Leadership is going through a bit of a crisis these days. 83% of organizations say it’s important to develop leaders at all levels, but only 5% have fully implemented development initiatives or activities. Leaders play a critical role in companies; not just on a strategic level but also by providing valuable guidance and motivation to employees, serving as mentors, and promoting company culture. However, companies are struggling to find ready and willing successors and put into place the proper support system for current leaders.
Leadership can become even more complicated when you are managing a software development team from afar, as we commonly deal with in the outsourcing business. Based on the current issues with developing future leaders at organizations, we want our partners to feel confident leading a strong outsourced team and we want all individuals on those teams to be able to identify those leaders. To help, we’ve compiled a few tips to keep in mind when leading from afar.
The challenges of leading an outsourced team
When part of your team is stationed hundreds of miles away, creating strong relationships and building trust can be more difficult. Often, team members that don’t inhabit a space with you fall victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” adage and are left out of the more mundane aspects of work life. While it’s not mandatory for creating successful offshore outsourcing projects, outsourced employee engagement can fall very low if this distance remains unchecked.
[ READ MORE: How Outsourcing and the Culture Gap Can Produce Better Software ]
Strategies to engage your outsourced development team
So, how do you lead and engage a team that’s positioned in another country or working remotely? Well, for starters, it’s important to approach your communication with empathy and respect, taking into account your team’s culture and values. Additionally, a significant factor in creating team buy-in is making your outsourced team an extension of your in-house team. Below are a few other things you can keep in mind when managing your offshore outsourcing team.
Your outsourced team has a lot to offer
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Beyond helping your team accomplish its objectives faster, your offshore team offers a vast wealth of knowledge, experience, and innovation that you can leverage. However, this will require the right spaces and encouragement for them to speak up and propose new ideas. Perficient Latin America started outsourcing software development services about 15 years ago. Overall, that’s a lot of lessons learned that our nearshore partners can take advantage of when working with our teams.
When there’s something you want to achieve, it’s much easier for your team to support you if they know what that is. Including your team in creating and working towards your vision will help them stay motivated and feel like an essential part of the company.
Focus on strengths
As a leader, work to identify the strengths of each of your team members and assign tasks or training based on that information. Teams become stronger if there is a variety of skill sets and capabilities. For example, we try to build blended, multi-disciplinary teams to promote learning and knowledge sharing between members. However, we also make it clear that we will make mistakes and it’s important to see those as opportunities to learn—which is a whole different kind of strength.
Provide the terms of engagement
Your onshore and offshore team should work in tandem for better results, but they should also have the same expectations. Making sure your team members exchange contact information or leverage online collaboration tools like Slack or Asana means better communication but also sets a standard from the beginning. There are many other facets of the engagement that will require your guidance in terms of setting expectations and ground rules.
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Choosing the best fit
When it comes to outsourcing, finding the right vendor is key. Finding a partner whose values and culture mirror yours will go a long way in generating an environment where leaders can more easily communicate their vision, lead by example, and achieve high levels of engagement and understanding among the whole team.
A nearshore outsourcing team will already possess a set of beliefs and ideas similar to US counterparts thanks to cultural similarities. However, a vendor that has a similar approach to treating people—nurturing their career development and taking a people-first approach—will have greater success in synergizing with your in-house team. Nonetheless, leave room for diverse thinkers to ensure your team benefits from new and fresh ideas as well.
With these needs in mind and the appropriate tools to face the challenges of leading teams abroad, leaders can develop effective strategies for approaching outsourced engagements.
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