The 5 Secrets of Successful Remote Teams

by Mark Schacter on April 28, 2020 in General Business

You’ve probably heard the common leadership adage about hiring the right people. It usually goes something like, “I hire the best people for the job and then leave them to it.” In some ways, this statement makes a lot of sense. After all, hiring candidates with the skills you need is an important part of the team building process. However, creating a successful team takes more than just top talent.

As companies around the country continue to adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business and employees, creating and building successful teams has never been more important. With many organizations forced to close offices and move operations online, ensuring the success of teams working remotely is also crucial. Let’s explore the five secrets of successful remote teams and what you need to know to build successful remote teams for your business.

1. Develop a Game Plan

Whether your team is working remote or in person, the first step to building any great team is to lay out a plan. What is the end goal for the team and how are you going to get there together? Start by determining your top two or three priorities. This doesn’t mean coming up with a long list of to-dos or moonshot ideas. Those are for another time.

Next, decide how your team will measure progress on these priorities. What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that need to be monitored to ensure you’re on track? A clear understanding of the priorities and a shared system of measurement ensures everyone on the team is aligned in their efforts. A game plan also empowers team members to make their own decisions because they know what the end goal is and how their efforts will be measured and evaluated.

Last, repeat the plan and remind your team of the priorities whenever possible. This might feel like you’re overdoing it, but people often need to hear things multiple times before they internalize the message. When you have repeated the game plan so many times it becomes an inside joke with your team, you’ll know you are getting the point across.

2. Create Culture Remotely

When you bring together a group of people to form a remote team, it is important to consider the cultural behaviors and expectations that will guide the teams’ work. Think of these as the rules of the road. In order to set your team up for success, you’ll need some guidelines and norms that everyone can be expected to follow. What hours will team members need to be available? How will the team deal with challenges when they arise? And what about internal and external communications?

Start by choosing some specific values and behaviors that your team can agree on and be sure to stick to them. If one of your team principles is accountability and a team member is consistently unavailable and not getting work done on time, you’ll need to address the behavior and work toward a resolution. Nothing undermines team unity quicker than a culture that isn’t following its stated values and expectations.

Of course, culture is not just the values and behaviors that guide a team. It’s also about the environment you create for your team members. With co-located teams, it is easier to build and reinforce a company’s culture through in-person events like team lunches, team building activities, and company happy hours.

With remote teams, however, building a great work environment takes a little more effort. Luckily, there are lots of helpful tools that allow for collaboration and team building remotely. From communication platforms like Slack to video conferencing services like Zoom and Teams, there are ways to create strong connections with colleagues and still do fun activities together while working remotely.

3. Success Starts at the Top

Have you ever worked for a bad boss? Perhaps they micro-managed your day-to-day tasks or they failed to listen to important feedback. Maybe they took credit for your work or set team members against each other, pointing fingers and placing blame when things did not go as planned. How did this experience make you feel? I’m guessing you probably didn’t bring your best self to work in these circumstances. With poor leadership, teamwork falls apart and the innovation and creativity needed to succeed tend to be in short supply.

That’s why, in order to build a successful remote team, the right team leader is crucial. It is up to them to set the tone, model behavior that the team should follow, and ensure the cultural values you worked hard to establish are implemented and respected. While a great game plan and team culture are important, they can easily be undermined by poor leadership and a lack of respect, so select your team leader(s) carefully.

4. Accountability is Key

Teams are most successful when each person on the team does the work expected of them at the highest level possible. You hired top talent with specific skills and experience for a reason, so it’s important to give them the space to do their work. However, accountability is also essential. Are your team members completing their work as promised? If a teammate said they would have the code complete for the new app your team is developing, did they complete the task on time?

Brett Wilson, CEO of video advertising company TubeMogul, calls this the “do-to-say ratio”. As he explains, it’s important to have people who do what they say they will. Not only are teams with high do-to-say ratios more efficient, they also require less management and communication improves. When teams are working remotely, accountability becomes especially crucial. Find a method of measuring accountability that works for your team and hold everyone, even team leadership, to the same standards.

5. Keep Up with Communication

The last secret to creating successful remote teams is not much of a secret. However, establishing effective communication is perhaps the most important part of building a great remote team. In an office, it’s easy for an employee to walk over to a colleague’s workstation for a quick chat. However, these sorts of fluid, work-related conversations are not possible in remote teams. Luckily, there are lots of digital tools available that allow for quick, convenient communication between remote team members. Still, the lack of face-to-face communication (where body language and tone can also be considered) can lead to more misinterpretations and problems between team members.

That’s why keeping up with communication is so important to the success of remote teams. To ensure your team is on the same page and important tasks and assignments are communicated clearly, it might be helpful to schedule a regular video check-in. Video calls help team members feel more connected and allows everyone to communicate and engage on a deeper level.

Building Your Remote Team

There’s no one way to build a successful remote team, but these applying these secrets can help your remote team become more productive. Are you searching for talent to start building your remote team? Looking for top talent ready to work remotely during this pandemic? EdgeLink can help! Reach out to us today to get started.


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