How To Manage Cross-Functional Leadership in Remote Teams

cross-functional leadership

Great cross-functional leadership is essential in today’s business landscape. A cross-functional team can produce more efficient and effective results than a standard one-specialty team. More perspectives almost always yield better solutions. But only if you can communicate and get the job done together.

Here at WillDom, we love to show off our cross-functional skills. Working remotely means we have access to the best and brightest no matter what their zip code or timezone. We compile the perfect cross-functional leadership team to fit seamlessly into any project, for any company.

Let’s take a look at some cross-functional skills examples and how to use them. Read on to hone your own leadership skills in this new and necessary niche.

What are Cross-Functional Teams?

You have a goal or project. You need input from several different specialties to make it work. Guess what? You need a cross-functional team. Whether you knew the jargon at the time or not, you’ve probably worked on many cross-functional teams during your career. 

Whenever two or more people from different areas of expertise work on a project, you have a cross-functional team. A graphic designer and a copywriter working together on a website, the marketing department working with sales on the best way to convert clicks to repeat accounts, or developers and operations ironing out the bugs in a system: these are all examples of cross-functional teams. 

What are Remote Teams?

Most competitive business models now incorporate some form of remote work. When you can hire talent from anywhere with an Internet connection, your options become almost overwhelming. 

Important Note: before working with a remote team, ensure you have security figured out. Connecting to sensitive information on an unsecured network or device can represent some danger.

  1. Communication Channels and Expectations

Cross-Functional communication is the key to success. Establish which apps you’ll be using to send information, videos, or notes. Discuss how often you expect to hear from the team or the milestones they need to submit for feedback. 

Also, build group chats or channels. Give everyone space to do their best work alone and another space to collaborate when they need it. Leading a remote team means putting micromanaging aside and trusting that your team will produce.

Strike a balance between remote and alone. Some employers feel the need to hold mandatory virtual meetings so “everyone can see each other.” Make sure these are essential and productive. If they aren’t, consider alternative a-synchronous feedback systems. Nothing brings down team morale like a mandatory meeting where nothing gets done.

  1. Goals Big & Small

Establish the long-term, big-idea goal of your project and then outline the many smaller goal steps it will take to get here. Have this information displayed somewhere front and center front-and-center to keep everyone on track. Remote teams can drift away from project goals without clear direction. 

Make sure everyone understands the end goal and then workshop all smaller goals with that in mind. Break the smaller goals into assignments for smaller portions of the team. It’s very easy for one team to get bogged down in their own details if they don’t fully understand how their piece of the puzzle fits.

  1. Deadlines

You need clear deadlines for each of the goals you established. Display all goals somewhere in your online workspace. Knowing what step comes next will make your team’s efforts more focused and create a sense of urgency. 

You can have one person leading the team or several “department heads” but someone needs to keep an eye on progress with goals in mind. Deadlines should have wiggle room in case of emergencies. Depending on the project, you should build in at least a week of project time for delays. Incentivizing or gamifying deadline success is a great way to stay on track.

  1. Chain of Command

Regarding department heads, someone needs to be “in charge.” Remote cross-functional teams are generally very self-sufficient and self-motivated. But some team members gravitate toward leadership roles. They enjoy and thrive there. 

The system can be set up diplomatically but make sure you play to the strengths of your team. If they are strangers, have them self-assess at the beginning of the project and again later on. Roles can change as long as the project is moving forward.

  1. Encourage Discovery

Your remote, cross-functional team will have growing pains. Interpersonal conflict and communication misfires are common in any group project. One taking place across time zones, without in-person visual queues, and between experts who use different jargon will have its own challenges. 

Encourage an atmosphere of curiosity and discovery. If something is unclear, everyone’s first reaction should be to ask a question. Remove the fear of judgment by rewarding effort and communication. And while you’re at it, encourage failure. You can’t discover a new solution without trying and failing a few times. Normalize making progress rather than being perfect.

It’s a careful balancing act between 1) trusting your team to work without micromanagement and 2) keeping everything on track. Establishing clear expectations, communication tools, goals, and deadlines helps. Having a competent chain of command and an atmosphere of discovery will create the best outcomes for your project.
And if you need your very own custom-made, professionally-remote development team to help with your project, hop over to WillDom.com or on LinkedIn. We’ve been cross-functioning remotely for years and loving every minute of it – we think you will too.

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