Whether you currently manage an entire team remotely (or just a few individuals), or you’re thinking of making your first remote hire, you’re going to need stellar leadership qualities in order to rally and lead your troops from behind a screen.
When it comes to the required skill set, you’re looking for the same skills you’d need as an on-site manager, the main difference being the execution of those skills.
So, if you’re ready to take your remote workforce to the next level, check out our top tips and traits for being an efficient and professional remote manager.
You’ve got this.
1. Trust in your employees
You’re a manager so, of course, you want results, but you need to learn that remote work can’t be measured by the clock. Productivity and value are measured by the results delivered.
By all means, have set working hours in place to be adhered to, but don’t expect hourly updates from your working nomads. Make your expectations clear from the start, and avoid being a micromanaging boss, because nobody responds well to that, remote worker or not.
Always trust in your employees until they give you a reason not to. Offering this level of trust will help to bring out the best in your remote workers, who often want to prove themselves as valuable and indispensable to your business (far more than regular employees tend to).
2. Take advantage of technology
Knowing and using the right tools will make everyone's life easier, including yours, so this one’s a no-brainer.
A bit of searching and reading online will probably find you a tool to support any of the challenges you and your team currently face, whether it’s regarding team communication, systemization, sharing documents, or dealing with the multiple time differences.
Here are just a few of the tools that could greatly benefit your remote team:
- G Suite – This is where you’ll find Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar and Hangouts all in one place, allowing you to connect the people in your company on multiple levels, no matter where in the world they are.
- Boomerang – Allows you to write and schedule emails to be sent at specific times in the future, and be reminded to reach out again if you don’t get a response.
- Slack & Trello – Platforms to unify your entire team’s communication, with all the integrated apps you need day to day.
- Skype & Zoom – Free calls, video chats, and web conferencing.
- World Time Buddy – Allows you to effortlessly convert between multiple time zones, plan and schedule conference calls, online webinars and international meetings.
- Dropbox – Shared online storage to upload documents and share between your team
- Asana – Projects and tasks can be tracked from start to finish, with responsibilities and next steps clearly laid out for employees.
Even the addition of just a few of these tools will help all of your team members to stay on the same page and get the assistance of the right person (without disturbing others who might be on a tight deadline).
They also help people to stay organized, plan their work effectively, be more productive, and can also create a sense of team spirit, even if it is a digital one.
Why rely heavily on email when there’s all this available at your fingertips? Seeing your employees faces or hearing their voices helps you both to communicate effectively with one another, and understand that you’re both simply human beings.
3. Learn to communicate effectively
Effective communication skills are vital when it comes to any partnership that involves people dealing with people – marriage, business, and friendship too.
For example, If your partner gives you the silent treatment, but won’t tell you what you’ve done wrong – how on earth are you supposed to put it right?
When you’re not able to physically communicate face-to-face, it’s important to set clear guidelines, deadlines and feedback for all tasks, which will help employees to understand what’s expected of them and set about achieving that.
Out of sight should never mean out of mind. Learn the balance of checking in with your workers, while also giving them enough space to get on with their job. Ensure they feel they can approach you if they ever have any questions or need assistance.
The various tools we mentioned above will help you maintain different types of virtual communication in absence of not physically seeing your employees every day..
Once you learn to converse with your employees instead of only instructing them, they’ll begin to feel empowered and respected:
“Master the art of asking and you will enrich your understanding of employees, the challenges they face, and their ideas for meeting those challenges. Workers will sense that you care about what they have to say, and that will lead to higher employee engagement and stronger business results.” (Peter Friedes, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC)
4. Set clear goals, expectations and rewards from the start
You already know that hiring and firing employees costs your business money, so in order to minimize this, try and gauge whether this prospective person is interested in sticking with the company long-term before making the hire. Ultimately, you’re looking for people who aren’t job hoppers and could become an integral part of the team in time to come.
When you make the hire, put a clear working structure in place from day one. Define your business hours if you want to, discuss deadlines, meetings, progress reports, and conversations that will happen regularly in order to track progress.
Don’t forget to thank and reward people who do stick around and continue to meet goals and exceed expectations. You’d be surprised how far a bonus or a small raise goes. Keep your remote team hungry to strive for even more success and continue to exceed expectations.
5. Invest in relationships
Long distance relationships are difficult at best, so it’s important to take time to build relationships with your employees and encourage them to do this with each other too.
Even simply having an off-topic chat in Slack can work wonders for team building, and help each individual feel more valued and interesting to their co-workers. Celebrate birthdays and other milestones as you would in an office environment too – there’s no reason why special days like this need to be ignored.
Try to arrange occasional, real-life meetups if your budget allows for it, because it’s tough to reproduce the same kind of powerful connection on a digital level, and can really help boost morale and strengthen working relationships.
Adjusting to the remote life takes time
As you can see, managing remote employees is pretty similar to managing an on-site team, just without a physical communal workspace.
Naturally, it’ll take a while to adjust to the differences of a digital workplace, but as long as you continue to communicate effectively with your team and use the many tools available to your advantage, you won’t go wrong.
In fact, we’ll go as far as saying once you get to grips with the basics, we think you’re really going to enjoy learning how to work remotely and its many advantages.
What’s your favourite tool to keep in touch with your remote team, and why?