After a couple of years working within the constraints of a corporate job, it quickly became my goal to be able to work remotely. The possibility to work from anywhere in the world or just from the comforts of my apartment was my motivator to break free from the traditional 9-5 routine.
In 2016, I decided to save up and travel around South America for four months with my boyfriend before coming back to Boston. Upon my return, I worked with a couple of marketing agencies and started freelancing. I loved the flexibility that my freelance work allowed and decided to go all in to work with my own clients. I didn’t have some grand plan to start my business, but I quickly realized my freelance work could become bigger than myself and that I could provide better (and more) marketing services to my clients with a team.
In 2018, I co-founded Aimtal, a content and digital marketing agency that provides services and marketing solutions to B2B companies. We’re a remote-first company committed to delivering delightful digital and content experiences to customers and their audiences. One of my goals is to build a future-forward culture and remarkable brands with our services through a new way of marketing (one that operates with empathy and the people in mind first).
Aimtal has been a remote company from the start, and as CEO and Co-Founder, I have always encouraged employees to “work wherever there is strong WiFi” in order to allow our team members to work from anywhere (when it’s safe to do so, of course!).
I’m really proud of my team and what I’ve been able to build with them by my side. I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, but one of the things I’ve really focused on is being the best leader I can be, which means I’ve thought a lot about how to best lead and manage my team.
At Aimtal, we believe successful management comes from the ability to fully support our team, providing them with the right information, guidance and encouragement to get the job done.
So what else have I learned about what really goes into managing a remote team? Here are some tips and tricks I live by, that you can also use to successfully manage your remote team as we continue to work from home or “wherever there is wifi.”
Communicate Clearly with the Right Digital Tools
When working in a normal office setting, it is easy to get up and walk to your coworker’s desk to ask a question or brainstorm ideas. Since this doesn’t happen when working remotely, you need to be intentional about communication. We use tools like Zoom and Slack to chat and collaborate on a daily basis. We also request that everyone on the team is available between 12 pm – 4 pm EST so we have overlap with our schedules to work together for a few hours per day. We have a rule of thumb at Aimtal—if you think you are communicating too much, you are probably communicating the right amount.
One of the best ways to communicate with your team remotely is to use online platforms like Zoom and Slack. Zoom is a great way to create an in-person feel, and managers can use it to host weekly meetings or check-ins with their team. Slack, an instant messaging platform that promotes collaboration, is another communication tool to make remote work easier.
We have a weekly meeting with the team on Mondays and Fridays, which have been a nice way to start and end the week together. Throughout the week, we’re chatting on Slack in our various channels about client projects or even what we’re eating for lunch that day.
These tools can effectively simulate that “in-office” feeling, so pick the ones that work for your team and communicate how and when they should be used so everyone can work together with ease.
Empower Your Team and Set Them Up for Success
Remote work removes the need for coworkers to be in one physical space, meaning transparency, honesty, and open communication lines are key to making it work. While it may be challenging at first to not “over-manage” or micromanage your team, remind yourself that building healthy relationships with your remote team starts with trust.
At Aimtal, we trust that each person will organize their projects and time to complete their tasks within deadlines. We expect the team to self-organize and self-manage, and we have our implemented systems, processes, and tools so everyone is set up to successfully do this. As a manager, it’s important to set the right expectation with your team (and to practice them yourself) so everyone knows what they need to work on each week. Set these expectations and explain that you’re available to help everyone work to the best of their ability.
Organize Tasks Effectively So All Work is Visible
Organizing your weekly tasks is just as important as Marie Kondo-ing your physical workspace. To be a successful remote manager, you need to be a self-starter and hold yourself, as well as your team, accountable for internal and external deadlines.
Try an online organization tool like Trello or Click Up and ask the team to self-manage by listing out the tasks they are tackling on a daily and weekly basis. Both of these tools allow team members to work collaboratively or independently on tasks and get a better overall sense of the status of projects. Additionally, members can create personalized boards and tasks and even add in due dates for each task. This allows you, as a manager, to track where your team is at every phase of a project without micromanaging or overwhelming yourself with deadlines.
Provide Psychological Safety and a Supportive Culture
Psychological safety, as defined by Amy Edmondson, is a “belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” This means your employees should not be afraid to take risks or be vulnerable in front of each other. You can create a psychologically safe space by allowing the team to ask questions or provide feedback anonymously.
At Aimtal, we do this by celebrating our wins and assessing areas we can improve on a weekly basis during our Friday meeting. We encourage everyone to contribute ideas or identify setbacks so we can all work together to improve. Try this with your team during your next team meeting by adding a “woes and bravos” section to your meeting agenda and ask everyone on the team to share one thing that went well and one thing that didn’t during the week. These honest and open conversations will result in a supportive, remote team culture!
While vulnerability is often viewed as a weakness in business, most successful managers recognize its importance. Of course, in this setting, vulnerability is not sharing your entire personal life with your team and asking them to do the same. Instead, it’s openly sharing your experiences or lessons learned when you make a mistake or are feeling negative emotions. Opening up to your team allows you to share your own processes and challenges and helps foster a safe space.
To encourage this, you have to practice it as a leader. Are you also a parent? Share some stressful albeit funny anecdotes about life as a parent on your next team call. Was your energy low last week? Share an update on Slack about that experience and explain how you’re protecting your energy this week by signing off at a specific time each day.
Tap into Your Emotional Intelligence
It’s one thing to be aware of your own emotions and not exude them onto your employees, but being able to identify and manage those of your employees can make you a better and more successful remote manager. According to Psychology Today, emotionally intelligent leaders harness these three skills:
- The ability to identify one’s emotions
- The ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving
- The ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same
Leaders with a high-level emotional intelligence are proven to foster high-performing cultures and teams. You can track and reflect on your emotions as a leader by adopting a routine that allows for reflection. Journaling is an extremely effective way to detail and reflect on your own areas of improvements and opportunities to grow and support your team.
There’s so much to learn and implement when it comes to supporting and building a remote team and company. But you don’t have to go it alone! Remember to ask your team for feedback and their own ideas as to how they envision the growth and success of the business.
And apply these tips so you can successfully manage your team no matter where they’re located. So as you sip your morning coffee or wind down the workday, remind yourself that you have what it takes to be successful and to create a flourishing team.