4 Challenges of Leading a Remote Product Team

6 April, 2021
5 min

Whether you are new to the world of remote work or you have some experience, we can all agree on one thing – leading a remote team isn’t easy. 

Thanks to the new technologies, your product team can perfectly function without an office space. Working remotely is a plausible option and if your company hasn’t adopted it already, that doesn’t mean that it won’t in the near future. 

Despite the benefits of working from home, the physical distance does impose some challenges. If your beginnings are tied to an office, this new shift can be even harder for your product team. 

As more companies navigate towards working from home, we need to face the issues that can arise from this. Addressing them and learning how to solve them is imperative for successful collaboration.

Are you faced with leading a remote product team? Do you want to build a strong foundation for leading such a team? 

Then, pay attention to the following lines. These are the potential challenges you should know about and prepare for. As there is a solution to every problem, we’ll also give you some tips on how to overcome them. 

Communication

Challenge #1: Communication

There’s no denying that communication is the bedrock on which product development lies. How effectively the cross-functional teams communicate determines the whole scope of your achievements. 

Even though you can establish a connection with your team via phone, video calls, or messages, the flow of communication can suffer. One team member can have a bad connection. Another won’t turn on the mic. The delay on the line will lead to talk overs. A simple video conference can turn into a digital mess.

The technical issues can take your minds off the subject and waste your precious time. When you finally get everyone on the same page, you won’t have the time to cover all relevant topics. Or, you can fail to hear a relevant detail because of interruptions. 

Should you just accept this as a side effect of working remotely? Never. 

How to Solve the Communication Challenge?

Don’t let the communication-triggered frustration become your daily companion. Take action to ensure that your conversations run smoothly.

The solution is quite simple: find appropriate tools. 

 If there is any consistent issue in your current methods of communication, make some changes. A variety of digital collaboration platforms allows you to pick the right tool for your team.

Pay attention to features and how they match your product team’s needs. 

You can mix and match different communication tools for different purposes.

For example, use Proficonf for video meetings and Slack for sharing files and instant messaging. 

Another hack for improving the quality of your digital conversations is to use headphones. Using the mic and speakers from the laptop won’t assure noise control. Headsets, on the other hand, can minimize the noise projection in the video.

Proficonf conference room

Challenge #2: Monitoring

Keeping an eye on your product team’s productivity won’t be so easy. As a product manager, you need to monitor their activities in addition to their results.

You can’t witness how much work and effort your team puts into this new product. Observing them in their daily actions is no longer an option. They can spend a few hours working on a task and claim to have worked all day.

“Trust your team” is optimistic advice and product managers need to be realistic. So, what is a realistic solution?

How to Solve the Monitoring Challenge?

To stay on top of your team’s doings, use a time tracker. It is a handy option for both fixed and flexible work schedules.

Opt for time tracking software with monitoring features. For example, Time Doctor takes automated screenshots to track the activity. It also alerts the user when they use Facebook or other non-work-related sites. 

Let the software “keep an eye” on your team when you aren’t able to. 

Collaboration

Challenge #3: Collaboration

The physical distance can also create a collaborative distance. The marketer can’t just drop by to ask the product analyst a quick question. Nor can the designer walk over to your desk to run some ideas by you. 

The collaboration among product teams as well as your collaboration with them can suffer.

Different time zones, different lunch breaks, and the inability to get fast input from colleagues can present big challenges. You might need information fast, but you can’t know for sure if the other person can provide it. 

The lack of availability and cohesion can slow down your product team immensely. 

How to Solve the Collaboration Challenge?

The path to streamlined collaboration is paved with transparency. Teach your team how to take transparency and accountability to the next level.

In the olden times when you could drop by your colleague’s desk whenever you didn’t need to share every part of your job. However, things have changed. 

For every team member to do their job efficiently and timely, they need to have access to everyone’s work.

Use a platform where you and your team can share files. The shared space will allow everyone to find the information they need at any time. 

This kind of traceability might demand some adaptation but it’s necessary. Not only will the collaboration be smoother, but the transparency will inspire slack-free work. 

Motivation

Challenge #4: Motivation

Being a remote leader takes away in-person inspiration. You won’t be able to distinguish when your team needs a dose of motivating speech or a pat on the back.

Not to mention that your team can experience unpleasant consequences of isolation. When you can’t share your work successes and worries, the motivation can start fading. 

Many remote teams can have issues with lack of motivation and product teams are no exception.

How to Solve the Motivation Challenge?

The solution lies in you. As a product manager and a leader, you need to take a proactive approach to maintain motivation.

You can conduct individual talks to give each person a chance to express their struggles. Allow them to open up about individual work challenges. Don’t shy away from asking them directly how they’re handling the work-from-home arrangement. Your team needs support.

To keep morale high, celebrate the small wins. Recognize openly their great work and show understanding for their misses.

Nurture unity by creating non-work-related video gatherings. They can be somewhat of digital team bonding events. Bring the team together and inspire them to look at the team’s win as their own. 

Remote team

Final Thoughts

Is leading a remote product team a problem-free situation? Of course not. Is it possible to manage this situation effectively? Yes, of course. 

There isn’t an ideal work situation. Every work environment, whether that’s an office space or remote working, comes with certain challenges. The key is to face them courageously and solve them knowledgeably.

Don’t allow the challenges of remote work to slow your product team down. Use the insights from this article to create new and improved remote leadership. 

Kristin Savage is an editor and freelance writer. In addition to leading a team of writers and editors, she is still passionate about writing. Her passion is expressed through different writing challenges that she relentlessly tackles. Kristin also helps students by collaborating with the Subject on free essays and flashcards. You can visit this page to review Subjecto’s database. 

Vladimir