Managing remotely is becoming an increasingly common phenomena as companies work more globally. This presents many challenges. A good analogy is a relationship; when you are living together you brush past each other, chat over breakfast. However, if one of you is away you have to make more effort to communicate as you cannot rely on this important but often under valued contact. Here is a summary of a group of managers who were interviewed about their experiences of managing people remotely. They reflected on the challenges they faced and what they had learnt in the pursuit to build effective relationships and optimise performance from afar.
They identified four key areas; Communication, Managing Performance, Relationships and Technology. The solutions may provide some valuable tips for managers in your organisation who manage remote teams
- Language differences.
- Time differences.
- Cultural differences.
- Communicating informally.
- Have regular one to ones once a week for an hour or hour and a half and stick to them as much as possible.
- Meet regularly; example of regularity of meetings; 2 catch ups a week (one hour and then 30 mins), quarterly reviews, team meeting every fortnight virtually. Visit in person at least once a year.
- Pass on information through emails that will give them a sense of belonging. For example company news, updates, notes from managers’ meetings, weekly email with your news. Things you take for granted mean much more to people remotely.
- Keep notes on what has been agreed, what you want to discuss in catch ups and plan meetings so you get the best out of them.
- Be contactable by phone and encourage people to call you. Communicate times when you are available and when you are not.
- Use a system to share documents and information, floor plans, ground rules etc.
- Plan your diary in relation to different time zones so you can speak to remote workers.
- Use a team calendar so people know where everyone is; this should include bank holidays and religious or national holidays.
- Share acronyms and abbreviations with those who work in different countries.
- Clarity is key; be clear and then ask person to confirm what they have heard to be sure. Don’t say “do you understand?” (closed question) ask “what are you going to do?”, “take me through what you think we have agreed?” etc. (open questions).
- Follow up meetings with emails to confirm what has been agreed.
- Set clear timescales taking into account working patterns.
- Make time for personal chat if this is appropriate to the person’s needs.
- Video conferencing is more effective than phone calls as you can see their non verbal communication; though asking good and open questions can over-come this.
- You need patience and understanding.
- You need to involve people and do not let them be out of touch for too long.
Part 2 of 4 – Managing Performance in a remote team to follow shortly. Or if you are interested in equipping your managers with the skills, confidence and capability to lead teams remotely then consider our Leading Remote Teams 2 day In House Course.