remote team

When we talk about remote work, we throw the word “team” around a lot.  But do you have a real team, or just a bunch of people who all report to the same manager? The difference can matter a lot.

A recent study on employee engagement by ADP and done by Marcus Buckingham among others, made the claim that those workers, virtual or not, who are part of a team are more engaged than those who  identify as working independently. This is critical for leaders to consider, because many of us say we manage a team, but actually just have a number of individual contributors reporting in. It’s not the same thing.

What defines a team?

The word team is often defined as “group of individuals working together to achieve their goal.” The key to that sentence is working together. We speak to managers all the time who say they have a team, but there is little interaction between the employees. That’s not a team.

Why do people in teams feel more engaged? We have known for eons that human beings are motivated than just a paycheck and personal reward (your employer’s compensation committee is counting on that.) We want to feel that our work matters to someone besides ourselves, that we are socially connected to other people shooting for the same goals, and that we have access to resources when we need them. Oh, and fun doesn’t hurt.

When we focus only on individual tasks and aren’t encouraged—and some companies actively discourage it— to connect with our peers or others inside the corporation, we run the risk of people burning out faster than normal. When people don’t have access to information and resources , it can make them overly dependent on the manager, which increases our work load.

How do you know if you have an actual team?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your communication with direct reports refer mainly to specific tasks or take a big-picture approach to the work? Does everyone work together for a common goal? How do you know?
  • Are people encouraged to share information with each other in more ways than just a quick status update on meetings?
  • Are you the first point of contact for any question or request for help? Are people encouraged or willing to reach out to their colleagues?
  • Do the various members of the team know each other strengths and expertise?
  • Are you copied or involved in most of the peer to peer communication? Why aren’t people just reaching out without going through you?

Teams prop each other up, energize each other, and share the work load. A high-performing team is also easier on the manager’s nerves.

So, do you have a team or just a bunch of people that report to you?

If you’d like to know more about remote teams and how to make them work, consider attending the next Remote Leadership Certificate Series.


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.

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