Tell the story. Rally them behind a common goal

Team leads are responsible for rallying their team behind a common goal.  Spend time discussing the “why” of the project, providing context beyond the technical requirements. Remind the team periodically how the project, and specifically their efforts, impact the company’s business and its customers.  Furthermore, a consistent effort to communicate team goals and relay “the story” behind the project breaks …

Great performing teams are built on trust

It’s more difficult to establish trust when you’re working with a team member remotely, especially one whom you’ve never met. But teammates have to trust each other. The most efficient approach to building trust is to bring teammates together in-person. There is no faster, more impactful way to build relationships, to get to know each other, than to meet face-to-face. …

For Pete’s sake, turn on your web cam!

Whatever your reason for keeping it off: bags under your eyes, bad hair day, etc,  pales in comparison to the good reasons for turning it on.  Seeing our colleagues face-to-face is critical to the psychological drivers of healthy team work. Every experienced lead or manager knows the importance of looking someone in the eye. Even though your team members may …

Emails are lost to the team

Email from one person to another is a private discussion, potentially about a component or business logic that other team members can benefit from understanding. It takes valuable time to write these emails. So why is the content lost in email?  Even in shared emails, the content is lost to future team members. When migrating from co-located to remote or …

Attention is your greatest asset

You can’t know what the best course of action is, if you don’t know what’s really happening. Everything that is normally communicated through speech, sight, whiteboards, hand gestures, body language, facial expressions must now fit into a pipe called “Skype” (or tools of choice). Your most valuable asset is your attention. You have to work harder than before, because before …

Conduct one-on-one’s

Conduct one-on-one’s with all team members at least once per month. Keeps the manager and team members on the same page, and great for informally letting team members know where they stand, and receiving feedback that they would otherwise not give. At Zapier, managers ask 4 questions: “what’s one thing you’re excited about, what’s one thing you’re worried about, what’s …

Characteristics of an effective team leader

In our experience, the following traits contribute to successfully managing remote teams. Team leadership can be a shared responsibility across different roles: Can manage transitions in the objectives, people, and focus of the team. Fosters an atmosphere of collaboration among team members Clearly communicates team goals, and how they align with the broader organizational strategy Has strong interpersonal communication skills …

Take opportunities to foster a collaborative atmosphere

We’ve already discussed designing processes and workflows that encourage collaboration. It also helps to identify special opportunities that arise day-to-day to further foster collaboration. For example, when a developer or tester is having difficulty in accomplishing a task, ask the team for a volunteer to assist him or her.  Solving problems collaboratively and voluntarily is a great way to strengthen …

Ownership is not easily measured, but more valuable

Metrics that look good in a report may still leave stakeholders frustrated. Accountability refers to responsibility for a task. Ownership refers to responsibility for end-to-end delivery, which translates to a satisfied customer. Chris Lema writes a humorous analogy: Have you heard the joke about the chicken and the pig? When it comes to a ham and egg breakfast, only one …

Encourage truth and problem solving in stand-ups

With remote teams, stand-ups may be the best opportunity for leads and members to understand potential technical or product conflicts, what is not headed in the right direction, challenges that need to be addressed. This often takes more than a quick 10 minute stand-up! Don’t fly through stand-ups like a process that you need to check-off.  Everyone’s busy and no …