Crash Course in Managing a Remote Team

Crash Course in Managing a Remote Team

Transitioning from an on-site team to fully remote is daunting regardless of the circumstances. Trying to do that over the course of a day or a week is overwhelming to say the least.

If you’re one of the many leaders who have found yourself struggling to get a remote team going, don’t despair. There is hope.

We’re a 100% remote team with decades of experience working from home. We collaborate across time zones and country borders. Our consultants are located in North America, from the east coast to the west coast, and our clients are as far away as Australia. Nonetheless, we keep everything running smooth and everyone well informed.

We are not rookies. We manage large projects for international clients with multi-million dollar annual revenues. We know what we’re doing and we’re good at it.

Below I’ll share a few of the most important things we’ve learned, so you can get a grip on your current situation and lay a foundation to build on.

  1. Facilitate Instant Communication
    We use Slack. Every member of our team runs Slack on their local desktop and most run it on their phones as well. This allows us to stay in direct contact with each other via simple click of a mouse or tap of the finger. There are many other tools such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Trillian. Find one that works for you.

    The main take away is that everyone runs it, from the top down.
  2. Make Conference Calls Effortless
    Communication is key to working efficiently and effectively. Make it as easy as possible for your team to collaborate using voice and video.

    We use Google Meet or Skype for both video and voice calls. Slack also has voice calls, but we’ve found it to be less reliable than the other two options. Any member of our team can start a call with the click of a mouse. We can all be in a face-to-face chat with shared screens in less than a minute. Google Meet even includes a free dial-in number for each meeting you create.
  3. Stay Organized
    Ensure everyone knows where to find the resources they need, when they need them. This will help avoid the morale busting frustration of searching for things when you really just want to get work done.

    Shared Files
    We use Google Drive for files and other shared resources. Google Drive is simple for us because we use G Suite and that makes it simple to access right from the email inbox. OneDrive and DropBox, among others, also provide quality tools for this. The key is ensure everyone has easy, direct access to what they need.

    Project Tasks
    We use Jira for all project tasks. If you run a creative team consider using a tool like Asana.

    We put everything related to a project in Jira. All notes, all questions, all comments, etc. It is the source of truth for each project. To help ensure each person only has access to what they need, our projects have two views, one that is team facing and one for admins only. This allows us to track everything in one place, which makes life easier. This organization also allows for easy hand off of tasks between team members without letting anything fall through the cracks and without people even having to work at the same time.
  4. Keep a Meeting Pulse
    Having a regular time for your team to connect and discuss their tasks helps ensure a project keeps moving forward and management is aware of obstacles.

    Working from home provides many opportunities for distraction and sometimes people just don’t quite know what to do. Either of these can easily snowball into large blocks of lost time. A regular meeting pulse adds accountability and reduces surprises.

    Schedule a DSM
    Start with a Daily Stand-up Meeting or DSM. This is short team meeting held at the same time every morning. Purpose to keep the meeting short and on point. Each person on the team should give a rote status report in the form of:
    1. What have you done since our last call.
    2. What do you plan to do today.
    3. Any roadblocks holding you up.
    4. Any questions you have.

    Don’t answer the questions or address the roadblocks on this call. Just take note of them and move to the next person. After the call concludes, schedule one or more calls to follow-up on the questions and roadblocks raised on the status call. This is important. The team needs to know these things will get resolved and they are safe to move on during the DSM.

    These short daily meetings will give you a high level view of how a project is progressing, quickly surface areas that need attention (e.g. someone reports they plan to have a task done multiple days in a row, but aren’t delivering), and also help each member of the team stay focused since they know they will be asked what they did the previous day.

In summary, create an environment that fosters communication and organization. Have a rhythm of work that includes regular conversations about the tasks at hand and easy access to the resources to get those tasks done. Prioritize your tasks and work as a team to systematically get them done. This should provide a firm foundation you can build on.

Once you get more experience operating as a remote team you’ll have a better idea of what you want to improve or change. Just keep tweaking the process as you go and before you know it you’ll be running a well oiled remote team accomplishing a tremendous amount of work.

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