Leadership has always been important and in this new, highly collaborative remote work world, more than ever. Remote developers already know how to work well remotely. Now, their leaders and managers may well be remote themselves.
5 Tips of how best to lead and manage remote developers.
Share Vision and Strategy
Remote developers can either robotically code and deliver on assigned tasks, or they can be a more conscious part of the successful development of the goal. It is the leader’s job to share the vision of the larger goal to give purpose to the developers, to engage them to a degree they feel their own importance to the company and not just the coding tasks. Let them know how and why they matter, and their contribution will matter even more. Do not limit remote developers to routine, easy coding. Give them challenging and important work, and they will give you loyalty and greater contributions.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Remote work, especially software development, demands concise, clear and constant communication. Code is precise, make your communication so. Keep your communications on a schedule but also allow impromptu sharing of ideas, questions and suggestions. Schedule the latter as you do the former, perhaps a weekly virtual whiteboard session of free form creativity. It will yield not only good questions, but also a sharing of solutions, shortcuts and preventative processes. Communicate precisely as well as open ended and your developers will stay interested, engaged and committed.
None of us wants every Zoom meeting, every Slack comment, to be all business all the time. Give people a chance to show you who they are, and you them. Create a regular monthly social meeting, during business hours, when your developers can show their human side, share funny stories, ask for life hacks, get opinions on vacation spots, music or movies. You’ll find that people from different cultures and countries have far more in common than not. And don’t forget to share yours. Part of being an effective leader is sharing who you are. A “Day in the Life” of everyone brings us all closer together, makes us all more understanding of each other.
Treat Remote Developers As Part Of the Team
Nothing makes a remote developer feel more remote than being treated differently than on site team members during video meetings. It is easy for them to be spoken over or crowded out during meetings. Make it a policy to allow them to speak first, before anyone in the room does. Take note and speak to any interesting, positive occurrences in their geographic areas recently. Assign one of them a lead role in the discussion if possible. Pronounce their names properly, know their interests. Make them feel equal and important because, they are.
Yes, just simply listen. Effective leaders, like effective sales people, are committed to listening and responding to what they hear. Remote developers don’t get to hang around the office break area, comment on what is on TV in the lunch room, or walk to Starbucks for a latte and conversation. You must give them those opportunities to share their voice in meetings and other channels. Create a shared Slack channel for “Todays Tips” or “I Wish I Had” or anything else that encourages free communication. Read all the other shared Slack channels. Do all of this and you may be surprised at what you learn, and how much smarter and more effective it can make you.
All of these tips are interrelated and interdependent, links in a chain to success. They are not difficult to create and execute, but they will increase your chances to lead your remote team successfully. And that is going to become more important than ever.