In my last article, I talked about the power of camaraderie in distributed teams; an often overlooked aspect of teamwork that is pivotal for the success of your business. Today I build on that by outlining the five critical success factors for distributed work.
As a leader today, you are no doubt watching the proliferation of distributed teams. No longer just the domain of IT, distributed and global teams are now often seen in sales and marketing, science, research and other industries. The FlexJobs list of 76 virtual companies includes firms focused on health information, personal growth, recruitment, tax and a not-for-profit.
So you need to lead a distributed team? I’ve pulled together my five critical success factors, tried and tested so you can create great success for your organisation.
Manage according to results, not presenteeism
Unlike traditional nine-to-five jobs, remote workers can pretty much set their own schedules, a big part of why they want the work. As such, you should manage people according to their results, and encourage them to work during their most productive periods. For example, if one remote worker is more productive in the evening, and their position doesn’t require interaction with anyone during business hours, then allow them to work during that time. If others are early risers who are known to complete a project before noon, then let them perform during that time without unnecessary restrictions.
Which leads to…
Create visibility of the work across the team
Transparency means operating with integrity within and between teams. By communicating openly and honestly with your team members, you break down barriers. Reinvent working in silos and cultivate a culture where information flows freely between people and teams. Make individuals’ work visible so that the whole team can see each person’s contribution to the common goal. Although transparency is often glossed over in vague terms, its benefits are tangible. We talk about working in a team but often teams are just groups of people reporting to the same manager. Improving the transparency of work done in your team is a powerful way to lift the experience, and it’s often easier to do in a distributed team. It makes even more sense to put something in place that everyone can see. I’ve seen teams use Trello, Teamwork and Asana for this purpose, as examples.
Major on communication
When managing a remote team, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only communicating when assigning work or when there’s a problem. However, regular communication keeps your team in the loop and makes them feel part of the bigger picture.
It’s often better to over-communicate than to lose touch and not have a clear understanding of an employee’s projects. So schedule frequent check-ins so that your remote workers don’t feel neglected, and while you’re at it, use the opportunity to build rapport with them. Get to know them as a person, use their name and take the time to ask how they and their family are doing and dig into their interests and passions. It’s a simple way to show that you value them.
Actively develop trust
Trust is an essential building block for any successful team. Without an intentional effort to encourage bonding and transparency between teammates, distributed teams can be particularly prone to assumptions and misinterpretations that break down trust.
Although many remote teams seldom meet in person, there are proactive strategies to cultivate strong workplace relationships and productive collaborations. Some tactics are open communication, being responsive and reliable and keeping up warm connections.
Create opportunities to build camaraderie
We all know that getting along with people at work helps get things done but is it as important as doing the actual work? Having warm and positive working relationships at work is equally vital as fairness and achievement. Without it, you’ll lose people’s motivation. With camaraderie, you’ll get an exponential increase in engagement. In my experience, this is especially true in distributed teams.
Working in distributed teams can have its challenges, but when managed so that people come first, the benefits to individuals, groups and the broader organisation can be immense.