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A successful Remote Team working – Step #2 – Members

Having members with key skills on your team is vital to succeed in a remote environment. Here are some of the skills to be looking for.

Following the first posting on the “Remote Team Working” series, I’d like to draft some lines to talk about what’s expected from the team members. The requirements will depend on the role and long term goals, but some criteria are common to the whole team. The first and most important skill a team member to work in a remote environment must have? Impossible to mention only one… but I’d bet that it’d be one starting with ‘self’. All in all, the work for a person working away from the team will be way more lonely than when you can face your team all day long. So, let’s review the potential candidate skills and why they’re so important.

remote members

Self Learner

The person/people with the knowledge will not be easily accessible to share a screen or a coffee. There’ll be way less opportunities to go out for a lunch and discuss some trivial outstanding questions on the project. Potentially, the working hours won’t match. So, to persevere in a remote environment your team members must be able to learn only based on code analysis or on the documentation available. You know that person that you teach the same thing three times before learn something? Forget about, this kind of person won’t thrive in a remote environment (although may be great team members to work locally, I’m not discussing this).

How to assess if a person is a self learner?

There’s no easy answer for this (if you have a formula, let me know!). A good start is asking what are the common blogs or sites the person checks when there are hard questions. Answers like StackOverflow are highly welcome. If the person has no idea what’s StackOverflow (or any other similar, let’s be kind!)… I’d raise a red flag.

Self Motivated

Before entering into details, why self motivation is important? Because when one person is motivated on his job, everything goes smoothly (or less complicated). When people are motivated, they find ways to help the team. Maybe not with actual work but thinking out of the box and giving suggestions only someone seeing from the outside could suggest. “Look, I really would like to help but I’m frustrated for having nothing to do“. I believe there’s always something to do. It really annoys me when someone throws me one of this. There’s always a code to review. There’s always a document to read. For God’s sake, there’s always a topic you could study by yourself on internet! Being away from part of the team, the person won’t have the full picture of how things are going (it depends on the team structure, as already discussed on the previous posting). Usually, the tasks received will be not related so it’ll be hard to have the big picture and see the results to keep the momentum expected when accomplishments are got.

How to assess if a person is self motivated?

Checking on their CV or LinkedIn profile. Just kidding, if it’d depend on this, ‘self motivation’ shouldn’t be a problem. Besides, we know not all jobs are motivating, so maybe one point that could help on it is to understand what motivates each person. This way, you’d be able to assess if the project is / will be capable of motivating your team. “Hey, but I need to know if the person is self motivated regardless the project he is!“. I agree, but unless you have some feedback from past experiences from this person, it’ll be hard to identify. By the way, I’m wide open for more suggestions on how to identify Self Motivation! Before moving ahead, take note: Money does not motivate. Well, it does, but not for the whole project. I’ve heard about studies telling that money motivates for less than half a year. After this period, the money doesn’t keep up the mood on stressful environments.

Understand the working model

In a project, it’s normal to stumble upon Comboys. In a remote environment, however, this behavior will be potentialized… so it’s very important to make sure your team knows the working model and follows it.

Understand potential cultural differences

When working with people with other cultures, is always interesting to do a catch up with the team to make sure everyone is on the same page with regards to the cultural rules of each other. There’ll be people who are very objective on their messages and there’ll be people that will express what thinks without telling explicitly it. I talked about it on the other post about Cultural Differences, but in a nutshell if a British says to a German that he could think a bit more about a specific thing, it means that everything is wrong. In the same way, if a German tells a British everything he thinks right away, a relationship could be broken forever. The underlying point on the above items is that, before you have remote people on your team, you and your team must be ready to it. As ‘ready’ I mean that you must have a proper training path, a working model clearly defined and all other tools required to give one the opportunity to be independent. Otherwise, the problem is on you, not on them. But that’s a topic for another post. Success!

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