Learn to let go — just a little bit — and breed trust
Key Takeaways for Managing Your Team
Your various synchronous and asynchronous communication channels serve different functions. Outline norms about what’s discussed where and expected response times
Structure each week around goals, have your team document those goals, and close the loop at the end of the week with a check-in on progress and your team’s general well-being.
Start from a place of trust — remember, you’re hiring adults! — and allow employees to be self-directed but do build a communication cadence to verify and hold people accountable.
Trust, but verify
In a distributed environment you can’t casually pass someone in the hall and chat about what they’re working on; you’ll have to be willing to empower your employees and let them be self-directed.
Architect general guard rails for communication best practices: team-based standups, 1:1’s, all-hands, etc. all become more difficult in an asynchronous environment. However, also understand that part of the magic in startups happens in random places at random times - generally outside the context of a defined day. Embrace that!
Communication must be intentional
As you begin to grow your remote team you may find that communication across the team is not meeting your expectations. This is where communication planning becomes essential.
Think through your communication channels and how they should be used: written communication is a form of thinking and keeps a record. Synchronous conversation is richer. Asynchronous communication is for updates and handoffs. Where does each channel fall on the spectrum of ideation → iteration?
Consider your communication traditions and norms. Be okay with dumping those that don’t work and/or don’t scale and find a new way to meet your goals.
eg. did you introduce new people on a company call when you were smaller? Now that you’ve grown, perhaps move to intro videos, then move to Slack.
Don’t avoid starting a new tradition just because it won’t scale. Do what works now and continually evolve.
Relationships can thrive remotely - but you have to work for it
Managing your team in a combination of video chats, emails, and asynchronous Slack messages can be a challenge but with a little bit of pre-planning and intentional structure your team can thrive.
Ask at the beginning of each week “what do you hope to accomplish this week” and check-in at the end of the week.
Have employees write these goals down and share with their manager. This makes it easier to hold people accountable and shift if needed.
Keep it at the goal-level, not the day-to-day level.
Managers should always be asking: “what can I do to make it easier/how can I support you in this goal?”
Don’t forget to check in on people’s wellbeing. The type of “softer” information you get from people can help you better manage them and build camaraderie in the absence of regular physical gatherings.