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7 tips for leading successful projects when working remotely

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Being a successful leader comes with its challenges. Even having the team in one room and being able to see everyone face-to-face, there are many aspects to consider and plan for the team to work well. And in the post-pandemic reality, the added challenge for the project managers is the fact that the team members are most likely working remotely. How to overcome the lack of face-to-face connection and still get everyone to work together and deliver a great result? Here are some tips for leaders of remote teams.

  • Provide your team with resources. Technology seems to be the obvious starting point- every person in the team must have adequate equipment and connection as well as the right software- without this we are bound to fail. But ‘resources’ doesn’t just mean providing the right equipment. It’s also ensuring that the team have the right skill set to fulfil the task in front of them. So, don’t underestimate training courses and mentoring.
  • Communication is probably the most important part of the project’s success. This is where a good leader puts some extra effort- checking in with each employee daily is a good practise. It doesn’t have to be a 2-hour call. If everyone in the team has a clear understanding of what their tasks are and how they contribute to the full project, there might be days where a quick DM (direct message) is enough. But that contact is needed. Think of it as the equivalent of poking your head through the door to their office just to make sure they are OK.
  • When thinking about effective communication, it is not just about the leader communicating with the team members. It’s equally as important that the team members regularly talk to each other- this sets the grounds for good teamwork. A successful leader must encourage it- make sure everyone in the team knows who they can ask for help. Just because they are not in the same room, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be working together. Emphasise it.
  • If the team you selected for your project is competent and each person has the right skill set, there is no reason not to trust them. If you focus on the result and not on the timesheet- they will share that focus. So, instead of checking how many hours each person put in, check if their part of the project is being delivered. If you notice that something is delayed or not done at all- you can then address it individually. Installing software that monitors if the user is typing or what pages are open in their browser is extreme. At the end of the day if someone doesn’t want to work, they will find a way to trick that software (apparently, you can put a toothpick between keys on the keyboard, so it appears that you are typing- we do not recommend this). By shifting the focus to the result and trusting the team to put the work required, you make them feel more valued and motivated and therefore more likely to work hard.
  • Remember that every person in your team has different circumstances and different working conditions. Some might be lucky enough to have a dedicated home office, others might have a screaming baby in the room or maybe they’re working from a local library. Where possible, be flexible. People are productive in different times of the day, so the clocking in and out is not effective when managing a remote team. Equally, respect the workers’ time off, try not to encourage working overtime or weekends. Going back to one of our first points- communication is key: provided that meetings are scheduled and communicated- everyone knows when they need to be available- the rest can be flexible- as long as the result is achieved.
  • As a good leader, you will have to nurture your team. Think of their well-being. Do they have everything they need to do the work? If they need help, will they know where to get it and who to ask? Remember that not everyone thrives at remote working. They may lack the social aspects of team work. It might be a good idea to arrange a team building activity. Encourage feedback, so you have a better understanding of what is needed. And think of ways to replace the social time they would normally have at the office (or after work). Here is a good one to start with: online happy hour- schedule some time at the end of a video call for chit chat with a cocktail. This will encourage people to get to know each other better and improve their relations.
  • And finally, it sounds so simple, but it is so important: say ‘Thank you’. Some of the work done by an individual can easily go unnoticed. You were not in the room as they battled a tough frustrating task. Make sure you are there to say: ‘well done’. If you want everyone in your team to feel appreciated and motivated, you need to notice their small successes on the way to the final result. Small rewards will go a long way. Consider a gift card, but praise alone is also extremely effective- let everyone in the team know if someone excelled at a particular task. It will not only allow that person to feel appreciated, but the others will have that extra push to do well.

We hope you find the tips useful when working remotely on your next project. And if you decide to bring your team together for a face-to-face meeting, remember we are more than happy to host it for you.