How to Manage a Distributed Team

How to Manage a Distributed Team

Maybe you’ve been managing teams for a dozen years, providing phenomenal leadership and building teams that any manager would be proud of. Now you’ve moved into a remote environment and are finding it to challenge your established management and leadership techniques. Although managing a distributed team is different than an in-house team, it isn’t impossible.

To successfully manage a distributed team, it is important to look at the whole person rather than just focusing on the role they fill. By understanding the person’s personality and who they are, you can establish a working relationship that helps to build trust. And, if you’ve ever worked virtually, you know that trust is essential!

To help you successfully manage a distributed team, below you’ll find a few tips to build your team up and keep them connected. From creating an environment where they want to come to work to providing a way for the team to connect on a personal level, there are several tips to get you started!

Team Member Selection

When managing a distributed team, it is important to consider the team members, both new and established. When growing the team, managers need to consider the qualifications of the new team member as well as how they will fit in with the established team. Since the dynamics of a remote team are essential to team success, new team members should be selected not only for their qualifications but also for how they interact with the team.

Create a Sustainable Environment

Company and team culture will play greatly into how successful a team is. As a manager of a distributed team, it is important to create an environment where people feel that they can ask questions, communicate freely, and do their work without being micromanaged. As a virtual manager, it may be hard to let go, but you need to have trust or team members may begin to lose faith in you and the other team members. You ultimately create a stressful and angry environment.

Set Goals and Expectations

When you don’t interact face-to-face on a daily basis, it can be hard to know tasks need completed as well as what tasks are getting done. As a manager, it is your responsibility to set goals and expectations for the team and individual members early in the game. By setting goals and expectations, team members know what is expected of them. Then, as a manager you have something to measure success against.

Establish Plans

What might seem to fall into place in an in-office setting will probably flounder in a virtual environment. Since there aren’t any visual cues, and time zones may slow communication, it is critical to have plans in place to address important parts of team management and success. These include:

  • Feedback sessions
  • Communication channels
  • Use of technology
  • Problem resolution
  • Available resources
  • Defined duties
  • Team and organization structure

Communication Channels

As part of a distributed team, you can’t simply walk into someone’s office and start asking questions. There does take a bit of planning unless you employ a virtual office platform such as Sococo. Employing multiple communication platforms can help to ensure team success since there will be a way for everyone to communicate how and when they feel comfortable. Email is great for issues that aren’t time sensitive. Instant messaging allows for immediate connect during emergencies. Teleconferences or videoconferences allow for multiple team members or teams to connect at once. There are even enterprise social networks like Yammer to help too!

Just make sure that you, as a manager, are using the different channels and staying in touch with your team members. It can be easy to feel disconnected when you aren’t in the same office. It is highly useful to establish a meeting schedule, whether it be quick daily check-ins or more lengthy weekly meetings. Having a set time to check in can help to keep everyone connected and on the same page.

Group Cohesiveness

You can’t overlook the fact that you’ll have to provide a forum for your team to connect as people, not just work teammates. In addition to building trust, team-building activities help team members to connect on a more personal level. And, when people feel invested with the person, the more likely they will be willing to work together. This is particularly true in a virtual environment when you have to be able to communicate, trust, and depend on people that could be divided by thousands of miles.

Managing a distributed team may take a bit more effort in the beginning. But, once you have a team established and trusting relationships, the maintenance comes much more naturally.

By Jessica Howington | Categories: Remote Management

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