Live

Watch CBSN Live

Managing Remote Teams: Over- Communicate but Don't Drown Them

We managers of remote teams hear all the time: "you have to over-communicate to keep people engaged and involved". Yet when does keeping people informed slip over the line into bludgeoning them with email after email until they scream for mercy?

Paul is a pretty typical remote worker. He once told me, "I bet i get ten emails a day from my boss. Some of the information is important, some is completely irrelevant and some is pure gossip. Either way, it's like I wind up deleting most of it because I can't tell the important from the annoying".

How can you keep your team informed and connected while not drowning them in emails? Here are 3 tips:

  • More comprehensive emails, fewer one-liners. Try sending out (slightly) longer, more coherent messages to the team, rather than a constant thread of ideas as they occur to you. This is a fine line to walk, because lengthy emails have a way of burying important messages amongst the trivia and also tend to get ignored. Still, if you put the highlights in the first paragraph (you do know they're scanning that email to see if it's worth opening, right?) and then give them just enough detail you will increase the value of each email and lessen the quantity of email.
  • Provide a little context: you're sending this for a reason. When you share information with your team, it might be obvious to you why it's important they know about Joe in Accounting's promotion but if they've never met him it might not be obvious to them. Simply giving the matter some thought and telling them why this information matters or how it fits into their work (maybe the point is that if Joe is getting promoted from within there are opportunities for your team to do the same) makes it information they can use.
  • Get into the habit of using wikis, blogs and social networking tools to keep them up to date on other teammates. If the point of your communication is to get them to know each other and what's going on with the team, try not using email at all. Emails get glanced at and forgotten. When you post something to a group site, it might not get read right away, but does get read eventually and can be referred to over and over.
When we talk about "over-communicating", it usually means making sure people hear not only what's relevant to their specific tasks, but creates an atmosphere where they understand the context of their work and build relationships with other teammates and the organization. Planning how to communicate that information is as important as knowing how much and how often.

photo by flickr user seanmcgrath CC 2.0