Managing remote teams and projects has its good side. It can also drive you crazy, and it's the little things that can drive you the craziest. Here's a good example: we all know that simple get-togethers over food is a great way to bond, catch up with your team and celebrate milestones. But what do you do when the team members are separated by miles, culture and even armed border patrols?
Yes, that staple of old-school management, the "pizza party" is taking a big hit these days. Let's face it, Dominos has a wide delivery range, but there's only so much you can do and I'm pretty sure the pizza would be cold by the time it got to Bangalore.
It can make you crazy, and many managers settle for having short online meetings or conference calls, pay lip service to team bonding, and move on. Some managers, though, have gotten creative. Here are just a couple of ideas I've heard teams do to bring some fun and solidarity to their groups:
- Send a Starbucks or similar card to every attendee before the meeting. Why should the people at home get to drink good coffee while the people at headquarters drink whatever swill the facility provides?
- Use paypal or gift certificates to let people order their own pizza wherever they are. It's actually fun to compare who got what toppings, and there's no arguing over who wants what. Me, I'm an anchovy guy. I seldom get my way in the real world. In my home office, I reign supreme. Use webcams to create an informal environment
- Vary the menu and share the love. One of the coolest ideas I've heard is a friend of mine who does a quarterly update webmeeting with a team scattered around the world. Every meeting, he chooses one office and sends pastries (easily ordered and shipped) from one of the regions to everyone o the meeting. One time it's canolis, one time it's gooey cinnamon buns, the next it's Chinese Moon Cakes. Yes, it seems silly and takes some logistical support, but the team gets excited to see what's next and vie for the right to "host" the next meeting.
This might seem like a minor thing, but that's kind of the point. Putting effort into the little things is actually valued by people far above its monetary worth. Learning a little about each other can never be a bad thing either.
In teaching the many classes we have at GreatWebMeetings.com with clients from around the world, one thing we've found is that finding ways to celebrate, reward and create bonds with their remote teams is one of the biggest challenges managers face.
Let's ask the very smart people who read this blog: what do you do? What have you seen be successful? Let's see some great suggestions!