Management Skills for the Age of Remote Work
Give it to me straight: do you struggle to manage your staff remotely?
It’s something all business leaders have had to adapt to, with varying levels of success and enjoyment. The small things we value so much – dropping by a teammate’s desk for a quick coaching session, or having them shadow you on a call (it’s a little more difficult to hide an extra zoom attendee) – are more tough now that so many teams are entirely remote. It’s a problem many are grappling with.
Fundamentally, once again, it comes down to adaptability. Adapting your skills to work around the requirements of your business. And those requirements right now are all about management and coaching from afar.
Here are some things I implemented across my own team whilst we were all working from home during those long lockdown periods – but which I believe will come in handy from here on in.
Focus on outcomes and deliverables, not actions and activity
A huge problem facing many managers is how to effectively ask their team, “So, what have you been up to?”, without seeming as though they’re trying to virtually micromanage. Not only is “showing up” virtually taking its toll on many employees (that’s the need to be seen keeping busy without a visual), but you have to understand that activity may look a little different from home.
As such, take care to avoid focusing on this; instead, focus on the goals you’ve set and the outcomes you’re aiming towards. Where the team is at against them, what challenges they’re facing and how we can work around these. What limitations has remote work put on them, and solutions to those. Think about what outcomes can we achieve today; not what activity levels are we pushing out on the daily.
Establish effective communication
Like I said, when you’re in the office, it’s more than easy to wander over to a team member’s desk for clarification on a certain point or question. When your staff is remote, this is virtually impossible, and often results in frustrating back-and-forths to arrange a call for something which may have taken a quick second to sort otherwise.
Establish effective communication processes for different things – i.e. Slack for the quick questions, email for ongoing projects, picking up the phone for urgent answers. You’ll improve communication as a whole once they understand the urgency and intent behind each different tool.
Provide more feedback than ever
Your formal performance reviews are one thing but, with the pandemic as a whole, people may be feeling less secure or confident than ever. As their manager, it’s down to you to help coach and guide them through this. Feedback is a great way to do so.
In the office, you can shout out a quick well done and hand out high fives (or elbows, as the times would have it) without issue. It can be more difficult to do so virtually. Don’t wait around for performance reviews or virtual 1:1s – provide real-time feedback whenever you’re working with a colleague online, whether that’s private to them (where an improvement could perhaps be made) or using team channels (to congratulate a success or achievement). Let them know what they’re doing well, and coach them on the things they need help with. Ask how they’re feeling, and work to ensure each staff member knows where they stand.
Being a manager of remote employees requires patience, empathy and a whole lot of trust – but build the right team, and these will all come naturally.
We’re helping businesses find the top talent the global market has to offer. Whether in the office, working from home or otherwise, our processes help you qualify all you need to from the staff who might help you achieve those important outcomes. Get in touch.