Project Management

Critical Advice for Working with Remote Teams

Working remotely is rapidly becoming the norm for a multitude of organizations. Without the limitation of geographic location, people are able to hire the best workers at the best price from anywhere around the globe. In a post at her blog, project leadership coach Susanne Madsen explores ways to improve the working relationship with remote employees.

E pluribus unum

It is no secret that the best form of communication is face-to-face. When two people converse in person, there is less room for misunderstandings because any confusion can be cleared up on the spot. In a study conducted by Sandy Pentland from MIT, it was discovered that the best indicator of performance is the team’s communication patterns. High-performing teams communicate face-to-face, and the conversations are energetic. Phone and videoconference are the next best forms of communication. The least valuable forms of communication are email and texting. This study reveals that organizations need to make more efforts to communicate with remote teams because of the lack of face-to-face time they can feasibly have.

It is important to encourage teams to continuously communicate with one another outside of the conference room. One simple way Madsen encouraged this in the past was by creating a PowerPoint. Each slide had a team member’s face on it and a concise description about them. This simple project created excitement and a better sense of camaraderie for the employees working across different countries.

Paul Chapman, an experienced program director in financial services, suggests making an effort to visit the employee in person. This may be difficult geographically, but it goes a long way in building the relationship and understanding expectations. Additionally, it may help to pinpoint a local leader to help solidify a relationship with this particular employee.

Peter Taylor, the “Lazy Project Manager” and head of a global PMO, warns that there can be more power struggles in a virtual team. He suggests addressing this directly and working with the team to meet and converse face-to-face. And after the team is up and running, take turns making team calls. Allowing for the team members to lead on calls once in a while keeps their interest and investment in the project alive.

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