13 Ways to Build a High Performing Remote Team

As more organizations move toward remote workforces, leaders must be adept at modifying the way they lead and delegate to their teams. Creating remote teamwork that is successful and extraordinary is possible.

Here are 13 successful tips BELAY uses to develop high performing remote teams.

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Set Expectations

Be sure to let employees and teams know from the beginning exactly what your expectations are of them, their role, and the team.

Define Availability

Clearly communicate when you expect remote team members to be available by phone, text, email, chat or otherwise. And when they are not available, explain that they need to communicate this in advance and define to whom. Choose to use an ‘available or unavailable’ signal, as found in many email programs to communicate when people are unavailable. Set the example for your team by letting them know when you are and aren’t available. Take it a step further and communicate virtual ‘open office’ times, and then – this is critical – be available. And do this as the leader as well, letting remote team members know when you’re available for a virtual ‘open office.’

Explain Goals

Define the measurable objectives, goals, and deadlines specifically to eliminate the temptation to micromanage. Describe how those items will be tracked and measured to help your remote team know they are on track for success.

Plan Meetings

If there are mandatory meetings for which the remote team will be expected to attend onsite, whether weekly, monthly or quarterly, explain these expectations in advance, and send calendar invites as soon as the dates are determined. If there’s a meeting called quickly, and even one person is virtual, have everyone attend as if they’re virtual, using a video conferencing tool such as Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype. Host weekly one-on-one calls to pro-actively discuss delegated projects, questions, or concerns. Further, consider bi-weekly or monthly all-calls with everyone on your virtual team to update each initiative’s status and address any questions to get – and keep – everyone on the same page.

Communication is Mission-Critical

Written communication comes with subtle nuances that can create major communication failures. So when in doubt, thoughtfully over-communicate and make sure your virtual employees do, too. More is definitely more here. And don’t forget the oft-overlooked and perennially avoided phone call to stay in touch and nurture relationships.

Culture Still Matters

Unlike a physical environment, a cultural environment isn’t something that you can see, taste, touch, or smell; culture is the only environment that you can feel. And it’s just as valuable to a virtual workforce as it is to any other, so be sure you foster, nurture and promote it like you would if the whole team was on-site. Look for ways to replicate what is done on-site in a way where everyone can participate, like sending a Starbucks gift card to remote team members if you have special coffee and donuts delivered to the office on Fridays.

Lead With Trust

To lead a remote team effectively, you must trust your team to do that for which they were hired. Remember to focus on what each individual is doing and the goals and objectives you’ve defined for them. And ask yourself how they may feel about accomplishing the goals you’ve set for them, and then respond and manage accordingly.

Ask Questions, And Listen

Without in-person contact and its inherent physical cues, you miss important clues. Listening is at the core of emotional intelligence, and great listeners also ask questions. Actively asking questions not only helps you better understand your virtual employees, but makes them feel more valued, too.

Use Technology To Connect

Inarguably, technology has changed the way virtual employees – all of us, really – work and interact on a day-to-day basis. So when you can’t walk over to someone’s cubicle, take advantage of Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts and more to connect with virtual team members.

Be Prepared and Specific

You can’t teach – or effectively delegate – something you don’t know and understand yourself. Take the time to get prepared before giving instructions or expectations to a remote team. It will save your team from muddling their way through something without a clear understanding in order to save face. Provide any necessary training to set everyone up for success.

Use Collaboration Tools

It's mission-critical to leverage collaboration tools to keep remote teams connected, on track, and meeting goals and deadlines.

Your team's projects likely have a lot of people in a lot of places working on a lot of different — but coordinated — initiatives and tasks. So without collaboration tools, they’d all be on parallel roads, never to intersect. But with them in place, you ensure that all roads lead to the same intersection — results.

Be Inclusive

When there are important decisions to make or tasks to complete for a particular project or initiative, be sure to include all involved parties on emails and in meetings. This will serve to not only let everyone know what has been completed and by whom, but will also help remote employees stay aware of the status of each project as it’s handed off.

Now...Let Go

This last step is essential, but also the most challenging. From this point on, it’s imperative to have faith in your leadership, delegation process and people. And while it may be hard to let someone else take the reins, you’re primed to delegate effectively and successfully. When you manage a remote team, you can’t just aimlessly wander over to someone’s desk and breathe down their neck. (Which, really, you probably shouldn’t regardless but that’s another topic altogether.)

Take that leap of faith – faith in your ability to hire world-class employees and faith in those rockstar employees to do exactly what you entrusted to them in the first place. Your organization, your sanity, and your bottom line will thank you.