Leading a Remote Team

woman-on-phoneTechnology has made physical location a non-factor in recruiting talented leaders.  Companies want the right person for the job regardless of where they live.  This creates a lot of logistical challenges for the leaders.  They need to learn the company culture, develop relationships with their virtual team members and key internal constituents, and focus on excelling in their position- all without the benefit of being situated in their company’s offices.

While it is easier to “see your team” via conference call apps like Skype, Go to Meeting, etc., leading your team takes more personal touch than a five minute video chat.  By taking the time to develop the repertoire with your team, you will be seen as always there- even if you are 5000 miles away. 

1.       Be Personal.  One of the fastest ways to build trust is to find common ground.  Take the time to ask members about their work and personal lives.  And be sure to share about yours.   People like to work with people they like.  This is especially true when they do not have the benefit of physical interaction.

2.       Be Honest.  That uncomfortable pause in a video or phone conversation yields immediate distrust.  Instead of umming your way through a tough question until you come up with a scrubbed answered, redirect the question for more clarification.  This gives you time to find the right answer and gives you more insight on why the question is being asked.

3.       Be Mindful.  No one wants to hear from you at 5 pm on a Friday in your time zone.  They really don’t want to hear from you when it is 8 pm in theirs.  Be respectful of your team’s time and they will be respectful of yours.

4.       Don’t Gossip.  Trying to be “dialed in” on company romances and other gossip is not your position in the company.  It is very destructive to your authority when you are probing about water cooler rumors.  It opens you up for people talking about you- and you never having it get back to you until it is too late.

5.       Be Yourself.  Being a successful leader always boils down to people follow someone they trust, like and respect.  Putting up a false bravado does not instill any of the three.  If you are struggling with dealing with a particular department, ask a colleague for help.  Showing that you are a real person will work wonders.

6.       Be Truthful.   It is hard enough to tell and remember a lie when you see people every day.  It is impossible when distance is involved.  If you only tell the truth, it is easy to remember what you told people.  If a part of a project won’t be done until Friday, tell people that.  Telling one person Thursday and another Monday will yield unnecessary confusion for you.

As with most of the topics I cover, the key to being a successful leader is always the same.  Be true to yourself and your team, and people will want to follow you- regardless if you are in the next room or on another continent.

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