5 Tips to Effectively Manage a Geographically Distant Team
Being part of a remote staff can be very challenging. Apart from the geographical distance, the cultural differences among team members from different countries (or even continents) can be hard to cross. Because of this, virtual assistants require an extra set of skills to bridge the gap.
In a remote staffing set-up, virtual assistant companies are expected to have team leaders with superior administrative skills to keep up not just with the time difference but also with the cultural imbalance. Managers of such a team are expected to have superb leadership standards to ensure that each member of the team is working seamlessly with the others.
In many cases, workers should be with each other physically to be able to work effectively as a group. Despite having face-to-face interactions, however, many teams in this work setting still have disputes, disagreements, different opinions or different visions. How much more if team members are thousand miles apart?
Managing a remote staff is a huge challenge even for the most experienced bosses. Questions like, “how can I feel that my work is appreciated,” “how can I ensure that I’m being treated fairly,” or “how can I feel like I’m part of a team rather than a spectator” will definitely crop up.
To assist you, here are five tips that can help you effectively manage geographically distant team members.
Choose people who best fit the job.
You have applicants from all over the world to choose from. You can get the best of the best, so you might as well maximize this opportunity.
It can be laborious at first if you screen every possible candidate so thoroughly to know who the best fit for the job is, but it will be worth it in the long run. Having people who fit in with the team perfectly will save you time spent in re-hiring over and over again instead of focusing on team rapport right away.
Establish a strong communication strategy.
Having members from different time zones means that other members are required to adjust more than the others with regards to day and night schedules.
You should be able to work around each other’s schedule and develop a systematic mode of communication that works for all of you. When you have set up a distinct working schedule, have the diligence to follow it through.
Maximize the various tools and ways of communication available, and agree on what tools or services you are going to use.
Give attention to team dynamics.
Establishing good team dynamics is a huge hurdle. Without cues from your team members’ body language, facial expressions, and intonation, there are more chances of miscommunication. But there are signs that let you know if a team member is unhappy with the team or with their job such as reduced e-mails, reluctance to participate in video conferences or avoidance of calls.
Be aware of these things so that you can apply preventive measures before disinterested or dissatisfied members cause conflicts within the team.
Give rewards and feedback.
Stay in contact with every member, monitor their work progress and be available when they expect you to be present virtually in case they need help.
Giving feedback is important especially in teams where members are distant. This will show the members of your team that their efforts are being noticed. Feedback helps raise the morale of the team as well and encourage the members to work harder. Just make sure to be consistent and fair with your feedback to your entire team.
Giving out rewards is also a good way to encourage members of your team to be more productive and inspired. An elaborate incentive program should be transparent to all team members to assure fairness and equality.
Promote team bonding.
Making a group chat, a forum or a Facebook group where team members can share and discuss out-of-work matters can also help develop team culture. You can also use video-conferencing to see each other virtually. This will also help other members avoid feelings of isolation. When they have the opportunity to talk to their teammates and get to know each other, they’ll definitely be more comfortable being part of your team.
A word of caution though, in this informal type of conversation, team members should be aware of language barriers and the cultures of other members to prevent fights from breaking out.