Last week in article So you’ve got a remote team. Tricky… part I. I outlined some of the questions you should be asking yourself when managing remote teams. At the end I identified three areas of focus: mindset, communication and processes. Let us now focus on what I call the proper mindset when managing remotely. I will share with you some of the ideas I always found helpful. As with any other advice it is up to you to consider whether they are something that might work for your situation and that you want to use.
Analyze any issues – to understand what went wrong, why and how to prevent it in the future. This doesn’t mean looking for someone to blame but to learn from past mistakes. Always start with you and find out what you can do differently and how you should change your approach before you start asking the remote team to change theirs.
Find a local mentor – who can help you understand the team, culture, customs, who will be able to provide you feedback and give you insider perspective on how the team works. You should be pretty open about this with the rest of the team so they don’t feel like there is a spy in their midst. In fact they may use this person to give you feedback that they are not comfortable giving you by themselves.
Utilize the strengths – of the team you’ve got. There might be some cultural aspects, habits and ways of working that you may use to your advantage rather than try to change it by force. Some cultures hate uncertainty and prefer to have rules and guidelines for everything, while other cultures hate following rules and prefer to have more freedom in the way how to approach a problem. So use these differences.
Understand – that in some cultures (in fact in most cultures in Europe and Asia) it is your responsibility as a manager to recognize the good job of the team and act accordingly (with promotions, adding more responsibilities, etc.). In other cultures it is more common for a person to step up and promote himself. Always keep in mind that there is no right or wrong approach, they are just different and you as a manager must adapt.
Make a conscious effort – to understand the local culture, understand the history, the present, ask your remote team about their culture but don’t try to act like you already know everything and refrain from sliding back to cultural stereotypes and misconceptions.
Don’t assume anything – especially that people are always open with you. Realize that trust does not come automatically with the title and it needs to be earned. At the same time be aware that in some cultures the title will build a wall between you and your team and your ability to get negative feedback is very limited.
Be willing to change – working habits and always try to see things from the other person’s perspective. For example, “Would I be willing to do this if I were in his or her shoes?” “How would I feel if my boss who is 10 hours away asked me to stay till midnight on Friday to have a meeting?” At the same time don’t assume you are able to predict how the other person feels or would act.
Give your remote team meaningful work – and a real responsibility otherwise they will never build a sense of ownership and they will never give you their best performance. This is a key to really successful global organization. Your willingness to relinquish some of the control and empower the remote team is the best thing you can do.
Don’t allow – the local or remote team to get into habit of “us & them” thinking. The moment this starts happening you are on your way to failure as it will gradually build a big gap between the teams and the trust and performance will deteriorate fast.
Don’t be a bottle neck – especially when the remote team works your off hours. Make sure there is someone in the remote team who has the knowledge, ability and authority to make decisions and move things forward while you sleep.
Make it a point – that you hire the same quality of people regardless of the location. They need to get the same level of attention, responsibilities and opportunities to grow. The moment you start giving preferential treatment to the team in your location the whole concept breaks down and you won’t be able to build a high-performing global organization.
These were just thoughts on the mindset you need to build in yourself and your local team. Next week I will focus on the other two aspects of building a global organization and that is communication and global processes. Both of these are building on the premise that you have the right mindset and willingness to give it an extra effort to create a success as a global organization.
Twitter type summary: “Give your remote team meaningful work and real responsibility to build the sense of ownership and to get the best performance.”
What are the other practices that help you manage remote teams? What mindset do you have or do you set in your team?