9 tips on how to manage a distributed team

Alex Morgunov

Alex Morgunov

Project Lead

9 tips how to manage distributed team

motivate your team

If you are reading this article, you are either working with a remote team or thinking about it.

Perhaps, one of the biggest obstacles that managers or business owners have to overcome is to face the fact that your developers will not be working in your office, where you can see them and follow their work progress directly. Of course, you want to be sure that your workers code diligently and all tasks are implemented properly.

One of the crucial factors that lead to success in working with a remote team is motivation. So, what exactly should be done to maintain high productivity in your team, to create an enthusiastic environment that would nurture their creativity and search for the best solutions? We have asked our clients and several developers at Sloboda Studio, and now we are happy to share 9 tips that might help in your specific case.

1. Build trust

According to our customer, Ruzbeh Bacha (CEO at CityFALCON), the key thing to working with remote developers is trust.

Find some time to know your people better. Your developers are not only your workforce, they are human beings. It’s good to know a little bit more about them, learn what drives and motivates them. Bond with your team, share with them your achievements so that your developers can feel — they are not just hired people, they are a part of your business and your success. Be open to them: communication and freedom create the atmosphere that breeds efficiency.

Do not forget about accountability. Use video conferences to communicate with your team as often as possible, track their progress with the help of PM tools. Have everything documented to avoid confusion? If you discuss a task or an idea during a call, always ask someone to put in writing what has been discussed, so you and your team can check and confirm the result of the meeting. Thus both you and your team won’t omit anything.

2. Educate your team

When working with technical companies, it’s very important to understand the nature of their business.

Here’s the opinion of Ruzbeh Bacha: “It was difficult to find people who are good in technology because a lot of good experts are working for big companies. So you have to find someone… a tech person who understands finance. We call ourselves a FinTech company, so, in our case, either you hire a good technical developer and then train them in finance, or, less likely, you could take someone with the finance background and some technology experience. Working with Sloboda Studio. we educated tech people. It is important that we can speak the same language of finance and understand each other.”

3. Be open about your business details

Of course, your project may be very sensitive and you must do your best to make it absolutely leak-proof. But at the same time Ruzbeh Bacha believes that, when you speak or when you write, people may understand it differently, and if they don’t understand the business, they will build things that are not relevant.

The more your team knows about your business model, the less time (and money!) is spent on explaining tasks. Understanding your business will make your developers more efficient and productive. Find time to educate your team, give them the full picture, and they will come up with the best solution for your project so you can concentrate your efforts on something more important instead.

Keep your business details secret only if you absolutely have to.

4. Avoid Micromanagement

If you google the word “micromanagement”, you will find out that it is “a management style whereby a manager closely observes and controls employees”. Why is it so bad?

Some people view programming as a manufacturing process, with strict production chain and day-to-day goals. But in reality, creation of software has nothing to do with a factory or MacDonald’s where they serve food made from standard semi-finished products, where each step is standardized and routine. First of all, developers deals with “soft” product, which can be (and often is) changed to meet the requirements. If you use micromanagement, your developers soon will feel underestimated, will have no chance to prove themselves, to be creative, to master new advanced technologies. Problem-solving is a highly creative process, so do not keep your developers out of it, let them do what they are taught to do.

Give the developers the overall picture, concentrate on priorities, set milestones and clear priorities together with your team. All good developers strive to keep with the newest technologies, so they might know better if the priorities or milestones might be re-arranged .

Trust them with finding the way to solve your task, and they will be happy to provide you with the best solution. Thus you will also avoid the notorious professional burnout and maintain a productive atmosphere. Delegate them what can be delegated.

If you do not want kill initiative and innovation, please do not use micromanagement.

5. Be careful with deadlines

There are two sides to deadlines. On one hand, any tight, unrealistic deadlines create unnecessary pressure and block problem-solving. People feel unhappy, the task is not implemented as good as it could be, and solution swarms with bugs. On the other hand, too generous deadlines demoralize, make people lazy and feed their procrastination. So, discuss a deadline with your team and set a realistic date.

6. Communicate with your team

Always communicate with you team anytime there are important changes in your project. Provide your feedback on the completed tasks: thus you appraise their good job or give them a chance to improve.

Be ready to discuss their problems, if any. When managing remote workers, it’s important to provide your input. People need your support and appreciation.

Also, do not ignore their advice, do not forget about “wisdom of the crowd”, moreover that this “crowd” consists of highly-skilled professionals. Argue your position when required. Be open about decision-making, let your team contribute to your product.

7. Listen, analyze, react

To err is human. We all learn from our mistakes to become better and more efficient. Always find time to listen to your developer in case of a failure. Do not jump to conclusions. Review the situation together with your team and apply necessary actions to avoid it in future.

8. Find a balance between challenge and routine

Finding a proper balance between challenging and simple tasks is important for developers. “If too many simple things, your team will be bored, If it’s too challenging, they will get disappointed with themselves”, says Ruzbeh Bacha.

While challenging task that requires thinking outside the box is great for professionals, too much can be tiresome. Too much routine, on the other hand, kills drive for perfection.

9. Think about rewards

Always pay in time. Otherwise, developers might search for another project to make a living and could spend less and less time on your project.

Also, always inform your remote team about your achievements (e.g. winning a contest or raising money for your project), so they feel like your partners, feel more responsible for the job they do. Find time and means to celebrate your success with your team!

9. Let’s not forget about fun!

Fun and creativity walk hand in hand. It’s good to introduce some fun into your working routine. It could be anything, even a … bell, like those that ring in UK pubs, when someone tips.

Some time ago CityFALCON bought similar bell, and for a good reason. The company set a goal to reach a required number of registered users. Each time CityFALCON had a new registration, someone in the team rang a bell to inform everyone about the new achievement. On a day when the bell did not ring, the team knew they had to do something.

And it worked: CityFALCON really nailed it!

If you want to create your own formula of using fun elements that boost productivity, or need to hire highly-motivated remote developers, contact us!

 

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