We talk a lot about remote teams or remote workers, but there’s not a lot of discussion about remote managers. There are a lot of moving parts to being a manager and most advice assumes managers are face-to-face with at least a portion of their workforce. But if that’s not the case, there are steps you can take to manage successfully.
So during the last reorganization, you were reassigned to lead the business process improvement team. It’s an exciting opportunity for you with one tiny issue. Your entire team is located in the Orlando office and you’re located in Chicago at the headquarters building.
Relocating just isn’t doable right now, so you have to make this remote thing work effectively for both you and your team.
Technology has allowed us to break down many barriers to what the average workforce looked like even five years ago. It’s true that now you or your team can be anywhere in the world and still work together. But just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s simple. We are, after all, talking about people here.
Here are three steps you can take to ensure success for you and your team.
Step 1: Get Your Team Processes In Order
When people work together in the same location, it’s easy to take work processes for granted. After all, everyone knows what gets handed off to whom and who is the key person to lead specific work projects. And if they don’t know, they can just pop into someone’s office and ask. But that won’t help you a bit, because you aren’t there. So your first order of business should be to identify how the team works together. Have your team document every work process for getting things done.
The cool by product of this effort is threefold – 1) It will help you understand how the team currently works so you can get up to speed, 2) It will give you and the team a resource for cross training team members, and 3) It will give you an opportunity to review what’s being done and look for ways to improve team functions.
Step 2: Use the Cloud to Help Organize and Get Work Done
Having a central location to document and track work is critical in this day and age where we are all trying to do more with less. Lots of tools have popped up in the last few years, and there are plenty of good ones. Google Drive and Dropbox are a couple of the most popular today for document collaboration and sharing.
Also take a look at your team work processes that could be turned into an effective cloud app for your team. QuickBase could be your answer here.
Step 3: Create and Maintain a Personal Connection
One of the drawbacks of being remote from your team is that you’ll miss what I call “coffee cup moments.” Those are the times when you pass someone in the hall and strike up a conversation. They can turn into quick problem solving sessions or spawn a new, innovative idea.
It’s hard to recreate that kind of environment even with all the technology we have available today, but the next best thing you can do is make sure you communicate and connect with your team on a regular basis.
At a minimum, a 30 minute one-on-one with each team member will help you build and maintain a good connection. These sessions should have a standard structure – 1) How are things going? 2) What stumbling blocks are you running into? 3) How can I help? 4) What’s on tap for next week? It would be ideal if you could conduct these sessions using video – Google Hangouts and Skype make this easy for any size business.
You should also have a team meeting every week so you have a chance to interact with the group together. Again, video would be ideal for this if you can make it happen.
Last, do what you can to visit your team’s physical location quarterly if possible. No matter what, there’s nothing like getting together face-to-face.
Have you worked in an environment where you were separate from your team? What additional suggestions can you offer?
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