by Rustam Ahverdiev is VP of Operations at DistantJob
Being good at managing a team is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have. Possibly the most important one. And when your team is made of several people distributed across a country – or even the globe? Well, you’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.
The good news is that it’s 2017 and there is a host of tools to help you achieve what might seem like Mission Impossible. I’ve been managing remote teams for over a decade. These are my current top 5 tools to help you manage your remote team:
Trello – Perfect Project Management Board.
Trello is a fantastic collaborative project management tool. It has two main things going for it. One, it is the visual and functional equivalent of a board and post-its. Two, being virtual, it can serve as the full repository for all a project’s pieces and documentation.
Trello should be the nervous center of any remote team. By assigning each card to a member of the team, you know at a glance who handles what. Any documents about that task can be attached to the card. You can tag any person on the team into the conversation. Any action on the card will notify the person to whom it’s assigned.
And better yet, anyone on the team can search and find any piece of the project – any task, document or communication. So, say goodbye to information lost in emails. Never again will you spend an hour on Monday hunting for the google doc that Bob requested, only to find out on Wednesday that Sue needs it, too. With Trello, project documentation is available to the whole team, all the time.
Slack – The Virtual Office.
If Trello is your project board, Slack is your office. Slack is the place where real-time discussion happens. And of course, much needed socializing.
Trello is a great place to leave notes for a project, but to have a conversation, it’s either Slack or Email. And Slack is much more organic and easy to keep track of than email.
Slack provides all you need to communicate in a single neat package. Voice and video chat work fine, as does the budding screen sharing functionality. The search function allows anyone to catch up on conversations related to their projects. It’s as if someone recorded and indexed every conversation happening in the office.
Ok, that came out a bit creepy. But we’re talking about work, here. If you want privacy, there’s a tool for you at the end of the list.
Google Inbox – Email Built For Work.
Email is a mess – look at all the programs offering to guide you to the mythical Inbox Zero as if it was some Zen state! Using a combination of the tools outlined above, you should be able to cut use of e-mail by about 90%.
For those last 10%, you have Google Inbox. This neat free alternative to Gmail has a couple of great functionalities.
It allows you to pin important stuff to your inbox, so you don’t forget it. It also allows you to send an email away until a predetermined time and date. That email won’t be cluttering up your inbox and your mental space until you need it. The app also suggests “canned” responses based on e-mail content – things like “It’s good, go ahead.” or “That time works for me.” that you can send with one click.
Plus, it is ruthless in cutting out spam and promotional content. The only stuff that gets into your inbox is the emails that matter.
Zoom – Connecting Face-to-Face.
We’re big fans of Zoom at DistantJob. Sure, when we need a one-on-one, it’s easier to go through Slack. But when we want to have a meeting, nothing beats the smooth Zoom experience.
It’s video conferencing that works. A couple of clicks is all it takes to schedule a meeting and integrate it into your calendar of choice.
And ease-of-use is one of our priorities. When we want to interview someone for a position, we don’t want them to have trouble setting up. We’ve consistently given out Zoom meeting links to people that had never used it before. Every time, they were set up and were talking to us in a couple of minutes. That it works this well on every platform is nothing short of amazing. RIP Skype.
Telegram – Cross Platform Privacy and Security.
Telegram is a rarity in 2017’s internet – it’s software that doesn’t spy on you. When you’re running a business, security should be a primary concern. Sure, you can go over some basic security rules with your remote team. But the truth is that when you don’t have everyone on the same office network, you can’t control security.
Enter Telegram. This app mimics popular messaging apps like Messenger or WhatsApp, but it doesn’t spy on you. It works everywhere and allows you to have conversations protected by strong encryption.
Picture this: you’re away on a business trip. As you travel, you remember something crucial you needed to discuss with an employee. But it includes client data that you want to be very protective about. And you can’t find a secure wifi connection nearby.
What you do is: you create an encrypted Telegram chat from your mobile phone. You can even set it to self-erase at a predetermined time after both parties have read it.
Always be mindful of having secure conversations – if your business is worth something to you, then it’s worth something to someone else. Someone who might not always have the best intentions.
The Best Tools Only Take You So Far.
It’s easy to tool up and forget what makes a great team work: good leadership, the ability to challenge and motivate. The best tools are the ones that help communication, letting the team bond and the work, flow.
Each team has its way of doing things, its team personality. The best way to manage your remote team is by knowing it on a deep level, and understanding what tools will better help it on its task.
When in doubt, keep it simple – add tools and systems as they are needed, and not before.
Rustam Ahverdiev is VP of Operations at DistantJob, a boutique recruitment agency that serves US and international businesses through its unique model for remote work. When he’s not busy running the day-to-day operations of nearly half a hundred remote>employees, he plays blues, goes hiking or plays board games.