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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

16 effective management practices for leading remote teams

Leading a remote team can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can keep your team aligned and productive no matter where they’re located.

16 effective management practices for leading remote teams
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]
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Throughout the pandemic, many companies were forced to make an abrupt shift to a fully remote work environment. This, combined with the growth of the gig economy, means that today, many managers rarely if ever meet with their team members in person. The transition was a difficult one for some businesses, and it’s normal for leaders to feel like they’re still learning about and adapting to managing remote team members.

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The last several months have proven to many businesses that it’s possible to maintain or even improve productivity levels even when some or all team members are working from home—if managers adopt the right leadership strategies. If you’re still learning the ropes when it comes to managing remote and contract workers, check out the following recommendations shared by members of Fast Company Executive Board.

1. TRUST YOUR EMPLOYEES.

One of the most important things you can do to work better remotely is to decrease required communication. Most of the time, people can self-manage goals and tasks, so instead of polling for updates (which can often feel like a chore), use markers to track progress only when necessary. Trust smart people to know the best way to approach a problem and manage themselves. – Noah Mitsuhashi, Portfolio Insider

2. SET UP RECURRING ONE-ON-ONES.

One practice to manage effectively in any setting is having effective one-on-ones. Ensuring that your one-on-ones are recurring at the right interval and cover both goals and personal development is key to effective management. These three principles allow for regular check-ins, can be adjusted for pace and tenure, and drive engagement that will reward and develop your team. – Rami Elghandour, Arcellx, Inc.

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3. HOST DAILY MEETINGS FOR ONGOING PROJECTS.

Daily meetings about an active project are great. Try to have them at the same time so you reach a flow state easily. This is different from micromanaging: You are letting contractors manage their own time while giving them your full attention once each day. Be ready to repeat things you have said, because information gets lost easily online. – Phnam Bagley, Nonfiction Design

4. SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS.

We’ve always had remote staff and contractors in locations around the globe. The best advice I can give for managing this kind of staff is to trust them. Have clear expectations for what they need to achieve, but then let them do their work. – Jarrod Morgan, Meazure Learning

5. INVOLVE THE TEAM IN SELECTING NEW HIRES.

We are a remote company, so the pandemic has been “business as usual.” What we have perfected is our hiring practice. We run candidates through a virtual review panel with all department heads and some staff, and everyone gets a vote. We no longer hire people who are not a fit, which makes everything run more smoothly. We also have different employees host fun, bi-weekly “Vengreso Water Coolers” on Zoom. – Viveka Von Rosen, Vengreso

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6. USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

It’s important to set up proper processes and task platforms early on. This not only helps you manage projects that involve multiple team members or vendors but also creates task and project status visibility so leaders know their team has a good handle on everything. Tools like ClickUp, Asana, Monday.com, or Basecamp are great ways to get this done. Make it a system! – Kevin Namaky, Gurulocity Brand Management Institute

7. ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION.

Create “water cooler” moments. This can be done by reaching out to people that you don’t normally speak to. The goal? Help people get a sense of belonging. The opportunity is twofold: First, you help someone feel valued by getting to know them as a person. Second, you encourage continuity by creating an action/follow-up so the relationship builds. This is scalable if you have several leaders following this practice. – Kevin Rutherford, Nuun

8. LET EMPLOYEES KNOW YOU’RE INVESTED IN THEM.

First and foremost, be empathetic. Never let your employees forget that you look at them as human beings first and are invested in their lives. Next, there must be full communication around expectations, including goals, deadlines, and how they can play a part in embracing and enhancing the existing company culture. – Richard RB Botto, Stage 32

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9. OPT FOR SHORTER MEETINGS.

With recent shifting lifestyles forcing organizations to reassess their outlooks on changing working circumstances, employers are looking at innovative ways to reconnect with old and new employees. Short daily scrums versus two-hour-long meetings are helping businesses encourage communication, identify problems faster, work on them quickly, become more agile, and develop a good cadence in the long run. – Irfan Khan, CLOUDSUFI

10. ENSURE EVERYONE FEELS INCLUDED.

When you work closely with contractors and remote team members, I think it is vital to treat them like you would treat employees working in the office down the hall. Add them to your teams. Include them in communications. Schedule one-on-one sessions. Invite them into your systems with the appropriate roles and permissions. It is important to do everything we can to make people feel like part of a whole. – Ximena Hartsock, Phone2Action

11. KEEP EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate again—especially if you have a new person on your team. If you just had a call and agreed on some course of action, write a follow-up message summarizing what you have just decided. Surprisingly, people understand things differently. What may sound obvious to one person is not so clear to another. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

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12. CREATE MEETING ROUTINES.

Hold regular “all hands” meetings. In these meetings, reinforce the strategic context of everyone’s work so they are reminded how and where they fit into the bigger picture. Invite new team members to introduce themselves, and publically recognize members of the team whose efforts are making a difference—in results, culture, partnerships, teamwork, and so on. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

13. DON’T AVOID VIDEO CALLS.

There is definitely Zoom fatigue, but do get on those video calls. It’s worth it because looking people in the eye and being together visually drives peer accountability. It is much harder to let someone down if you know you will be looking them in the eye and if it is someone whose face you can see in your mind. We are visual creatures, so keep up the in-person(ish) camaraderie. – Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, Ruby Has Fulfillment

14. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES.

Clarify how you measure success, and make sure the metrics focus not only on quality, time, and financial factors but also on personal well-being. When your team feels mentally, physically, and emotionally great, it will show in their overall performance. Then, find ways to celebrate success. When you celebrate, your body produces oxytocin and endorphins, which reduce stress and boost your immune system. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

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15. PLAN VIRTUAL ACTIVITIES.

It’s important to create a remote culture and cohesiveness using the various tools available online. Just like an in-office team, a remote team can still get together virtually for a happy hour, games, or other team-building activities. It’s important not to skip this step—culture is everything, even when the company is partially or fully remote. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

16. LEAD WITH EMPATHY.

I believe that creating psychological safety, especially for remote or hybrid teams, is critical. You can do so by creating a shared purpose, asking for team members’ perspectives, showing empathy, and creating opportunities for levity and team bonding. Then watch your team’s collective confidence, creativity, and productivity rise. – Krishna Kutty, Kuroshio Consulting Inc.