Is leading a remote team really that different from leading a team where everyone works in the same place? Of course:

  • Informal communication with remote employees is not nearly as easy as it is with on-site staff.
  • Technology plays a pivotal role in communication, and learning how to use it and maximize the benefit of it isn’t easy. Technology is often seen as a barrier.
  • Remote employees don’t always communicate with one another.
  • You can’t know what everyone’s doing at a given moment.

That said, I think there are more similarities than differences if you are an effective leader, and that is the key part. You have to be effective, and that means that you:

  • Share a coherent, compelling vision so that people work toward common goals.
  • Trust your remote employees, so you don’t stress because they aren’t in your line of sight.
  • Commit to open, two-way communication, well beyond email.
  • Nurture and maintain relationships, regardless of where your employees are located.
  • Focus on holding people accountable. When people take ownership of their work, they don’t need you to hover over them.
  • Train people well. Train them to use technology. Train them to communicate. Teach them how to be more efficient and productive. Offer them the knowledge and skills they need to handle the challenges of remote working.

So, yes, you do have to take different approaches when you manage a virtual team, but the basic qualities that make leaders successful are the same. Good leaders will overcome the barriers, and their teams will communicate, share information and pull together to reach their goals.

On the contrary, poor, lazy or unskilled leaders will use the differences to excuse poor results. It’s all too easy to blame the distance, the difficulty in communicating, or the lack of oversight when they fail.

I challenge you to rise above the excuses and ensure that your virtual team doesn’t fail. Spend some time answering these questions:

  1. What is your biggest weakness as a team (e.g., conflicts and misunderstandings)?
  2. What do you do to contribute to that weakness (e.g, communicating only through email)?
  3. What changes do you and your team need to make in how you communicate (e.g., speak more often, as opposed to using email)?
  4. What tools could you use to improve productivity and efficiency?
  5. What guidelines or team rules would improve how you work?
  6. What training should you provide?
  7. Are you on target to hit your team goals? If not, what changes can you make today to get you back on track?

The best leaders don’t let excuses get in their way. They make a real commitment to make positive, ongoing changes to ensure the success of their employees and to improve their effectiveness as a leader. You can do the same. Take your remote leadership skills to the next level by attending the The Remote Leadership Certificate Seriesa small group experience delivered remotely (just like you lead). The next session starts this Fall so register today!


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

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.

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