Distributed Team Tip #8 – Find each individual’s superpower

The reality of modern business is that many of our teams spread across locations and time zones. In some cases, this is because we live and work in different offices; however, it can also be because due to flexible work arrangements which help us balance our lives. This series covers the trade-offs we make to build active, efficient and engaged teams across the divide of location and time.

Difference can build resentment

It is easy to think of team members who you don’t see every day as being different from the rest of the team. Just like a superhero, this difference can result in them not feeling part of the team. The resulting impact is that our superhero becomes isolated, resentment in both directions builds, joint commitment to goals diminishes, reducing output while demotivation spreads through the team. These issues can occur when people work physically together; however, it occurs more rapidly when people are not working side by side.

Turn the difference into a superpower

People work in a across offices and time zones for many reasons. Often the reasons reveal ways they can bring something different to the team. Think of each team member as a gateway to knowledge and stakeholder networks.

Unique skills or knowledge

For example, someone might be working in another building or country based on previous membership in another group due to their experience in a centralised operational role – leverage their knowledge to understanding the problems and at a deeper level and strive for more practical and creative solutions. Use their unique contacts to test designs and prototypes with in a way not usually accessible.

Close to stakeholders

Sometimes a team member is selected as they worked in a team organisationally or physically close to a key stakeholder. Building a liaison-type role for them within the team can accelerate the speed and improve the quality of feedback. This role provides an advantage to both the team and stakeholder while acknowledging the power that the relationship that the individual has been able to add to the team.

Flexible working

Technology enables many of us to achieve a better life balance by working where and when we are most able to. Sometimes this flexibility puts people in situations which are unique in the team. Ways in which these circumstances can allow the team to get more done include:

  • Someone who works late hours – engage for follow up work after the end of the business day
  • Solitary working – assign detailed tasks which required concentration
  • Social activity – Activities which need to engage people also not co-located can be done equally as well by someone physically separated by the team while including them in the core team activity

Let the superheroes us their superpowers

Unlocking the potential of people to leverage their different circumstances to create a team with broader reach. Distributed team members can be in places the rest of the team are not; they can be available at alternate times of days. The result is a team greater than the sum of their parts.