How to manage teams remotely

In this week’s episode of The Art of Business English I am looking at how you can manage your teams remotely. Imagine for example that it is impossible for you to meet your team members because they are in different parts of the world, or for example you are confined to your house and unable to leave due to corona virus restrictions on movement.

I have found myself in both of these situations, I manage teams of workers remotely who work as freelancers as well as manage my local teams remotely due to the corona virus restrictions. As a result, I have been able to learn first-hand what works and what doesn’t.

In this week’s episode I am going to share my tips and tricks with you and help you get the most out of your remote teams and ensure that you keep up on your productivity.

Let’s take a look at all the things that you need to consider.

Watch the episode here

How to manage teams remotely

Remote working considerations

There are a few things that need to be considered. Firstly, there is the technical side, and secondly, there is the “human” side of things.

Controlling the tech side of things can seem like the easiest part, but when you mix tech with people there are many unforeseen issues.

Not everyone has the same IT knowledge or capacity, and this means some people are going to need support from an experienced IT professional.

You will need to factor this into your initial launch period. Once people get the hang of things support requests will drop dramatically, but in the beginning, there could potentially be a flood of calls.

Let’s look at some more tips.

No micro-managing

It is practically impossible to micro-manage people, if you are a control freak and continually want to exercise control over people then you are really going to struggle as a remote working leader. You need to trust your team and ensure that you give them to the tools to effectively complete their job.

Enable teams with powerful tools

Enable teams with powerful collaboration software and video conferencing tools. You can use the following, Google Hang outs, Slack, Microsoft teams, Trello, Zoom, 3cx webmeeting, GoToMeeting, Skype, Whatsapp and a wide range of project management tools.

Ensure that your team has appropriate access to high-speed fibre optic internet connections. This can be a challenge depending on where you live or if your workers are located in villages away from larger cities.

Be ready for time zone differences

Time differences need considering, remote teams are nearly always working on a different time zone, so as a smart manager you are going to have to be well organised and give work ahead of your time in order to ensure people are not sitting around waiting for you to get back to them.

Don’t organize too many meetings

Calling meetings, most people call too many meetings. This is due to managers lack of foresight, planning and the sensation of control lose. Poorly skilled managers feel they need constant feedback and so keep asking for updates and waste time. Working from home is already difficult without additional interruptions.

Effective communication skills are essential

Clear instructions and clear objectives, people need to know what you expect of them. If you are not an effective communicator or ideas, then you are really going to struggle. You need to plan ahead, write out your ideas and then clearly transmit them to your team.

The most effective way to be a clear communicator is to use simple language, set a maximum of 2 or 3 goals and be very clear about when you need things completed by.

Set progress update expectations

Checking your email every five minutes, or your phone is a very unproductive way to manage teams remotely. You need to set clear expectations on when you will be expecting progress updates etc. This way people will know when they should expect an answer from you, and you will not go crazy and become unproductive through constant interruptions.

An end of day summary in many cases will be much more effective than constant small updates during the day. Unless the matter is really urgent, you should try and let people stay focused and get their work done.

Use a voice message

Sometimes just sending a quick voice message over Whatsapp is a far quicker and more effective use of your time than sitting down and writing an email, or worse writing out instructions over Whatsapp. A quick voice message in many cases will be clearer and quicker. So, be sure to make good use of this feature.

Be ready for communication breakdown

Until you get into a good rhythm with your team you should expect communication breakdown. This is when your message is not being interpreted correctly and people are doing things that are not what you asked of them.

Some ways to prepare for communication breakdown are to ensure that you have a system for documenting agreements, tasks or actions.

Furthermore, you can use linguistic skills for checking and clarifying. As a manager you will need to get into the habit of asking people to tell you what they understood. If you ask most employees, “Is everyone clear on that?”, 9 times out of 1o, they will say yes, when in fact they don’t understand.

One more tip is to encourage a culture in your company where coming back and asking for clarification is encouraged and not frowned upon. Many managers show frustration towards staff who ask for clarification and this often translates into a culture where people are scared to ask for advice or clarification.

Help people adjust to online meetings

People talk over each other and don’t know how to manage the discussion. If you are new to online meeting software, you will know that it is impossible for people to all talk at the same time.

This means that a good leader will know how to manage and control a meeting as the chairperson effectively, ensuring that everyone is able to participate effectively.

Make notes on things so you don’t forget

With so many interruptions at home and the need to balance your personal and private life, you will be bound to forget things.

Keep it simple and have a notepad or diary with you so that you can write things down when they come to mind or when you need to remember something for later.

If you rely on your phone or PC for note taking, you are just adding more noise to your life and you will surely forget things. Just don’t lose that diary!!!

Use pictures or charts to better visualise information

Additionally, make use of drawings, PowerPoints, charts etc. With so many barriers to communication, sometimes an image can make a huge difference. Sharing this information ahead of a meeting can give people a very clear idea of what will be spoken about.

Use PDFs and screenshare

If your team are working on a document together, send it to them ahead of time. Tell them to print it before the meeting so they can then make notes on it. In the online meeting you can screen share the PDF and then guide people both with your voice and visually. This will make a meeting more interactive and easier to follow.

Final thoughts

Remote working is the future, but it is not without its challenges. Let me know below if you have any tips for managing teams remotely.

If you are interested in becoming a better remote teams’ leader then why don’t you register for my short course on being a better leader at managing remote teams.

If you want to be better at running your meetings online then enrol in my meetings course below. 

I hope you found this episode useful, make sure you share it with your friends and drop me a 5-star rating over at iTunes. Till next week!

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Do you want to run better, more effective, product and outcome orientated meetings? Do you want to run amazing meetings online? Enrol in my course now. 

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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