Elevate Remote Team Cohesion with the Right Remote Team Communication Tools
Henry Ford once said, ‘Coming together is beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success’.
This is a fantastic quote and, when you manage a team, it’s vital to keep this approach in mind. It’s your job to bring the team together, keep them together and work together for excellent outcomes. But when you’re managing a remote team, it doesn’t always feel so simple. In fact, I reckon managing a remote team can feel like herding cats.
The Challenges of Managing a Remote Team
Trying to Cut Through the Noise
As a leader, you’re trying to keep clearing the noise ahead. You’re chasing up people, finding out what happened with a project or task, trying to keep work on track and removing roadblocks. You can feel like you’re repeating yourself over and over simply to keep cutting through the noise.
When you’re working remotely from your team this can be doubly difficult as everything is being done from one step removed.
The Gap Between Remote Team Communication Tools and Behaviour
I have worked with some of the world’s largest global multinational organisations through to small consulting firms to improve their productivity. And my experience across the board has been that the technology or remote team communication tools have not always been able to keep up with human needs at work. Even more importantly, it hasn’t been able to keep leaders and teams cohesive.
As a result, in the past, we’ve had to focus a lot of time, energy, money, and effort on behaviour changes—such as productivity principles and mindsets—to grapple with the constant escalation of trying to do more with less. And this is hard.
So, what can we do to make managing remote teams easier?
Elevate Remote Team Communication and Cohesion
When I think about remote teams I think about cohesion. I think about how to stay connected despite all the noise and pull from the different environments that we’re in. I think about the missing chats in the hallway and side chats at desks. The ‘how are you’ in the lift or the companionable walk from the carpark to the desk. All these short conversations have an impact and create cohesion.
But we can create cohesion when we’re not in the same physical space.
Creating Cohesion in Remote Teams
When I think about cohesion, I often think about this image of two otters holding hands as they sleep-float through the water. They’ve created what is called a ‘raft’. As they go along the river they are able to stay hooked together, despite what might be happening around them. Sometimes they even entangle themselves to large kelp or seaweed to anchor themselves safely. And it means they can safely rest knowing they won’t drift away from each other.
When you run your practice as a consultant or as a leader or a remote team, the lack of cohesion is often amplified if the right systems aren’t in place to support it. Just like the little otters, we need to use the technology and tools we have to anchor ourselves together, so we can stay connected and stay the course and not have people drifting away on tangents, or following paths that aren’t conducive to the big picture.
Implementing the Right Remote Team Communication Tools
As an Asana Certified Pro, I recently worked with a team to implement Asana in their organisation. They were shocked, surprised and curious about how, in my own practice, we have team members who I have never even met in person. Some are interstate or overseas, in different time zones and on different schedules. Yet the work gets completed and we all stay ‘hooked together’ through a cohesive workflow using project management and workflow tool (in this case, Asana).
Of course, while I use and deliver training in Asana, this may not be the tool that’s right for you or your situation. You need to find the right remote team communication tools for you and your team. But regardless of the system or technology you use to manage your team, it needs to help you with three key areas:
Clarity is essentially the alignment between what you’re doing every day and the goal for the business. Your tool needs to help you identify the purpose of key projects and what exactly needs to be done and how. It also needs to assist in the prioritisation and focus for the day, week, month, quarter and year ahead. This ensures everyone is on the same page and heading in the same direction.
Your tool needs to give you 100% transparency about where tasks and projects are in terms of progress and completion, what is outstanding and where the gaps are. It needs to ensure that there’s no hiding—everything can be seen and it’s perfectly clear who has what on their plate. This reduces excessive emails, and the need for you to constantly follow people up or hold status meetings.
Deadlines and clear responsibility matter when it comes to leadership. Having specific dates and responsibility on each action item means nothing gets missed and each person has the responsibility to complete tasks and projects. Your tool needs to ensure that you can assign accountability for each part of a project to ensure that both you and your team know exactly who is responsible for those parts.
Implementing the Right Remote Team Communication Tools
If you can get clarity and visibility, you gain so much more flow. The work moves. You gain more momentum, ease and reduced friction. Work flows in and flows out with a sense of calm and it’s easy to reprioritise based on the current work schedule.
When you have visibility and accountability the work actually gets finished. The stop/start settles and the ticking off of the work along the way happens. There’s a greater sense of ease and relaxed control.
If you have clarity and accountability, time, energy and effort are focused. Tasks and projects are prioritised, team members are empowered to reduce their noise and keep attention on what needs to be done. As the leader it allows you to keep focused on the strategic work and less on putting out fires. And that means that your business can keep moving forward towards your big goals.
I reckon if you can achieve these, the ultimate freedom of doing your most creative, insightful and fulfilling work happens. And that’s why we’re all here after all aren’t we?
Some Key Questions
1. How have you established your workflow for you and your remote team to ensure cohesion?
2. How much time are you spending on your best work?
3. Is your team operating like a herd of cats or a raft of otters?
4. What remote team communication tools might suit your and your team?
I’d love to know your thoughts!
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