We here at Citrix are big on working from anywhere. We are, after all, the makers of a whole slew of great tools that help you manage data, conduct meetings, provide IT support, remotely access desktop files and applications, and more — from any Internet-connected device, anytime.
But great tools alone can’t build a great team — especially when your team is spread across time zones and continents.
It’s easy to assume that if you’ve managed people before, managing people who work remotely won’t be much harder. But distance adds a different dimension to both the logistics of working together and the nature of your relationship as colleagues. Here are a few tricks that might help you close that distance:
1. Talk often and clearly. It’s easy for remote team members to feel disconnected. So communicating with them clearly and often is critical. Try a daily 15-minute scrum call or ‘stand-up’ web conference to connect and focus on priorities. Or consider a daily email check-in on the day’s to-do list. It’ll help your team stay focused and accountable, and it’s an excuse to say a quick hello. Which leads to my next tip:
2. Make time for hello. When you aren’t co-located with your colleagues, you miss out on the informal conversations that help create loyalty and strengthen teams. I’ve been known to schedule water-cooler chats, which are just 10-minute calls or web conferences that have no agenda or purpose other than a chat about the weekend or a movie.
3. Get a good project management tool. When you can’t stop by an employee’s desk to ask a question about a project, it’s tempting to schedule a meeting or call. Instead, adopt a project management system that allows your team to share comments, questions, documents and project updates with the whole group at once, from any device, preferably outside email. When everything is documented in one place and easy to get to, people won’t have to meet to get the info they need.
4. Connect team members to each other. And, while your connection to your employees is important, their connections to each other are probably more so. Find ways for remote employees to collaborate and participate in projects beyond their day-to-day work to help them deepen their knowledge of the company and establish working relationships across teams and departments.
5. Get together when you can. Finally, if it’s at all possible, get your remote team together every once in a while. Meeting in person is simply invaluable to building rapport. It doesn’t have to be often — flying folks in from remote parts can certainly add up in cost and time — but a periodic get-together creates the best foundation for collaboration, strong relationships and loyal teams.
I must admit that making these tips part of my management repertoire has been a challenge; there’s much I could do better. But becoming an effective manager is a never-ending process, whether you’re remote or not. So if you’ve got other tips for effectively managing a remote team, send ’em my way!