Seven Habits of Highly Effective Remote Engineering Team Leaders

By Maeve Lynskey
  • Blog
  • Distributed
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective Remote Engineering Team Leaders

As businesses scramble to respond to the coronavirus, many are asking their employees to work from home. For engineering teams to remain productive, team members need more than a computer and an internet connection. They need to implement tools, processes, and best practices to collaborate. 

Andela’s recorded webinar, “Are You Ready for Remote Work? How Engineering Teams Can Thrive With or Without the Office,” held March 19, 2020 offers in-depth advice for remote engineering teams. Sha Ma, VP of Engineering for distributed engineering pioneer GitHub will join Andela CTO David Blair share best practices that will help you get through this difficult time.

In the meantime, here’s how you can build and manage a distributed team that continues to be productive and to deliver quality products. 

1. Take the time to onboard. A sudden shift from an all-office to an all-distributed one will require collaboration tools to be used differently and strategically. But first, make sure that team members have the tools that they need in the form of instant messaging and video conference accounts, an appropriate workspace, and high-quality audio equipment for communication. 

2. Set communication expectations. Collaboration tools may be used sparingly in an office and instructions for how to use them aren’t necessary. When everyone is remote, these tools become the online equivalent of things like talking across a desk or over a cube wall or jumping into a conference room for a few minutes. Establish best practices for keeping the team on the same page by using the right tool for the right task at the right time.

3. Check-in with your team members 2-3 times each day. This might sound like overkill, but it is important because silence can be difficult to interpret. You might think you are empowering your employees by leaving them alone, and they may believe that you don’t care. Always ask if they have everything they need or if they need additional support.

4. Assume positive intent. This gets easier with frequent one-on-one meetings. Like silence, written communication can also be challenging to interpret, and it is easy to assume someone is being critical or resistant to something if you’re not frequently in touch. Assume otherwise, and you will be right most of the time. If you really aren’t sure, schedule a quick video call to diffuse any tension. 

5. Give positive feedback about how team members are doing under the circumstances. Frequent praise and positive feedback about work deliverables energizes everyone and fosters a culture of high-performance.

6. Have daily standups with the team in the morning or afternoon or both. Standups can be the life-blood of engineering teams. It can easy for team members to be quiet during in-office standups when they sit next to each other and know that they can touch base later. Make sure everyone speaks.

7. Share documentation with your team and encourage collaboration–ask them to review your notes and tell you if you missed anything. It is also a good idea to make extra thorough notes on Jira or Trello cards or other project management tools as projects move through a sprint. If you’re not familiar with these tools, we go over them in more detail in the webinar

If your team is forced to work remotely for an extended period, it doesn’t have to slow you down. Watch the webinar to learn how to put these best practices to work–all based on the speakers’ experience helping hundreds of engineering teams thrive working with developers from around the world.