Managing a remote team: Lead by distance

The pandemic has upended the traditional office, and with it, the way we work. For many organizations, (partly) working from home is now the new normal. But just because employees are physically dispersed doesn’t mean they can’t be a cohesive, high-performing team.

Man sitting behind a computer, working on a presentation

The benefits of leading a remote team

If you're thinking of working with a remote team, or are already leading one, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Leading a remote team allows you to work with people from all over the world. This can be a great way to get different perspectives on projects, and it can also help you build a more diverse team.
  • Another benefit of leading a remote team is that it can help you save on costs. You won't need to rent office space or pay for travel expenses if your team is spread out across the globe.

The challenges of leading a remote team

There are a few challenges that come with leading a remote team as well.

  • One of the biggest challenges is communication. It can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page when you're not all in the same place. You'll need to find ways to keep everyone informed and up-to-date on the project.
  • Another challenge is managing different time zones. If you have team members in different time zones, it can be difficult to coordinate meeting times and set realistic deadlines. You'll need to be flexible and adjust your schedule to accommodate different time zones.

Tips and best practices

With these tips in mind, you can successfully lead a remote team.

Communicating effectively

1. Clearly state expectations for each team member

Each team member should know what is expected of them. This way, they can be held accountable and feel empowered to do their best work.

2. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with each team member

Regular one-on-one meetings are crucial for effective communication. This way, you can get to know each team member better and understand how they're feeling about their work.

3. Hold regular team (video) calls

In order to maintain close collaboration, it's important to have regular team (video) calls. This way, everyone can stay updated on the team's progress and provide feedback.

4. Find the right tools for communication

It's important to find the right tools that work for everyone in order to maintain close collaboration. Slack or Zoom can be great for encouraging open team communication, but there might be other tools that work better for your team.

5. Be clear and concise when giving instructions

It's important to be clear and concise when giving instructions to your team. This way, they can understand what you're asking of them and be more likely to complete the task successfully.

6. Be available and approachable

Make sure your team members feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns. This will help build trust and create a more positive team dynamic.

Ensure close collaboration

1. Make sure everyone has the tools they need to do their job

Work equipment and tools are crucial in performing a task well, so it's fundamental to make sure your team has what they need to do their job well.

2. Set clear goals and objectives for the team

Everyone on the team must know what the goals and objectives are, so everyone can work together to achieve them.

3. Make sure everyone knows their roles

Every team member should know their role and responsibility in the team. This way, they can work together efficiently to achieve the team's goals.

4. Encourage team bonding

It's important to encourage team bonding, even if the team is remote. This can be done through organizing digital events, game nights, or simply by chatting and getting to know each other better.

5. Face challenges together

When challenges arise, involve your team in the decision-making process, so you can problem-solve together and come up with a plan to overcome the challenges.

Building trust

1. Get to know your team members on a personal level

Reach out to your team members individually and get to know them outside of regular work hours. Investing time in talking about their hobbies, interests or family will strengthen the relationship.

2. Be transparent in your communication

When you're communicating with your team, be open and honest. Your team members will appreciate your transparency and will feel more inclined to share their thoughts and ideas.

3. Follow through on your promises

If you say you're going to do something, make sure you follow through. Your team will trust you more if they know they can rely on you to keep your word.

4. Be supportive

Be there for your team members when they need you. Show them that you're supportive and care about their success as a professional.

5. Be consistent in your actions

If you're consistently fair and reasonable, your team will learn to trust your decisions. This will help build a more positive team dynamic.

6. Learn from mistakes

If you make a mistake, own up to it and learn from it. This will show your team that you're human and that you're willing to learn from your mistakes.

7. Show that you're committed to the team's success

When you show that you're invested in the team's success, you create a committed team who will be eager to step up in the team.

8. Allow team members to provide honest feedback

Encouraging feedback from your team members is a great way to build trust. It shows that you value their opinions and want to improve the team dynamic.

9. Celebrate successes together

When your team succeeds, celebrate their achievement together. And when you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.

Things to take-away

  • Learning a remote team will enable you to work with people from all around the world, so your team will become more diverse.
  • There will be challenges when working with a remote team, but if you overcome them together, it'll only make your team stronger.
  • Good communication, close collaboration and trust are key components to leading a remote team successfully.

About me

Hi, I’m Lilian. I’m currently the head of a design team in a digital agency in Amsterdam and love to write about leadership and share tips based on my experience over the past couple of years.

Lead by design

I decided to start this blog as a way to share my thoughts on leadership. I’m passionate about helping others learn more about leadership and how to be a good leader, so I hope this blog will be helpful to those who are looking for tips and advice on leadership.

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