“Once upon a time, employees did all their work at the office. That’s where the files were (before computers) and the phone was (before cellphones) and the place colleagues collaborated (before GoToMeeting).”
— Marty Fukuda, Entrepreneur contributor
Technology has changed not only how we work, but for many, where we work. Because of technology your team member may not be on the other side of the cubicle wall, but working remotely from the other side of the country. As Alison Vidotto points out in her recent article for HeRBusiness, “you don’t have to be there to be present,” but you do have to have good systems in place and certain leadership qualities to effectively manage a remote team.
While mission critical for any team, efficient use of technology, open communication and trust are leadership qualities that set the foundation for successful remote team management. Let’s consider the role of each.
Trust – First and foremost, you have to start from a place of trust. Just as in a traditional workplace, activity and productivity are not one in the same. You have to manage by results. As the leader you need to set clear expectations about the work to be produced that is specific, measurable and attainable. This could be articles written, phone calls made, issues resolved or analysis completed. Specific goals will vary depending on the nature of your business, but the key is to clearly define, communicate and evaluate based on the team’s shared, stated goals.
Communication – Team trust is built on and fostered by a culture of continuous, open communication.
Technology – The technology that is driving the growth of remote teams is the same technology that needs to be leveraged to effectively manage them. Through technology you will build team trust and communication, as well as collaboration. Whether through file sharing, shared calendars, virtual meetings, video chat, or a good old-fashioned phone call, know and use the tools available, and which is the most effective in a given situation.
While the idea of working remotely may have at one time thought to be nothing more than a fairy tale, technology has made it a reality. Today 45 percent of Americans work remotely according to a study done by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and it is expected to grow. For remote teams to be successful, managers have to employ the key leadership qualities of trust, communication and technology to ensure teams work effectively. Are you ready to lead the changing workplace landscape?