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Published on August 19, 2021

How To Lead And Manage a Remote Team

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How To Lead And Manage a Remote Team

Leaders of today have their work cut out for them. The corporate landscape of the 21st century demands resilience in their pursuit of excellence but also patience with their decisions. Modern-day business leaders need to embrace the freedom of individuality while balancing company initiatives and accomplishing key objectives. And most of all, they must be flexible in their ability to lead and manage a remote team.

Remote work is no longer a potential option or wishful thinking for busy parents, as COVID-19 has completely changed the landscape of the modern-day workplace as we know it.

In 2020, Growmotely conducted a survey and found that 74% of respondents expected working from home to become a standard in the business world.[1] Although inevitably, there will be companies that mandate their employees back into the workplace once the pandemic is over, it’s safe to say that the corporate world will never be the same ever again.

Keeping this in mind, company leaders must ask: how can we lead and manage a remote team? Is it possible? And more importantly, is it worth it?

While there may be multiple correct answers to these questions, we need to place these questions into context to establish some foundational skills and communication lines to truly maximize our chances of actually surviving a permanent work-from-home culture. Regardless of your preference on whether or not working from home makes sense, some people will be left in the dust if they don’t adapt to the new demands placed on their plate.

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True leaders evolve with their problems to stay ahead with innovative solutions, which is why future leaders will focus on prioritizing people over their individual preferences. Here are five tips on how to effectively lead and manage a remote team.

1. Focus on the “What,” Not the “How”

Managing a remote team shouldn’t equate to adult babysitting, yet this is how most leaders feel about it. Yes, people will do what they want while at home, but that doesn’t mean they’re constantly taking naps or playing video games.

We all function at different rates, hours, and times throughout the day, so allowing your employees to do the same may increase their work output while improving their quality of life. Interestingly enough, Stanford published a study documenting a 13% increase in workplace productivity while working from home, which also yielded greater satisfaction at work and a nearly 50% decrease in attrition rates.[2]

For the early risers, this may mean allowing them to start their day early and end their day early. For the late adopters, it may mean that their workday may take them into the later hours of the evening. And to be honest, it shouldn’t matter what time someone is on the clock, as long as they get their work done and meet their deadlines. This is important because it allows individuals to choose their day, which can facilitate trust, have honest conversations about struggles, and provide people greater fulfillment with their work.

Most of all, focusing on the “what” is far more critical than the “how” for the company’s bottom line. At the end of the day, results are the only thing that matter. Ask yourself: do you really care how someone does their job as long as they get the job done?

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2. Ask for Feedback, Don’t Just Give It

Influential leaders don’t tell their employees how to solve problems; they ask them how to solve problems. Asking for feedback about a problem is how continuous innovation is created because it cultivates a problem-solving mindset by the entire company, not just the leadership team.

If the leadership team had all the answers to their problems, why would they need other employees working for them? A leader’s role is to state problems to facilitate innovative thinking and problem solving, especially if this problem solving isn’t a strength of the leader at hand.

In Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game, he discussed how great leaders are usually the last ones to speak on a topic or problem because they actively choose to hear a collective effort from their peers before taking a stab at solving it. They utilize their team and resources to come up with the best ideas, not those that come from the talking heads of the corporate ladder. In turn, these simple steps facilitate growth, innovation, and connectivity between team members and their peers.

Asking employees for their feedback makes them feel valued and a part of the team, significantly affecting team culture and morale. When people feel connected to a group, they’re willing to go above and beyond to show their loyalty. More importantly, their motivations become intrinsic instead of extrinsic, significantly changing their emotional buffer for stress, tension, and uncertainty.

Even if the feedback provided can’t be used or implemented, it is still essential to growth and development. And in many situations, leaders will be surprised by the brilliant answers posed to them once they work up enough courage to ask the questions and be vulnerable by stating they don’t have the answers.

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3. Be Vulnerable

On the surface, vulnerability may seem like a weakness, but it’s a sign of strength. Those willing to show their vulnerabilities will win over their peers and employees because they are not above everyone else. Humans are vulnerable beings, yet, in the workplace, vulnerability has been brushed under the rug due to the overwhelming toxicity that masculinity has placed our modern-day workplace into.

By showing your vulnerability, you become one of the tribe. You show others that it’s normal to express emotion and inherently set the tone to prioritize your peers’ mental and physical well-being. We all have good days and bad days, so celebrate the good days and be open about the struggles of the bad days. You will be surprised to see how people respond positively to your efforts.

Brene Brown is a renowned expert in leadership and vulnerability and has discovered just how powerful being vulnerable can be in a workplace. Through her research, she has found that men and women differ in their abilities to be vulnerable based on gender expectations and roles, which is why it is so difficult to make this transition in the office.[3]

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around this barrier. It takes intention and continuous practice to achieve greatness in any field of study, so prioritize vulnerability like the muscle. The more you use it, the easier it becomes to carry a heavy load.

4. Immediately Confront Conflict

Being away from the office can provide greater flexibility and comfort, but it can also allow petty issues to become significant problems down the road. If there are fewer touchpoints of contact between leaders and their team members, there may also be fewer opportunities to bring up conflicts and issues throughout the day. This is a slippery slope because minor problems quickly turn into big ones without much effort, causing a cascade of problems that may eventually lead to employee burnout or the failure of meeting deadlines.

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The classic “watercooler” discussions that happen throughout the office are still a factor in company culture online, as conversations and group text messages can become burdensome for company growth and team morale. Be sure to stay on top of these conversations to avoid any underlying pitfalls or employee conflicts that will inevitably happen.

5. Be Willing to Learn Everyday

Lastly, leaders of the future must be willing to unlearn, relearn, and breakthrough old thoughts with new information daily. In his blockbuster book, Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results, elite Silicon Valley consultant Barry O’Reilly discusses the cycle of how transformative leaders use this adaptive model to innovate new ways of improving business and thought processes continuously.

Highly effective leaders are constantly searching for new and innovative ideas. Yet, many go about it wrong, which can stifle ingenuity and creative thinking. By utilizing the unlearn, relearn, and breakthroughs, future leaders can vastly change how they innovate with their teams and provide the structural framework to change how they do business.

Final Thoughts

Leading and managing remote teams doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you are willing to put in the time, energy, and resources to be transparent with your problems and execute. It is your job to ensure the highest levels of trust with your team, which will take you and your people to the next level, providing fuel to the fire towards your future success.

When leaders lead with their hearts, they also create loyal followers and future leaders. Be willing to do what it takes to put your people first, even when they’re working from home in their PJs.

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More Remote Team Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Erik Reis

Peak-Performance Leadership Consultant

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

20 Essential Apps And Websites For Digital Nomads

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20 Essential Apps And Websites For Digital Nomads

Living a life of perpetual travel is pretty exciting – new destinations, new cultures and new incredible people to meet and hang out with! However, working on the road can get pretty hectic at times. As a digital nomad I have found myself in rather awkward situations a lot – from missed deadlines due to incorrect time zone conversion to a nearly missed plane when I forgot to print out my booking and confused the time (I did catch that plane though!).

Being your own boss is equally awesome and hellish. Juggling numerous tasks at once and getting things done super-fast with a terrible wi-fi connection requirea killer organizational skills and zen-like concentration. Try using the next 20 websites and apps to make your life as a digital nomad easier, less stressful and even more exciting!

1. Trello

Trello is your go-to website to stay organized and work super-efficiently on the road. It’s a free service that allows you to create numerous boards for your ongoing projects and plans. Tired of having numerous notes scattered around different apps and lengthy email threads with your clients or team? Just drag and drop them all to Trello, where you can easily collaborate, quickly exchange ideas and notes in the form of cards, leave comments and track the overall progress of the project. You can create numerous boards and organize them the way you like, upload files to each, set deadlines and notifications, plus easily share everything with one click.

My Trello contains two sets of boards – personal and business. I use the first to keep all my travel plans neat and make sure I won’t confuse the flight time or overstay my visa; the second to keep a visual account of my personal goals and various arrangements. The business board is where I have a list of ongoing projects composed into simple to-dos with their current statuses –  along with all the comments from my clients and a separate column for follow-ups.

Trello is an incredible free alternative to similar project management softwares I used before and it can be used for tackling any job – from house renovation to multi-stage marketing campaign! Also available as an app for iOS and Android devices to get updates on the go.

2. f.lux

As a digital nomad you often find yourself working late at night or early morning to keep up with your clients’ time zones. Love checking your email or reading a few articles from your iPad before going to bed? (I do!). Even if you don’t feel it yet, your eyes are seriously suffering from those habits and you can end up having troubles with sleeping as the blue light from your devices negatively impacts your sleeping patterns. Use f.lux – a handy software that will automatically adjust the color of your computer’s display to the time of day – warm at night and like sunlight during the day. F.lux allowed me to be more productive in the mornings and made it easier to slow down my activity in the evenings. As a digital nomad it is essential to stay refreshed as your income depends solely on your productivity. Besides, haven’t we escaped the cubicle to have a better work/life balance and more rest in the first place?

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3. Focus@Will

As we often find ourselves working at various places around the globe – from a crowded bus station to a jam-packed bar (the only place that has decent wi-fi in the area) – concentrating on your work gets extremely difficult. That’s where Focus@Will comes to rescue. The service offers a wide selection of white noise and simple tunes selected according to a neuroscience-based approach. It seems to work pretty great as I stayed way more concentrated on my work compared to the times when I just blasted my favorite tunes and murmured along. A 30-day free trial has a limited selection of tracks and will stop playing them in an hour (although it could be restarted immediately). The paid service will cost you around $10 for three months. Also available as a free app for iOS and Android devices.

4. Shopify

Let’s admit it, being a digital nomad and working solo gets challenging at times. There are days when you feel like a Renaissance man trying to tackle all things at once and getting expertise in numerous areas. That’s especially true when you are just about to launch your business website, blog or an online store. If you are a creative, you have only basic knowledge (if any) in CSS, HTML or integrated payment systems, so you spend endless hours figuring out how things work instead of doing what you are really good at and earning money.

Try Shopify – a service providing custom no-hassle ecommerce solutions. They offer everything from secure hosting and mobile-optimized websites to secure check-outs with some 70 payment getaways to choose from and assistance with running your online marketing campaign. The rates are incredibly affordable and start from just $29 per month for unlimited access to all their services and features or opt for a 14 day free trial to test them out first!

5. Rescue Time

Proper time management is another great struggle all digital workers face. How many times you have found yourself spending over 12 hours a day in front of your screen and not having all things done? Yeah, it happens to me quite in a while, so I’ve started using Rescue Time – to stay on top of my productivity while still having a normal work/life balance. Install it on your computer and all devices to have an accurate picture of how much time you spend doing certain activities or browsing certain sites (khm..cat videos on YouTube). At the end of each week you’ll receive an email with a fair statement on your (un)productivity.

Rescue Time enables you to give more accurate deadlines to your clients; create accurate hourly invoices as you know exactly how much time you’ve spent doing a certain task and adjusting your rates accordingly and eliminate random activity during your working hours. You can use Light Rescue Time version for free or opt for the premium plan at $6 per month.

6. Every Time Zone

As you probably work with people based anywhere from New Zealand to the West Coast keeping an eye on the deadline or updating them on your progress at 9 am each day may get tricky. Just as sending follow-ups, project proposals and invoices at the right time of the day. Every Time Zone is another great solution for keeping proper track of the time – your client’s time. Add all time zones you need, add your time in the marker at the top and see where this lands in everyone else’s day. No more crazy maths with figuring out when do you need to ring up Joe on Skype if he asked to do that at 11 am EST.

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7. XE Currency

How many currencies do you have in your wallet? My guess is more than two. As a digital nomad and perpetual traveler you have to keep track on the conversion rates and different currencies all the time. To make sure you are charging an equally fair price in USD/EU/GBP or any other currency out there use XE Currency. Get live conversion rates instantly or add up a list of your preferred and sync ahead of time to have instant offline access from any device. XE Currency is available as a web service, iOS, Android, Windows Phone apps and more.

8. Trail Wallet

My second essential money app for digital nomads is Trail Wallet (currently iOS only). It’s a beautifully crafted and easy-to-use app for tracking your expenses across multiple countries and currencies. You can organize your spendings by country or my month, set max daily budgets and add each dollar you’ve spent on the go. At the end of the month the app will tell you if you gone over your budget or where exactly did the cash flow. It’s perfect for analyzing the cost of living and working at different cities and countries, thus finding the optimal home-base for you when you get tired of being on the road and need to settle down for a while.

9. Xero

And to keep better track of your business-related expenses try Xero. Arguably, the best online bookkeeping and accounting service out there for all the non-accountants. It’s perfect for sending invoices, keeping track of the cash-flow and setting payment notifications on credit cards and recruiting payments. It neatly categorizes all your bank transactions and reconciles them with the transactions you have made in Xero to keep things even more simple. Available for numerous iOS and Android devices, so you can always have access to your data at no time.

10. Tripit

Tripit is one of the best travel planners out there! It’s free, fast and most importantly – works off-line. Just say no more to papers and lost emails. Forward all your booking confirmations – hotels, flights, car rental etc and let the app do all the magic for you by turning it into an easy-to-follow itinerary. You can set up notifications and get access to your data from any device without internet connection. Tripit reduced my frustration of arriving to the wrong terminal or roaming around the new city with my baggage as I haven’t written down the hotel address correctly. It’s a great app I seriously recommend using it to basically anyone who travels.

11. 1Password

Sharing sensitive data, especially passwords with your clients or team and keeping track of them can get challenging. That’s why I’ve started using 1Password – a super secure password-sharing service that allows you to create special vaults with a set of passwords to tools and services only accessible to the people you’ve shared it with. Available for numerous devices, the service gives you peace of mind when sharing anything sensitive via unprotected networks. Speaking of which…

12. Private Internet Access

Keep all your data and computer protected by opting for Private Internet Access. Often we need to make those last minute payments or credit card purchases and the only internet available is a suspicious unprotected network your device somehow found. By using an anonymous encrypted VPN and a private IP you can be 100% sure none of your payment data will be fished or passwords stolen.

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13. Workfrom

Find the best coffee shops and cafes in your area with this service. Workfrom has a great pool of venues in major US cities – New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle – and more destinations worldwide to be added soon! The service is free to join and you’ll get access to numerous cool spots with unbiased opinions of wi-fi connection and cappuccino quality from digital nomads just like you. Reviews also include price range, meals available, general atmosphere and noise range, along with some pro-tips on where to find sockets and which table is the most secluded. I have discovered some of my all time favorites this way like Mr Bean in Amsterdam.

14. Spotted by Locals

Another awesome service to discover good meals and thrilling events at your current base. Spotted by Locals is not that typical city guide with boring touristy routes, but an amazing resources with awesome recommendations from the locals on things to do and places to check out. After all, you’ve chosen a location independent lifestyle to explore the world more, not just spend hours tapping on the keywords in a different environment.

Currently, the website has numerous recommendations for all major European cities – Paris, Madrid, Vienna, Warsaw and many more, plus it gradually expands into North America with Boston, LA, Toronto and Montreal guides recently added. You can browse around the free categorized selection of activities at the website or pay$ 2.99 for a PDF guide with all tips and places neatly listed on the map. Or opt for iOS or Android app ($3.99 each) to gain offline access to one of the city guides along with a detailed map.

15. Jawbone UP

Now when you know where to go and what to see, here’s a handy app that will help you get unstuck from your laptop. Jawbone UP will gently nag you when it’s time to get up and unwind a bit. Install the app and connect it to all your hardware, than let the Up Activity Tracker (a lovely bracelet) analyze your sleeping and activity patterns to help you creating a better lifestyle. The app will monitor and analyze all your actions and suggest you a healthier schedule, help you sleep better and keep up with the exercise routine (which gets erratic when you are on the move). Why do we need more time if we don’t spend it wise, right? The app is free for iOS and Android, however you’ll have to pay 129$ for the bracelet tracker or 49.99$ for the clip.

16. SugarSync

Some like DropBox, others opt for Google Drive, yet my go-to cloud storage service is SugarSync. It’s simpler, more powerful and has a really slick design. After you install it, you just need to right-click the file/folder to instantly back them up at the cloud. Besides, any further change you make to that data will be automatically synchronized. Large files get uploaded extra fast and you can get 250 GB storage space for just $99.99 per year. Also you can access, share and edit all your files via free iOS or Android app supported on numerous devices. Now, I’ve finally stopped worrying what should I do if my laptop gets broken/stolen.

17. Contactually

If you don’t like to get broke and return home, you have to invest a fair share of your time in building ongoing relationships with your clients, vendors or customers depending on what do you do for a living. To avoid this whole thing becoming a huge pain try using Contactually – a simple, yet powerful service that will tell you when and whom you should keep in touch with and how you could maximize your ROI by connecting with the right people at the right time. It will send you notifications when you’ve fallen out of touch with certain contacts (which can mean missed opportunities in the perspective) and prompt when you should reconnect with the most important contacts from your network by providing helpful context clues like social updates and recent conversations to make the whole thing look more genuine. The service boasts that their users get up to 40% more referrals after using their service (backed by case studies) which is kind of essential for you if you’d like to live the nomadic life and work for yourself!

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18. Schedule Once

If you are working on multiple projects with multiple clients at a time – Schedule Once is your kick-ass service to schedule online meetings and conferences. Create a sleek pre-set calendar when you are available and send people a unique link that allows them to select a suitable time for both of you to connect. The service is fantastic for anyone offering consulting services or coaching sessions and costs just 5$ per month!

19. Spaxtel

Sometimes the internet gets so crappy that calling by Skype is impossible. Or you have a very-very important conversation scheduled and you don’t want any possible glitches to interrupt you. That’s when it’s worth using Spaxtel – a cool service that enables you to make land-line quality phone calls via callback. You don’t need to install any software or have internet access. The rates depends on the quality of call you choose (the lowest discount is pretty great) and the countries from/to you are calling. So far, the price proved to be nearly Skype-affordable for a better overall quality of connection.

20. Earth Class Mail

Snail mail isn’t that popular these days, but you still get some important stuff via it. Say bills and some paychecks. If you don’t want to bug your parents or friends’ to deal with your mail while you are out, try using Earth Mail Class – an affordable mail forwarding service that scans and forwards your mail to the e-mail address of your choice, deposits your checks (for a fee), saves PDFs of your postal mail online and offers in-person pickup and package signing.

Featured photo credit: Avi Richards via unsplash.com

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