Some say leadership is an art. Some say leadership is a science. But in project management, great leadership is the engine that drives results.
That’s because remote project management requires a different mindset. You need to be motivated, focused, and self-disciplined to manage a remote team. And as the great Orrin Woodward once said, “A leader must inspire or his team will expire.”
But managing a remote team can be a tricky business, especially when doing it from home.
It’s easy to pop down to the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee and get distracted by the sweet pancakes aroma from your neighbor’s house, only to find yourself whisking the flour. Before you know it, you’ve missed your 9.00 am video meeting, but made some killer pancakes.
So how do you manage remote teams effectively? How do you create a positive working environment? What about performance, how do you ensure your teams are motivated and not slacking off? In this post, you’ll learn how to be a great PM when managing a remote team.
Essential Skills Every Remote Project Manager Needs
To effectively manage a remote team, there are some skills you need that will help you get the job done faster, and with less effort. Here are the 6 operational skills every remote project manager must-have.
- Stellar communication skills
- Team management skills (leadership)
- Negotiation skills
- Personal organization skills
- Contract management
- Meetings management
Operational skills will help a project manager to lead the team and maintain a good relationship with other parties such as suppliers.
In addition to operational skills, a remote project manager needs to have some technical skills, such as contract risk management and cost management skills to help them execute projects as planned without incurring losses.
Technical skills are gained through education and you may need to pursue an advanced degree or the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. This page shows a list of and detailed reviews of the top PMP preparation courses that can help you pass the certification exam.
How to Manage Remote Project Teams Effectively
To be a great project manager, skills alone are not enough, especially when managing a virtual team. You’ll need time, strategy, and commitment. Here are 5 golden tips to help you manage remote teams effectively.
1. Move Beyond the Role Matrix
Before diving straight into a project, make sure to clearly define the roles of each project member. Every team member should understand the goals and objectives of the project, even if they’re only involved in a small part of it.
But defining the roles and responsibilities isn’t enough.
You’ll need to move beyond the role matrix and ensure every team member is on board and are satisfied with the assigned task as well as the company’s culture.
This may call for you to have preliminary meetings from time to time and a one-on-one call with each team member. Hear their thoughts about the project, establish a timeline that’s favorable to all, and discuss the roles and project expectations in detail. This gives the team members a clear picture of the project and the importance of their roles.
2. Promote Frequent Communication
In a remote work environment, with team members potentially located in different time zones, frequent communication is essential—it helps to bring the team together.
One of the first things every project manager should do, especially when managing large teams is to select a communication platform that every team can easily use to collaborate and stay informed of the project updates and timelines.
Some popular communication tools ideal for remote project management include Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Office 365, and Slack for Business. Project managers should also use instant messaging and one-on-one calls to reach out to team members. This can come in handy when some individuals are located in remote areas with no internet access.
3. Be Open to Feedback
Being open to all feedback is vital, as it promotes a conducive team environment ideal for delivering results.
Feedback clarifies expectations, helps team members to build trust in their leaders, and provide more avenues to simplify the processes and improve the project details.
The key is to analyze all the feedback and give a response to the team, either individually or during the regular meetings. If you act defensively or ignore the feedback, you’ll not only lose their trust but also create communication boundaries—a recipe for poor productivity and project failures.
4. Find Ways to Motivate Them
Want your team to be more productive? Devise ways to motivate them and make them appreciate their roles. A 2015 Social Market Foundation (SMF) survey found that happy and motivated employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees.
But how do you motivate a group of people located in different countries and time zones?
Well, first you need to create a healthy atmosphere for them to thrive. The other thing you can do is to make it part of the company culture to celebrate successes and recognize individuals who perform exceptionally.
Even if it’s just a Slack shout out, it makes the team feel good and appreciate the fact that their efforts are recognized and admired. Good monetary compensation and performance rewards can also go a long way in helping the team feel valued.
5. Get to Know Your Team on an Individual Level
Constant interaction makes your team feel they are not just another cog in the machine.
Get to know your team on a personal level. What do they do when not working for you? Where do they hang out? What are their interests? Such knowledge can help you implement a reward program and give your team tasks that best fit them
Besides, research has shown that individual recognition helps people to feel appreciated, which can improve their commitment to your business.
Team members who feel appreciated can go the extra mile to provide exceptional services and ensure your business thrives. If possible, plan to meet in person. If geographical barriers exist, make sure to hold regular meetings and conference calls with each member.
We hope these tips will help you become a better project manager, especially when managing a remote team. Feel free to comment and share.