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Managing teams remotely

Posted 3 months ago in Xero news by Rachel Nowicki
Posted by Rachel Nowicki

Since starting at Xero I’ve always managed teams remotely. I have teams in Denver, U.SA, Milton Keynes, UK, Auckland, NZ, Hawkes Bay NZ and a group that are with me in Wellington, NZ. At the most I’ve had people in 6 different regions across 4 different countries. I know what you’re thinking… how the {insert bad word} did you do that?

After almost 4 years of practice, I wouldn’t say I’ve nailed it, but I’ve learnt a lot, and I’ve got a few tips about how to manage remote teams.

Never stop challenging / reviewing the way you communicate

Continuously check in with your team members. Are you getting enough feedback? Are you happy with the communication from other regions? Over the years we’ve had team slack channels, yammer pages, online newsletters, email wrap ups and recorded meetings. Over time you move through communication channels based on the size of the team and feedback from the team. But it’s important to make sure you’re checking in around how your team feels about communication. If it’s not working, change it and try new things until you find the right mix. At the moment we use Slack for daily inter team comms, we have a monthly email newsletter and we send emails when it’s something we really need everyone to read. We also do monthly check ins throughout the team so they catch up with someone in a different region using Google Hangouts for 15 mins every few weeks to keep up relationships.

No matter what kind of a day you had in your timezone, do not let your remote team members feel that

They don’t have the luxury of seeing you when your chirpy first thing in the morning and they don’t know what fires you’ve put out in the day. They just need to know you’re happy to see them. Simple as that.

Try things that will show your #human side 

Not everyone will be a fan of this, but for my UK one on one’s I’d often be seen wearing my pink bathrobe. Id also bring Charlie my dog into screen. It’s harder for your remote teams to get to know you – you need to go the extra mile to build that personal connection you typically would with someone in the office. Wearing a pink bathrobe isn’t for everyone, and certainly not for every meeting situation, but you can also try talking about personal things before getting into the nitty gritty of a meeting.

Avoid as much as possible moving any meetings booked with your remote team

I’m not perfect and I know I’ve done this in the past and when asking my team members about point number 1 listed here, some of them said moving meetings annoyed them. So, lesson learnt. If you have a meeting, make it and when you make it – use a camera. That connection that is so easy in person is harder online. Having a video call helps with building the connection.

Although a challenge, managing remote teams is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done and I couldn’t imagine not having a global team now. To see a team of people working effectively and achieving amazing things together regardless of timezones is pretty cool. And to be leading that is even cooler.

P.S this was when i finally met my UK team in real life – Can you tell how stoked I was??!!

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