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Leadership Qualities
Entrepreneurs

Leadership Qualities You Need to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

“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.

The Three Legged Stool: Trust, Communication & Technology

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.

  • “Listening, oral and written have never been more important to leaders managing remotely,” states an article on com. It is important to realize that communications in-person around a conference table are different than a GoToMeeting discussion or delivering a webinar. Also, be cognizant of the potential for misinterpretation. We’ve all opened an email where the message intended was not the one received. A clear, common vision of the work to be accomplished helps keep the team aligned and mission-focused.
  • There is also the issue of timing. If indeed team members work in different time zones, you have to plan group communications at a time when everyone can participate fully.
  • Acknowledge communication preferences. Soon there will be five different generations at work and they all communicate differently. To be effective, team leaders need to be mindful of those preferences and set clear protocols as to when and how each can be used best to communicate efficiently.
  • Pick up the phone. A phone call focuses time and attention on just that one person on the other end of the line. While the same could be said of a video chat, phone calls tend to be viewed as more private and personal. A planned, systematic approach to calls fosters discussion and can help directly address questions, concerns and opportunities.
  • Direct meetings. While they may not happen often by virtue of being remote, seek out opportunities to have a face-to-face meeting. Building your relationships in-person will help enhance stronger online connections and communication.
  • Keep an “open door.” As noted above, listening is among the key leadership qualities for successful team management. While your remote team members can’t physically drop by, encourage them to engage you and open conversation. They need to know you are accessible to foster and initiate positive, productive communications. You can also stay connected by checking-in through online messaging.

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.

A New Reality

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?

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