Your guide to leading a remote team that can’t be beat
The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. – Ralph Nader
Leadership is an oft misunderstood term. A favorite kids’ game is Follow the Leader, in which you do exactly what the leader does. The phrase, “Lead by example” implies that leadership, again, means everyone else should do what the leader does.
Real leadership, though, inspires. True leadership helps people do their best work. And when it comes to leading a remote team, the best leaders provide the vision and goals and then guide and encourage people as the vision becomes a reality.
But even the best leaders of the best remote teams have to start somewhere. These rules will help you build and lead your team to greatness.
5 Simple rules for leading a remote team
1. Hire the right people
One of the benefits of leading a remote team is the ability to hire the best people, no matter where they live. If anything, narrowing down the potential candidates for a position will be a harder task than finding the best person.
When you hire, look for candidates with a strong resume, but also the personality to fit in well with your team. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to work well together.
2. Respect your team
Once you hire the best team you can, your job is to help them succeed. How do you do that? The most important part of that is respecting and trusting your team. Check-ins and meetings are important, but micromanaging indicates a lack of confidence and inhibits success.
It’s obvious if your team isn’t performing, and with the right processes in place, you can pinpoint the break in the chain. A quote from Gia Ganesh sums it up nicely: “Trust empowers people to do their best and take responsibility for their work.”
3. Provide processes and deadlines
Deadlines are the backbone of any process. Writing for The Business Journals, Shawn Rhodes points out that deadlines help your team “prioritize their work and meet your timelines.”
The processes in place to reach those deadlines are equally important. Think of processes as your road map. There are dozens of routes you could drive from Chicago to Nashville, but your goal informs the path you choose. Do you want to get there quickly? Would you rather take the scenic route and explore hidden treasures along the way?
What matters most is not which route you take, but that everyone takes the same route. You don’t want half of your team visiting Graceland in Memphis while the other half is waiting impatiently in Nashville.
4. Keep your eyes on the goal
When you’re leading a remote team, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of looking at the hours your team is on the clock or how many doctors appointments they go to. The truth is, that doesn’t matter. If you’ve hired the right people, the job will get done.
Sara Sutton Fell, CEO, and founder of FlexJobs says, “It’s tempting to focus on “face time” and measure employees’ effectiveness by when they walk into the office… But those aren’t necessarily indicators of productive workers. Instead, measure employees according to their work product, regardless of the hours they work.”
5. Don’t burn out
While clock-watching erodes trust, you do need to glance at the clock sometimes. Burn out is a problem for many managers and even for employees in startup environments. Long hours combined with the pressure to “produce” in a company that might be struggling to remain afloat is a recipe for stress.
Writing for Fortune, Gary M. Stern points to a survey of IT administrators with strikingly poor results on work/life balance. “85% said their job intruded on their personal life, and 42% lost sleep over work.” Those aren’t the kind of numbers that will keep you or your team productive.
What can you do to prevent burnout?
The first step you can take as a manager is to set the example and respect the personal time of your team. Don’t send emails over the weekend (or late at night, either.) Don’t schedule meetings at 5:00 Friday afternoon. Take time off.
While you can set the example, you can’t force your team to work humane hours or take vacations. You can encourage them, though.
Enforce a vacation embargo. Don’t let anyone on your team call, text, email, or in any other way communicate about work to a colleague who’s on vacation.
Be aware of workloads. One of the biggest reasons people overwork and burn out is because there are projects to complete and deadlines to meet. You can’t get rid of those, but you can set them so the workload is distributed evenly. And if you have too much work for your team, but not enough to hire more people, consider hiring a contractor or part-timer.
Provide a gym membership. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and offering a health club membership to your team is a relatively inexpensive way to help them take care of themselves. Some fitness clubs may offer corporate discounts, but YMCA memberships are affordable and there are over 2,700 locations in the U.S.
Leading a remote team does require some specialized skills. At Sophaya, our goal is to help you master those skills and lead your team to the top. Get in touch today and become the leader your team needs.
Photo by BBH Singapore