6 Tips for Effectively Managing a Distributed Team

February 01, 2018

Creating and managing a distributed team is often the most cost effective model for new companies. In many cases it also allows for more business growth than a traditional business model and allows you to hire the best people from anywhere in the world. We previously wrote about some of the benefits of having a remote team. But managing a distributed team isn’t without challenges.

For example, when you aren’t working in one central location it’s easy to feel disconnected from others. You could encounter some communication problems or confusion with time zones. But, if you are properly prepared, these challenges can be overcome and the benefits of remote work can far outweigh the alternative.

Here are 6 ways we’ve learned to overcome the challenges of managing a distributed team:

Share a clear vision with your team regarding the company’s mission, goals and values

While it is always important to share your vision of the company with your team, in a remote environment it is ever more vital. The team needs to understand the direction and focus of the company. If you can get them to share your goals and vision, they will be more focused on doing their part to help the company achieve them.

Set up the right tools for your team

Having the right tools in place will make working remotely seamless. Think about the things that you will need the team to see and use and set up the best tools for your business.

Here are just a few tools that we like for successfully managing a distributed team:

  • Slack for communication
  • Zoom for voice/video calls and meetings
  • Google Apps for email, calendars, documents and spreadsheets
  • Jira for managing tasks and projects
  • Toggl for time tracking
  • Jell for tasks, goals and collaboration
  • Apollo – for organizing and scheduling your team’s tasks and tracking time
  • Droptask - for visual task and project management, as well as templates for tasks that will repeat, such as client onboarding.
  • Awesome Boss - for rewarding your team for meeting deadlines and reaching goals.

Hire for a distributed team

Successfully working remotely is a skill. If you know that you are hiring for a distributed team, look for skills that make make a remote worker successful. These things can include:

  • Being a self-starter with personal motivation and discipline.
  • Some demonstrable remote work experience.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Collaborative approach to work projects.

Have a consistent All-Hands meeting at set intervals

Zappos, a company that is famous for its strong company culture says they use a quarterly All-Hands meetings to help them achieve:

  • Clear communication and transparency
  • Celebrate wins
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Provide visible leadership (even if on video calls)
  • Setting monthly or quarterly meetings, even if they are short, will allow you to share your vision with the team, discuss new ideas, acknowledge successes and talk about the plan for the coming months.

Set up clear communication channels

When your team is not in one place communication becomes even more important. ou can’t simply walk into someone’s office and start asking questions. You need a way for team members to still feel connected and supported with the rest of the team.

So set up a system for regular communication like questions on a task or daily check-ins. We use Slack for this type of communication. No matter what tool you choose to use, let your team know the best ways to communicate with you and be available for questions so that they can produce the results you are working towards.

Set clear priorities and deadlines

Leading a remote team often means that you will be discussing new tasks over chat. This can lead to unclear priorities for your team.

Train yourself to set priorities when speaking with your team, so that they know if a new task is something they should drop everything and do now,if it’s something that needs to be done by a certain day or time, or if it is something that can be done whenever they get to it.

You can also tell your team to ask you about setting priorities if you forget to tell them when you assign a new task. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and doing the work that is most important.

Managing a distributed team can be incredibly satisfying. By using these tips and the many tools that are available to you, your team can do their best work and you’ll quickly overcome any obstacles.

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