No question, there are many benefits to being collocated with your full team when managing a challenging project.
But organizations are looking to reduce real estate costs, provide their employees with the benefits of telecommuting, and take advantage of a twenty-four hour work day by having teams strategically split across multiple time zones. So if we accept the inevitability that we might have to manage a project with some remote team members, how do we reduce the likelihood of this impacting team effectiveness?
Herding cats is hard enough in person – it’s impossible to do when team members are scattered geographically. If they don’t buy into the vision of the project, you’ll face an uphill battle to get them aligned. If the project is a mixed blessing – hurting some team members while it helps others, you might need to spend more face time with the team members who will be impacted the worst.
It is critical to fight tooth and nail to hold a project kickoff meeting which all team members and key stakeholders can attend in person to give you and your sponsor the best shot at inspiring them. But just because your team members are aligned at the beginning doesn’t mean drift won’t happen for a variety of reasons – perhaps they aren’t seeing sufficient progress or maybe a sexy new project is competing for their attention. So use your regular team meetings as an opportunity to re-engage them.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is very real.
It can get easy to neglect remote team members when it comes to recognition and team building, especially if the majority of your team members are collocated with you. Add a simple team building activity at regular intervals to your team meetings – there are many available via a simple Internet search which lend themselves to remote delivery. Even better, make this a rotating responsibility to give each of your team members a chance to be the life of the party.
It can be tempting to impose the need for frequent progress updates or status meetings to reduce your fears, but this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy as your team members become disengaged or irritated with being micro-managed. You would be better served having a frank conversation with your team – help them understand your responsibilities and engage them in developing a reporting process which still meet your needs while empowering them.
Trust your team members to behave like professionals and don’t give them a reason not to.