Managing a Remote Team From a Personal Perspective

James Cain shares how he manages a remote team

The last year was extremely unexpected, and with the sudden change to remote work, no one knew the kind of impact it would have on the workplace. Though many people have been forced to figure it out (and have the right to their own opinion), I’ve personally found that leading a team in a remote environment isn’t the worst thing that could happen. As the manager of the API team at Capacity, the following three factors have helped me enhance and simplify the process of managing a remote team. 

Communication: Use the tools, Luke.

As someone who identifies with the newer definition of introversion (feeling drained after socializing and recharging by spending time alone), I was excited to have fewer in-person meetings when our company went remote. However, one of the most obvious challenges was determining the most productive way to communicate between teams. Some of us are external processors and others, internal. All team members at Capacity completed a Predictive Index Assessment before we transitioned to remote work, and it was a very useful tool to understand team dynamics backed by data. In addition to standard remote working tools, the Capacity Knowledge Base has come in handy in regards to priorities, status, etc in a streamlined manner.

Flexibility: I’ll see you later? Namaste around for yoga. (Okay, that was a terrible joke.)

My wife and I began “remote learning” with a two-year-old and five-year-old at the same time we transitioned to remote work. I was in the middle of a technical discussion with the CEO, and my two-year-old began an epic meltdown. I don’t remember David’s exact words, but it was a clear understanding that we’re all trying to figure out how to best manage life during a very unique, and sometimes stressful, time. In addition to yoga and unlimited PTO, having the flexibility to adjust the work schedule as needed and to take time off to recharge has been an amazing benefit. Many people are reluctant to use their time off when there aren’t many activities available, but taking time off is essential to productivity and mental health. 

Trust: Leadership isn’t pie.

In general, it’s important to trust your teammates. In my opinion, everyone should be held accountable and given ownership of a team’s objectives. Allowing space for continuous 360-degree feedback is critical, especially within a remote environment. Given natural organizational hierarchies, it’s easy for the work of those around you to be hidden from view when those informal “so what are you working on” conversations aren’t happening. Capacity has incorporated company-wide weekly meetings so that each team has the opportunity to share their current roadmap. This has also provided an amazing opportunity to spotlight the incredible work that is in progress and to spotlight any notable individual accomplishments from the previous sprint.

The engineering team is growing at Capacity, and I believe these practices will help accelerate onboarding in our remote work environment as well. With these three best practices in place, I do not doubt that our productivity, community, and product will soar. 

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