4 Steps to Managing a Highly Effective Remote Team
Effective team management starts by removing the “management” part of the equation. That is especially true when you’re running a company from new countries every three months or so.
I’m running three businesses -- a video game studio, an online store and a SaaS company. I’ve started and am involved in seven projects, involving a wide array of talented people. But here’s the catch: I currently live in India, working alone from a desk in a co-working space. Later this month, I’ll be in Rwanda for two weeks, then in Canada for a month and ultimately set up in Mexico for the next three months.
For me, being a nomad is the ultimate lifestyle. People think you can't run businesses as a nomad, but they're wrong. Read on to find out how I make that happen.
As you can guess, it’s not without its challenges. I’ve had both success and failure. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned much from having been a nomadic CEO for over a year and I want to pass on that knowledge to you.
As hinted above, the first step is to forgo the notion of management, rather focusing on timeless principles of team empowerment, effective delegation, complete transparency and collective success. Once you stop thinking about the “how” and start thinking of the “what” and the “who,” you’re on your way to an effective team dynamic.
Step 1. Delegate effectively.
Think stewardship delegation. Who’s best suited to deliver the best possible results?
“Stewardship delegation is focused on results instead of methods. It gives people a choice of method and makes them responsible for results.”, Stephen R. Covey wrote in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
I focus my energy on my strengths and delegate to collaborators to cover for my weaknesses. If I’m connected to someone who’s better than I am at something, then I consider it a weakness and I’ll strongly consider delegating it until we’re on the same level.
Reflection: Are you doing everything by yourself? Who would do it better than you?
Step 2. Empower your team.
Team empowerment is about putting power into the people who have -- or can acquire -- the expertise to deliver the results. It’s about trusting they will give their best and deliver on their promises.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them,” said Ernest Hemingway.
By being weaker in an area, it makes no sense for me to give directions or make judgment calls before consulting with my team of experts. In reality, I rarely make decisions. Once I’ve delegated a task or project to a collaborator, it’s in their hands to figure out how to achieve the results, with my guidance as needed.
Reflection: Are you micromanaging? Have you tried giving more responsibilities to your collaborators and making sure they own the results?
Step 3. Be completely transparent.
Now that you’ve delegated to collaborators and empowered them, it’s time to make sure they trust you. Being completely transparent with them is probably the most powerful way to earn their trust.
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity,” said the Dalai Lama.
I leave my calendar open for everyone to see, I share financial statements, I show them what I’m working on and I share the results -- good or bad. Showing bad results is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of humility and strength. Making your failures “public” builds trust in you, provided you show you learned something from it, and you won’t repeat the mistakes again.
Reflection: Do your collaborators know your agenda? Do you hide your failures? Do you talk openly about the financial situation of your company?
Step 4. Make it a collective success.
I don’t call people working on my projects “employees.” I personally don’t like the word. They’re collaborators. They don’t work “for” me, they work “with” me. I win, they win, it’s as simple as that.
“Success is best when it’s shared,” said Howard Schultz.
Delegating, empowering and being transparent are good first steps, but collective success is when you don’t keep all the rewards to yourself. My collaborators are effective because they know it’s not about my own victory but our collective victory.
Reflection: How can I make this a win/win situation for everyone involved?
Related: Three Rules For Collective Success
Being a nomadic CEO forces you to apply correct principles to manage a team effectively. Communication and project management tools -- no matter how good they are -- won’t make your team effective unless you lead using timeless principles. Try the reflections above and see how well you currently use these principles, and how you can better use them going forward.
You can do this!