Secrets to Effectively Working with a Distributed Team

Secrets to Effectively Working with a Distributed Team

Can you say anything else of value in the subject of remote work? After all, we all had to become experts overnight. If you consider that the only criterion for the success of remote work is that it "works" - then no. If it is also important for you whether it is "efficient" - then it is.

Because it is these chats that build the organizational culture. It was then that my co-workers wanted to share some of their problems, thoughts or requests, because they felt it was the right time. It was also then that I was able to help resolve the conflict, present a vision, or sense what is impossible to sense remotely. I do not mention the motivation and team integration, which Slack led is like watching "Avengers" on a smartphone - with blistering wi-fi and without headphones.

7 rules that can help you not only improve the operating model of distributed organization, but also apply in consulting and training work. You can apply all or several of them - the most important thing is that you can implement them immediately.

1. Concentrate on results, not actions

One of the biggest mistakes managers make when switching to remote work mode is keeping the mindset typical of stationary work.

Set goals and delegate tasks, but leave employees some freedom in terms of their implementation, because the most important thing is the result. Not everyone has the same home office conditions, and not everyone can work equally efficiently at certain times. And you don't have the same remote control and supervision tools (which shouldn't be abused anyway). It is the effect of your work that you should judge, not the path that leads to it.

I make an appointment with my team and I don't care if the person will work at night, sleeping during the day, after an hour for 5 days, or 5 hours for one day. I leave it to the employee. I am only interested in the result and that I should be informed in case the deadline is not met (I am here to remove obstacles and solve problems).

2. Update even if there’s no update

Have you ever had a situation in which the employee listened carefully to you and the question: "is everything understandable?" he nodded briskly, and then - after two weeks - he gave up something completely different from what he was supposed to prepare?

Exactly. In the case of remote work, it is even worse;) Therefore, assume that it is better to say more than less. Explain your decisions, report difficulties, and also say things that seem obvious to you.

From time to time, also ask the communicator or during a call if the work is going according to plan, if there are any surprises and if you can help in any way.

3. Start with the tutorial and test

Especially in the case of large and less technologically advanced teams, ensure that the team is trained - so that everyone has the same knowledge and skills in the field of remote work. You can hire a professional to train your team or organize a video training session to demonstrate the tools (already using one of them, such as ZOOM or Microsoft Teams).

There is also no point in going all-in with tools and processes, not knowing if it will all go away after a few days. Therefore, consider a group and individual task that could be a test of the entire system and a chance to test the knowledge and skills of individual employees. Check how much individual employees coped with the test task and, if necessary, provide support to fill the gaps in skills and knowledge. It is better to catch such things at the beginning.

4. Build a distributed support system

Delegate some of the support to the team itself so that you don't have to worry about every small problem that the team asks you about. Encourage team members to help each other and be able to count on help from others.

It may be enough to create a special "support" channel in a messenger such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, but it is also good to pair employees so that they can assist each other.

5. Define and enforce "evidence of work"

At the beginning of the system's operation and in the case of complex projects / tasks, expect employees to provide “evidence” of the work done, which will reduce risk and build trust. It's a very tiring piece of management, but often necessary if you pay people for their work.

Daily work summaries in the form of a commentary in applications such as Trello or Basecamp may suffice, but it is also worth asking for a preview of the materials being developed where possible. Use the verification call only when necessary (i.e. no summary of work or materials).

6. Take care of the effectiveness of meetings

We waste far too much time for meetings in real life - in the case of remote work, this waste of time can finally be effectively “grubbed up”. Make sure that teleconferences are always to the point, purposeful and effective. You can lean on my scheme and make sure that it is followed by everyone:

- Introduce the participants in advance to the purpose, agenda and time of the meeting

- Always be prepared and expect preparation

- Start on time and admonish latecomers

- Make a note of the most important findings (indicate the secretary)

- Moderate by keeping track of time, agenda and goal

- Summarize the meeting and delegate tasks

- Collect feedback

7. Collect feedback, optimize and develop

This last piece of advice may seem obvious, but it is not. Develop the system and don't do it alone. Encourage the team to share their comments, problems and ideas with you. Take them into account, consult them and improve them together with your team. In my case it is an endless loop:

- Encourage the submission of ideas and problems in a dedicated place

- From time to time, ask yourself individually and collectively about your thoughts

- Collect comments, problems and ideas in the right place

- Consult with the team and encourage them to look for improvements

- Test new tools, features, policies and procedures

- Permanently introduce those that work

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