The Secrets of Successful Remote Leadership: Building Strong Teams

The Secrets of Successful Remote Leadership: Building Strong Teams

Virtual teams, meetings, and remote work have become embedded in today’s work culture. There is no escaping it: even as a majority of multinational corporations (MNCs) ask employees to come back to the office, there continues to be a certain portion of people who work in a wholly remote or hybrid set-up.

Many attribute the success of remote work to the employees’ ability to have a better work-life balance. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the pivotal role of managers in leading these remote teams. It takes specific skills, vision, and approaches to manage and drive remote workers' performance successfully, and your contribution is key to this success.

This article looks at steps managers can take to enhance productivity, engagement, and results from remote teams.

What is Remote Team Management?

You might be under the impression that remote team management is just about implementing a remote work policy. But that’s not the case, my friend. Remote team management is a process of planning, coordinating, and tracking activities done by remote employees to produce top-level results. It typically involves communication, methods, and technology specifically designed to lead a productive remote workforce.

Why Does One Need Remote Team Management?

When done correctly, remote teams can deliver a plethora of benefits for an organization, including:

  • Increased productivity

  • Better cost savings

  • Higher employee retention

  • Reduced absenteeism

  • Fewer errors

  • Better agility within the organization

  • Access to a larger talent pool

However, these fruits of the tree will only be possible when a solid remote work leadership and process is in place.

As mentioned earlier, remote team management requires a unique leadership skill set and a different set of tools. We researched and spoke to multiple leaders to understand what they do differently for remote teams.

Challenges in Managing Remote Teams

Despite their massive benefits, remote teams do pose a few challenges for managers and organizations. By understanding the factors that make managing remote teams demanding, managers can implement the right strategies to overcome them. Some of the most inherent challenges in managing remote teams are:

1. Limited face-to-face supervision

It’s always nice to associate a face with a name, and in remote teams, building this connect requires special attention and work. Managers need to take at the extra step to get on that Zoom video call with their teams to actually put a face to each team member’s name.

Also, due to this limited face-to-face interaction, managers reported they are constantly concerned about whether their team is working and performing efficiently.

2. Lack of access to information

A grumble amongst remote employees is the lack of access to pertinent project information. They are usually the last ones to know about project status changes and/or where they can find information on a certain company policy. Also, the lack of information can create interpersonal challenges in the workplace; studies show that in-office employees are not as empathetic to their remote co-workers as they are to someone they see on a daily basis.

For example, you know the guy in the cubicle next to had a rough morning, so any “short” e-mail from them is automatically justified. This same benefit of the doubt is not extended to remote workers. As there is no information or context present about their circumstance, their “to the point” email may come off as rude or offensive.

3. More distractions

It is common to come across photos that depict remote work as a parent holding a child and working on a laptop or using their dining table as their “office.” This is probably not the most effective way of working, but it might be the only choice for the employee. In the perfect world, all remote employees have a dedicated workspace, adequate childcare support, and no additional family or home responsibilities. But, the ideal scenario might not always be there. Therefore, as a remote work manager, you shouldn’t be seeking perfectionism in remote work surroundings. Instead, you should set your expectations right from the beginning. Managers should expect these distractions to be more significant for their teams spread across different locations.

4. Loneliness and no sense of belonging

Humans, regardless of whether they define themselves as introverts or extroverts, are social creatures. While not all employees like being the social butterfly, they need interaction with the rest of the team.

The majority of remote workers report feeling lonely in their jobs. As they are predominantly working away from a physical office, it is challenging for employees to engage in casual conversations. This creates a lack of camaraderie and doesn’t provide them with a sense of belonging in the company that easily comes with in-office chatter and interaction.

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Tips to Build and Manage a Remote Workforce

Here are some tips and best practices for effectively managing a remote workforce:

Build Strong Interpersonal Relationships

Studies have found that employees rely on their managers as an important resource for getting their job done in the remote work environment. They expect their managers to facilitate interpersonal communication and break barriers. This is essential because remote teams have no real-time connection and bonding.

So, as a manager, it’s important to ensure your interpersonal skills are top-notch. Furthermore, the communication has to be multi-directional. This means you can’t just focus on passing on updates or mandates; you need to truly listen to your team members. Invite feedback on all aspects of the remote work experience. Successful remote work managers consistently check in with their teams and genuinely care about how each member is doing in general.

A manager can build interpersonal relationships by doing the following:

  • Hosting virtual coffee meets, game nights, or happy hour

  • Have one-on-one sessions to get to know each member beyond their work

  • Create a space for casual chats

  • Plan virtual ice-breaker sessions and team-build activities

Prioritize to the Core

Remote teams don’t allow any room for confusion or a quick, “Let me just check into Pete’s office and see what he says.” Everyone needs to know exactly what they need to accomplish and in what order. Prioritization of tasks is crucial so everyone is working on the most pressing and strategic

Here are a few strategies that can help a manager prioritize well:

  • Define objectives and success metrics

  • Set clear deadlines

  • Break down larger goals into bite-sized, manageable tasks

  • Use project management and/or visual planning tools to prioritize

  • Explain why certain tasks are “more urgent” than others

Provide Employees with the Support They Require

As mentioned earlier, employees depend on their managers more in a remote set-up. They look to the manager to support them if and when they hit a roadblock. Therefore, as a manager for a remote team, you need to focus on how you can support the team in the way they need you to.

The support can be shown in a multitude of ways:

  • By checking in with employees

  • Emphasizing work-life balance while assigning tasks and not overloading one resource

  • Embracing flexibility while setting project schedules

  • Being accessible by keeping an “open-door” policy

By implementing the above strategies, managers can create a supportive and empowering work environment for their remote teams. This will result in increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall company success.

Invest in the Right Technology Tools

Having the right tech stack and infrastructure is essential for remote teams' success, productivity, and happiness. As a manager, you need to know which tools the team requires and invest in them. If you take any shortcuts with the digital infrastructure and tools, like not giving employees a software with all the required features or restricting who can access the app, your remote teams will suffer. They won’t be able to do their jobs properly, and this will cause several long-term issues. Give remote workers dynamic, easy-to-use tools for meeting, sharing information, and all other aspects of their daily work routines. Also, make sure that the technologies you pick are well-designed for both web and mobile experiences.

Here's how a manager can invest in the right technology for remote teams:

  • Understand the team needs: Communication and project management needs differ for a small, close-knit team versus a geographically dispersed larger team.

  • Identify employee work styles and tasks: Consider the projects your team works on and what tools would best support their completion (e.g., design software, file-sharing platforms).

  • Account for existing infrastructure: See what technology your company already uses and identify any gaps that need to be filled.

  • Look at functionality: What do you need the technology to do? Do you need a resource management tool or a communications app?

  • Consider scalability: Ask yourself if the tool will be useful if the team size increases.

  • Factor in user-friendliness: The technology should be user-friendly, intuitive, and accessible to the most number of people. This will also minimize training time and frustration that results from accepting any change.

Demonstrate Compassion

One thing to keep at the back of your mind is that the “check-ins” or follow-ups with employees should become like a doctor’s appointment or something that is on the calendar, and one goes through the motions. Remote team managers need to show compassion and true concern and care for their employees.

The mistake managers often make is that these frequent check-in sessions often veer dangerously close to micro-management. It’s all about work and meeting deadlines. Skilled managers realize that they need to “walk the talk.” If they are serious about an employee taking time off, they need to follow through with not setting an immediate deadline.

Build Trust

Another key thing a successful and skilled remote team manager does differently is that they focus on building trust. How does one do this? Building trust requires consistency and follow-up. If a manager says the meeting will start at 9:30 AM, they should be the first person on that call. Here’s another example, if a manager has promised to provide project file B to an employee or get permission from the higher authority to perform a site visit, they have to follow through on that without delay.

Celebrate Wins and Positives

It’s easy to forget to recognize and reward remote employees. Skilled managers don’t forget to appreciate their employees and recognize their hard work. Many managers use the company’s communication tool or newsletter to acknowledge their team members. Do keep in mind these celebrations don’t have to be over-the-top gestures, the more important fact is that they should be genuine. Also, the recognition and reward method should suit the employees' preferences.

Set a Communications Policy

To ensure remote workers stay productive and not get sucked into “meetings for the sake of meeting,” the manager should develop and implement a communications policy. Having a framework in place to guide team communication frequency, means, and timing is crucial for achieving success.

By providing clear guidelines, teams can work together more efficiently and effectively, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. With this framework, everyone can feel confident that they are communicating in the most productive way possible, leading to greater collaboration and success.

For example, a manager can recommend that a communications app, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, be used for something urgent or for questions between team members, while video conferencing will be used for weekly check-in meetings. It’s also best to let the employees know the best way and time to reach the manager during the workday. For example, they can say the best way to reach them is between 9-10 AM in the morning.

The communications policy should also dictate how important project-related documentation and company policy information will be shared. Is there a central database that stores all the forms, policy rules, and project resources? Is it accessible to all?

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Let eRS Help You Build a Productive and Performing Remote Team

Getting the right technology stack is one of the most important steps a manager can take for his remote teams. There are multiple tech tools and softwares available in the market, the one we recommend is selecting a resource management app.

A resource management software brings significant advantages to managing remote teams. Let’s understand what they can do in a bit more depth:

  • Increased Visibility: Traditional methods often lack a clear picture of who's working on what and their current capacity. resource allocation software provides a centralized platform for viewing team schedules, skills, and ongoing projects. This real-time visibility allows managers to make informed decisions about workload distribution and ensure no one gets overloaded [vi by Aderant, Resource Allocation Software].

  • Improved Efficiency: With the lack of physical contact, it can be harder to judge project progress and identify roadblocks. A resource allocation software streamlines project workflows and allows for proper task assignment and an ability to track projects and identify sources of conflict.

  • Smarter Resource Allocation: Probably the biggest benefit of a resource management tool is its ability to identify and then match the right talent (employee) for each project task. With resource allocation software , the manager or leader can filter team members based on their skill sets, work preferences, and availability. They can also make sure projects are staffed with the most qualified individuals. The software enhances engagement by allowing the employees to be matched to jobs that match their strengths and expertise.

  • Enhanced Collaboration: Communication is essential for remote teams. Resource allocation software can often integrate with project management and communication tools. This creates a central hub for project information, task updates, and discussion. All of this easy communication will lead to better collaboration and information sharing across geographical boundaries.

  • Reduced Micromanagement: Trust is key to any healthy working relationship, and it plays an even more significant role in the remote work scenario. A resource allocation software empowers employees to take ownership over their work by providing them with clear visibility into project plans and expectations. Everyone can see the workflow and how they are contributing. This visibility and transparency creates a culture of trust, autonomy, and accountability.

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Marketing Consultant
Nikita Sharma
Nikita Sharma, an impassioned Marketing Consultant at eResource Scheduler, has been shaping the digital marketing landscape since January 2021. With a rich background in web development and digital marketing strategy, she's a beacon of innovation in the field. Nikita has achieved remarkable milestones, including reaching over 1 million social media users for the Jaipur International Film Festival and 3 million-plus SERP impressions for Enbraun Technologies. Her tenure at Nexa as a Digital Marketing Strategist in Dubai, certified by Google and Hubspot, underscores her profound expertise. Nikita's educational journey in Computer Science from Rajasthan Technical University and advanced programming courses have been pivotal in her career. She exemplifies dedication, creativity, and a deep understanding of digital trends, making significant impacts across diverse industries.

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