I have led remote teams, been a member of remote teams, and accomplished several types of projects with remote teams. I will not bore you with another “Top 5 Tips for Remote-Team Success” or “Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid.” You can Google those and get plenty of advice that will be meaningless until you’ve worked a couple of remote team projects. In this post, I just want to talk briefly about how fun it can be.
In a recent one-year project I had to coordinate several remote teams from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America, and South America. Periodic calls kept us in touch—sometimes daily calls. Calls with an Asia team, for example, are at night because Asia time is about twelve hours forward (10:00 Sunday night my time is 10:00 Monday morning their time).
A 10 p.m. call with one of my Asia remote teams might bring up issues that need to be addressed within the next few hours. For the rest of the Asia team’s workday, I stay with them and work out the issues. That’s 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., my time. If you are leading the remote team, you are the one who adapts to the team’s normal schedule (as opposed to keeping 5 other people up all night so you don’t have to). That’s a courtesy, but for me it’s also an exciting change from the 8-to-5 routine.
Why is that exciting? I’ve always loved the exceptional challenges, the all-nighters, the crazy situations you have to sort out in web technology and publishing environments. Leading remote teams has been one more way to force me out of comfortable routines and into exceptional experiences.
During these calls and collaborations at odd hours, I have met a lot of people from around the world. That in itself is enough for me to feel fulfilled and excited.
Normally I prefer in-person meetings for eye contact, body language, more natural interaction; however, I thoroughly enjoy those calls among fifty or sixty people across five continents working out problems together and getting to know such a variety of people. It adds another dimension to the sense of accomplishment when all the threads come together to complete a successful project.
The work is the reward. While I am in a dimly lit living room at midnight in AnyTown, Pennsylvania, I am also traveling the world, meeting fascinating professionals, and staying energized with “the crazy situations” in my profession that make life interesting.