Leadership

5 ways to effectively manage a team spread across the country

Participants compete in the cycle leg of an Ironman triathlon.
Charlie Crowhurst | Getty Images
Participants compete in the cycle leg of an Ironman triathlon.

Don't pretend otherwise. I've accepted it, and I'm okay with it.

You won't remember this article, and you likely won't remember me. The truth is, you probably won't remember many of the deadlines, stress and craziness you think are so important in your job today. But what if you had the freedom to volunteer at your child's school, spend time with a sick grandparent, or train for a triathlon. Would you remember that? You betcha.

Why?

Because life is about memories. If you are leading a remote workforce, you have an incredible opportunity to provide your team the ultimate career — one with both the freedom and the flexibility to create a lifetime of memories. So, keep the following considerations in mind when leading a remote workforce:

1. Build a memory-inspired culture

Create a culture that inspires both professional achievement and life experiences. It doesn't mean you need to abolish a reasonable work environment, but it does mean you need to make accommodations for the things that matter in life. You'll reap the benefits of better employee retention and capture the momentum of an inspired workforce.

2. Hire smart and let them be heroes

Elevate your hiring quality; you have the whole country and maybe the entire world to recruit from. Hire smart, driven, accountable people who have iron-class communication skills and a varied background. Given the goals, let them compete, and give them the slack to be a superhero.

3. Don't forget the guardrails

Top-performing remote teams are built on trust. Implement project collaboration software and document your processes. Everything should be a system with a clean hand-off between employees. Your goal here should be employees who can trust the system, wherein they know their role and trust their colleagues.

4. Measure and keep measuring

Systems need process, and process enables measurement. Identify critical business systems and the forward-looking KPIs that matter. Put measurement systems in place that help you predict and take advantage of wins and avoid or correct mistakes well ahead of time.

Schedule opportunities to review the data and incentivize your staff for making improvements in systems that lead to better metrics.

5. Tinker, tinker, tinker

If you are leading a remote workforce, you are charting new territory. This means you may not enjoy volumes of research driving your business operations. Engage in thoughtful experimentation in communications, technology, systems, organizational structures and hiring systems. Not every test will be a win, but in the long run, continuous improvement will yield amazing benefits.

Leading a remote team can be lonely and isolating at times. You can't see the smiles, hear the laughs or share in the wins and losses of your employees' daily lives.

But know this: Every customer you help, every employee you hire, and every problem you solve impacts someone's life. For that, you should be proud. So, smell the roses, pat yourself on the back, and get excited to take advantage of this opportunity.

I'm still assuming you won't remember me, and I am okay with that. But maybe your employees will remember you. I'm okay with that too.

Ryan Malone is the Founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, an award-winning digital marketing agency. After starting his career leading marketing teams for publicly traded and early-stage technology companies, Ryan founded SmartBug Media to help organizations build more impactful sales and marketing teams.