Disparate teams, spread across a wide geographical area is becoming more and more commonplace.
But along with the many benefits this brings, there are also some challenges.
So, here’s how to get the most from your remote working interactions:
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.
Contract clear rules for working together
Explore and agree how often you’ll connect, and for how long. Also, what happens in the space between diarised interactions? As new members join the team it is worth re-visiting and re-evaluating the group norms. Are they effective? What more do you need to do to improve your ways of working?
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 is in (or out of) the conversation and to rectify the balance. Monitor the level of your own contributions compared with others. Are you taking too much of the airtime?
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. And, believe it or not, it’s the personal details that resonate most.
Share the lead
The more successful teams share leadership across team members, depending on where the relevant knowledge lay. 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 on his/her stream nurtures that accountability and provides a development opportunity for a team member.
High performing teams know the make-up of their diversity and work hard to leverage the value from the differing perspectives. And where diversity doesn’t exist (or more likely is less pronounced), they will create it.
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 as to what needs to be done, by who and by when.
Facilitate round-the-clock working
Many global 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.
Team leaders facilitate in the meeting and guide outside the meeting
The larger your team, the more susceptible you are to fragmented, unclear communications. In 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.
Value people’s contributions
Notice 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 the level of trust in remote teams, which is critical to successful working.
About the author
Ally Yates is author of ‘Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business’ and an expert on Behaviour Analysis and the interactions that define us. She combines a deep understanding of people and how to achieve results, based on her many years’ experience working with large corporate clients around the world.
Since 2000 Ally has been working as an independent consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach. She has collaborated with international business schools and has received national and international training awards.