Managing a remote team comes with a unique set of challenges. Not all workers operate in the same way. As a manager, it’s important to understand that different members of your team need tailored levels of accountability, support and encouragement. Having spent many years overseeing remote employees for multiple organizations, I’ve developed a set of strategies that have served me well in managing a diverse team from a distance:
- Set clear and simple workday and workweek expectations: It is hard to drive behavior if you haven’t clearly articulated what you expect from your team. It is far too easy to assume that your employee knows exactly what they are expected to do. They may be too shy to ask for guidance, or they may be making assumptions about their own responsibilities. Take the time to set up routines that clearly communicate expectations, and confirm that your employees have an understanding of their duties.
- Be consistent: Don’t waver from your routine. This is the biggest mistake managers make. Maintaining a regular routine is important for optimal functioning as a manger, and it provides your employees with a sense of stability. In order to be effective and maintain structure, you have to stick to your guns and consistently follow through. Create a process that you can sustain, and set reminders to keep you honest.
- Provide Accountability: It’s imperative to acknowledge the commitment of your employees to the routines that you set. For example, if you’re asking your team to provide regular status reports, you must read them! If workers catch on that their efforts are a waste of time (and they will), they will justifiably stop taking those routines seriously. You need to do your part if you expect your team members to do theirs.
- Keep status updates simple: Don’t inundate your entire team with details they don’t need to worry about. Everyone has suffered through long-winded status meetings filled with details only relevant to the responsibilities of a few individuals. Remember the goal of a status update is to identify any looming issues or roadblocks, not to deliver exhaustive, impertinent information. Ask yourself if the info you’re dispensing is truly valuable to all teams members. If it is, share it. If not, don’t force it.
- Give the occasional pep talk: Consider how much easier it is to inspire your employees when they are in the same room as you. Since your team is distributed, consider using short video pep talks on a weekly basis. This practice allows employees to become more familiar with your personality, and it fosters a sense of inclusion in the bigger picture. After all, no one wants tasks to be fed to them by a bot. Virtual pep talks can be an effective way to boost productivity and inspiration, which is an essential function of a good manager.
- Give credit where credit is due: Be public with your praise of team members, even for the small tasks. It matters. If an employee does a great job on a design or project, send out a congratulatory announcement, or encourage the entire team to admire the hard work. Most people want to do a good job, and being a remote worker can be an isolating experience. Reminding individual employees that their contribution is valuable to the group at large can be extremely motivating.
- Incentivize engagement: You probably have some team members who communicate consistently well and others who are a bit more reserved. No matter how much you trust an employee, as a remote team manager, silence can be scary. Develop a monthly bonus program for the teams or team members who are doing it right! This will signal to everyone what behaviors you appreciate without requiring you to directly demand engagement, ultimately making your job easier.
These seven methods won’t necessarily solve all of your problems, but they will undoubtedly alleviate a variety of stress points. The secret to efficient management is creating consistent routines that keep everyone informed, engaged, and focused - including you!