Ten ways to help remote teams work effectively

By: Ally Yates

Date: 2 February 2018

Ten ways to help remote teams work effectivelyMany start-ups begin life by pulling together a range of disparate people - often working in a variety of locations rather than from one central office.

Although this set-up has many benefits, it can, if not handled well, put a strain on the team - leading to poor communication, lowered productivity, and falling morale.

So, if you want to ensure you get the most from your virtual interactions, here are ten tips.

1. Agree clear rules for working together

Explore and agree how often you'll connect, and for how long. Also, what happens in the time between arranged meetings? As new members join the team, it is worth re-visiting and re-evaluating the group norms. Are they effective? What more could you do to improve your ways of working?

2. Create a shared direction

A common sense of purpose and agreed outcomes are particularly important for a remote team where it's all too easy for people to go off track. It is helpful to define both what the direction is and what this means for each person involved in terms of tasks and deliverables. Use these as the basis for measuring your progress.

3. Build trust and familiarity

As human beings, we are pack animals with an innate need to belong. To help you and your colleagues feel you are of the same tribe, or at least share some common ground, you can create some social time in your meetings, inviting people to share something of their personal and professional self. Believe it or not, it's the personal details that resonate most.

4. Share the airtime

Research by Jarvenpaa and Leidner found that high-trust teams had "predictable communication patterns" where the team members' contribution levels were evenly spread. In managing the distribution of airtime, each team member has a responsibility to keep track of who's in (or out of) the conversation and to keep things balanced. Monitor the level of your own contributions compared with others'. Are you taking too much of the airtime?

5. Share the lead

The most successful teams share leadership across team members, depending on where the relevant knowledge lies. Each activity stream should have a 'single point of accountability' (SPOA), an individual who is responsible for that strand of work. Allowing each SPOA to lead his/her stream nurtures that accountability and provides a development opportunity.

6. Allocate roles

Meetings benefit from team members agreeing roles such as Chair, Timekeeper, Minute-taker, Scribe and a Knowledge Manager who acts as the team curator, ensuring all the good work is recorded. This can also be a useful reminder for everyone as to what needs to be done, by who and by when.

7. Exploit diversity

High-performing teams understand the diverse perspectives of their members and work hard to leverage the value from this. And where diversity doesn't exist (or is less pronounced), they will create it.

8. Facilitate round-the-clock working

Many virtual teams relay work around the globe, from one time zone to another. Master your baton-passing by providing a clear explanation of progress to date, suggesting or asking what needs to happen next, inviting and giving reactions, and recognising what has been achieved.

9. Value people's contributions

Note what people have achieved, the effort they've made and the way in which they are contributing to the discussion. Showing your appreciation helps to accelerate trust in remote teams, which is critical to successful working.

10 Offer ongoing guidance between meetings

The larger your team, the more susceptible you are to fragmented, unclear communication. Between virtual meetings, work with each team member to question, refine and develop their work. Wherever possible you can lead with questions, helping them to draw on their resources, extend their networks and learn from what has been achieved (or not).

Using your time well between meetings helps team members continue to generate and evaluate ideas, respond to each other and plan for the next session so that everyone is prepared, no one feels under pressure and everyone can make a contribution.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Ally Yates, author of 'Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business'.