Working remotely, leading from afar

By Drew Mattison (alum)

Remote work is not easy. For nearly 20 years, I have been working remotely and leading dispersed teams both nationally and internationally. As an experienced veteran, I have a few pointers for the folks who are new to this space.

  • Pacing is important. Give yourself a break and don’t try to solve everything in one day, even one month.
  • Check-ins are required. Check in with your team every day. Even just a quick hello builds connection.
  • Trust is mandatory. Cultivate trust—and you go first. Dispersed teams only work if there is trust and you have to give it to get it.
  • Your workspace is key. Give yourself a healthy and comfortable space in which to work. This may not be easy or practical with homeschooling and other distractions, but do your best.

And it’s not just the work itself. Leading from afar has its challenges as well. The specific connections fundamental to leading people and projects are strained, while the need for increased reassurance and guidance goes up. Some ideas on how to lead your remote team:

  • Daily connections are needed. Reach out to your team, even for a few minutes, to connect on how they’re doing and what they’re working on. From my longtime friend, Geoff Foulds, a daily stand-up meeting with the entire team can ground the group and bring a level of normalcy and schedule that is needed. We’ve always done that at Tremendousness, but it’s feels even more useful now.
  • Check on the person first, the work second. A few minutes to connect with your employees at a personal level is critical to manage anxiety and help build trust. Check in on how they’re feeling, their family, their pets, their health… just be human.
  • Be direct, reduce ambiguity, and leverage visuals. Help your team be productive and consistent by being very direct on timing and responsibilities. And use clear and engaging visuals in your communications and via technology to drive alignment and clarity.

Overall, be safe and be brave.

What else would you add to these lists?

Illustration by W. Scott Matthews / Tremendousness.