My 5 Best Practices for Empowering Distributed Teams

This isn’t actually Stanley. This photo came from iStock, we don’t actually know this man.

Businesses — of the entrepreneurial and modestly-sized variety — have all the tools we need to communicate effectively with our teams and clients, to produce excellent work and motivated teams.  Online collaboration tools, at our fingertips, leave ‘no excuse’ for communication gaps.

Or do they? While it can be cost-effective (and contribute to work-life balance, if you make it!), managing a remote team with distributed work tasks can be challenging. How do you enable creative and innovative collaboration, WITH good quality control, but WITHOUT onerous processes across too many channels?

I’ve had many (many?) years of experience leading and coaching remote teams (creative and technical, data-oriented teams I might add), and have tested out many communication and project management tools and platforms. I want to share a few key ways — digital and otherwise — that can empower distributed teams to be the best they can be …

Disclosure: Neither I nor Wellspring has any vested interest in any software or other product noted here. None.

  1. Use an Integrated Project Management and Communications Program

There are plenty of these programs to choose from, such as Basecamp, Teamwork, Slack and many others … They can help connect your team, set task priorities and ensure everyone knows who’s responsible for what. Each product has its own strengths and gaps. Make sure you know what features you need—and which ones you don’t — so that they don’t end up being more time-consuming than helpful. Do the research and ensure your team members are part of the decision process!

  1. Face Time is Essential

And no, I don’t mean on your iPhone. Plan ahead with your team and set days to meet and work together in person — let’s call this Human Time. It will increase your productivity, build and solidify relationships and help you better understand how each person works and thinks. Human Time can be especially helpful when brainstorming big concepts and creative ideas. Key point: it needs to be helpful so I always pay attention to individual team members’ schedules, and especially, commute time. (If there’s a really bad travel day because of weather or whatever, I reschedule to be respectful of time and unnecessary stress!)

  1. List Priorities, Talk About Them and Follow-up Regularly

When working with remote teams including freelance contractors or partners, conflicting and busy schedules can make meeting deadlines a challenge. Ensure you clearly discuss and confirm priorities for each team member, with specific deadlines. Everyone needs to know what they’re supposed to be doing and when, who can support them and the most efficient ways to get their tasks done. Be sure to share the happy consequences of getting it done ‘right and on time’ and the unhappy consequences if commitments aren’t met.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid of the Telephone

When did the sound of another person’s voice on the phone become so scary and something to urgently avoid? Picking up the phone is a fear that lots of people just need to get over! The phone remains personal; it’s the best way to quickly connect to prevent and solve problems, to enhance relationships and short-circuit digital communications that are being harmful rather than helpful.

That being said, you can still embrace the use of communication channels that make the most sense for your team — say texting your millennial intern even when you’re a grown up, like me. But if something is urgent, or needs more brains to get something right, don’t be afraid to pick up the dang phone.

  1. Allow for ‘Fun Time’ in Communications

It’s why most project management programs allow you to send emojis and GIFs in your conversations – adding some fun to some very long days. Just because some of your team is working remotely, that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to be human and have some non-work related conversations. One trick I try when things get crazy busy is no matter how you’re communicating with someone, pretend you’re talking to them in person. Have conversations, ask about their days, and above all, loosen up and let everyone’s sense of humour shine through.

Vine’s Death Reminds Us All That Social Media Can Build You, and Break You

How did it end up like this?

It started off so strong. Vine launched in 2013 and gained over 200 million active monthly users by 2015. Sounds like a booming social media platform with real estate for substantial marketing opportunities to me, right?

Not so much. Vine had opportunities to be THE tool for quick and entertaining videos ─ a market now that undeniably dominates most social media newsfeeds, especially Facebook. Controlled by the reigns of Twitter, Vine suffered an unhealthy mix of mismanagement and self-annihilation throughout the following years of its life.

This is yet another cautionary tale for digital marketers and content producers today; get with the times, but not too much with the times.

Anyone producing content for the online world understands the importance of distribution across channels. It’s all about making content worth reading, watching or sharing ─ then packaging it for each specific channel in a way you know will reach your target audience.

But, as Vine fatally reminds us, there’s a danger to that. Marketers spend time and resources on developing content that will thrive on each channel, ensuring that whatever we put out there will “satisfy” the algorithm, in turn being rewarded with more views and impressions. Just look at Facebook — it substantially favours content that keeps people on their site, making those posts reach way more impressions than if a company were to link to their own website. When those algorithms or expectations change, businesses are expected to drop everything they learned, invested in and immediately adapt.

It’s when social mediums control not only how our content looks, but how our businesses are modelled, that we can get into trouble. Everyone needs to find a balance of investing in diverse channels, without putting all their eggs in one basket, trite but true. Vine is a ready reminder that the right diversification matters more than ever.

Read here for 5 Reasons Why Vine Failed.

Read the Letter Aaron Sorkin Wrote His Daughter After Donald Trump Was Elected President

Aaron Sorkin captured exactly how I and so many other adults in my community feel. So with 100% credit to Mr. Sorkin, please have a read of a brilliant commentary. I wish I could write this well for my daughter and all the young women and men in my world.


Sorkin Girls,

Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn’t protect us from. That’s a terrible feeling for a father. I won’t sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It’s hardly the first time my candidate didn’t win (in fact it’s the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.

And it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.

And the world took no time to react. The Dow futures dropped 700 points overnight. Economists are predicting a deep and prolonged recession. Our NATO allies are in a state of legitimate fear. And speaking of fear, Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans are shaking in their shoes. And we’d be right to note that many of Donald Trump’s fans are not fans of Jews. On the other hand, there is a party going on at ISIS headquarters. What wouldn’t we give to trade this small fraction of a man for Richard Nixon right now?

So what do we do?

First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.

Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren’t. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

America didn’t stop being America last night and we didn’t stop being Americans and here’s the thing about Americans: Our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours.

Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don’t think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we’ll make it through those four years. And three years from now we’ll fight like hell for our candidate and we’ll win and they’ll lose and this time they’ll lose for good. Honey, it’ll be your first vote.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

Love,  Dad


See original story here.