The Odd Truth About Remote Teams

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)