With an increasing globalised economy and companies represented in many different parts of the world, more managers are having to manage employees remotely. Project managers often have the task of running projects where team members reside in different departments or functions in remote locations or are home based.
There are 3 main challenges when managing employees remotely; isolation, fragmentation and confusion.
Here are 6 key areas you need to focus on to overcome these challenges:
Demonstrate through your actions that you care for others, have integrity and show that you can be trusted to do what’s best for the team in terms of achieving your results. Even though people may be located a fair distance apart, look for the best opportunities to make individual contact. Obviously face to face is the most effective, video conference the next best alternative and as a minimum telephone conversations.
Develop a ‘can do’ problem solving culture and work with the team for effective strategies for dealing with conflict within the team.
Ensure that all team members are clear on the key objectives, milestones and the performance levels you expect. It is then recommended that everyone is involved in creating a team charter, team working principles, a team strategy and the team receives feedback.
Experience has taught us that managers also need to have a strategy for dealing with situations where team members get drawn off task or distracted by local issues and requests that do not fit the purpose of the team. Without this achievement results may be sabotaged.
It is worth creating a responsibility matrix using RACI headings; ensure that people know who is Responsible for each task, who is ultimately Accountable for the correct completion of the task, those who need to be Consulted and whose opinions are sought & finally how will the team will be kept Informed of progress.
To know what assets you truly have within your team, undertake a skills and knowledge audit. Asking your team individually will show that you are interested in them. Remember to ask them what they do outside of work and what they did in the past that they are proud of. Create a mindset of continuous learning and help the team evolve as individuals whilst building the capacity of the team itself.
Find out from the team how they prefer to receive communication both as a team and for them personally. Encourage direct communication between team members and consider creating a formal ‘buddy’ where there is NOT a natural connection. Set them questions for getting to know each other better.
6. Cultural Intelligence
Help the team to understand and recognise how different cultures approach things. Do your own research so you can demonstrate that you have made the effort to appreciate the richness that cultural diversity can bring. Encourage team members to be open minded and tolerant towards people who may be a good deal different from what they are used to.
In conclusion, making the effort and investing time in getting right at the beginning will reap your rewards later. Always be open to ideas from your team about how you can make it work better.