What makes a great remote team

May 10 2012 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Most of us have remote teams that are functional. After all, we get stuff done. Kind of. Mostly. But what separates great remote teams from those that are merely functional? Here are five differentiators of great remote teams.

In her very good book, "Virtual Team Success", Darleen Derosa has a lot to say, but one of the most helpful is her "5 Differentiators for Top Virtual Teams". It's based on lots of research but has the added value of being true on a gut level as well.

Here are the five ways great remote teams are probably operating at a higher level than yours and mine:

Commitment and engagement:When everyone's pulling in the same direction for the same reasons, everything falls in line. When they don't, you have trouble. I would submit that many of us start off with everyone on board. After all, good project managers always have a plan. Of course, as Clausewitz once said, the most brilliant battle plan is only good until the first shot is fired. Constant checking in and explicit commitment to the goal is part of the ongoing process of alignment.

Shared process for decision-making:different types of decisions require different processes. Is you team going to do everything by vote? You might wind up with compromises but not the best solution. Taking everyone's advice then making the decision yourself? Good luck with that. According to Derosa's research the best teams explicitly state how decisions will be made and vary the approach depending on the needs of the moment.

Getting the right information to the right people:This involves not only good tech (can people find the information they need on demand or do they have to wait for someone to answer an plaintive email?) but a willingness to share information and an ability to proactively volunteer information before problems develop.

Task-based trust:we've talked before about the difference between faith and trust. Faith is believing it will happen, trust is built over time.

While beginning a project or working relationship some faith is called for, what really gets the job done is trust built on how people work. Do commitments and timelines get met? Is quality what it should be? Does the way you work encourage your teammates or get them gossiping and planning for your failure?

When people are able to be successful early on, it builds an aura of trust around everyone's work. Build short-term wins and measurable in to your timeline and tasks so people can see each other at their best.

Collaboration:is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. At its core is the queston: "how well do your people work together to achieve quality outcomes?"

Her research indicates that top performing teams not only understood their individual roles, but had a good handle on one another's roles and responsibilities and that the team as a whole had clearly defined team objectives. They also had clearly defined processes for working together.

How's your team doing in these areas? Have you stopped and really thought about it?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.