Even the best remote collaboration tools are useless without effective team leadership

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I’ve written a lot over the past few years about workplace collaboration and how the right technology tools can help enable enterprise teams to be productive, no matter where various members are located.

And while it’s vitally important to choose collaboration platforms that best enable productivity, successful collaboration among colleagues who are working here, there and everywhere requires a lot more than technology — especially when people are scattered across different time zones.

As Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes in an article, “Why Remote Work Thrives in Some Companies and Fails in Others”:

Successful remote work is based on three core principles: communication, coordination, and culture. Broadly speaking, communication is the ability to exchange information, coordination is the ability to work toward a common goal, and culture is a shared set of customs that foster trust and engagement. In order for remote work to be successful, companies (and teams within them) must create clear processes that support each of these principles.

Put more directly, successful remote collaboration relies on effective enterprise leadership, not Slack, Trello, Yammer, Skype, Asana, Workzone or whatever other popular collaboration tool you want to throw in here. And until the robots take over, human managers are going to have to sort all this out.

HBR offers enterprise managers a collection of three e-books on how to lead virtual teams. While the collection costs $79.95, HBR also provides a free preview to enterprise leaders on clarifying expectations, a process that includes defining the work expected from remote team members through the creation of a “virtual collaboration charter,” agreeing on roles, tasks and processes and establishing a code of conduct.

While this may sound like overkill, it’s not. As I wrote recently, I’ve been working remotely for almost two decades. I can tell you from painful personal and professional experience that lack of clarity regarding expectations of your employers or clients can lead to frustration, disappointment, self-doubt, wasted time and loss of income. That’s no way to live or work.

If you’re an enterprise leader, it’s your job to make sure remote workers are aware of their roles and responsibilities, as well as the roles and responsibilities of other team members. If you’re a remote worker and your supervisor isn’t making this clear, don’t make the potentially disastrous assumption that things will work themselves out. They won’t. And the one who will suffer the most from the fallout will be you. Take control.

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