Managing Global and Remote Teams

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The team are out there somewhere...

It’s hard being a good manager when you and your team are working under the same roof. It’s a lot harder managing others and building effective relationships or teamwork when the team members are spread out over thousands of miles. Many managers are struggling to manage such teams well. Here are 3 areas to focus on.

1.   Praise works better than criticism

Managing remote relationships brings special challenges. ‘Inputs’ are often difficult to observe and ‘outputs’ (often in terms of sales figures or other performance indicators) do not tell the whole story – especially in the short term.

Try to avoid cracking the whip with underperformers. Recent research suggests that this is the wrong approach. A focus on the negative produces negative behaviour on the part of those being managed – measurable in terms of not working as hard as they might and even looking for another job.

This is particularly true with remote management because comments made – positive or negative – have a much bigger impact because the frequency of contact is greatly reduced.

The research evidence suggests that a possible tip should be:

Always look to find a positive and build on that rather than breed resentment by focussing on the negative  

2.   Outcomes Based Leadership and Building Trust

Two key drivers in leading successful remote teams are:

  • Outcomes Based Leadership – Leading remote teams, you can no longer manage activities. You need to manage people to deliver outcomes and coach them on how to achieve them.
  • Building Trust – Everything you do needs to build trust. That goes from your communications and the way you assign work to drive natural interdependence across your remote team. It can help to organise mini projects in a way that they need each other’s help and support to be successful.

Those managing remote relationships often benefit from 1-1 coaching. Also it can help to organize occasional workshops with the team to get everyone understanding how they can all work together better and be much more successful.

3.    Communication is the key

Try the following:

  • Hold a weekly meeting ideally via teleconference so you can see each other. Make sure you have an agenda and action points
  • Setting up the telephone system so that calls to ‘best friend’ firms are internal calls – it feels different
  • Set up projects which give people an opportunity to work together
  • Avoid sending emails for everything, phone calls are more personal
  • Take time to get to know each other on the phone (‘how was your weekend?’ etc)
  • Empower others as much as possible
  • If financially possible, offer secondments/exchanges, visit them and work with them at their site.
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