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3 mistakes of a remote team leader's’ life (and how to fix them)

Sonal Mishra
12th Sep 2016
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“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis, American scholar, organisational consultant and author

One of the major tasks of team leaders is to bring diverse individuals together to work towards a common goal. The biggest challenge is to sustain the team, keep it productive and prevent any kind of toxic element from rooting in. Regardless of how good you are at managing an office team, if you have been recently assigned to lead a team of remote employees, you need to understand that traditional managerial tactics are not going to work here. It’s time that you bring some major changes in your leadership approaches to get things done virtually, and successfully.

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While working remotely is becoming practical, popular, and competitive, the need for companies to hire managers who have the understanding and capability of managing mobile employees has dramatically increased in the last couple of years. But making such a big transition often comes off as a challenge for managers following a traditional leadership approach. Here are three horrible mistakes that traditional managers make when leading a remote team and how they can best avoid them:

Micromanaging your remote team members

While it is fine to track the activities of your virtual employees, overdoing it is a big no. There’s a reason why some people choose freelance careers over their corporate jobs, and being a manager of a virtual team, it is your responsibility, rather duty, to respect their need for freedom to work at their own pace. But if you still want to know whether your virtual employees have started working on the assigned task and what strategy or path they have decided to follow, you can always schedule a call to discuss matters. Make sure to keep the flow of calls and email interactions as low as you can. Dictating each and every step is the last you want to do with your virtual team members. As rightly said by Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” Sometimes, it is good to let your employees take some control. With remote employees, trust is the biggest factor to propel a lasting relationship.

Being unclear about project details and instructions

In a physical office, you can sometimes take the chance of going vague with your expectations and instructions about a new project as there’s always a scope of improvement on the job. But when it comes to remote employees, this can prove to be a blunder. As soon as you receive the new project, sit down for a while and think about the best practice to share instructions of work with your remote team. It is advised to create a self-explanatory framework that elaborates the scope of work and deadlines for each and every member of the team. Make sure you mention step by step procedure for each task along with the details on reference work, if any, for better clarity of expectations.

Poor communication or lack of interaction with virtual employees

Poor communication with virtual employees is one of the biggest and most common mistakes made by traditional managers. While it is imperative to have a healthy communication at all levels in a workplace, often remote team managers neglect this facet when it comes to dealing with virtual employees. Avoiding interaction with your remote team could cause unresolved issues and concerns to fester. On the other hand, failure to communicate important information in a timely manner can negatively impact the performance of the team, or even worse, lead to immense wastage of time. How can you avoid it? Be clear in sharing your vision and arrange meetings before beginning any new project. Use this opportunity to understand to identify different personalities in your team and evaluate their strengths. Be sure to provide an update on the needs of the business and provide clarification for all team members.

Being prepared to take up the role of a remote team manager can help you avoid these three common mistakes and foster better virtual communication.

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