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Managing a remote team

How to manage and work with a remote team.

The following is a summary of the Know Your Team Intro: Managing Remote Teams.

When you’re a remote leader, you can’t afford to not be a good writer. You can’t afford to not be intentional about social connection. You can’t afford to not trust your employees.

1. Switch from “Speak first” to “Write first.”

When you have a question, the instinct is to talk to someone about it – not write it out. When you have a new project to kick off, you hold an in-person meeting. When you have a question, you walk over to someone’s desk to ask them about it. However, in remote teams you don’t say it, you write it.

2. Trust your employees

It doesn’t matter how many hours are being put into the work or when the work is being put in. All that matters are the results — and I trust our employees find a way to make the results happen.

3. Foster connection (belonging cues)

Belonging cues have to do not with character or discipline but with building an environment that answers basic questions: Are we connected? Do we share a future? Are we safe?

From The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle:

One misconception about highly successful cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication

The following is a paraphrased and quoted section from The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication.

They aren’t requirements, but they serve to create boundaries and shared practices to draw upon when we do the one thing that affects everything else we do: communicate.

Rules of thumb, and general philosophy

  1. You can not not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.
  2. Asynchronous over real-time. Real-time should never be the first option.
  3. Long-form writing over verbal. Reduces opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.
  4. Meaningful discussions need time to develop and unfold. Rushing to judgement, or demanding immediate responses, increases the odds of poor decision making.
  5. Meetings are a last resort. Meetings should never be the first option.
  6. If it’s important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don’t chat it down. Meaningful decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts.
  7. Speaking only helps who’s in the room, writing helps everyone. This includes people who couldn’t make it, or future employees who join years from now.
  8. If your words can be perceived in different ways, they’ll be understood in the way which does the most harm.
  9. Never expect or require someone to get back to you immediately. Unless it’s a true emergency. The expectation of immediate response is toxic.
  10. If you have to repeat yourself, you weren’t clear enough the first time. However, if you’re talking about something brand new, you may have to repeat yourself for years before you’re heard. Pick your repeats wisely.
  11. Poor communication creates more work.
  12. Communication isn’t a problem, its miscommunication. The smaller the company, group, or team, the fewer opportunities for miscommunication.
  13. Five people in a room for an hour is a five hour meeting. Be mindful of the tradeoffs.
  14. Give factual and spacial context. Factual are the things people also need to know. Spacial is where the communication happens (for example, if it’s about a specific to-do, discuss it right under the to-do, not somewhere else).
  15. Communication shouldn’t require schedule synchronization. Calendars have nothing to do with communication. Writing, rather than speaking or meeting, is independent of schedule and far more direct.
  16. Let whatever you have to say filter through time. What’s left is the part worth saying.
  17. Will others feel compelled to rush their response if you rush your approach?
  18. If you aren’t sure, sleep on it before saying it.
  19. If you want an answer, you have to ask a question. People typically have a lot to say, but they’ll volunteer little. Automatic questions on a regular schedule help people practice sharing, writing, and communicating.
  20. Delete words, sentences, or paragraphs and ask, Did it matter?
  21. Urgency is overrated, ASAP is poison.
  22. If something’s going to be difficult to hear or share, invite questions at the end. Ending without the invitation will lead to public silence but private conjecture. This is where rumors breed.
  23. Where you put something, and what you call it, matters. When titling something, lead with the most important information. Many technical systems truncate long text or titles.
  24. There may not be a perfect time, but there’s certainly a wrong time. Sharing something at 5pm may keep someone at work longer. Early Monday morning communication may be buried by other things.
  25. Great news delivered on the heels of bad news makes both bits worse. The bad news feels like it’s being buried, the good news feels like it’s being injected to change the mood. Be honest with each by giving them adequate space.
  26. Time is on your side, rushing makes conversations worse.
  27. Communicate directly rather than through intermediaries. Communication is lossy, especially verbal communication. Every hearsay hop adds static and chips at fidelity.
  28. Address the gaps before they widen with time. Ask if things are clear. Ask what you left out. Ask if there was anything someone was expecting that you didn’t cover.
  29. The right communication in the wrong place might as well not exist at all. When someone relies on search to find something it’s often because it wasn’t where they expected something to be.
  30. Good communication is about saying the right thing at the right time in the right way with the fewest side effects.