Questions around leading and management of teams have been on my (and other tech leaders I assume) – specifically, what are the most common challenges? Someone asked me this question, and while I should’ve had it all wrapped up in my head, it kind of stopped me in my tracks. Not because I was stuck for answers, but because there are so many that came to mind. Being the “Chief talking Officer” (CtO) of the CTO Confessions podcast and leading many technical people into the space of leadership – I was properly spoilt for choice. 

So, I decided to “go long” with this – with the goal to cover the most important aspects of what the challenges are, and what tech leaders can do to overcome them, covered in 5 parts. 

We’re kicking off with a problem that is fairly recent. 

The Challenge of Orchestrating Remote Teams 

This is any leader’s labyrinth now – not just tech leaders. Unless you’ve been hiding under some very big rocks, a new era unfolded in the world. Many companies were using remote working to some extent, especially in the tech space, but COVID did a number on us. This wasn’t just a change; it was a quantum leap into a new reality for many business functions. Remote became a norm that we had to adapt to quickly. 

Looking at the concept of remote work, it comes with a variety of benefits and drawbacks – with the drawbacks’ list now seemingly growing, with research now pointing in a different direction, as well as statements and claims of influential tech leaders. So I’ll focus on the challenges posed by remote and diverse teams, and the biggest problems relating to it. 

How to walk the leadership walk 

So, how do we perform this high wire act of orchestrating remote and diverse teams? What steps can we take to enhance your approach? Drawing down from my personal experience and insights gathered from interviews and meetings with more than 100 tech leaders, I’ve come up with the following list: 

  • Prioritize the social fabric of your workplace. It’s crucial to put a spotlight on the social dynamics within the team. What I like to call “the social system”. Nurturing relationships and understanding interpersonal dynamics are key to not just productivity, but also satisfaction. 
  • And on top of that make it real! facilitate real-life connections. Whenever possible, arrange for the team to meet in person. An initial face-to-face gathering, especially an icebreaker event, can lay a strong foundation for future remote interactions. If you can’t do this, I implore you to get creative on how you can do this remotely. Whatever happens, people must get to know each other. As my personal leadership mantra goes: “Relationship first”. 
  • The third thing on my list is equip your people with the right tools for effective collaboration. The digital toolbox is essential for seamless remote work and maintaining productivity. But again, don’t just throw the tools into the space, think about how they can be used elegantly. Tap into the teams with continuous learning about the way they work, and how this learning can be brought to life to create an iteratively smoother ride for all concerned. 
  • And finally in the context of remote working, develop skills and processes that make it easy, productive, and fun. It’s not just about being able to see each other on a screen. Cultivating the right skills and establishing robust processes for remote work are critical for success. Don’t leave it to chance. Lead the way. Get people thinking about what’s working well and what’s not. I suggest conducting cyclic remote working retrospectives for learning and adaptation. 

Thankfully, many of the tech leaders I’ve worked with and met, work on the said topics in a big way. I hope some of the ideas here inspire you to put a bright spotlight on the topic. 

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week! 


TC Gill – People Development Coach and Strategist