Manage a remote team

Five tips for leading an efficient and effective remote team

Written by on August 13, 2014 in Business - 5 Comments

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!

About the Author

Melinda Vaughn is the senior manager of content at Citrix, where she leads the content team in writing for a wide variety of marketing initiatives and helps develop and build the all of the Citrix brands, including ShareFile. She worked in higher education communications for 15 years before joining Citrix.

  • April Sedall

    My team is spread across just the Chicago area but I do one on one coaching with each of them every month over coffee or a meal. Additionally, each new hire gets to shadow many if not all of his/her peers as part of the on the job training. This gives the new hire exposure to the team and our various clients and gives the ‘trainer’ a chance to teach others how to do the best job possible. It all solidifies our commitment to one another, our company and our clients.

    • Melinda Vaughn

      Thanks for your comments, April. I love these ideas, especially the suggestion to involve your team in training new colleagues. It’s everybody’s responsibility to create that collaborative culture. Thanks!

  • ReRemote.com

    The list of tips
    seems about right… Great article! I am just wondering about #4. Can you suggest some techniques that you use. For example, we had a crazy hat day which turned out a great way of non-work related communication. Was kind of fun thing to do, but probably just once. What about your team? Feel free to drop by http://reremote.com/ to chat and read latest updates of remote work world

    • Melinda Vaughn

      Thanks for your comments! I love the crazy hat day idea. I think No. 4 here can be accomplished in a bunch of ways, but here’s an example: Our marketing department runs a lot of cross-functional projects (we call them workstreams) where we work with people from different teams across offices and locations on specific tasks, like creating an onboarding program for new employees. Workstreams offer professional growth opportunities and a chance to connect with people you don’t otherwise work with day to day. And there’s fun stuff, too — try a virtual book club, or a monthly creative writing group. Of course, we use GoToMeeting for most of our virtual get-togethers, which also helps us feel more connected. Seeing faces makes a huge difference!

      • ReRemote.com

        Some great innovative ideas for us to consider! Thanks a ton