Building High Performing Remote Teams

Remote Leader competencies
by Deborah Bell

As Vice President, Consulting, Deborah conducts assessments, manages consulting projects, and designs and delivers custom solutions. She enjoys building relationships with her clients and uncovering their needs so she can serve as a trusted adviser and business partner.

Some people are naturally wired to thrive in a remote role. Others are less well-suited, and many will need support from their leader to do their best work.  That’s why it’s essential to know how your candidates and current team members are wired, and how your leaders are leading. In this article, we explain the 6 Cs that you need to be aware of to build high-performing remote teams.


When working in an office, there are more situational cues to elicit task-oriented behavior, more situational constraints that prevent someone from being unproductive, and fewer non-work distractions. Some people need that structure to perform well.  Other people have the motivation and self-discipline needed to behave in ways that allow them to be highly productive, regardless of the situation they are in.  And, many people fall somewhere in between.  

Since Conscientiousness (i.e., work ethic) is part of someone’s personality, it’s not easy to develop.  So, the key is to create a strong situation that encourages the desired behaviors.  Below are some tips for doing that:

  • Set challenging and concrete goals for them to accomplish.

  • Provide clear expectations, additional structured touchpoints, and assignments where the outputs are more visible to others on the team.

  • Give them work that interests them to kick in their intrinsic motivation to put forth their best effort.


An office environment is more conducive to impromptu communication.  In a remote role, you need to be a more proactive communicator.  Some people are wired to approach others and initiate conversations.  Other people are wired to avoid them.  And, many people fall somewhere in between.  The personality trait that has the strongest link to these behaviors is Extraversion.

Developing proactive communication skills in people who are less extroverted can help the team operate more efficiently.  Below are some tips:

  • Ask the person what mode of communication they feel most comfortable using and encourage them to do more of that.

  • Make virtual meetings more introvert-friendly by sending agendas in advance, keeping an eye on the chat box, and using breakout rooms for small group discussions.

  • Work with the person to establish more structure around how, when, and what types of communication are needed to help them perform specific responsibilities more effectively.


People who are naturally cooperative and empathic tend to be more inclined to be collaborative.  The personality trait that has the strongest link with these behaviors is Agreeableness.  For people who are lower on this personality domain:

  • Provide coaching, mentoring, and formal training.  Key soft skills to target include active listening, perspective-taking, and teamwork.

  • Give feedback soon after your observations of behaviors that facilitate or hinder collaboration.  Remember that it takes time to break old habits and establish new ones, so keeping it in front of the person with specific, frequent feedback is helpful.


Remote work is more influenced by rapid advances in technology, requiring people to constantly learn and adapt to new ways of working.  Some people are naturally driven to engage in exploration, such as researching new technology or experimenting with novel ways of doing things.  Other people are much more comfortable sticking with what they know.  And many of us are somewhere in between.  The personality trait that has the strongest link to these behaviors is Openness/Intellect.

People who are low on this trait, especially if they also are prone to worry, may have trouble adjusting to new ways of doing things.  They may benefit from:

  • More training and support when new technologies are introduced.

  • Positive feedback when they push themselves outside of their comfort zone and learn a new way of working. 


Research shows that leaders who provide others with structure have higher-performing teams.  That’s because with structure comes clarity. Clarity around roles, responsibilities, and expectations.  In remote settings, there is often more ambiguity and uncertainty that can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and poor results.
Some things you can do as a leader to provide clarity include:

  • Work with your team to establish a contract.  This is essentially a list of behaviors that the team comes up with and commits to exhibiting.  For instance, core work hours, time to respond to internal emails, and methods and frequency of communications.

  • If you tend to be more of a hands-off leader, put more structure around meetings, follow-ups, and metrics to measure results. 


Research shows that leaders who show consideration for their direct reports foster higher levels of job satisfaction and are more effective leaders overall.  This aspect of leadership includes behaviors like seeking input from direct reports, using their ideas for improvement, and helping them with any problems.  It requires the leader to have a deep concern for the well-being of their team members and to foster high levels of two-way communication.  In a remote setting, it is easier to under-communicate and more difficult to build deep relationships with people.   To increase consideration as a leader:

  • Have regular one-on-ones to talk about their development. these are separate conversations from the ones that are focused on status updates.

  • Facilitate regular brainstorming sessions to encourage the exchange of ideas and take the time to get input from all direct reports on decisions that affect the team.

Finally, strong leadership skills are critical to the success of remote teams.  Yet many first-time managers haven’t received formal leadership skills training.  Be proactive in providing learning and development activities that give your leaders the tools they need to provide clarity and show consideration.

Measuring the 6 Cs

Building high-performing remote teams can be challenging.  By using psychometrically sound measures of the Big 5 personality domains and leadership style to measure the 6 Cs, you can hire people who ware naturally wired to thrive in remote roles and support those who need extra help.   

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