productivity tips · Jul 20, 2022

How to Lead a Distributed Team Remotely?

Destructive Productivity

There are a few key things to keep in mind when leading a distributed team remotely.

First, it is important to maintain clear and consistent communication. This means setting regular check-ins with your team, whether that is through video conferencing, phone calls, or even just emails or chat messages.

It is also important to be aware of time differences and make sure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard.

Another important aspect of leading a remote team is fostering a sense of community and connection.

This can be done in several ways, such as creating dedicated spaces for collaboration and idea-sharing, organizing social events and outings, or simply encouraging informal chats and conversations.

The goal is to help everyone feel like they are part of a team and not just working alone.

Finally, it is important to give people the autonomy they need to be successful.

This means trusting them to do their jobs and giving them the freedom to work in the way that works best for them.

Read more on 6 mistakes project managers make that kill productivity

What's the difference between a remote team and a distributed team?

There is a big difference between remote teams and distributed teams.

For one, remote teams are usually spread out geographically, but they can still be centrally managed.

On the other hand, distributed teams are truly decentralized, with team members working from different locations and often time zones.

This can make coordination and communication more challenging, but it also allows for more flexible work schedules and arrangements.

Project management software

20 tips for successfully leading a distributed team remotely

If you are leading a distributed team remotely, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to be successful. Here are 20 tips:

1. Keep communication channels open at all times

Keeping communication open at all times means being available. Whether for questions or concerns via email, Slack, video conferencing, or whatever platform you are using, your distributed team needs to be able to easily communicate.

2. Make sure everyone has access to the same information

Keep project information somewhere centralized. This includes project updates, deadlines, meeting notes, and anything else that would be important for team members to know.

Preferably, use cloud-based software to ensure time zones and different geographical locations don't stop the team from getting access to information that allows them to do their job.

3. Hold regular team meetings

Regular meetings give everyone a chance to check in, share updates, and collaborate on projects. Don't worry. These do not need to be long.

Depending on the size of your team they can be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. The idea is to stay in touch and connected--no one has time for 40minute meetings every other day.

4. Encourage collaboration and brainstorming

When team members are working on different parts of a project, it's important to encourage them to share ideas and brainstorm solutions together.

Help them do this with the project management or task management software. This type of software will allow teams to share files and comments to improve collaboration and keep all documents and ideas in one easy-to-access place.

5. Delegate tasks and responsibilities

Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what they need to do and when they need to do it.

Again, having a centralized, cloud-based program where all communication, timelines, projects, and other relevant data will make this much easier to not only implement but also to manage.

6. Set clear deadlines

This will help keep everyone on track and ensure that tasks are completed promptly.

With team members scattered everywhere, it is vitally important deadlines are made explicit. You do not want a team member saying, "Well, it's not Wednesday here, yet, so technically I'm not late."

7. Give feedback often

Whether it is positive or constructive, feedback is important for keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the right direction.

It is unhelpful to not just you as a leader, and the person making mistakes, but to everyone around them, if you do not provide feedback to help team members stay on track.

Because if team member doesn’t know they are making mistakes, they can’t fix them. Give honest feedback often to help keep team members and projects heading in the right direction.

8. Be flexible with working hours

Since team members are in different time zones, it's important to be flexible with when they work.

This could mean letting them start or end their day a bit earlier or later than usual.

Many businesses have found that working to deadlines is often better than having set office hours.

Of course, this depends on the type of business you are in, and whether you need people at the desk for set blocks of time.

But if you can, providing flexible working hours by working to deadlines rather than set hours has been known to be quite a successful method.

9. Take advantage of technology

Several tools and applications can help distributed teams stay connected and productive. Make use of these tools to your advantage.

Such tools include project management software, and task management software.

10. Encourage breaks and downtime

Team members need to take breaks throughout the day and have some time to themselves. This will help them avoid burnout and stay refreshed.

Read more on how to properly take a break

11. Schedule regular individual check-ins

Whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly, set aside time to check in with each team member individually.

This gives you a chance to see how they're doing and offer support if needed.

As you get to know your team, you'll recognize which ones need more frequent check-ins than others.

12. Promote a healthy work/life balance

Promoting a healthy work/life balance for distributed team members is necessary to keep them happy and engaged. Encourage them to take vacations, take breaks during the day, and have hobbies outside of work.

13. Be understanding of different cultures and backgrounds

When you have team members from all over the world, there will be differences in culture and background. It's important to be understanding and respectful of these differences.

14. Encourage communication and transparency

Everyone should feel comfortable communicating openly and sharing their thoughts and ideas.

15. Respect different working styles.

Some people work better in the morning, while others are night owls. Some like to take breaks often, while others can work for hours straight.

Respect these differences and let team members work in a way that's best for them.

Meeting deadlines is always more important than how many hours someone sits at their desk. Prioritize what’s important, and let go of outdated ideas of “busy.”

16. Don't micromanage.

It's important to trust team members to do their job and not try to control every aspect of their work.

If you can’t, then either you need new staff, or you have trust issues. But at the end of the day, you’ve hired people to do a specific job. And one would hope you’ve hired them because they are capable.

Trust your team members to do their job, and only step in when asked, or if it seems necessary.

17. Be patient

Things will inevitably go wrong at some point, but it's important to be patient and understand that everyone is doing their best.

More importantly, every setback is a lesson. You may learn a lot about how you can tinker with your remote team and their processes to get the best results.

It may also take some time for the team to gel together. Having patience is a key trait for a successful leader. Especially when it comes to distributed and remote teams.

18. Encourage growth and development

As team members learn and grow, they'll be able to contribute more to the team. Encourage this growth by providing resources and opportunities for development.

19. Show appreciation

Let team members know when they've done a good job or positively contributed to the team. A little appreciation goes a long way. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a gift, a simple thank you is a great start.

And if, at the end of the project, there’s a bonus for something who did a particular job, then great. But, ultimately, it’s just the little things that can make a big difference—never underestimate the impact of saying, “Thank you, I appreciate what you’ve done.”

20. Have fun!

Remote work can be challenging, but it's important to find ways to have fun and enjoy the work you're doing. Celebrate successes, goof off during break times, and just enjoy working with your team.

Leading a distributed team remotely

Leading a distributed team can be a challenge, but it's worthwhile when it's done successfully.

By following the tips above, you can set your team up for success. Remote work has a lot of benefits, so make the most of it!

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