Bringing your team together can be a struggle from a distance. It’s a challenge for even experienced team leaders & product owners. From our experience, we have collected 7+3 points which will help you manage and bring your remote team together.
Team. It’s important. Why?
Imagine you want to go far away by car. You make plans. The next day, you’ll be in another country. You jump in, turn the engine on. But you haven’t got a single clue how the car works. You don’t know you need to fill your gas tank with petrol.
Do you think that you’ll have a pleasant journey?
Do you think that you’ll reach your goal?
As a product owner, you have a team. Your goal is to get an awesome product. For that, you need to lead your team. But how can you lead your people if you don’t know who they are?
You don’t have to be a psychologist to lead your remote team to reach its goal. Nor does a driver have to be a car mechanic to drive to another country. It’s not about that. But you have to understand some key things, and how your stuff (in your PO case, people) work.
To get on with your car you need to know if it works with diesel or gasoline. If you want your people to be productive, you must know what motivates & frustrates them.
So, we have collected a few learnings, which will help you find your way to your people.
7 tips to manage your remote team
1. Always over communicate – especially when in doubt
After 2 weeks of remote working, you’ll see: It’s all about communication. You’ll need to double your efforts, period. Before the project starts, while it’s running and after the project is finished.
I’ve never heard that a proposal was over communicated and that it caused a problem. However, a poorly shared vision is more likely to cause frustration & confusion. Just what you want to avoid, right?
Visions, tasks, details, stakeholders, responsibilities, vacations… They have the same rule: Double check if everyone gets it! Use multiple channels to communicate. Team & one-on-one discussions are essential before a new project starts. When sharing an idea with your team, ask questions! Give them examples. Make it 120% sure that they get what you mean. Encourage them to reach out to you in-person when in doubt. If you have the chance, talk with them in-person, then do it.
To sum it up:
- Use written messages, like “public” emails (to the whole team & organization)
- Give a presentation of the new project
- Organize open team discussions
- And organize one-on-one discussions with team members
Tip*: In our previous post overcoming Remote work challenges we wrote about how you can collaborate with your team.
2. Feedback. Feedback. Feedback.
We are all addicted to feedback. Many of us don’t dare to ask for it. (Be honest, most of us.)
Truth is, it’s important both for you and for your team. You must give them feedback so that they can improve themselves. And Vica Versa, you’ll learn from their feedback too. Feedback will be your no.1 coach. 😉
But you don’t dare to ask for it. Your fear of vulnerability.
In order to release this tension and embarrassment, set up feedback sessions. Built-in feedback rounds after every sprint.
These dedicated feedback sessions will help your team be organized. You can take a lot of tension off their shoulders. If there’s tension, they know that they’ll have the chance to discuss it. This way they’ll able to move on, and focus on their task.
Tip*: Retrospectives after every sprint.One of the best method is the “Start, Stop, Continue”. With this, you’ll:
- Give them positive & negative feedback at one go
- Show your employees/peers the direction how to improve themselves
- Get feedback of your work as well
It’s a win-win situation.
3. Be prepared for timezone chaos
Distance will cause at least 2 serious challenges: timezones & culture. This is the devil in the details.
Timezones will mean a headache when you want to arrange a meeting. (That’s why email will be your main communication channel, btw.)
- Make dedicated repetitive meetings at the beginning, such as fixed time weekly meetings, demos, etc.
- Manage a public doc in relation to people’s timezones and availabilities.
4. Embrace cultural differences
While timezone difference is an administrative problem, cultural differences are far bigger. You may think you don’t have to face it cause your employees are from neighboring countries. But that’s not true.
Even if you have employees from next-door countries, you’ll face conflicts originating from cultural differences. People from different countries have different mentalities.
No matter how well-skilled you are, conflicts will arise. Embrace yourself! You can solve it by:
- Acknowledging it. The worst thing what you can do is pretend that there is no problem.
- Talking about publicly. Don’t let cultural differences become a taboo subject.
- Being proud & making others proud of the differences. Make everyone feel accepted and valued by talking about weaknesses & strengths.
- Using feedback sessions.
5. Be Transparent & Open – about yourself & conflicts
Honesty is one of the greatest weapons to conquer tension, conflicts & misunderstandings. This is huge. You cannot beat the truth. With dishonesty comes chaos.
When you are faced with some dirt, don’t push it under the carpet. Trust me, people will know when you want to hide something. This will only lead to 1 thing: lack of trust.
And you want the opposite thing, don’t you?
Want trust from your employees, team members? Show yourself & your mistakes.
- Act in time! When you have a hunch that you made a mistake, talk about it as soon as possible.
6. Humility, Responsibility, Trust – Your conflict killers
As Brian Fitzpatrick – team leader at Google- says:
“Almost all social conflict can be lead back to one of these ( humility, responsibility, trust) missing.”
In his book, “Debugging team ” Fitzpatrick talks about how to implement these 3 elements into your culture.
When you want to talk with your team, encompass yourself with these 3 things. Don’t miss them. They’ll save your relationship with your employees.
7. If you want organized people, organize yourself first – Be prepared for meetings!
Never ever start a meeting without a schedule & goal. Prepare yourself & your team!
A schedule, facilitator, specified questions and a wished outcome/result is what meetings are all about.
At UX studio we work in 1-week sprints. At the end of each week, we give a presentation of what we had done, and what we’ll do in next sprint. We send this presentation out to our team 1 day before our meeting. This way our stakeholder will know exactly what to expect.
Remote PO booster
Still, struggling to handle your team? Want to learn how to deal with people? There are many methods & materials on how you can learn essential soft skills. Let me share only 3 extra tips with you:
1. Assertive communication
Assertive communication is all about going for a win-win situation for both parties. By being assertive, you’ll able to make yourself understood with your team.
2. Different communication styles
We’re all different. There is no personality test, which could tell you who you really are. But there are patterns & best practices.
The “four communication style” is basic, yet an easy theory of communication. It’ll help you how to communicate with your team members. Take the short test here.
3. EQ & Social Intelligence
IQ is important, but when it’s about people, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more appropriate. Luckily your EQ can be improved by learning. On his blog TalentSmart, Dr.Travis’ blog post will give you easy & practical pieces of advice on learning EQ.
What do you think of it? What have you learned about managing your remote team?