Article | 02 Jan 2014

Managing Remote Teams requires more than technology

Posted in Digital, Motivation & inspiration,

David Smith knows a thing or two about remote working. As TMA World’s Practice Lead for Digital Fluency, his list of honours includes leading eighteen multilingual European facilitators on how to deliver sales training to 10,000 Account Managers and 2,500 Business Managers.

Smith recently shared his expertise at global conferences on virtual learning. So how do you coordinate teams across several different time zones? Smith explores the fundamentals to overcoming remote team hurdles, and the challenges to what he calls “The Borderless Workplace” over multiple webinars.

When your colleagues don’t share the same post code, it is easy to throw empathy to the side. This presents challenges to team building.


“Out of sight, out of mind” is a factor here. Without a sense of comradeship, your team members are more inclined to feel alone than as part of a team. When leaders communicate on a regular basis, despite the time difference, this instils a sense of purpose in the team members.


It is easy for team members to get muddled with responsibility, especially when their superior isn’t there. To overcome this, aim for clarity through communication and reinforce tasks where necessary.


Delegation of project roles should be clearly stated to avoid tasks being completed more than once.

Smith sets out six performance goals to adhere by for remote team success.

  • Co-operation
  • Convergence
  • Co-ordination
  • Capability
  • Communication
  • Cultural Intelligence


Whether your team is a close knit group of four or a twenty person army spread across four different continents, without co-operation project aims for success fall short. Enact clear cut delegation of tasks and role expectations for each team member.


Convergence is all about going in the same direction. One of the most important facets of Smith’s lecture is “The Five Ps”: Plans, Purpose, Priorities, Principles, and Performance Indicators. For team leaders, these “Five Ps” are the life of the project. Without these, you cannot achieve success.


Sure, your team may come from all corners of the world, but to pull them in the right direction, clarity is essential; from work analysis to roles and responsibilities, shares processes, and outlining what needs to be done and who is doing what.


Delegate projects according to your team members’ strengths. When team leaders exploit what each team members’ strengths are, the result is successful project management.


This, above any other of the Six Performance Goals, is the key to remote team working. Without communication, the team has no foundation on which to build on. In today’s digital world, there is no excuse to be absent when part of a remote team. Make sure you are engaged!


Fundamental to the morale of a virtual team is adopting a ‘we versus I’ mind-set; it is key to infuse strong communication and prompt response times to ensure a feeling of alliance across the globe.

Cultural Intelligence

To build an inclusive remote team where members hail from multiple countries, it is important to recognise national, corporate, and cultural differences that influence business interactions. Knowledge of these little differences will shape the final outcome.

Whilst David Smith believes that building a successful remote team is not simply about adding technology, first and foremost, there needs to be effective team management. However, technology can and does support these efforts.

By Camille Todaro