Ever since the pandemic changed everything forever, remote teams are everywhere. Not only that, but they are here to stay.
It’s true that some companies and organisations are trying to get back to their old ways and get everyone back in the office, but many of them are struggling to do so.
Team members have become used to working remotely, and in many cases, there has been a surprising productivity boost along with this new phenomenon.
For many, this has actually made the idea of going back to the ‘old normal’ seem a lot less tempting.
From a management and leadership perspective though, navigating forward with a remote team is not without its challenges.
The Challenges of Leading a Remote Team
If you are in a leadership role, managing a remote team can put you at a disadvantage when compared to dealing with a team that’s in the same building as you.
If your setup is not the best, then there can be some significant communication barriers that carry with them the risk of misunderstandings and even serious failures in workflow.
If you don’t make the right efforts, the sense of trust and connection that comes naturally in a physical office space can end up being absent. Once team members start to feel their remoteness due to the lack of connection, a decline is already in progress.
Visibility can also be an issue. It’s hard to assess progress or indeed decline when you can’t see it going on in front of your eyes. So you need to take extra steps to maintain the visibility you require to be able to take action when necessary.
There are also many practical and technical issues involved with remote teams that can easily cause harmful disruption.
If you have remote team members around the world, time zone differences can create delays, cultural differences have the potential to cause misunderstandings, and connectivity issues can cause vital communications to be disrupted, often at critical times.
Trust and Communication in Remote Teams
Trust and communication are absolutely essential in all teams, not just remote ones.
With remote teams though, these two things become even more important. If you don’t have them both at a very high level, things can break down quickly.
Regular contact through video call meetings is essential, otherwise you’ll always be wondering how your team members are getting on, and whether or not they are thriving in their roles.
Not only that, but they will start to wonder what you’re up to as well. Make sure to keep them in the loop!
The same increase in importance goes for trust in remote teams. Because visibility between team members is lower, a high level of trust is needed in order to be sure that everyone is on the same page.
In order for remote team members to thrive, it’s important that you give them sufficient autonomy and responsibility. This will give them much more satisfaction in their roles, and of course it takes a high level of trust to be able to hand things over to them in this way.
It goes without saying that this needs to be paired with a high level of communication, so that their autonomy and sense of empowerment does not rapidly turn negatively towards them feeling isolated.
Leveraging Technology for Remote Teams
Remote teams would not be able to function so well without the amazing technological tools that exist in today’s age.
For video meetings, a tool like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet is completely essential.
Beyond that, it’s important to have a tool that allows you to manage complex workflows easily and in a visual manner. Trello is my personal favourite for managing projects in this way.
At Effective Intelligence we are great believers in thinking visually, so any kind of digital whiteboarding tool is also a great asset to have under your belt. Working all together as a team using a shared whiteboard can be hugely beneficial.
Zoom’s new whiteboard feature is great for this, but there are many other great visual tools on the market as well.
How Do Remote Teams Think?
There are certain universal truths about collaboration and teamwork that hold equally true for remote teams.
One of those is that each team member has their own unique thinking style. Each team member contributes in their own specific way, taking the approach that they naturally think best.
However, as a leader it’s important that you are aware of how thinking styles and biases can affect the overall mission or goal of your team. Unchecked thinking, if left alone long enough, has the potential to lead to disasters.
This is why it is essential to understand the thinking profile of each of your team members, so that you can easily predict and prevent any possible problems.
Check out our other blogs in the Leadership category to find out more about how the Rhodes’ Thinking-Intentions Profile can help you be the best leader for your team!