There’s no denying that effective tech team leadership can make or break a project. Whether you work with a tight-knit group of likeminded individuals or juggle multiple projects between company departments, your leadership matters considerably.
According to Business 2 Community, 70% of professionals are fully able and committed to remote work conditions. Working from home can also improve performance by up to 13%, with remote employees being 29% happier than their on-site counterparts. Data by Learn G2 indicates that businesses which embraced remote work saw 89% business growth, while 80% of employees feel less stressed working from home.
While remote work can be beneficial in itself for your team, it brings about remote-specific challenges for you as a leader and project manager. What are some of the most efficient leadership solutions you can apply to manage your tech team remotely in 2020? Likewise, what are the benefits, as well as potential pitfalls of remote tech team management, you should be aware of going forward?
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Before we tackle several effective solutions to remote tech team management, let’s address the “why” behind such an initiative. Remote work has quickly become a trending topic in the 2010s, more so now with COVID-19 and social distancing norms in effect.
According to Small Biz Genius, telecommuting has grown by 115% in the past decade, and 16% of global companies hire remote workers exclusively. As we move into the 2020s, more and more companies will embrace remote work as an industry standard, prompting your business to do the same.
With industries such as software development and digital design being digital-dependent, there is no reason to insist on physical office work anymore. Opting to go fully remote with your leadership solutions can bring about several important perks to your day-to-day workflow, including but not limited to:
Whether you work in web development, programming, or other niche fields, it’s never a good idea to separate your remote team into smaller segments. A remote team will struggle enough with being separated and linked only by their project management platform as it is.
To avoid team segmentation, you should strive to define team-wide KPIs which everyone should abide by. Key Performance Indicator (KPI) serves as a guidepost for remote teams. They can help your team members synchronize and work to achieve common goals to further the project’s development.
Tools such as Google Docs, as well as dedicated platforms, such as Asana and Trello, can be used to track team-wide KPIs. Likewise, SMART goal-setting will allow you to create objective, achievable, time-sensitive goals which will keep the team motivated and focused on the next development milestone.
While work-related items should be kept transparent to everyone, you should make time for coaching and check-ins with individual members. Despite their common goals, each member of your team will likely have a different idea of what professional development means for them.
Your job as a team leader is to facilitate each member’s development and allow them to contribute to the tech project as best as possible. Schedule 1-on-1 interviews with each member of your team and make it clear that the information you discuss is confidential.
Let them know that you genuinely care about their career development, mental wellbeing, and satisfaction with the remote work conditions you created. You can gain valuable feedback and insight into further remote work improvements and ways in which day-to-day workflow can become more comfortable for everyone.
When you decide to innovate in regards to software apps or work management tools, that decision shouldn’t come from top-down. Each decision you make in regards to your team should be brought up during team meetings where you can hear everyone’s thoughts on the idea.
Going against the wishes of your team, and forcing decisions on them can cause your efforts to backfire and lead to conflict among team members. Even simple workflow additions such as an employee time tracker can find their detractors and cause drops in morale and productivity.
While you are a team leader, you are also a colleague and a friend – listen to your team members and always look for mutually-beneficial solutions. Establish such a remote work mindset, and you will be able to easily delegate crucial obligations and work to your members without worrying about conflict.
Being overly professional and distant will only get you so far when it comes to remote tech team management. Given that typical software development projects last for months on end, you will inevitably brew animosity in the team if you are too distant.
This can easily be amended by simply “loosening up” and chatting up your team about non work questions and topics. Ask them what they think about a major industry innovation or brainstorm on how they’d handle certain crisis scenarios.
Talk about each other’s passion during lunchtime or look for common interests in popular culture, such as a TV show or an online video game. You can absolutely manage your team more effectively if they “relax” and treat you as a colleague and leader, not as an authoritarian manager barking orders.
When it comes to reward and recognition, it’s best to treat everyone on your remote tech team as an equal. This means that you should reward everyone equally for a job well done without cutting anyone out or praising a single individual too much.
There are a plethora of ways in which you can reward your remote team despite the distance. Digital goods, coupons, subscription codes, and other online goodies can work wonders as tokens of appreciation for the work they do.
You can go a step further and treat your remote team members with takeout lunch if you are comfortable enough with one another. Such a pro-team strategy will work wonders to ensure that your team’s morale is high and that they all feel a part of a group.
Lastly, make sure that you always treat your team members as equals to yourself. In that regard, you should periodically ask them for objective feedback on your skills as a leader.
Your team members will always have something to add or an idea they wish you would consider in regards to remote team management. Such feedback can be gathered during team meetings, where everyone can discuss the positives and negatives of the current workflow.
Make sure to also take these tips and comments under serious consideration on your own time. Your team will feel significantly more appreciated if some of their feedback translates to actual results and that remote workflow evolves over time.
Now that we have a better understanding of how you can manage your remote tech team effectively let’s talk bottlenecks & pitfalls. Maintaining positive motivation and workflow is an ongoing project, one which you will have to pay close attention to as a remote work leader.
According to Forbes, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, with 96% of employees who believe that showing empathy is important in long-term retention. You can use writing tools such as Evernote and Best Writing Advisor, as well as Canva for rudimentary visuals, to establish team-wide goals and expectations. However, despite your best efforts, your employees might get burnt out, demotivated, or otherwise disengaged from the work you do.
Should that happen, you will have to address their concerns as soon as possible so that it doesn’t affect the rest of the team. Some of the noteworthy bottlenecks you should pay attention to when working with your remote tech team include:
Whether out of necessity or comfort, remote work can significantly improve your staff’s wellbeing and productivity in 2020 and beyond. However, proper leadership should find its way into the remote workflow in equal measure to keep everyone focused on the workflow.
Treat your remote tech team members as equals, both in skill and personality, in order to draw their best qualities forward. Be on the lookout for red flags in regards to burnout, disengagement, and potential conflict in order to react quickly. Your role as a leader extends beyond technical project development – be a friend in equal part, and your team will fall in line quite effectively.
Helene Cue is a writer, editor and career advisor with a keen interest in digital marketing, business development and software engineering. She also enjoys occasional tasks centred on academic writing and students with the “I need someone to do my paper for me” train of thought.