You love the freedom. You love the flexibility. You love the sense of responsibility. You love the barrage of unceasing miscommunication…Well, no you don’t. Everything but that last part is what you love.
Unfortunately for us, we don’t always get to choose every advantage and turn away the disadvantages. But, is it really true that working remotely causes “unceasing miscommunication?” Unceasing might be overstating it, but for the distracted or lazy remote employee it’s an ugly reality. The good news is that geographically dispersed managers and staff are already equipped with the tools needed to overcome this very common malady. There’s even more good news: it’s not software, and it’s free, to boot.
Communication Is the Linchpin
Communication in business, and in life generally, is very important. I’m admittedly not the best communicator—it seems my undergrad work, ironically, did little to help that—but with almost 15 years under my belt managing remote teams globally, I’ve learned that more communication is always better than less communication. Even when you think it feels like “too much,” it only feels that way because it’s more than local teams need.
As it turns out, there seems to be a relationship between physical proximity and the amount of communication necessary for teams to function well. But, we already know that from the amazingly high rate of successful long-distance relationships, right?
Without a healthy serving of over-communication, the team becomes disconnected from its leader, its project, goals, and its organization. Secure the team to its focus with the “linchpin” of over-communication.
Sporadic communication from your manager or supervisor is frustrating, isn’t it? There’s a feeling of disconnectedness that results from haphazard or irregular communication, especially when managers are supposed to be managing you and your efforts.
The lesson here is simple: If you’re going to manage, or work in, a remote team, talk with each other—a lot. The people in your team will expect it if you tell them to expect it.
Let them know that you’ll be communicating with them very often and you’ll find the level of annoyance diminishes quickly.
Make over-communication a part of your remote team’s culture.
Now that you’re over-communicating with your remote team and you’re doing it on a regular schedule (meetings, check-ins, etc.), sprinkle in some random communication here and there. The goal here isn’t to try to push team members over the edge by testing their patience. So, keep the random check-ins personal, short, and to the point. You might offer encouragement, a compliment, or ask for a quick update on a specific deliverable. These random over-communications let your team know you’re engaged and interested.
You’re paying attention to them and their work. These short, specific check-ins will further build your culture of connectedness through communication. I found this reaffirmed in my recent experience founding a startup, Pushpyns. Getting a global team of designers and developers together, even for a quick check-in, is more than difficult. In many cases, it’s impossible. I found that when I can get everyone all at once, I prefer to do it regularly.
In between those team meetings and regular individual meetings, my team’s individual performance increased significantly as I randomly checked in with each team member. And, hey, it facilitated the completion of a significant amount of work from a very diverse team.
So, while you can’t completely rely on over-communication to solve all your remote management worries and woes—you still need skill, expertise, innovation, and so on—you certainly can’t do without it. Over-communication is necessary, but not sufficient, to create the ultimate remote team.
What other factors have you found to be important to the success of your remote teams? Did you implement them in unique ways? Tell me how you’ve been able to increase productivity and reduce mistakes with a dispersed group.