+Scott Watson

Monday, 9 January 2012

A Few Top Tips To Manage Remote Teams More Effectively

Managing Remote Teams can be a real challenge.  And a challenge that can easily turn into a real problem if not managed effectively.

Our clients tell us that the lack of person to person contact with their team members, whether it be their manager or subordinates is the most difficult issue when working in remote teams.  Remember, face to face contact over Skype or video conferencing is very different to person to person coaching or contact where you're in the same location.

Here are a few top tips on how to manage remote teams more effectively.  Try them for 10 days - consistently- and notice the positive difference that begins to develop.  Nope, just reading these tips won't add any value to you, your team or your organisation which is ultimately trusting, and paying you to do your best for them. And, neither will the 'I've tried that and it didn't work' attitude either.

You know as well as I do that a little practice and focus is all it takes to make improvements.  And a 10 day timescale is absolutely adequate (as long as you remind yourself to use these tips). So, here goes:

Understand Your Role In Delivering The Goods

It's all too easy to unwittingly abdicate responsibility for the level of results achieved when managing a remote team. Yes, when all is going wonderfully well, bring on the plaudits and raving fans, especially if they're your boss, or even your boss's boss! But what about when it all goes badly wrong?  Will you willingly acknowledge your role in failure?  Much like success, failure is rarely achieved alone and this is where your mettle as a manager is really tested.  Too many times I've heard examples of where a manager has stated something along the lines of 'I delegated the task to them and s/he said it was going well and on track. I guess I need to be less trusting and more careful next time.'

Too right you need to be more careful.  Where were you in providing ongoing coaching support, asking for updates on progress and challenges, checking quality and evaluating risks?  If you were too busy managing other team members and/or activities, it's still your responsibility to ensure that the outcomes you and your team commit to, are actually achieved. On time, on budget and spot on in terms of quality.

Your Role In Communicating Effectively

The ongoing developments in the world of technology were supposed to help managers and teams perform even more effectively.  Sometimes I'm not so sure that this goal has been achieved.  Super cool Iphones, tablets and Blackberry's have become more of a hindrance than a help to many.  Come on, you've experienced it. You're sat in a meeting with colleagues and your phone buzzes, vibrates or plays an alert sound to grab your attention.  And what happens?  You look at your phone, pick it up and read whatever email or text message has been received.  What message does this send to your team in that very meeting with you?  Yep, 'You're not as important as my phone'. Madness, complete Madness!

How do you plan when and how to communicate with your team members?

Do you have a process in place which allows your team members to happily accept delegated authority without them feeling they've been dumped on?  If you think you do, cool. But, I'd check what your team members think anyway.

Do you delegate in a manner that reflects trust, collaboration and shared ownership for the achievement of the required outcomes? Or do you 'delegate' by sending an email with an outline of expectations (with crazy deadlines even?) and then sit and wait to see what questions come back to you?

However well you think you communicate, you're probably nowhere near as effective as you believe.  And, one really easy way to work around this is to ASK YOUR TEAM MEMBERS WHAT THEY NEED FROM YOU.

So much information gets 'lost in translation' and your team members will really value the opportunity to have some structured communication support from you.  It will really help them perform even better for you.  Just sit down over a coffee and ask them 'In terms of how I communicate with you and manage you, please will you give me three points I can improve on?'

Your question may scare the daylights out of some team members, as such questions are rarely asked.  A high-trust relationship is required for this form of approach to be taken of course.

The long and short of managing remote teams is that YOU the manager need to take absolute responsibility for the delivery of the outcomes required, in the timescales agreed (not imposed) and ensure that your team members are adequately equipped to deliver what you're trusting them to deliver.  If you don't communicate effectively, there could be tears at bedtime!


No comments:

Post a Comment