The Odd Truth About Remote Teams

by  Karin Hurt  |  Leadership Development

When it comes to remote teams, absence can make results stronger.  Managed well, remote teams will outperform your co-located groups.

My Remote Team Story

I have been working in long distance leadership situations for almost 2 decades.  I have led many highly dispersed teams.  For most of my career I have not worked in the same state as my boss.

In fact, in my current role, I am leading my most remote team ever.  I am leading a team dispersed across the country in over 20 states and every time zone.  It’s tricky.  I spend much time on airplanes, and I am never “there” as much as I would like. And, this is one of my most engaged teams ever. They are on fire with results, are passionate about the work, and care deeply about one another.

Remote teams are often more engaged and productive than those sitting together

Why Remote Teams Work

Remote teams have to work harder at connection, so appreciate it more.  They aren’t around enough to drive each other crazy, and work harder to learn about and leverage one another’s strengths. Sure, they could just disappear into their silos, led well they’ll use their isolation to energize their connection.

In well-led remote teams…

  • Every interaction counts, people plan more for the time they have
  • Both the leader and the team make extra effort to show up strong
  • Teams and team members gain more confidence in self-direction
  • Teams feel more encouraged to take risks
  • It’s easier to be creative when no one is looking over your shoulder
  • When teams are together they work hard to create relationships, and are deliberate about maintaining them across distances
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder– remote teams call on one another when needed, and have quality interaction
  • They make better use of tools and technology
  • They listen more closely because they are not distracted with the daily noise

Behaviors that Support Long Distance Leadership

If you’re leading a remote team, follow these guidelines:

  • Select a fantastic team, carefully… with a track record of self-direction
  • Have a dramatic vision and crystal-clear goals
  • Communicate that vision and goals loudly in every medium you have available
  • Celebrate success loudly and frequently
  • Show up face to face, more than is practical
  • Be deliberate in helping the team to know you as a human being– distance can be scary, it helps if the team can see you as a real person
  • Be silly and fun… remote teams need to laugh and know it is okay to have fun
  • Have a scheduled check-in pattern so no one gets left out
  • Get really good at situational leadership– understand who needs what and give it to them
  • Admit mistakes… it helps to encourage risk-taking and creativity

Are you a Long Distance Leader?   What have you found works best in managing remote teams?

See Also:  Face Time or Face Time
November Frontline Festival (showcasing many lead changers)

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By karin-hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant and MBA professor. She’s a former Verizon Wireless executive with 2 decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. She was recently recognized on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Speakers for your next conference, AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and Trust Across America’s 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

josh  |  18 Nov 2013  |  Reply

I think the willingness to be a “real person” goes a lot farther than most people realize.

Karin Hurt  |  18 Nov 2013  |  Reply

Josh, me too.

Kalie Gladwin  |  22 Nov 2013  |  Reply

I’ve been leading a remote team for the past 2.5 years, and you’ve articulated the experience beautifully. I love that you’ve highlighted the benefits of remote teams. I’ve found this to be the most challenging and the most rewarding management/leadership role of my career. Thanks for this post; it’s reminded me about the ‘why I do’ behind the ‘what I do’ :) .

Andrea Francis  |  26 Nov 2013  |  Reply

“More confidence in self-direction” – that is a great lesson to be learned, and one everyone on my team can do. We are one of many international startups that began as a remote team – from Hong Kong to Paris to Amsterdam to London – and we built a tool around the lessons learned from that. Technology empowers us to work from almost anywhere, and at any time. Whose life fits into 9 – 5, Monday to Friday, anyway? Very few. Do you have a preferred tool or set of tools that you use? Would you consider a teamwork tool like Twoodo for getting things done easier? We’d love your feedback if you have the time to check us out!

Join The Conversation