If you want to manage your remote team, the first thing you need is to figure out what they need. The next thing you need is to figure out how to communicate with them effectively without an overload of virtual meetings.
It’s fairly simple, but the problem is that most people think it’s hard. They don’t realize that there are already tools for doing it.
There are tools for managing distributed teams, tools for dealing with telecommuting and remote work and virtual work, and tools for working from home and from other locations. These tools have been around for decades, ever since we realized that companies needed to be able to communicate with their employees no matter where they were, whether or not those employees were in the office or on the telephone or even in the same room.
How does it work? Well, let’s take a look at some examples.
Meetings are inefficient and waste time. They can be an effective means of communication if you know how to use them.
The first step is to avoid meetings with people who don’t need them. In many companies, the people who don’t need meetings are the ones who schedule the meetings. They call everyone together to tell them about a new feature or to explain a policy change or make a decision, then go away and do nothing with all that information. That gives their subordinates plenty of time to pour over it—and wonder whether they should intervene on their boss’s behalf. If we want our meetings to be useful, the people who schedule them must leave out all the parts that aren’t necessary.
The second step is to limit them to what’s needed. In most companies each meeting has a very specific purpose: It is about something concrete, like a particular task or person’s performance problem, and it takes place in a particular space: the conference room next door or the conference room in the other building. Within those constraints there is no reason why everyone can’t have their say in private: emailing, sending files, getting responses on slack—whatever works best for each person’s work habits. The only real constraint is that we organize our meetings around concrete tasks.
Here are RisePath’s tips on how to get around this:
- Overcome time zone differences.
This is particularly difficult for remote team members located on opposite sides of the world, where there is a twelve-hour difference between them (think California and India). This can be overcome by hiring an employee who is willing to work your company’s hours rather than their own country’s hours, or by hiring someone who already works in your time zone. Both are great solutions and will help avoid scheduling conflicts. You can also hire someone part-time while they continue working another full-time job in their own time zone and then gradually bring them on full-time once they have proven themselves to be a valuable team member.
- Consider team members’ other commitments (if applicable).
Consider asking your employees/contractors if they have any other commitments that could affect their work schedule when you ask them to join your team. For example, do they have children at home? Are they enrolled in school? Do they work another job besides yours?
- Be Mindful of Language Barriers
When you have team members from all over the world, you will inevitably have people who speak different languages. This can make group meetings confusing, especially if some are speaking in another language.
Be sure to take the time to translate for everyone and try to set up meetings when everyone is awake and can attend. Also, be sure that everyone on the team has a way to communicate with each other, such as an online chat room where they can talk at any time.
- Keep Meetings Few and Meaningful
Virtual meetings are an important tool for keeping your remote team connected and productive. But remember that it is easy to overdo it by having too many meetings every week. Also, be sure that the meetings are meaningful and that it is something that could not have been done via email or another method.
As a manager, you should be mindful that your employees may have different ways of communicating based on their cultural backgrounds. For example, a team member from South Korea might be more comfortable with an email than a phone call. In this case, it’s important to ask them what their preferred method of communication is.
Managers should also be aware of language barriers that could affect how employees communicate. For example, if you are working with someone who speaks English as a second language, you’ll need to communicate in a way that is clear and concise.
Additionally, managers should keep meetings few and meaningful. This means that the meeting has an agenda and the right people are in attendance. In addition to this, it’s important to use the right type of meeting for the situation at hand. For example, if you want to make sure everyone is on the same page, try using an all-hands meeting.
Managers can also ask their employees to write up notes after each team meeting so they can record progress and action items. This is especially helpful when it comes time for monthly or weekly 1:1s.
Of course, this requires understanding your teammates’ native languages and cultural backgrounds. It’s important to know how they communicate so that you can adapt your messages accordingly. The best way to learn about their culture is by asking them questions about their background and country. Not only will it help you build rapport with them, but it’ll also give you some insight into their culture and values as well as preferred communication styles.