This article originally appeared in Inc.
Technology has made it easier than ever to set up multiple offices around the country, but it also presents new challenges for business leaders: How to build and sustain a positive and productive company culture while managing geographically dispersed teams.
If your business is growing, one location is usually not enough to manage operations and stay close to customers. That means opening new offices and hiring team members to manage those locations. Additionally, more professionals than ever before are opting to work remotely.
It’s an issue our business coaching company encounters with many of our clients who operate multiple offices locally, regionally or nationally. It’s also a challenge I’ve faced building our company into an Inc. 5000 business. We now have coaches located in several states and one in Great Britain. We had no other choice than to build a company culture that supports our remote team members.
When managing offices in multiple locations, the difference between success and failure often can be traced to the commitment leaders have in fostering a company culture that embraces open, honest communication, accountability and alignment. Here’s how you do it:
When hiring–or promoting from within–to manage remote office locations, make sure candidates have what it takes to work independently and in a less traditionally structured environment. The nature of working remotely requires that team members must be self-starters. They also need to have the knowledge and confidence to solve challenges on their own because they won’t be able to walk into your office for guidance.
As a leader, you’re ultimately responsible for the success of your team. But once you’ve hired your team, you have to release control and let team members do their jobs. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to set goals, and identify the steps required to accomplish those goals, but resist the temptation to micromanage. Warren Buffet said it best: “Hire well. Manage little.” Get your ego out of the way and have faith in their decision-making. This will afford you time to focus on other projects. Not only that, the trust you show will breed loyalty in your team.
Morning meetings are an invaluable tool to connect with your team and keep a company moving forward. Daily huddles provide team members with the opportunity to quickly share their meeting schedules and news that the whole team should hear. Each person can also report on progress toward individual and company quarterly goals and note the top priority for the day. Just because you have an office in another state doesn’t mean those team members shouldn’t participate. Morning meetings–even via videoconference–can build team spirit, share information, foster accountability and provide quick solutions.
No matter the size of your organization or the number of remote locations, it’s essential for each team member to have one-on-one time with a manager or leader. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, so hold these meetings at least monthly and preferably bi-weekly. Implement a system that allows supervisors to track the progress of team members’ work, provide a listening ear for any concerns and help them set goals.
As leaders, it’s up to us to encourage team members to be the best they can be and to recognize excellent work. While that can be a challenge when managing teams in multiple locations, it’s a must-do on a leader’s to-do list. Research has shown a direct correlation between workplace appreciation and productivity and engagement. A Salesforce study found that team members who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Create an online kudos board with an app like TINYpulse where you and fellow team members recognize peers for their accomplishments.
Building and sustaining a positive company culture across multiple geographic locations can be a daunting task–whether your business employs 5, 50 or 500 people. But when you follow these tips, you’ll soon find that your team members are connected and aligned, super-serving your customers and achieving (hopefully exceeding!) organizational goals.