When you manage a team in another country

I don’t know about you, but I am getting inundated with emails from every vendor, publication, and association on how to work virtually, stay motivated, and guard again the Coronavirus. These are all helpful and I am finding very little time to read all of them.

For some of us, we have managed people in other locations nationally or internationally for quite some time. I have had my tips for managing virtually saved in my Evernote for 3 months now. I suppose I am adding to all the voices out there at the moment. So, here goes….
My 5 go-tos to managing a team in another country….especially now.

  1. Skype, Zoom, WebEx, Jabber, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Teleconference weekly. Thank goodness we live in a time where virtual collaboration technology is cheap and plentiful. Pick a tool, any tool. Just make sure you turn on your video. I don’t always share my video because I am not “camera-ready”. Who cares! My whole team now knows what I look in a ball cap and glasses. Get over it. They love I am willing to be this open. See each other face to face to say hello, smile and laugh.
  2. Manage by results not by presence detection. I used to have a manager that was in London while I was in Chicago. She managed me by whether my presence detection was green, red or yellow. Don’t fall into this trap especially now. Manage by results, discuss status every week and share frequent updates. If Bill is offline for two hours, maybe he is having connection issues; maybe his dog just ate all the toilet paper; maybe he is reading or working on his iPad. There are many reasons to not be glued to your work laptop and still be productive!
  3. Offer reassurance. I never knew how some of my team members felt at-risk because they are not the headquarters location. They thought – out of sight, out of mind. Now, more than ever, people are concerned about their workload and job. If you are a knowledge worker, there is a ton of work to be done. I have directed the team to work on projects we never have time for. This is the perfect time to tackle archiving or managing our documents, streamlining processes, creating content calendars for the next 6 months. There is lots of work to do!
  4. Help them identify items to execute and cross off the list every week. More than ever, it is important to help your team identify actionable projects and tasks they can work on. I have found that even senior people on my team don’t know exactly what to do. I normally take a very hands-off approach with them. Now, I am jumping in and helping identify work to be done. Even senior-level professionals appreciate direction in times like these. For those who are virtual, they need the big picture and understand how they tie into it now more than ever.
  5. Talk about personal lives. I am one to not get too nosy into personal lives in a work relationship because I don’t know how private some people may be. Talk about family, kids, parents, friends, pets, how they are doing at home. Right now, I have team members who are managing chaos with kids on top of each other or completely solo fighting loneliness. Get to know your people and make small talk. It matters.

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