3 Tips for Leading Remote Teams

The growth of the global economy and China’s rise has placed a tremendous emphasis upon remote teams. But it’s surprising how little has been written on leading remote teams in recent years, given the expansion of corporations into so many global corners.  A participant on one of our training programs described feeling like a remote server churning out data for his boss. Certainly not the kind of feeling most leaders would want to foster in their team members!

Most information out there deals with the kinds of technology to use when dealing with a remote team. But that’s only part of the challenge. Knowing how to use technology effectively to engage remote team members is also key. Whether your remote team members are overseas or in a national division, you will need to work harder to lead them more effectively and keep them engaged.

Here are three quick tips:

  1. Email is a great tool for keeping in touch, but it’s not true communication. In a local team there is a balance between formal communication in meetings and more informal communication that takes place in hallways, the lunch room or around the water cooler. How do you create an environment where remote team members exchange views on projects, last night’s game, or other social interactions? IM is an easy information tool, but it is no substitute for picking up the phone once in a while and talking to each team member. Better yet, visit your remote team, even if it’s only once a year.
  2. Include your remote team members in meetings, even if it’s only about minor issues. It helps them feel connected to the team. But be sure to think about the time of these meetings. Are the people in Asia always taking meetings late at night to accommodate your own work schedule?
  3. Trust is pivotal to the success of remote teams, but is often seen as a “soft intangible.” Lack of trust is one of the surest ways to sink a project. It is hard to form a trust bond with someone without looking them in the eyes, but with remote teams, consistency is the key. Take the time to ask about their families, work challenges, etc., and do it every time you email or speak with them. Another important rule: when you make commitments to them, always follow up.
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