Conquering “The Fear”: 5 pointers for stress-free management of remote teams

Conquering “The Fear”: 5 pointers for stress-free management of remote teams

Nov 15, 10 • In Basics, Practices

Managing a dispersed team for the first time can be pretty scary. How will you know if everyone is doing their jobs and staying on schedule? Here are some tips that will have you breathing easy again.

Here’s the situation: you’re leading a dispersed team for the first time. ¬†You’ve had a kickoff meetup so that everyone could meet face to face. You’ve assembled your collaboration tools. You’ve scheduled daily standup meeting at a time when everyone is available.

But now the project has started, and you’re starting to get anxious. What is everyone doing right now? Are they working? Do they really understand their tasks? Are they on schedule? Are they being distracted by their families?

Don’t look now, but you’ve got The Fear. It’s a creeping anxiety that affects many managers who have or are considering building a distributed team. It’s that sense of loss of control as you realize you can no longer check up on your team members any time you want.

Relax, it’s OK. You’re not the first person to get The Fear. And there are antidotes that will get you back to feeling confident and in command. Here are some tips for beating back The Fear.

  • First of all, know that you’re not alone. Managing a dispersed team can feel like treading unexplored territory. But in truth, partially and fully distributed organizations are everywhere, getting work done and meeting their commitments. If you needsome encouragement, you don’t need to go any further than the Wide Teams podcast to hear story after story of successful dispersed teams.
  • Embrace a results-oriented work environment (ROWE, for short). Remember, at the end of the day, it’s not about how many “butts in seats” you have. It’s about what you get done. So let go of your concerns about what your team members are doing at any given moment, and instead turn your attention to setting concrete, SMART goals.
  • Anyone who has worked with children knows that one of the best ways to teach desirable behavior is to model it yourself. If you want to get more visibility into your remote workers’ status, start by modeling transparency yourself. Use your team’s presence tool to post updates about what you are doing – even when you are goofing off! If your team members get used to seeing you post updates like “Checking Facebook” or “Time for a little Halo” they’ll be a lot more comfortable giving you a window into their daily routine.
  • There’s a simple secret to getting a status update without seeming like you are nagging: instead of asking “when will you be done?” ask “how can I help you?“. This makes you a collaborator instead of an interrogator, and can often defuse any potential defensiveness before it starts. Just be sure that you are ready to follow through on your offer of help!
  • Remember that face time is all important. Teams “drift” apart the longer they go without seeing each other face-to-face. Make a point of scheduling regular video chat with each of your team members. And make sure the whole group gets together in once place at least a few times a year.

What about you? How do you deal with The Fear and build up trust in your dispersed team?

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One Response to Conquering “The Fear”: 5 pointers for stress-free management of remote teams

  1. Sunni says:

    Biggest issue for me as a company head looking at migrating to a virtual company is how to deal with “billable/nonbillable” hours data posting, collection and ensuring accuracy. Some of our work is billed by the hour; other projects are billed at a set fee but I still need to know the billable hours associated with the project. My fear — accuracy, truth-in-reporting. My need: best tools for a virtual team. I know trust is paramount but the truth is that we all have this human side and differences in values. Thoughts?

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