Most modern business operations are still dependent on face-to-face interaction. In light of recent events, business leaders everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to effectively manage newly remote teams and ensure that teams are still productive.
In my time as a serial entrepreneur, I’ve been fortunate to learn lessons that help me adapt to these strange times. For example, one company I’m a partner in, SolutionStream, has an office in Utah but has always had developers, designers and product managers who work across the U.S. Its leadership has had to build and manage remote teams in a way that ensures the team’s chemistry, cohesion and accountability. The leaders believe that remote teams can thrive and develop successful and innovative products just as effectively as teams who work together in person. Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned from them and others about leading and managing a remote team.
Use video communication
Regular face-to-face communication is vital to create a feeling of teamwork and to ensure that people are communicating well, and when you can’t do that in person, technology gives us the next best thing. Phone calls just aren’t the same as a videoconferences. You need to see the whites of each other’s eyes. You need to see reactions and facial expressions and emotional impact of words.
And don’t think you can join a video call with your video off, because that just makes it a phone call again. Make face-to-face video communication a priority. These little nuances make all the difference.
Agile project management encourages accountability and predictability across a team. SolutionStream’s managers use the scrum style of project management, which is a type of agile management. “Scrum” refers to a tight-knit rugby formation, but the scrum technique just prioritizes compact teams driving toward a common goal. During the project, they use four type of “scrum ceremonies” to check in with the team and remain productive and accountable.
This management style ensures that everyone has clear tasks and an understanding of what everyone o the team is doing. It’s especially powerful when it’s practiced throughout an organization, even up to the executive level.
Use a variety of collaboration tools
There are so many amazing tools that allow everyone on the team to see the same information and collaborate on it. Here on a few I recommend:
- Miro for white boarding and sticky mapping
- Stories on Board for user story maps
- Jira for managing day-to-day and overall tasks
- Slack for chatting and written communication
- Google Suite for a wide variety of collaborative work
To make collaborative tools even more effective, use the tools in conjunction with videoconferencing as part of every conversation. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the tools that work for your group.
Even if you feel like you are communicating like crazy, it probably isn’t enough. One of the biggest challenges for remote teams is misunderstandings and miscommunication. Tools like Slack feel like they are helping us communicate better (and often they do), but the written word can also make it easy to misunderstand intentions.
Typing can also slow the conversation substantially compared to a video conversation. Again, the key to fixing this lies in using videoconferencing tools. Encourage your team to regularly take the conversation off Slack (or other written communication channels) and onto video to ensure clarity of communication.
Isolation and loneliness are real problems for remote workers and teams. As a leader, you need to make sure that people still feel the social connections that come with a work environment. Teamwork, trust, good work relationships and personal interaction can and should be maintained in a digital form.
Your team also needs social interaction with each other to feel camaraderie. Schedule regular online social interactions between your team members, and encourage water-cooler-style conversations. Have virtual lunches or virtual cocktail hours for your teams to let down their guard and communicate more casually.
With all that is happening in the world, use these skills to ensure that your business and your team can be effective and happy while staying safe at a distance.