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How to build relationships with my remote team?

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My team is mostly remote: myself and one other team member work in person but the rest of our 7 person team is scattered across the country. How can we build relationships (past a working one) that will bring us together and make us motivated and excited about working together. How can we build a culture when we're never in the same place? Tips? Advice?

26 Replies

Brett Fox
4
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Brett Fox Advisor
Respected, Results-Oriented CEO, Entrepreneur, Author, and Coach
You have to do the same things you would do in an office environment and then some. Communications is going to be key: - Be on the phone every day with your team - Have weekly 1:1s with your team - Have company meetings (video conference) every week, so everyone understands what is going on Then you need to go above and beyond just phone/video communications: - Visit each team member - Have the whole team assemble on a regular basis face to face... - And have the meetings at various locations, so it isn't just at your facility It's going to take extra effort to make this work, but you can make it work. Good luck!
Haim Toeg
1
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Haim Toeg Entrepreneur
Customer Success, Services and Support Executive - Available For New Opportunities
One more advice on top of Brett's excellent list - make sure your team members talk to each other regularly. If they don't create a reason for them to do so.
Brett Fox
1
0
Brett Fox Advisor
Respected, Results-Oriented CEO, Entrepreneur, Author, and Coach
Haim is absolutely correct. And this brings up one more crucial point: - Open communication is critical I would be 100% open and honest about everything going on in the company. From its finances, to customers, to anything else. The team will fill in the blanks if you are not open. The remote environment makes this even more important for you to do.
Michael Feder
0
0
Michael Feder Advisor
Founder and CEO at PrayerSpark; Finalist: Global Business & Interfaith Peace Award
I like SKYPE, Google+, Trello, Slack, and other methods of staying in constant contact. I also have sometime events where we all get together, sometime trade shows, sometimes actual get-togethers. We are all in touch every day, and using the various collaboration tools now available, we are more engaged with one another than we'd be in an office (unless we were standing at one anothers desk, watching each other type, which is a non-starter!).

Julien Fruchier
1
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Julien Fruchier Entrepreneur
Founder at Republic of Change
We're building a virtual (no HQ) organization. My biggest point of reference is Automattic, the company behind WordPress. They are 450 strong, all working remotely from around the world. Their turnover rate is something like 2-4%.

Watch this interview as a starting point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMGb2UoNFYM
Julien Fruchier
1
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Julien Fruchier Entrepreneur
Founder at Republic of Change
PS - Use Slack. If you're bootstrapped, Use a wordpress theme called P2. This is the child theme of P2 that we use to run team communication. It's a free Twitter intranet if you will, where you can upload files and centralize all of your communication.

https://wordpress.org/themes/mercury/
Benjamin Olding
1
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Benjamin Olding Advisor
Co-founder, Board Member at Jana
We found video made a difference - but culturally, not tactically. So, when we started, there was no "a-ha!" moment and no obvious benefit over audio-only meetings. After 3 months, everyone said it helped, even though no one could say why exactly.

Beat theory someone suggested that I liked is that ~1/3rd of our brains is devoted to vision. Everything is connected to everything.

Regardless of the reason, I am now a believer: but you have to take it on faith a little at first - it doesn't make the meetings feel different, but we really feel a difference in team dynamics. We use it both for daily standups and spontaneous 1:1 chats during day - we rarely do audio-only now.

Slack + hangouts is our combo of choice to make the friction pretty low.
Bill Warner
0
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Bill Warner Entrepreneur
Managing Partner of Paladin and Associates
This is why God or Google made Hangouts. Not sure which...........;<)

You will have to "overkill" communications, daily. Make a habit of having frequent team discussions. Google makes all sorts of collaboration tools. Use them.

Bill

Thomas Vrba
0
0
Thomas Vrba Advisor
Global Program Manager at Novartis
Great advise. I think it is important to stick to a certain schedule. I have worked with lots of offshore teams and distributed teams. It helped to have a daily standup meeting. So everyone knows who is working on what and what their challenges are. Also to ensure all are aligned and work against the same goals. Even if you feel it starts all working out stick to your schedule. Because of the distribution people will drift off in no time. Video is an absolute must. As Benjamin stated it simply works better.
Steve Everhard
2
1
Steve Everhard Advisor
All Things Startup
No-one has mentioned trust. That is a two way street and often where these arrangements fall down. A daily meeting is a strain on everyone and will paralyse you. Don't do it. Regular meetings are essential by any tool that works for everyone. You can't mandate video links if one of you is on a slow connection because frustration will build and destroy team spirit. Focus on fast and efficient comma. Meet with good agendas and end with clear actions and reporting timelines.

Make sure everyone knows their role and their authority within that role - that last point gets overlooked. Give them trust until they prove otherwise. Progress gets reported but not micromanaged. You trust them and they trust you.

Culture is about having a clear vision of what you do and where you're heading and not about where you are. It's a style of doing business that you need to clearly articulate. Your business ethics.

A word on openness. Being 100% open will not only open up conversations you don't want to have unless youre running a collective, but can also look like you aren't leading and will eat up your management time. Some things aren't for discussion or debate. Be clear and share stuff that is ready for prime time. Don't circulate confidential spreadsheets unless you want them in the hands of your competition. Share what is appropriate but lead and don't lie.

No collaboration tool is perfect for everyone and there is a vast choice. Understand what you need from the tools to run effectively, audition a couple and pick the least compromised. Don't blindly adopt a tool because everyone says it's great. It may be for them but not for you.

Bringing everyone together physically at the putset sets up and cements relationships. Consider how you might do that at least cost.
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