When working with a team sitting remote, things stay the same, and at the same time nothing is as it used to be!

You need to build trust – however – your window of opportunity has narrowed down from “all day long” to different touch points throughout the day and week. So how do you become a visible and trustworthy manager towards your remote team?

Communication

Communication is a difficult skill, and when you’re not face-to-face with the person you wish to communicate with – it is not an easy task.  So it is important that you create space for both informal and formal communication with your team.

Misunderstandings and misreading’s are also more likely to occur when communicating over distance. Remember to communicate explicitly – no matter if it is the vision of the project, the roles in the organization or feedback on the daily tasks you are discussing.

The feeling of “not knowing” and “silence” can also arise faster when sitting remote – so embrace communication and sharing. You simply cannot overdo it!

One way of increasing communication is by working accordingly to Scrum or other agile frameworks. It gives you frequent and well defined touch points, where you can share knowledge and build trust towards one another at the same time as you are leading the project forward.

For some people, it can be a hurdle to overcome using video calls instead of just chatting or calling. Video is the closest you get to face-to-face communication, so make an effort out of making it a norm.

And remember that just as well as you can ask a colleague to go for a coffee the same can be done with a remote colleague, and you’ll be amazed of how much sharing is done though an informal cup of cyber coffee.

Social Capital and Trust

You can collaborate without trust, however you can only collaborate efficiently with trust. Building trust with your remote team is done the same way as you would do in-house, by living up to your promises and walking the talk. You should just remember that your window of opportunity is limited compared to your in-house team. So be attentive to your opportunities and use them well.

Ensure you visit your team, and that you invite them to visit you. The more time you spent together both at work, and outside – the better. When spending time together, you might discover that you support the same football team, or that both of you have daughters who practice ballet. Once you get a closer personal relationship, you will find it much easier to overcome challenges in your work relation. This is your social capital – and it moves you from expecting the worst, to expecting the best of the person.

Culture

Culture is and will always be a parameter – and if your remote team is coming from a different cultural context than your in-house team – you need to ensure that both sides are prepared for working cross cultural. Make sure that they are aware of each other’s peculiarities and even more important, aware of how you work in a cultural intelligent way. By choosing this approach, you can bring the different cultures into play as an advantage in your team.

You also play a significant role in bridging the remote and the in-house team and their cultures, so that you create one team culture. Naturally, there is physical distance, however, through your actions you can bridge the teams and remove the feeling of “them and us”. For example, if you use Scrum as your methodology, make sure that you run planning, demos and retrospectives jointly across locations, and also that you from time to time place yourself on “the other side”. Ensure to plan one of your visits to your remote team according to your processes. This way you can be with your remote team during for example a retrospective, a planning session or other project milestones.

Remember that unless you keep the door open for your team, their view will be like looking through elevator doors sliding apart from time to time. 

Line Milthers
Om Line Milthers

VP Global Delivery, Conscensia, lim@conscensia.com