2 Tips Radically Improving Communication Within Teams Distributed Across Time Zones

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

I started leading distributed teams in 1998.

I have seen many different teams, some within a country, others across continents. Distance is not the determining factor; the spread across time zones is. It is a powerful tool to make progress around the clock or guarantee 24/7 coverage without asking people to work at night.

It is the most challenging when there is little overlap between work hours.

1. Introduce asynchronous communication.

Which tools you use doesn’t matter.

You can convert almost any communication tool to work asynchronously. What matters is changing expectations and accepting that your messages won’t get an immediate answer because they often don’t need one. These adjustments, by the way, are beneficial to all teams, not only distributed ones.

You need to remove interruptions.

Establish that, by default, messages don’t need an immediate reply.

This simple change will allow people to ignore them while focusing on their current task, then give replying their full attention when the time is right. Unfortunately, developers know too well how powerful it is to focus and how costly interruptions are. The same is true for people in all roles.

Removing interruptions will skyrocket your team’s productivity.

2. Trust and empower your team.

You need to remove communication bottlenecks.

Do you like feeling useful? Do you think that you need to take part in every decision? Every process? Do you fear being replaceable? Guess what, in a distributed setup, if you channel all communication through a single individual, failure is just around the corner.

It’s not just about being a bottleneck anymore.

It will completely obliterate your team’s ability to make any progress.

Unless you are ready to work 24/7, many decisions will occur while you sleep. Define clear areas of responsibility, enable direct communication channels between teammates, and trust your team to make the right decisions.

These two simple tips will change everything.


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