Last time I made the case that it is important to spend time working directly with your team, no matter the difference in roles. The question that remains is how to go about creating a co-working experience that improves your ability to manage your remote team member. The key features of this interaction are that you have to maintain communication the whole time, you have to be working on the same task or project in a way that you can see each other’s work, and you have to have the same goals and objectives. Here are some thoughts on how to make that happen.
– Communication. Engage with them as if you were in the same room. Keep an active Skype call (or a call through your provider of choice), preferably with video, open the whole time. Many tasks will have a monotonous aspect to them, and in a real-world scenario, this is when production workers get to know each other best through idle chit chat as their actions go on autopilot. In order for the work session to feel real, you have to be able to have truly real-time conversation, whether it is about the task at hand, or water-cooler talk. There isn’t a required volume or amount of conversation. The fact the line is open and that if something is said, it is said in front of everyone is what is important. It goes without saying that muting should not be allowed on either side, and all conversation should be in a mutually understood language.
– See each other’s work by sharing a work space. Google docs is great for this, if you are working on something text-based. Again the key is real-time access to each other’s progress. Miss this, and you won’t get to the level of joint effort needed. It is too easy for you to get distracted by interruptions, and too easy for your remote worker to assume that you are feigning involvement rather than being really committed to the experience.
– Share a goal or objective. Think of the last sporting event you attended where something exciting happened. A goal was scored, a winning shot made, or a fantastic defensive play brought the crowd to their feet. Now think of when you tried to explain that to someone who wasn’t there. No matter how hard you try you can’t convey the same feeling you had while you were there. This is the same principle. Live the moment together, and you will have a team that can pull together when needed. If you want to really build a relationship of team-work and trust, set an objective at the beginning of your meeting and stay and work to that objective, no matter how long it takes. Obviously, you should set your target to be realistic to the time you have available, but it is important to share in a goal, and to share in the success of reaching a goal, with your team in real time.
I hope these ideas will benefit you in your interactions with your remote teams moving into the future. Feel free to contact me with any questions or counterpoints to what we have been discussing.