When it comes to managing a distributed team, you can use all the tips you can get. A heaping helping of Skype only takes you so far, after all. In an article for the Digital Project Manager, Patrice Embry shares some strategies.
The Long-Distance Human Touch
One of Embry’s go-to strategies is good old “bribing.” She will find candy (or the equivalent) local to the area of the team member and have it delivered to that person as a surprise. She also makes sure to find out in advance what treats individual people enjoy. The ultimate effect is that people work harder for the person who is always bringing them surprise delights.
In order to create a team atmosphere, you can start a project on the right foot by having each team member introduce him or herself over the phone or computer. If that is not possible, you can include pertinent details of all team members in your kickoff agenda, and add in some extra “fun” details as well to humanize them. In the long run, anything you can do to get your team excited about the work and each other is a good thing.
In order to have important conversations with people that do not feel robotic or too rigid, Embry recommends trying this:
As a remote project manager, I usually start out by saying hello, and asking how their day is. I then ask if it’s an okay time for a short question, which would probably take about 10 minutes to discuss. (Always include a target amount of time you think you need from them, because then they can really answer honestly about if they have time.) I’ll end the conversation by asking a quick question about their personal life, like “hey, how did your daughter’s game go the other day?” It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out conversation, but you have to continue to remind everyone that we’re all people, and not just computers responding via IM.
It might further help communication to learn a bit about the places from which other people are working. For instance, if some colleagues speak English as a second language (albeit fluently), they would probably appreciate if you made an ever so basic effort to pick up a few words from their first language. It is an act of good faith at least.
For more tips, you can view the original article here: http://www.thedigitalprojectmanager.com/remote-project-management-strategies/