Tips for leading external teams successfully

Good internet connection, private phone booths, and a space coordinator who is always at the spot are of crucial importance for the work of external teams. This way, external co-workers feel as if they are at their workplace, in spite of being miles away from the company’s headquarters. This also makes it much easier for managers to lead the teams. Remote work and office work significantly differ which requires different approaches to leading internal and external teams. By employing teams that are physically outside of the company enables the employers to work with experts from all around the world, while people who are looking for this kind of job opportunity have higher chances of employment, higher income, and the freedom of choosing their own office. For these reasons, the spectrum of industries deciding to apply this model to their business is growing.

According to results of the research published at, around 46% of employers point out that hiring external teams provides a wider variety of talented personnel, as well as cooperation with professionals whose services are not constantly needed at the company, but in accordance with specific projects’ needs. This is one of the reasons why around 37% of small businesses have one or more external teams they cooperate with. Surely, external cooperation is the more profitable and more productive solution both for employers and external experts.

However, this model has shown to be a lot harder for managers because of less opportunity for interaction with team members, direct supervision of their work, and a slower information flow. Adequate managers’ education and the sharing of experiences on how to sustain productivity and motivation of remote workers is a prerequisite for successful external cooperation.
Hiring external teams

Harvard Business Review has published research on successful managerial practices for leading remote teams. One of them is an advisory company ghSmart which has been doing 80% of its work remotely for over 25 years.

As leaders of this company state, hiring adequate people is one of the most important factors of successful remote cooperation. This means that when interviewing and searching for external co-workers, apart from valuing their professional competencies, you should also value their technical skills, independence and responsibility. Besides, the choice of experts will surely be greater because you can hire people from anywhere in the world.
Business premises for external teams

Apart from the external collaborators, many companies occasionally allow their employees to work remotely. The change of working environment contributes to greater productivity and employee satisfaction. Today, there are different business spaces that completely adapt to the needs of your business, when it comes to the number of days that you will be using offices, the size of teams, and the equipment.

By leasing these premises, you will provide your teams with a productive and stimulating work environment, free of distractions. Business spaces can be available 24/7, and this is the reason why they are chosen by a number of external teams that work for companies in different time zones. Apart from flexible offices, personal desks, meeting rooms, teams in such business spaces have continual technical support, as well as complete data safety.
Defining communication channels
Efficient communication with all team members, no matter their location, presents the biggest challenge for managers. It is certainly easier to walk up to the next desk and chat with a coworker than it is to compose emails and messages about the project. However, when working with external teams, this is not possible. The first step is to determine communication channels for each type of information. For example, if you need a short response to your question, you can send a message, for urgent matters the best is to make a call, for reports, plans and analysis, video meetings are recommended, while email is a good solution for a more detailed collection of data and materials.

Today, there are various tools and systems that guarantee data safety, and they are effectively used in remote businesses, which only leaves it to you to choose the one that best suits your business needs.

Apart from online communication, managers should encourage cooperation between teams working in the same location, in the same city or country, because this strengthens the internal company culture, no matter where its employees are located.

Setting up expectations and reducing micromanagement

The key to leading external teams successfully is creating mutual trust. Constant checking up on your employees can create a sense of mistrust and intensify stress. Instead of micromanaging and “supervising” whether your team is completing their tasks and how they are doing so, the more effective solution is to define clear expectations. At the beginning of each workweek provide clear instructions on tasks that need to be completed, quality standards, evaluation criteria, and deadlines for completing the work.

Be realistic and make sure to ask for your team’s feedback to ensure compatibility. This way, you will show your employees that you trust them, and you will give them freedom to work in their own way, and at the pace that suits them as long as they respect the expectations set.

Structured productivity monitoring

Apart from setting up expectations, managers should set up systems for keeping up with the employees’ progress that will give them a clear insight into the work performance of every team member, no matter their location.

There are various tools for managing remote projects, such as Asana, WorkflowMax, Jira and many others, that enable leaders to define the project through tasks, to follow the progress of those tasks, to communicate with employees, and keep track of their productivity, all in one place.

Maintaining social interaction in the online work environment

Another task of successful external team leadership is caring about the team’s motivation and well-being. In spite of the fact that your company’s headquarters are not in the same location as your employees, you can provide them with a suitable workspace in their own city, which will make them feel as if they are in the company. These offices, apart from providing the perfect working conditions that boost productivity, usually have common rooms where employees can spend their breaks with other people who are doing similar jobs.

Apart from encouraging this type of personal contact, managers should also make some time for short meetups during which they can talk about informal topics which will allow them to get to know their external teams better. All this will satisfy people’s need to feel included, and as if they belong to a group, which is jeopardized by working from home.
Flexible work hours

If the nature of your business is not time-dependent, you can allow your employees to choose for themselves when they will be working, but to let you know precisely when they will be available to you in coworking spaces. This way, you are allowing your employees to organize their own work, and to take on more autonomy and personal responsibility which improves their engagement, satisfaction and productivity in doing their work.

The importance of mentorship for external teams

Mentorship skills can largely contribute to successful leadership of external teams. It is important that, apart from being a manager to your team, you also act as their mentor who will lead them through the proces of doing work and be someone they can rely on. Pay attention to the professional development of your employees, even though they are not in the company physically. Don’t forget that your external team is giving its contribution to the project success, and should therefore have the same opportunities for personal development, training and incentives as the other employees working in the company.

Working with external teams can surely be more useful and productive, both for you and your employees. The possibility of them choosing their own office, even the colleagues they will spend their breaks with, greatly contributes to their satisfaction and dedication. For this reason, it is important that managers introduce to their external teams all the benefits that this way of working brings, as well as to put their effort into interpersonal interaction and information exchange, no matter the location. Through trust, empathy, clear communication and transparent approach, your employees can be a lot more motivated and productive than in the office.

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