If you are responsible for managing a remote team, you need certain strategies and tactics to make up for the fact that you aren’t face to face with them in the same office.
But if you leverage the methods available to you, your cost savings will increase and your team will get more done in less time.
Here are four tips to help you take your remote team’s production to the next level:
#1: Set SMART Goals
The goals you set are crucial to making a remote team more productive.
The SMART method of setting goals makes it easier for your team to stay on-target even when you aren’t there in person.
Here’s are the five characteristics of SMART goals:
If you set a vague goal, such as “increase sales,” you could technically achieve your goal by boosting sales by just $1. But that is not going to help most businesses.
Thus, vague goals are meaningless.
Specific goals help energize and focus your whole team around the outcome you are looking to achieve.
As a leader in your organization, you need to express your vision and provide concrete milestones in the form of well-defined goals along the way.
For instance, why do you want to increase sales?
To invest in a new technology? To hire more people? To erase some of our debt after a round of funding? To keep the lights on? Just because it sounds fun?
Once you know the reason why you want that general goal, you can more intelligently set a specific goal that helps you get there.
Perhaps you realize, after looking at your current cash flow and projected expenses over the next 90 days, that you need to create $15,000 of additional revenue in that time period to pay for research and development of a new product.
Now you can tell your sales team that you need an extra $5,000 of sales per month from them.
Then, divide that number by the number of salespeople you have on your staff.
If you have 5 sales reps, then you can set individual quotas (goals) of $1,000 in additional sales per month.
From there, you can get even more fine tuned and figure out how many calls your agents need to make to set enough appointments to sell that amount.
With specific goals, they will maintain motivation and avoid getting off track.
That way, you can spend less time in the trenches and more time doing what you are best at.
Once you know what your specific outcome is, you need to ask yourself if it is measurable.
Specific numbers, like $1,000, are measurable.
If your goal is still not quantifiable, or you can’t define what exactly what the criteria is for achieving vs. not achieving the goal, then it is not measurable.
You must be able to review your goal and know instantly whether or not you have reached it or not, based on key metrics.
Goals that might seem specific at first, like becoming the #1 company in your market, need a qualifier – some way to differentiate the #1 company from the rest.
Perhaps this could be sales numbers, customer satisfaction ratings, or the growth trajectory relative to last year.
Whatever it is, it needs to be quantifiable and thus measurable.
Like the legendary management guru Peter Drucker once said:
Unless you and your team can take action on the goal to effect the outcome, then it is not actionable.
For instance, hoping the overall economy improves is not a goal. There is nothing you can do about it either way.
Make sure you can always trace your goals back to one, singular action that you can take right now to effect the outcome.
Otherwise, it’s not a goal at all – It’s a wish. And wishes don’t grow companies.
Your goals have to be realistic.
There’s nothing wrong with exciting and challenging goals, but they should at least be attainable.
A startup’s goal of earning a $1 million per month in revenue is realistic, although a bit of a stretch goal for most companies.
People have done it before, and so can you.
But if your company hasn’t even hist $1 million per year in revenue yet, and you’re looking to grow your revenue to $ 1 million per month this quarter, you aren’t setting a goal that is realistic.
Instead of exciting and motivating for your sales and marketing team, it will be intimidating and discouraging.
There is nothing wrong with huge goals.
But what often dictates whether or not a goal is realistic and useful is the timeline you attach to it.
Speaking of which, every great goal also needs to be:
Your goals must be time oriented if you hope to have any chance of achieving them in the near future.
People (yes, you too) are masters of procrastination.
We’ll find all kinds of ways to get out of working on the task in front of us.
This is true for customers, employees, and everyone inbetween.
This intellectual fear and laziness will infect your team if they are given the opportunity by poor planning and bad goal-setting on your part.
If you want to achieve more goals in your company you need to take responsibility for putting a definite expiration date on them.
You need a deadline that represents the latest you can possibly have this goal accomplished and still feel proud about it.
Apply time pressure to yourself and your team. Put the date you want to achieve your new goal by in your calendar and share it with everyone who needs to know.
Otherwise, your goal is likely to disappear off the radar now and forever.
These five SMART components (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented) will help you learn how to craft goals in your business that you’ve always wanted to achieve and never had the right blueprint for.
So put SMART goals in action and watch as your remote team gets more done in less time than ever before.
#2: Empower Team Members
Avoid being the bottleneck for your remote team’s decisions.
Information, actions, and any items that need to get done in order to keep the operations of your business running smoothly should only flow through you after your approval has been deemed absolutely necessary.
Otherwise, empower your team to make decisions until certain predefined parameters are met.
For instance, if you have a customer service agent that you’re managing from abroad, then you can allow them to fix problems with customers that cost up to $100.
Anything that costs more than $100 can be run by you for approval.
When they make mistakes (as everyone does) train them on the right way to handle the situation and move on. Most errors are not life and death.
This empowerment makes people feel more important, perform their job better, and it helps you avoid filling up your day with a thousand little decisions and judgment calls that your team should be able to make themselves.
#3: Make Meetings More Effective
No matter how well trained and effective your team members are, occasional video meetings might be called for.
They allow you to go more in-depth on a new marketing plan, give feedback to a new team member, or deal with miscellaneous business items.
First of all, don’t forget to filter your meetings through the SMART method as well: set a specific start and end time for meetings.
Also have clear objectives that are written down and shared with everyone at the meeting ahead of time.
This way, no meeting should truly take longer than 30 to 45 minutes, unless you have already designated time for group brainstorming or open-ended discussion during the same meeting.
And don’t set meetings for meetings’ sake.
Instead, set them meaningfully and only when necessary to keep yourselves on the right track so you can make the most of your time and resources.
#4: Use Automation and Systems
Let’s say you run an ecommerce store selling wool hats that cost $50 each.
How would you answer a customer’s email like the following?
Subject: I love my hat! Thank you!!!
Dear ACME Hat Company,
I love my hat! I wore it out the other day and all my friends gave me compliments! I just wanted to thank you for making such amazing, hilarious hats to wear for every occasion!
John “Ideal Customer” Smith
The email above would be a professional marketer’s dream come true.
You might want to hold on to that email, reach out to the customer over the phone or in person (or have your team do it), and then ask them for a testimonial video that you could post on your site.
Or perhaps not.
Either way, do you have the systems and processes in place that would allow your customer service agents to know exactly how to respond to that scenario?
Do they send a simple thank you? Do you have templates created for them, or should they trust their instinct and respond however they want?
What if you received the exact opposite email from a customer, detailing their horrible experience? How is your team supposed to handle it?
The point is, knowing how to handle different situations is critical to the success of your company when you are relying on remote team members.
The more that you can codify and systematize what you do, the less likely that your team members will be confused or make a costly mistake.
You can do this by creating SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in your business, in a Google Doc or somewhere else in the cloud.
An SOP is a step-by-step process that explains in painstaking detail exactly how to perform a given task in your business.
The idea behind the SOP is that anyone can plug into any role in your company and perform that job without a problem.
Using the example of the customer service email above, you might instruct the customer service agent on exactly what buttons to click to log into their agent account.
Then, you would describe how to navigate your customer service portal to view inbound customer emails or messages.
Finally, you would tell them step-by-step how to respond to various emails and how to select premade response templates, if applicable, to your business.
You can make this SOP a word document or simply record a screenflow video and upload the video to Dropbox to share with your team.
Now, you have a scalable training resources that prevent mistakes, saves you time, and expands the potential hiring pool for any given role in your business.
Managing a Remote Team Going Forward
The tips above can help you manage your remote team more efficiently and more effectively.
Setting SMART goals, empowering your people, running meetings better, and using systems in your business will help you avoid common pitfalls and generate more revenue for your company with less stress, cost, and time.
But until you put these ideas into action, they’re just empty platitudes.
So make a plan right now to utilize these strategies when managing your remote team. That way, you can enjoy better results from your team members than ever before.