This is your one-stop-shop for insights covering everything from interviews, onboarding, async communication, learning & development and so much more. We’ve compiled the top tips, tactics, best practices, and real-world examples of remote team management.
Let’s recap –
Without the ease of in-person conversations, it’s common for “information flow” to become a major challenge for your team. The last thing you want is to endlessly ping your team for updates.
Luckily, putting strong workflows in place – for project updates, code review, and other tasks – will not only build your trust in them but will likely increase the productivity of the team overall.
Code review can become a bottleneck if it takes too long to complete, but doing reviews across
time zones doesn’t have to slow you down.
Agile is all about quick execution, quick releases, and short feedback loops. Sprints should be planned in advance and have a daily or weekly sync scheduled for progress check-ins. Develop habits around short cycles, with mini-deliverables and daily goals.
Your remote team might have to work on communication hurdles to keep things running smoothly, but by building clear steps toward milestones and using project management tools like Jira and Confluence, agile processes can keep things moving forward. Don’t forget the power of reflecting on how your team works after the project is released – tools like Retrium and Scatterspoke offer great platforms for retrospectives.
It’s impossible to over-communicate with a remote team. One good habit is documenting within code and generating the documentation at build time. Consider also having one documentation source for company information.
Gitlab, for example, has a comprehensive remote handbook that documents everything from which individuals to contact for software access to when recurring meetings take place. Dozens of merge requests are approved by employees and managers throughout the day.
Remote teams can default to the established routine because changing it requires additional communication. Check-in to improve your team’s approach and ensure that it’s working, versus just carrying out “business as usual.”
Managers are on the front lines, driving productivity and job satisfaction among teams. This means that the success of remote teams may depend largely on the guidance they are getting from their direct supervisors. Are you putting serious thought and energy into empowering your people? If not, it’s time to take action. Here’s how.
The 1:1 meeting can vary between casual conversation, status updates, or rigid check-ins on progress. They should be more than just a status update because it’s an opportunity for the remote employee to be heard: Have them add agenda items to the meeting and check in on them personally.
Build a continuous feedback loop from your direct reports, and peers into your regular (annual, semi-annual, quarterly) review process. Feedback from remote employees on their managers can be awkward, but the “safe space” can also reveal glaring issues you weren’t aware of.
It’s likely you have money set aside to visit your remote teams on a regular basis. Use it because it’s important to foster a tight relationship with your on-the-ground team.
As a team lead, you do not have daily interaction with each developer. But, it can be highly motivating for everyone to feel you know them and understand their work. Run monthly office hours where your team can pop in to chat or try scheduling a “virtual coffee” with a few developers where you can get to know them personally.
No one wants to deal with management issues, but the longer you let things go, the worse it may be. Look for red flags, such as workers not hitting goals, and disconnects between HQ and remote teams. By getting involved early, you may be able to quickly remedy the situation.
Hire a lead in each market where you have a team – they can be ‘on-site’ for both direction and camaraderie. For example, given their large team in Kitchener-Waterloo, Bluescape Software has managers to help guide the team directly from the ground.
The average user spends 90 minutes of active time on Slack per day. That’s a lot of time spent in communication versus productive work.
Async communication seeks to solve the time we spend in this distracted conversation. For example, if you send a message without expecting an immediate reply, it allows people to respond when it works for them, and it’s a critical component of remote team communication.
While concurrent collaboration is ideal when it can happen, different time zones or working schedules may make this problematic. So learning how to do async right is a top skill for remote leaders.
Different channels may serve specific needs, and as a rule, it’s best to keep async communication in transparent channels that anyone can see, versus private messages. Tools such as Tettra offer a knowledge base where people can track important information without having to ask repetitive questions (and potentially wait for a response).
You could also utilize an internal wiki or blog that can help centralize larger organizational conversations. Zapier, for example, hosts an internal blog appropriately titled Async to gather feedback and share context to keep projects moving.
Imagine how long it might take to accomplish something if you have to send a message and wait 8 hours to get a reply. Sounds painful, right? That’s why there’s a skill to async, and it starts with knowing how to frame an update or question so that it doesn’t require a lot of back-and-forths to be productive.
Here are a few critical elements of an async question or update:
Be sure there are decision-makers identified, whether that’s a developer or team lead so that projects won’t get stuck in limbo over ownership.
Leaning too much toward written communication can isolate remote teams – it’s important there’s also the opportunity for face time with teammates.
Build in 1:1s, team offsites, and team meetings to continue driving connection. Take time in meetings for personal banter. When updates are shared asynchronously, consider using tools that put the person in the center – such as the video platform Loom.
It’s in the balance between async and sync where you’ll find productive, happy employees, it just might take time to fine-tune your channels and see what works best for your team.
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