I’ve always loved to travel. So, after much deliberation and sending our two daughters off to college, my husband and I sold our house and hit the road in our new fifth-wheel camper. However, as the COO and client services officer here at MAPRagency, this transition has created the interesting challenge of leading the agency from our travel trailer (affectionately named Bertha). As I continue to adjust to this new workflow, I’ve picked up a few remote team management tips that help ensure our teams remain engaged and productive even as I live life on the road.
Transitioning to a Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Downsizing from a 4,000-square-foot house to a 390-square-foot camper that I share with my husband and our black lab and golden retriever dogs has been a significant adjustment. Our rig is spacious enough for us to each have our own work area, and my husband and I use noise-canceling headphones to keep our meetings private and drown out the other person when we have dueling meetings. And, yes, sometimes I get a message from my husband in our family Slack channel that just simply says “SHHHHHHH.”
Since setting out on our journey four short months ago, we’ve traveled from Longmont, Colorado, to Medicine Bow National Forest to the Redwoods of California, Flaming Gorge along the Utah-Wyoming border and then east to Minnesota and Michigan — traveling roughly 10,000 miles so far.
Armed with three hot spots (one from AT&T and two from T-Mobile) and other cool Wi-Fi hardware mounted on our camper, so far, we have been able to get reliable internet anywhere (yes, even on remote, public land in the middle of nowhere).
Tips for Leading from the Road
One of the biggest challenges about being the agency’s COO AND being a digital nomad is leading from the road. These are the areas I’ve been focusing on during these first few months. I know these tactics are likely to evolve as time goes on, but I feel the tips and tricks outlined here are core to any kind of remote working environment.
First, I lead by example. Whatever our process is, I do it. If I screw it up, I apologize, learn from the error and fix my work for next time.
Second, be available and communicate! I do my best to communicate with my teams in a timely fashion using the tools we have in place. If someone asks for my help on a time-sensitive issue — even during off-hours — I’ll jump in as soon as I can. I also monitor a lot of conversations happening over our Slack channels and chime in when needed. Video calls also keep us connected. In staff meetings, check-ins and client calls, our team is expected to be on camera, barring a technical issue that doesn’t allow us to be on camera. The weirdest place I’ve answered a Slack? In the middle of Lake Superior during an afternoon off with family.
Finally, establish a connection with each employee. It can be challenging for any employee to go to company leadership with difficult questions or concerns in person. And if the employees rarely see me in “real life,” it likely becomes even more tough for them to approach me — even virtually. I never want that to happen. So, I will occasionally do a one-on-one check-in with each staff member to see how they’re doing, ask if there’s anything I can do to support them with their tasks, and find out whether I can answer any questions or address any concerns they may have.
Roughly every quarter, my goal is to return to Colorado and work in the office with my colleagues. This fall, I will have that opportunity, and I look forward to reconnecting in person with each of our staff members before we set out on new adventures in Arizona, Nevada and beyond. Do you have any tips on leading a remote team? Let us know in the comments!