by creating a central location in which your team can share their skills, expertise, and knowledge to help their peers overcome obstacles.
8. Keep it personal
Working remotely can be very lonely - you can't bounce ideas around with the person at the next desk, or have someone there to listen when you need to let off steam. So it’s important that you, the manager, ensure that your contact with your team is not just to get tasks achieved and outputs delivered, but also to spend meaningful time supporting your team members individually. Plan in some time each and every week just to see how the week is progressing for that individual, not just in terms of achieving their work goals but also how they're feeling. Is there any way you could support them better? Make sure they know that you don’t see them as just a team member, but as a human being. Respect their downtime - don't send emails at unsociable hours or on the weekend. And always remember birthdays.
9. Manage your boss
It’s only natural to want to please your boss – after all, they’re often the ones in charge of reviewing your performance, deciding whether you should be considered for promotion, demotion, or in worse cases, redundancy. But it’s important to understand that achieving the best outcomes for your organisation, your team, and yes, your boss, does not always come from complying unquestioningly with everything your boss requests. The boss does not always have the answers. Not being a part of your team themselves means that when they assign new tasks or set particular deadlines, they do so without understanding in detail the implications this has for the delivery of an existing task or objective. Managing your boss means helping them understand this – keep them updated on your team’s progress, and if they set an unmanageable task or deadline, ask "Could you help me understand what other activity, output, or project you would wish to postpone or sideline in order to get this done?"
10. Share good practice across your team
As is the case in any group of people, your team will be comprised of individuals with a variety of skills and weaknesses. Identifying these early on can be incredibly valuable for a manager, as it will not only help you delegate tasks to those best able to complete them effectively, but it will also allow you to match team members in need of developing a particular skill with someone who is able to coach them. You could even use your performance dashboard to make note of who is particularly skilled in certain areas, so your team know who to ask for advice and guidance when they need it. A team that shares skills with each other is a team that is constantly increasing and strengthening the skills it has. When you develop a coaching culture, your team is continually building greater in-house technical and personal competence.