When people talk about remote teams, one of the big questions is about company culture.

  • How can we create a good team culture when everyone (or at least some of the team) are located away from each other?
  • How can we maintain the team (or company) culture now that we’re located all over the place?

These are important questions, but the first thing we need to do is understand what a “team culture” really is. It sounds very esoteric and hypothetical, but really you can’t have something until you know what to call it. When we talk “culture”, we can mean a lot of things:

  • Do we focus on making the “right decision,” or one that can get the most buy-in?
  • Do we enjoy each other’s company, and have fun, or are we focused on the task at hand? (This matters, because one person’s relationship-building is another person’s wasting time; while your “getting down to business” is viewed as just plain rude to others.)
  • Do we avoid conflict at all times, or do we enjoy the give-and-take that can sometimes come with honest feedback and brainstorming?

The point is, that company culture isn’t hard to define because it contains all these elements. Here’s a definition in a single sentence. Your team (or company’s) culture is simply “how we do things here.” Whether your team is co-located, totally dispersed, or some hybrid mix of people, how you define your culture either happens intentionally or by accident.

If you’re trying to decide if you have the culture you want, here are a few questions to ask yourself and your team. (The variety of answers among teammates may be eye-opening):

  • What’s more important, accomplishing the team’s goals or each individual achieving their own milestones? How do you know?
  • If you asked each member of the team about the processes for answering questions, sharing information and getting help in a hurry, would they all describe the same set of rules? What does it mean if the answer is no?
  • Do you as a manager get dragged into discussions that could just as easily be solved between the parties involved? Why does that happen, and what do you think that means?
  • How would you (or your team) describe their culture: fun, congenial, goal-oriented, efficient, all-business, relaxed, stressful…….

The answers to these questions aren’t necessarily as important as whether there is a consistent view among the team. If you and your teammates don’t agree on “how things are done here,” then everyone is doing things the way they feel is right.

Try asking some of these questions of your team members. Have some tough discussions about if the way you’re working, works for them. You may be surprised (pleasantly or not) at the answers.

Meanwhile, if you’d like help assessing and creating a remote working culture that works for your organization and your team, check out the Remote Leadership Certificate Series, a powerful training program designed to provide you with the practical skills to lead remote employees, virtual teams and mobilized work forces. Learn more here.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

Want more articles like this?

Subscribe to any of our e-newsletters to get them delivered directly to your inbox.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}