Leadership best practices

Leadership Best Practices: 20 Tips for Managing Remote Teams 

As remote work becomes a permanent fixture, the task of overseeing dispersed teams falls on the shoulders of many managers to implement leadership best practices. Yet, becoming adept at managing remote and hybrid talent isn’t an innate skill—it demands time, expertise, and continual refinement.

Leaders who excel in navigating remote teams gain a significant edge in today’s professional landscape. They’re poised to:

  • Drive superior business results
  • Enhance employee contentment
  • Foster a harmonious work-life equilibrium
  • Amplify efficiency
  • Attain organizational objectives
  • Strengthen team loyalty

Why Leadership Best Practices Are Hard to Implement 

Managing remote teams presents its challenges and leadership best practices are hard to implement, no doubt. Getting top-notch work from people you rarely see or may have never met, is no small feat. Whether you’re a rookie in remote team management or a seasoned pro, you’re bound to encounter a few hurdles:

Clarity: Messages through email or Slack can sometimes muddy the waters. Remote employees might struggle to grasp processes and expectations clearly, and not everyone feels comfortable speaking up when they’re confused.

Diverse Work Preferences: Your remote team spans different time zones and life stages. From recent college grads to parents juggling family life, accommodating varied work preferences and being flexible with schedules and demands is key.

Communication: Each team member will have their preferred mode of communication. Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all approach, offer options and adapt to individual preferences, whether it’s Zoom chats or Slack.

Isolation: Remote work can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation. Without face-to-face interaction, employees rely on digital communication, which, even with a bustling household, can leave them feeling disconnected after spending hours in front of a screen.

Burnout: Remote employees are more susceptible to burnout without clear boundaries and guidelines. Without a delineation between work and personal time, they may find themselves constantly “on,” responding to emails late into the evening, blurring the lines between work and downtime.

20 Leadership Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams 

Having 20 leadership best practices list might seem overwhelming, and rightfully so—it’s a substantial list. But remember, you don’t have to overhaul everything in one go. Take your time to sift through these tips and identify the ones that directly address your team’s challenges. Start by committing to a few, monitor their impact, and integrate them into your routine. Then, gradually introduce more as you see fit.

Remote work has rapidly become widespread, but mastering remote team management doesn’t happen overnight. It involves experimentation and learning from mistakes. Be patient with yourself and allow room for adaptation as you navigate this evolving landscape.

1. Establish Transparent Guidelines

Develop a framework for your remote teams outlining clear guidelines. While maintaining adaptability, define fundamental principles that every team member should adhere to. These guidelines may encompass:

Team Meetings: Designate a daily timeframe conducive to scheduling meetings that accommodate everyone’s availability across various time zones.

Communication: Determine the appropriate communication channels for different scenarios. For instance, utilize email for task updates and reserve Slack channels for casual conversations.

Workflows: Construct workflows, both automated and manual, to ensure employees remain productive even in the event of communication breakdowns.

2. Create Accountability

Encourage your employees to take ownership of their work while holding them responsible for their tasks and projects. Align their success with measurable metrics within their control, and encourage them to provide updates on progress and challenges during individual and team meetings.

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3. Communicate Often

Mastering the art of communication can be challenging, making it preferable to err on the side of overcommunication rather than undercommunication. Keep your team informed with regular updates on project advancements and overarching company shifts.

Assume that not all emails are thoroughly read by your employees. Utilize your weekly virtual meetings as opportunities to reconnect and align everyone’s efforts. Incorporate regular round-robin sessions where each team member can update on their current tasks or recent accomplishments.

4. Consider Time Zones

Consider the geographical spread of your employees, which may span across your nation and beyond. Be mindful of the diverse time zones they reside in. Avoid setting meetings at 10 am EST, as it could mean a 7 am start for your colleagues on the Pacific Coast.

Utilize scheduling tools within email and messaging platforms to send communications during your employees’ respective working hours whenever feasible.

5. Focus on Output (not input)

Micromanaging can severely hinder the effectiveness of distributed teams. Simplify your approach (for both you and your employees) by refraining from obsessing over every detail.

The quantity of time employees spend or whether they’re constantly online for 8 hours each day shouldn’t be your primary concern. What truly counts is the quality of their output. If your employees consistently deliver positive business results and achieve their objectives, there’s no need to fret over their time input.

6. Use Project Management Software

Utilize a project management tool to ensure everyone stays informed about project progress, tasks, and assignments. Encourage consolidating discussions within each project’s description and comments section to streamline communication. This approach reduces the need for employees to switch between emails and scattered Slack conversations to gather necessary assignment details.

7. Build a Remote Culture

For a long time, how we interacted in person at work influenced our culture. But now, companies must make an effort to create remote cultures that are just as strong.

Your remote culture depends on how you talk, and communicate, what your company believes in, and what’s most important. For example, do you think it’s okay to use funny pictures in serious presentations? Or swear words?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but leaders need to decide what’s okay and build the culture they want.

8. Discuss Career Progression

In a remote work setup, career advancement can sometimes slip through the cracks. It’s essential to schedule frequent check-ins with your team to discuss their long-term career goals. Are they on track? Are there other avenues they’d like to explore to develop new skills?

9. Remove Roadblocks

Your team members are bound to encounter obstacles while working remotely. It could be a headstrong HR department or an unresponsive IT member. Regardless of the challenge, stand up for your employees, supporting them and working to remove any barriers they face.

10. Ask Questions

Inquire with your remote team about their challenges. Explore the difficulties they encounter in virtual work and their desired changes. 

As a manager, explore opportunities to enhance their work-life balance. Initiate these discussions during individual sessions or team gatherings. If feedback seems scarce, provide an anonymous platform for employees to express themselves freely.

11. Watch Out for Burnout 

Your team members may not readily acknowledge when they’re experiencing burnout; they might not even recognize it themselves. Yet, there are ways to detect early indicators and step in before matters escalate.

If you notice an employee arriving late to meetings or not performing at their usual standard, resist the urge to criticize or reprimand immediately. Instead, offer emotional support and inquire about their well-being. They might simply require a brief respite, and your encouragement could empower them to take it.

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12. Meet in Person

Set aside time annually (or even more frequently if feasible) to gather in person. This dedicated time fosters collaboration, strengthens camaraderie, and serves as a vital reminder that there are genuine humans behind the usernames and avatars.

13. Be Inclusive

Leading teams across remote and hybrid settings presents challenges, particularly in ensuring inclusivity. Consider a scenario where most team members are physically present in the office, while a few are connected via video call. It’s essential to make deliberate efforts to involve everyone.

This might involve pausing meetings to allow remote participants to contribute their thoughts. Alternatively, it could mean actively engaging with and observing the group chat during larger discussions. Some individuals may feel more at ease expressing themselves through typing rather than speaking aloud in a crowded setting.

14. Encourage Flexibility

Promote adaptability among your remote team members. Establish essential guidelines and coordinate meeting times, but avoid imposing unnecessary restrictions.

If a team member prefers to begin early and take a midday run, or if a parent needs to attend to family duties during the day, accommodate them with minimal stress.

Keep in mind your remote workforce has commitments beyond work. By granting them autonomy, you enhance their engagement and commitment to your organization.

15. Create Guidelines

Generate documentation outlining your team’s procedures. Whether it involves committing revisions to GitHub or publishing blog entries on WordPress, craft comprehensive guides that anyone can easily understand and follow. These resources prove invaluable for orienting new team members and minimizing disruptions when employees transition to other career opportunities.

16. Improve Workflows

After documenting your processes, explore opportunities to enhance your workflows. This could entail integrating automation or outsourcing certain tasks to contractors.

Reducing the time spent on project management and handovers allows for increased focus on actual tasks and productivity.

17. Train Your Employees to Work Remotely

Not everyone excels at remote management and work. Mastering virtual collaboration and establishing healthy boundaries can pose challenges. Rather than assuming proficiency, offer training opportunities for all, yourself included.

Explore the option of engaging professionals to educate your team on remote work’s best practices. This might entail guidance on fostering well-being and effective habits in a remote environment, as well as instruction on utilizing collaborative tools and software effectively.

18. Plan for Technical Difficulties

Things can go wrong at times. Expect internet outages, camera glitches, audio hiccups, and app malfunctions—it’s par for the course when dealing with technology.

Acknowledge these technical hurdles as temporary setbacks, and keep calm. Collaborate with your IT team to troubleshoot and implement speedy solutions, but refrain from overreacting when things don’t go as planned.

19. Be Patient

We’re all still adjusting to remote work. While some find it easier than others, you might be facing your own challenges. Remember to be patient—it takes time to adapt to change. Don’t expect everything to shift overnight.

20. Highlight Team Achievements

Shine a light on your remote team members during larger meetings. Consider sending out a monthly or quarterly newsletter to your department or company, showcasing your team’s accomplishments and featuring individual team members. Additionally, seek opportunities for your direct reports to present in key meetings, allowing them to connect face-to-face with the wider company.

conclusion

In conclusion, mastering leadership best practices is essential for effectively managing remote teams. By implementing the 20 tips outlined in this guide, you can cultivate a culture of success, productivity, and trust within your distributed workforce. Embrace these strategies to navigate the challenges of remote work with confidence, leveraging technology and communication to drive collaboration and achieve your organizational goals. Elevate your leadership game and empower your team to thrive in the virtual landscape. Leadership best practices pave the way for remote team success, ensuring you’re equipped to lead with excellence in today’s evolving workplace dynamics.

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