Building remote relationships

I have a fantastic opportunity to work with San Francisco startup as a lead manager for the whole software development team located in Warsaw, Poland. During the last 17 months. I was able to create a great working (and not only) relationship with my US partners. It didn’t come a natural way, as building trust remotely isn’t anything that you can learn at school.

There are my key learnings:

  • Video calls are critical. Thanks to them you put a real face on your Slack or Jira profile. Also, take in mind that you shouldn’t expect an unprepared video call – you need to prepare for them beforehand.
  • Schedule short calls often. I found out two calls per week (Tuesday & Thursday) being the sweet spot. You can discuss most of the issues, and have time for chit-chat. Just one call weekly doesn’t give you opportunity to discuss no-critical stuff.
  • Don’t leave your partner hanging. Prepare yourself for late Slack messages, but respect your boundaries. Your business partner will be grateful even for information that you read his/her message, and you will work on it the next day.
  • Show them that they are in control and confirm things. This is counterintuitive as you might think that the client would want to maximise developers output, but I found that this isn’t the case. From what I saw the most infuriating for a customer is not being able to influence a remote team. Don’t let that happen. It is rare that something can’t wait one day in software development.
  • Show not write complex features. One of the major challenges that we have with more challenging tasks is to be on the same page with the customer. Forgetting some small details during a conversation or description is easy. To understand each other use drawings mocks of functionality in Excel, videos from features in other apps, and whatever will show a real life example what need to be done.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk not only about the job. You don’t know what she or he is wearing from the waist down, but you need to decide what should be in the new important product release. Try to change that, by treating this calls an opportunity to present who you are & who your business partner is.

I hope you will find it helpful.

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