As leaders, we need to consider the structure of the team and the alignment and purpose of the work the team does. This is to ensure that we have clarity on the value the team creates. In my opinion, a high-performing team flourishes in an environment where they know exactly how they contribute to the organization's purpose.
Suppose you are a supervisor or a team leader you know how difficult it is to manage distributed teams with constant pressure to perform and deliver quality products/services on time. This is especially true for offshore teams in different time zones, regions, cultures, and working styles. If you do not put in the effort to come up with effective strategies to manage these teams, it may eventually lead to low team morale, disgruntled employees, and most importantly poor performance. This is the reason why companies are investing millions of dollars in training, organizational, and team development.
From my 20+ years of experience working in tech and managing teams, I realized that as leaders, we need to consider the structure of the team and the alignment and purpose of the work the team does. This is to ensure that we have clarity on the value the team creates. In my opinion, a high-performing team flourishes in an environment where they know exactly how they contribute to the organization's purpose.
Currently, 16% of companies worldwide are 100% remote, and 77% of remote workers say they're more productive when working from home. A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 82% plan to allow employees to work at least part of the time after the pandemic remotely and 47% will enable employees to work from home full-time. This being the case, building highly motivated teams across the globe becomes a huge challenge but is not impossible.
Below are seven strategies to build high-performing teams.
Alternate between different meeting times when scheduling meetings across time zones. This lets your team know that everyone gets a chance to have a meeting that is convenient for their respective work regions. Also, make sure you plan ahead.
Schedule key meetings at an appropriate time suitable for onsite and offshore teams (Asia Pacific region, Europe, Middle East, and Africa). Working with remote teams is slightly different than
co-located teams. For example, if someone asks you to send a status report by 9 pm, make sure to mention whether it is IST, EST, UK time, etc. Be proactive in scheduling meetings. If required, you may need to have two-time slots for the meetings since not one time best suits everyone.
Use Messaging tools like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams as a virtual workspace to connect all team members quickly. Set clear goals, deadlines, and expectations to work on tasks accordingly. Empower people to make decisions, and you check in periodically. Have regular 1:1 meetings to understand the problems/issues. Always welcome feedback and questions and listen carefully before you respond.
Understanding communication, cooperation, and trust are key. Boost team morale by giving recognition periodically. It would help if you recognize good work immediately. For example, asking a team to complete a task in one week without clear expectations can cause frustration to team members. Having all-hands meetings on a quarterly basis is also very helpful.
Also, intercultural communication is essential, and you need to keep in mind the working styles in different cultures. Due to the hierarchical structure, some cultures may not be open/hesitant to ask questions. As a leader, it is your responsibility to recognize this and request they summarize the expectations of a task to ensure they understand it.
Small Work Teams
Having small teams is good to manage and easily track progress. Break down goals and make sure all the team members understand the same. Empower your team by giving them responsibilities and encouraging them. Having a point person for each team is very helpful to know the status for tracking purposes easily.
Build cross-functional teams to understand dependencies from each other's team. Form separate small groups for each workstream to discuss and chat about the deliverables related to the workstream. Breaking down goals into smaller ones and communicating them to different work teams is a good approach to achieving more progress. Also, remember that you do not need to have everyone in a meeting. Invite only those who are required to make decisions and have constructive discussions about the topic at hand.
Encourage teams to work towards common goals and objectives of the Project/Program. Make sure all the project artifacts are stored in a shared folder to access seamlessly by teams from onsite and onshore. You need to establish the same process for Onsite/Offshore teams while using the same set of tools, frameworks, and resources. Make sure the onsite and offshore work handoff is smooth and place all relevant documentation in a shared folder to access for all team members.
Regular team meetings help the team to align and refocus on shared goals. Retrospective meetings after each sprint are very helpful to know what works well and what needs to be improved. Encourage the team to participate in all the team meetings and encourage them to speak up about their issues/concerns to get help from the team. Also, discuss the dependencies between various tasks that have to be accomplished.
Take ownership of all the tasks the team does. Make people accountable for the deliverables and encourage new ideas and solutions. Make sure team responsibilities are clearly spelled out. Use tools to manage task progress and set expectations that are always clear.
One great way to empower the team is to encourage peer review for each deliverable and provide feedback. Establish the RACI matrix (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) that defines and clarifies roles/responsibilities and eliminates confusion. Collaboration tools such as Rally, Jira, and Trello help to manage tasks and progress.
Celebrating small wins at work boosts team morale. You need to send frequent "Thank you" notes and provide monetary gifts to make sure individual contributions are visible. You can also nominate people for internal awards or reward them with more responsibilities.
Remember, always celebrate small wins with the teams and respect different team cultures. Acknowledging good behavior is very important.
Experimentation is the key to building high-performing teams. If something is not working, try a different approach. Also, be patient as positive change doesn't happen suddenly. When you develop processes, empower people, and lead with empathy, teams acknowledge your effort and support you in return.