How to lead a remote team effectively?

Akash Bhattacharya
3 min readSep 29, 2019

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What to do. More importantly, what not to.

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Just a few days back, I received a thank you email from a colleague, which ended with -

“Thanks a lot Akash that I have groomed up well in team and work management because of you”

While the email was a nice surprise from the colleague whom I have never met face-to-face, this, also, is a classical example of remote colleague/co-worker/ remote team-member successful collaboration for the last few years. So what are the dos and don’ts for a remote manager working 8000km away from the team, leading for the last 4 years? Let’s dig it.

Transparency

For leading any kind of team you need to be open, clear and crisp on the needs. While communicating, you need to focus on objective, expectation and timeline for remote members.

People who are not in front of you during work hours can falter on any of those 3 items. So you need to clearly outline at daily standup on — (1)why we’re doing this (2)what we need to do and (3)when we need to complete. For a colocated member it is easy for them to come up to your desk and ask you anytime regarding those, but remote members will not get that opportunity.

How does the team aspect come up here? When you communicate to the co-located member at the same forum along with the remote members. All are treated equally, even though the person might be sitting beside you at the same meeting room. Communication, rather universal communication, is the key. Trust your team wholeheartedly. That takes us to the next phase.

Inspect

It’s trust that you need to depend upon and inspect needs to be at a minimal level. Don’t micromanage the team. Rather as a leader, you need to empower your team. How? The answer is delegation.

Effective delegation and its success take away the inspected part. A remote team can make analysis themselves, and take decisions on their own.

It more about the eventual goal, rather than the activities. You should not inspect the what tasks were done, what is pending, why is it pending, as long as the eventual goal is met, the accomplishments are achieved on time with quality.

Adopt

This is one of the most important aspects which is the mode of communication. The touchpoint between you and the team is via group chat, via teleconferencing or video conferencing. Having a reliable tool is very essential. If your member cannot hear you, cannot download or access the files shared, that will eventually lead to a misunderstanding and frustration.

A daily connection for a few allotted time duration will help the team to bond. Later pair programming or working together in a pair is a good suggestion to encourage. As a leader of a remote team, you need to reach out to individuals more often consciously. It’s almost same as casually walking to your local member’s desk for chit-chat, but here you need to define the touchpoints.

Remote is local

Overall, treat your remote team as local. Have a meeting at the scheduled interval with them, pick up their ad-hoc phone calls, and answer to their chats even during your busiest working hours. Because they need you more than your local members.

Your local team members can walk into your desk anytime, catch you at a break out areas or at the lunch table. Also, in the world of Facebook and Linkedin, to connect with them via social networking platform is another good way to connect through life outside work. Once you connect with the human being, the rest of the teamwork will take care of itself anyway.

“Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.” — Lord Chesterfield

What is your opinion on leading a remote team? Drop a few lines at the comments section below to share your thought.

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Akash Bhattacharya

Software Product Maintenance. Writes about #book, #people, #product, #productivity