4 Qualities of Great Remote Teams
February 16, 2016

4 Qualities of Great Remote Teams

by Brian de Haaff

Remote teams are often better than their all-in-the-office peers. There, I said it. After working for six years on distributed, high-performance teams, it’s the truth. Remote work is here to stay and it’s terrific. What was impossible even a decade ago is now a reality for thousands of companies worldwide.

That reality is simple — there is no office. No cubicle walls, no parking garage, and no oversized fountain in the lobby. And for many, including our team at Aha! we gladly traded all those things for the benefits of being a distributed team.

We have written a lot about the advantages of being a remote team. And you have likely heard your fair share of them too. But few who work remotely talk much about the challenges of always being distant from everyone else on the team.

Not every person is cut out for remote work. Some people do not have the autonomy to complete their tasks on a daily basis, or they find that they miss the casual banter with others. But the major challenge that all remote companies must contend with is how to build a strong, unique culture without having that everyday face-to-face contact.

When we started Aha! we knew that building a healthy culture would be critical to our long-term success. And that’s why we began investing in building strong personal ties with one another from day one.

If you are leading a remote company, you want to do everything to ensure its success — and building a strong culture is essential. Here are four qualities of successful remote teams that we have observed. They:

Have a clear vision Remote teams need a strong belief system to ground them. At Aha! our core set of values is the starting place for everything we do. We have named our belief system The Responsive Method. We believe that organizations must act with urgency if they want to move forward. Our goal-first approach sets the stage for how we treat our customers and interact with each other. When you have a guiding principle for your team, it gives everyone a true north and helps a healthy culture take root.

Plan first You must know where you are going, or your team will quickly lose direction. Resist the urge to rush right in with the work before thinking it through. First, you must figure out the “why” for what you are doing. Then, establish clear goals and initiatives that align with the overall vision for what you want to accomplish. Your measured approach to strategy will help your team plan their work and become more confident in their own direction — even when tough decisions need to be made and a group-think session is not a cube away.

Stay transparent Remote teams must strive to maintain an atmosphere of openness if they want to be successful. Our strategy is no secret; the entire team knows the goals and initiatives we are all working toward. We use Aha! for our daily work, Slack for chat, and GoToMeeting for video meetings. This helps us keep in touch and stay on task. This transparency helps us avoid falling into silos that can cause division and misunderstandings. Make sure that you communicate and stay transparent if you want the team to establish trust.

Get together Video meetings and chat apps are great tools to accomplish your daily work as a team, but face-to-face meetings are still a must. We make it a priority at Aha! to plan periodic team get-togethers at destination locations. Over the course of a few days, we share our progress toward our goals and plans for the future by function. We also enjoy hikes, excursions, and dinners out together where we share our stories. Spending time together in-person will help everyone on your team develop more meaningful relationships.

When you lead a remote team, your culture will undoubtedly evolve over time and as new faces join your team. Technology will offer new ways to connect, but you will also have challenges that traditional workplaces simply do not encounter.

But with a strong culture as your foundation, you will be ready to face those challenges when they come. You will be able to bring new people into the fold and help them adapt quickly to your way of working. As you work toward your shared goals, your team will naturally develop a spirit of fellowship.

You will know that it’s working when you meet in-person and it is just like seeing old friends. That is a great confirmation that you are building a strong culture that will last.

If you are leading a remote team, make sure a healthy culture is a top priority from the get-go. And always be on the lookout for new ways to bring your team closer together.

What tips do you have for remote teams?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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