We live in an upwardly mobile world. There are opportunities that present themselves that previous generations would not have imagined in their wildest dreams.
This is a world where you can be on the go all day, all week or even all year if you want to. With the help of the Internet, you can always be moving and still connected.
Whether you are near or far, it is easier than ever to grow a business, manage a global team and do it without being chained to an office desk. The era of the remote team is here and it’s here to stay and if you manage yours correctly.
1. Forget the notions of a ‘traditional’ office.
The best way to manage a remote team is to forget all of the preconceptions that accompany a traditional office environment. The first time I called a meeting with my first remote team, it went poorly to say the least.
I sent out a meeting memo to the whole team giving them the time, date and URL for the meeting space I had set up. When it came time for the meeting, I was the only one there. Some people dialed in late, some too early. Some didn’t dial in at all because I had inadvertently scheduled the meeting at three o’clock in the morning in Seoul, where three of my team members lived.
Essentially, I was under the assumption that if I, the team leader, called a meeting with my remote team, everyone would simply show up at the prescribed date and time. That is how it worked in a traditional office.
Then I remembered that we were not all sharing the same four walls in an office anymore. Now, instead of scheduling meetings, I post potential meeting times on Doodle and let the team choose what best works for them. It promotes that freedom of working remotely, but still allows the team to have necessary face time.
2. Don’t forget about your team.
It is really easy to forget about your team when you do not see them every day. After a while, they become an email address, a chat icon or a Skype ID.
You have to avoid this at all costs. Your team is still your team even if you aren’t hogging the conference room. Continue to assume your leadership position by continually checking in on them.
I let my team sign up for a one-on-one meeting every week. This is something I learned while working at a company where one-on-one meetings were part of the company culture. They can choose a time slot that fits both of our schedules and we can take a step back to check in. Rather than wait for an SOS, it is a good way to keep in touch and continue to lead without taking away their autonomy.
3. Choose the right communication methods.
Do not assume that your entire team will prefer one form of online communication over another. Rather than making an authoritarian decision, experiment with different platforms to manage your virtual team and figure out which one works best.
At one point, I had a team who went rogue and one team member in particular who was completely off the grid. He had Internet access but getting him to attend Skype video calls was nothing short of frustrating.
Despite our best efforts, connecting with him ate up a huge portion of our meeting time. Rather than continue to force this key team member to drive miles to the nearest city, we simply switched to a chat program for the time being. It worked better for everyone involved and there were no howling monkeys in the background.
4. Measure team progress.
Measuring your progress is one rule that breaks the traditional wisdom of leaving the office behind. However, measuring progress is an integral part of leading a team whether you are all in the same office or not.
In fact, it can be even more crucial because if things fall behind with a remote team, it is more likely to get out of hand if you are not actively measuring key metrics and deliverables.
5. Do what works best for your company culture.
There are a lot of remote teams out there now. Some people are doing it really well. Others, like Yahoo, are failing at remote work in new and spectacular ways.
The best thing you can do as a remote team leader is to lead your team, not your competitor’s team. Learn from your mistakes and measure your results, quantitative and qualitative ones.
Working remotely was nothing like I expected it to be; it was better. After you get off the ground and begin to appreciate your remote team for exactly what it is, you can make your working environment just as productive as it was back in the office.
This article has been edited and condensed.