How remote teams are dealing with challenges

Remote team management — how to deal with challenges?

Remote teams managers face challenges every day, especially during the pandemic. From miscommunication and time zone differences to project management to technical issues – there’s a whole bunch of problems for the remote environment to deal with. Leading global teams that are scattered all over the world is hard but possible.

Let’s explore the most efficient ways of managing a remote development team, dive deeper into the problems you may face with remote work, and explain the best solutions.

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Remote team management tips

Managing a virtual team is full of challenges and surprises. But if you prepare beforehand, the entire process will be much easier.

Collaborating and managing people who are working from different locations and you have only a connection with the help of a webcam is an important skill that you need, no matter what industry you are in, especially throughout the pandemic period.

In this article, we’re going to reveal the secrets of effective persuasion, change management, and communication, which can assist you when managing staff remotely. To help you with this exciting but challenging journey, we’ve prepared some tips on remote team management.

Change the way you persuade

When you discuss certain issues with your remote team, not everyone will agree with your arguments. It is crucial to create clear expectations but distance, cultural differences, and lack of face interaction and social interaction can make the situation worse.

Here are some secrets of influence in remote team management that can help you lead through conflict in remote teams.

Tip #1: The importance of authority

When a person or company offers valuable information, they build authority and become trustworthy.

To build authority at workspace not only with old developers but also with new employees, you need to have a management system of sharing information via the company’s internal network, such as a personal blog or any other communication channel/group.

This is especially important when managing virtual employees. Probably it’s the most reliable way to share information with them. The reason is that many global team members and new hires are scattered across different time zones and thus their workflow, as well as communication, are asynchronous.

So having a common communication group channel is the best way to update your employees with the company news, let them feel involved in a company life (even remotely), and stay interested and involved in a company life as an employer.

Tip #2: Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a synonym for mutuality, cooperation, and teamwork.

At work, you can bring this principle to life by constantly rewarding your employees for a good job. For example, you can give them a shoutout at the team meeting or nominate them for motivational awards.

When running a team of remote employees, you can create a system of virtual badges for team members and make sure that everyone can view them on the intranet.

These badges can be similar to those of fitness trackers. As a result, you’ll keep your employees motivated and engaged.

Tip #3: Commitment & consistency

According to the principle of commitment and consistency, when a person commits to doing something and articulates this commitment, it is very likely that they’ll stick to this commitment, i.e. remain consistent.

For example, you can ask your remote workforce to verbalize their commitments during a live meeting and see whether they stick to those commitments during work. If yes, then this principle works. The commitments can be related to their tasks, roles, etc. – depending on what’s most important at the moment.

Manage time zone differences easily and efficiently

As your team may be distributed across the world, at first it may be hard to catch up with time zone differences, especially significant ones. Luckily, there are tools that are designed specifically for time management in remote teams.

Embrace talent management

Human resources need to be managed in a co-located team, and virtual teams are not an exception too, so we prepared some tips on talent management in a remote team.

Familiarize yourself with the peculiarities of the culture-fit concept in remote teams

We’d like to share the mix of values that form the YouTeam’s unique company culture. Remote teams are typically multicultural. Thus, if you know how to manage remote employees in their locations, then for sure you must be aware of cultural differences and related issues.

Cultural diagnostics acts as a foundation for team building the change elements, such as the new corporate vision.

When a change occurs, knowing the cultural landscape is critical to define the core values, behaviors, beliefs, and perceptions that may impact the success of the transformation.

Such cultural diagnostics can evaluate the readiness to change, spot any conflicts, and identify the factors that can impact the sources of leadership and resistance.

Stop micromanaging

Micromanagement refers to constant check-ups with your team to make sure that everything goes right. It typically occurs due to the lack of trust in virtual teams and a high level of anxiety in managers. With remote teams, you are even more likely to fall into this trap because you rarely see the faces of your employees. Therefore, it’s crucial to know how to stop micromanaging your remote employees.

Listen to experts

Even the CEOs of the world’s tech giants make mistakes but still remain powerful. This is also true for virtual team leaders. The key to success as a virtual team manager is to do everything differently as you would in a co-located team. Here are some things CEOs of remote companies do differently and a list of the most known work-from-home companies. If you’re a non-technical founder, this is your hands-on guide on managing a remote development team from CEO of The Lobby.

Improve team meetings

Meetings of a virtual team require a lot of preparation, from tools that you must choose to handle the differences in time zones and the beginning of workday of each developer. At the same time, you need facilitation skills to make virtual team meetings more effective and bridge the distance so the meetings feel real.

Foster trust through communication

Communication and trust are the two main pillars of remote team management. Here are our recommendations on creating open, shared, and honest communication for trust within your remote team.

Choose the right time tracking and online collaboration tools

There are plenty of time trackers, communication tools, collaboration tools on the market made for daily check-ins, but in your case, it’s important to choose those that are tailored specifically to the needs of virtual teams. Among some of the best tools for using from both home office and physical office can be the following: Slack, Dropbox, Zoom and others. Feel free to use our ultimate guide to time tracking tools that will 10x remote employee productivity and a list of online collaboration tools for remote team members.

Onboard your remote workers correctly

Yes, virtual employees also need onboarding, and the right onboarding process is often more important for them than for co-located employees who have an advantage – they can ask anyone for help at any time. For more information, see Onboarding a Remote Developer: Traps to Avoid and Tips for Success.

Virtual team management

Change management principles that will lead to success

Today’s fast-paced world no longer knows what stability is. Everything is constantly moving, evolving, and transforming. And businesses, especially startups, are the first to feel those constant changes.

Your remote company is probably a startup because the remote-first business model appeared not so long ago. So you may be aware of the dynamic, ever-changing work environment in which you have to survive and help your team to stay afloat as well.

In this section, we’re going to share the change management principles as an important aspect of managing global teams.

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Principle #1: Communicate the change

Do not assume that your remote employees understand the need for a transformation as clearly as you do.

In a co-located team, people can at least read the non-verbal signals or overhear the gossip. However, it is impossible in a remote workplace.

Of course, the change needs to be communicated to in-house employees, too, but this is a must for virtual team management.

So if a team works remotely across the world, it is crucial to overcommunicate via multiple channels.

In this section, we’re going to share the change management principles as an important aspect of managing global teams.

Principle #2: Organize training and Q&A sessions

It’s not a secret that you’ll be flooded with work-related questions from employees right after you announce the change. Even if you explain everything at the initial meeting, not everyone will get it straight away because of the frustration.

When companies switch from waterfall to agile, they invite specialists that educate the employees on the principles of agile.

Therefore, we recommend that you collect all of the questions and hold meetings dedicated to answering those questions.

Additionally, the change managers should develop a training program that will teach the employees the new principles resulting from the transformation.

Although your team is completely remote, you can organize an onsite event to bring everyone together and explain the core reasons for and principles of the coming change.

Principle #3: Have a plan B

When implementing the transformation, make sure to have an extra plan so that you can avoid any unexpected surprises. No change program goes completely according to plan.

Be proactive and prepared. The ‘change in the middle of change’ may always occur, and you never know when exactly.

People react in unexpected ways and may resist the transformation. Efficient change management implies ongoing re-evaluation of its impact and ability to adopt the next wave of transformation.

As a startup founder and/or remote team manager, you are probably used to being agile and flexible. That’s what you need for managing your teams efficiently, no matter what happens.

Principle #4: Hold 1 on 1 meetings

Speak to each team member individually so they know what to expect and how the change is going to impact their role and tasks.

Some transformations involve replacements and/or redundancy of certain roles.

Make sure that you provide each member of the global team with a structured plan and consider everyone’s concerns.

Of course, it is better not to lose any co-workers because of the change, but if it still happens, inform the relevant person beforehand and give them time to find a new job.

Principle #5: Start with yourself

Your task as a team leader is to test the change yourself first and show how it works on your own example.

If your employees trust you, then they’ll be less reluctant to accept ANY transformation.

Moreover, they’ll know that everyone is equally subject to the change, not only the subordinates that need to adapt to the transformation and thus make the boss feel better.

Principle #6: Verbalize the formal reason for a change

Formally expressing the need for a transformation supported by a written statement is a great way to align the change goals with everyone.

This is where the principle of commitment and consistency comes into action – after you articulate the need for a change, you will remain consistent when implementing it.

You can break the process into several stages. First, verbalize a convincing need for the transformation. Second, motivate the employees and emphasize that you as a team can do it. Finally, provide a detailed plan together with the instructions on how to implement it.

Principle #7: Allocate responsibilities

When managing the change in virtual teams, it is important to create ownership for team members.

Those who are involved in the transformation should accept responsibility for implementation of the change in their area of control.

Ownership is often best created by involving people in the process and rewarding them for such participation. As a result, the sense of ownership, involvement, and affiliation will make the employees more interested in the transformations that happen.

Principle #8: Thank your employees

Do not forget to reward your team members for their understanding and commitment to the change.

Make your employees feel like they’re a part of a new and exciting process.

The sense of shared responsibility and commitment will make your remote company even more successful. After all, people are your most valuable asset.

Remote teamwork principles

Tips to boost the efficiency of communication among your virtual team members

Communication is essential for any team, but it must be excellent in a virtual team because it keeps such teams afloat.

It is crucial to increase the efficiency of communication between remote teammates while reducing the time that you spend on frustrating meetings, legacy tools, and endless emails.

In this section, we’ll educate you on how to efficiently manage calls and meetings.

It’s certainly easier to start a meeting when a team is co-located. All you have to do is schedule an appointment, and then everyone just stands up and goes to a meeting room.

Apps such as Twist consider the specifics of asynchronous communication that is common for virtual teams and are a must for a remote team manager’s toolbox. Some remote-first companies even build their own tools for asynchronous communication, such as Async by Zapier or P2 by Automattic.

Before the meeting, share the agenda with the participants and engage everyone on the call. Ask each team member to confirm that they are on the call. In such a way you will avoid any confusion when trying to speak to a person who’s actually not there. Besides, knowing who’s present and who’s not right at the beginning will save you a significant amount of time.

Make sure that the team complies with the etiquette of video calls/video conferencing, which is equal for both the co-located and distributed teams.

Here are some basics:

  • Appear at the meeting on time. Use the time zone management tools to make sure that you see the time converted to your local time zone.
  • Mute yourself while you are listening and not speaking.
  • To eliminate any background noises, use the headphones even if you are alone in the room.
  • Be sure to have good lighting so that the other team members can clearly see you.
  • Eliminate any distractions such as a smartphone, apps, and notifications to fully focus on the meeting.

The bottom line

Managing a global team is certainly a challenge because you don’t see these people in real life and thus have technical limitations.

However, with the proper knowledge and skills, you will learn how to lead a virtual team, influence them, manage the changes, and improve the efficiency of communication between the team members.

In addition, the technology market is now full of solutions designed specifically for remote teams, to make their lives easier when synchronizing across different time zones.

Now you have a better understanding of how to scale your team remotely and which tools to use to build the right culture in such teams. And always remember about work-life balance in your team.

We hope that our tips have helped you boost your efficiency as a virtual team manager and wish you success in this challenging journey. If you need to extent your remote dev team with quality engineers from Latin America or Eastern Europe, contact YouTeam, we can help!

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Written by
Polina Berkova

Head of Outbound Marketing at YouTeam, a Y Combinator-backed marketplace for building remote dev teams.

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