LEADERSHIP / OCT. 09, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Manage a Physically Dispersed Team

Nowadays, many people work with team mates that are located in different buildings, towns or countries. Such colleagues might be located in varying time zones, belong to a different culture and even speak different languages. As a result, handling people that are physically dispersed can be a great challenge for any team leader. However, there are some strategies you can apply to ensure that your dispersed team remains united, motivated and productive.

Recruiting team members

Here are some characteristics to look out for when choosing individuals to work in a physically dispersed team:

  • Self-motivation – Find people who are self-motivated and are able to work autonomously without constant supervision.
  • Communication skills – Since there might be little physical contact, your team members need to have good communication skills. They should have be well versed with technologies like webcams and Skype.
  • Results driven – Look for individuals who have a proven track record for achieving results.
  • Honesty and openness – Working with people in different geographical locations requires trust. This trust is enhanced when team members are open and honest.

Giving feedback

When it comes to managing a physically dispersed team, feedback is very important for team morale and performance. Here are some guidelines for giving feedback:

  • Stay in touch – In a normal office setting, it is very easy to call meetings or stop by people’s workstations. When dealing with a dispersed team, you should also make an effort to stay in touch with you people. You could schedule regular meetings via chat, telephone calls of video conferencing. This will enable you to keep track of progress and give feedback.
  • Give consistent and fair feedback – People who work in remote locations or different time zones are prone to feeling isolated and thus unmotivated. It is therefore very important to stay in regular contact with your team members. This way, they will not feel like they have been forgotten. Make sure feedback is given in an equitable and fair manner. Don’t make the mistake of giving too much attention to some team members while neglecting others.
  • Give equal rewards – Rewarding performance will go a long way in motivating your geographically dispersed workers. However, you need to ensure that your reward system is fair for all your team members.

Promoting bonding

People working in conventional office settings can bond frequently with their colleagues over drinks or meals. This doesn’t work for physically dispersed teams. However, there are some creative strategies you can apply to ensure that your team bonds:

  • Organize occasional get-togethers – You could mobilize your team once or twice a year for team building activities.
  • Create an intranet team page – This page can be used for sharing ideas and suggestions for different projects. Make sure the page has a photo of every team member.
  • Use webcams – Webcams allow you to have virtual meetings with your team members via Skype. When people are able to see each other, they feel more connected.
  • Beware of language barriers – If your team members are from different countries, there might be a language barrier. Therefore, you need to ensure that the language used for teleconferencing or phone calls is understood by everyone. Ask the people to speak slowly and clearly to ensure that the message gets across.

Managing and organizing a team dispersed in different locations is not easy. However, applying the tools and strategies mentioned above will help to ensure that your team achieves its objectives.

 

Image: istock

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