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How to grow your small business with a globally distributed team

A workforce that is geographically distributed with both in-house employees and contractors is now the norm. Flexibility in employment ranks among the most desirable qualities for job-seekers and companies alike. Given its importance among potential members of your team, understanding how to manage a remote team is as important as ever.

Before you jump straight to breaking your fourth-floor business lease and investing in a lot of webcams and VoIP software, consider that companies with workforces distributed across the country (and the globe) face interesting challenges. Motivation, support, and the maintenance of core values can become difficult when syncing with your team in-person becomes increasingly less frequent.  

How can you possibly adhere to goals with someone in a different city, much less a different time zone?

The tools for managing these issues are both inexpensive and numerous: Skype, Voxer, JoinMe, and other shareware communication platforms allow you to interact early and often. Even lower-level communication tools (like the Call function in Facebook messenger and Google Hangouts) offer free and easily utilized tools to keep in constant and authentic contact with your remote team.

You no longer need a room full of suits on the fifty-seventh floor with a CEO at the helm to drive productivity. More and more often, CEOs and thought leaders want to live the work-life balance they preach. Interacting with your family, integrating your hobbies into your day, and growing your company are no longer mutually exclusive.

A remote team can afford you this luxury.

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So what is the secret sauce for leading (not managing) a remote team?

Here are the three things we think matter:

Strategy. When everyone in the company understands the goals, as well as the strategy it takes to get there, then it really doesn’t matter where they are located. Clear metrics and a system to hold the company accountable for reaching those goals is the foundation on which growth is built. Having smaller goals to reach those larger goals creates not only a path to success, but a means for employees to feel a frequent sense of accomplishment.

Communication. Not only is it important to check in with employees in order to make sure they are aware of the company goals and their role in that process, it is also imperative to understand their perspective. Often, employees will keep their feelings and opinions close to their chest. But if you offer a frequent sync that allows them to talk about their goals, how they feel they are doing, and what they could be doing differently, then you keep the wheels on the road toward success. Employees need to feel heard, and consistent communication affords them that. Knowing what is expected of them ahead of time for a weekly meeting allows them to feel prepared and offer insight, which, in turn, improves your leadership; assisting them in being productive is an added bonus. Don’t be afraid to offer, or solicit, feedback.

Culture. This is more than the jargon and the three words you have posted somewhere in the office that is meant to subsume everything that is meant by being invested in the company. Culture is how you talk about things, not what you talk about. Can employees question processes? Offer solutions? Do the core values mean something to each and every employee? And are those core values updated and evaluated on a revolving basis to best exemplify the company? There is no right or wrong way to have culture, but every member of your organization should be able to identify and communicate what that culture is. Without it, small problems become mountains to climb; and communication lapses become lost sales.

Leading a remote team can be a rewarding experience that allows you to use every available tool. To grow a company this way requires being agile to new circumstances and consistent in how you apply your processes.

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