With the COVID shelter-in-place order, many companies transitioned to a different type of workforce. A remote one. I met with a number of people via phone and web conference in the first few weeks of shelter-in-place and two questions were common:
- Does my team have everything they need to be effective working remotely?
- How do I know that we’re getting things done?
Even though I have worked with remote teams for a couple of decades, I remember asking these same questions myself. Especially with offshore teams that were several time zones removed. And I remember how uncertain I was that I would be able to successfully manage remote team performance.
A lot has changed in the past 20 years. Technology now enables teams to be effective and engaged, regardless of location. There are plenty of options for web conferencing, workflow management, code and document repositories, VOIP tools, endpoint security solutions, and much of the world has bandwidth to support these things. There are exceptions, yes, and thankfully they are diminishing.
Most of these tools are affordable and easy to deploy to teams wherever they are. If you’re in a position where all of this is a new undertaking, it can be daunting but it’s doable.
As for keeping up with progress, most of the tools I mentioned provide some means of measuring team performance whether the team is spread across the globe or a city. Web conferences can be recorded so people can view them later, workflow tools can notify colleagues when a task is waiting on their input, code and document repositories record commits, changes, and complete history. So, if you want all these metrics, they’re available.
You are the Key
But the most important piece of the puzzle to managing remote team performance is you. Even if all the tools are provided to make remote work effective, communication is the linchpin for staying on course.
Make sure you talk to your team often and ask if they need help. Reiterate the goal for a project, a sprint, or a feature. When the office conversations aren’t happening because of physical proximity, you have to make them happen in other ways.
I don’t advocate endless Zoom meetings where people are online together all day. Use this tech as needed while making sure to allow enough focus time for the team to get things done.
Change Communication Strategy
The biggest challenge for some has been remembering to make communication more of a deliberate action. In an office environment, physical proximity makes ad-hoc conversations easy. People can drop by a colleague’s desk to ask a question or get an update. In a remote situation, these ad-hoc moments don’t happen as much, and they’re important.
Frequent, but not overbearing updates, will help to keep the team moving as fast as possible.
Good communication skills apply whether your team is sitting in the same office every day or is scattered around the globe.
So decide on your goal. Is it Presence or Performance?
Good communication doesn’t demand physical presence. It demands leaders be deliberate about communication that is easier in an office. Make the effort. Forget about presence.
Focus on being a communicator and your team will perform regardless of location.
Have questions? Let me know in the comments section below or send me a message on LinkedIn.