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8 Remote Team Leadership Do's and Don'ts

The benefits of managing a remote team are many. From hiring the best talent, regardless of location, to increased productivity and creativity, there are many reasons why leading a remote team can be successful.

The change in dynamics between the employee and manager is profound. Between more freedom for individuals and dependence on employees to manage their own time, leaders might feel unsure as to how to approach remote management. –Forbes

When you’re hiring remote employees, always remember that leadership is key. Despite what we say regarding our companies and their values, goals, and strategy, it’s the less tangible things that make the biggest difference.

remote team leadership

One of the key differences between managing an in-office team and a fully remote team is the level of trust that is required. With an in-office team, there is typically more oversight and control that a manager has. This isn’t the case with a fully remote team, where the manager must trust their employees to get the work done.

Additionally, communication is key with a remote team. With an in-office team, there are more opportunities for impromptu conversations and checking in on progress. With a remote team, these check-ins need to be scheduled and communication must be clear in order to avoid misunderstandings.

Finally, it’s important to manage expectations with a remote team. In an office, it’s easier to monitor how much work is being done and if deadlines are being met. With a remote team, it’s important to set clear expectations and deadlines in order to ensure that the work is getting done. Managing people remotely can be a challenge, but if you follow these do’s and don’ts, you’ll be on your way to a successful remote team.

Do's

Clearly Explain Goals and Expectations

What are the goals of the project? What are the deadlines? By being clear about your expectations from the start, you’ll avoid any misunderstandings down the road.

  • Focus on managing performance, not presence. Just because someone isn’t in the office doesn’t mean they’re not working. As long as the work is getting done and deadlines are being met, there’s no need to worry about whether or not your employees are actually working.
  • Focus on outcomes, not hours worked. What matters is that the work gets done, not when or where it gets done.

Be a Mentor

If you’re working with a remote team, it’s important to be a mentor and coach. Guide your employees, help them stay on track, and provide support when needed.

  • Address both their personal and their business needs. Personal issues can impact work, and vice versa. Make sure that you’re addressing both in order to keep things running smoothly.
  • Lead by example. Be the type of leader that you want your employees to be. Show them how to work effectively and efficiently. If you’re disorganized, stressed out, or unproductive, your team will likely follow suit.
  • When communicating with a remote team, it’s important that you assume positive intent. Just because someone didn’t respond to your email immediately doesn’t mean that they’re ignoring you. They may have been busy or simply missed the email.

Deadlines can cause stress, friction and anxiety for everyone. Keep in mind, everyone at your company is there to make it successful, and you should assume positive intent in all of your interactions. –Shawn Farshchi, Topia

Make Time for Mental Health

Schedule regular check-ins, both one-on-one and as a team. This will give everyone an opportunity to voice any concerns and address any issues that may be affecting their work.

  • Be compassionate and flexible. Life happens, and sometimes work has to take a backseat. If an employee is going through a tough time, be understanding and give them the flexibility they need.
  • Form boundaries for yourself and encourage your team to have them as well. Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you can work all the time. Make sure to set reasonable hours for yourself and stick to them. Encourage your team to do the same.
  • Prioritize team-building activities. These can help team members get to know each other better and build trust. Trust is essential for any team, especially a remote one. Here’s an idea: Take a personality test, gather your results, and share them with each other to see how you compare!

Physical distance can quickly morph into emotional distance. Teams with effective leaders understand the importance of cooperation and collaboration that comes from positive team building. –Medium

Don'ts

Don’t Micromanage

When you can see what your employees are doing every minute of the day, micromanagement doesn’t feel necessary. However, when you can’t see what they’re up to, it might be even more difficult to resist the toxic practice.

Tips to Avoid Micromanagement:

  • Don’t check in too often or give too much oversight — this can derail productive teams.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone works 8 AM to 5 PM. The emphasis with remote work is on flexible hours rather than normal hours to get the job done.
  • Don’t assume everyone is available 24/7 by sending emails or texts outside of office hours. Respect their private lives and have established boundaries with every employee based on your work schedule and their preferences.

Don’t lead based on assumptions

Employees may have different values, learning styles, communication styles than you thought. Get clear on these things so you know how to best communicate with your team. Try creating a personality playbook so this is clear from the beginning!

collaborative culture personality

Don’t require employees to complete a project in only one way

Give them discretion on how to do something if the end results are the same. This doesn’t mean that you cannot share examples or checklists to ensure that expectations are clear.

Don’t give minimal feedback or only give negative feedback

Make sure you’re giving clear and concise feedback, both positive and negative.

When you give negative feedback, suggest ways to make the product better. Try sandwiching the critique between two positive pieces of feedback. Take a teaching/servant leader approach by offering to help with the project or giving detailed instruction on ways to approach the deliverable.

Leading From A Distance

As you can see, there are so many benefits to managing a remote team. Leaders who are able to adapt and motivate their team from a distance will be successful in leading a remote team (you just have to be a little more creative!)

Final Tips:

  • Be aware of stressors/barriers to performance for your team and offer solutions.
  • Encourage your team to take advantage of tools that can help with productivity, such as time-tracking software and project management software.
  • One of the most important things for a remote team leader is to be adaptable.
  • Know how to handle different values, learning styles, and communication styles than you are used to. It is important to get clear on these things so you know how to best communicate with your team.

There you have it! The eight do’s and don’ts of remote team leadership. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to leading a productive, successful, and happy remote team!

Questions about how playbooks can help you become a better remote team leader? Send us a message at [email protected] or use the chat feature on our website!

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