We are dedicating this week to managers who are charged with leading remote teams. Whether this stretches across town, the country, or the globe, we recognize that challenges naturally arise no matter the distance between you and your direct reports. This is part two of a mini-series aimed at helping managers navigate this future world of work and hone their remote management skills.
Any manager, whether located in an office or working remotely, juggles their fair share of responsibilities. Attaining goals, coaching team members, managing differing personalities and work styles, and resolving conflict are just a few. So with the suggestions provided in our previous blog in mind, what exactly is the profile of an effective remote manager?
While the characteristics of a good leader come in many forms, there are some common competencies that those leading virtual teams possess: Agility, Achievement, and Affiliation. Used in combination, these competencies describe the skills and behaviors needed to successfully manage remote workers and can also be the prescription for instilling trust and driving productivity across your team. And we’ll let you in on a secret...these are equally effective for in-person teams, too.
How managers respond to change and help people handle challenges independently is a measure of their agility. How exactly do remote managers need to be agile? There are two main ways:
Have you ever had something odd happen with your technology and leaned over to your neighbor or walked down the hall to a coworker to show them and ask if they’ve ever experienced that particular issue? That isn’t realistic when you’re working remotely; what would have been a physical interaction to solve a problem previously will now likely be an email to a colleague or a request to IT. Just as we change our approach to solving this type of issue, the remote work environment relies almost solely on technology-enabled communication, and remote managers are likely to need to adapt their processes and procedures for communication and other tasks. Because your team is not surrounded by fellow employees for support, be prepared to step in and offer suggestions or guidance that may not have previously been necessary in traditional office settings.
Agile remote managers are also likely to find themselves learning new skills, adapting how they complete old processes, and/or using new programs. This can look different depending on the situation, but it can be as simple as learning to rely on electronic documentation to complete a task where physical copies previously were the norm. Or it can be expanding knowledge on virtual meeting platforms. While perhaps the technology itself had been in place previously, it may have been at the most basic level and now your team is finding themselves diving deeper into the capabilities available to them to work better virtually. To help them overcome the extra barriers they face will require a positive attitude from you, their manager, to ensure they stay focused and productive while overcoming these obstacles. Agility will remain a key theme in remote management which includes these concepts of adaptability, learning agility and resilience.
Achievement is how managers adapt their work practices to drive action and ensure accountability. While you’re busy taking care of your team and any roadblocks that they encounter, don’t forget to prioritize yourself and how best to accomplish your own responsibilities each day. Driving and achieving results as a remote manager requires independence, ownership, and action-orientation. Situations will arise where remote managers need to gather data, analyze information, and make decisions on their own. To do this in the most productive manner, remote leaders need to avoid unstructured work environments just like their employees. By eliminating (or at least minimizing) distractions, you boost your own productivity, remain motivated, and stay focused. Furthermore, remote managers are responsible for managing any additional barriers to performance introduced by distance and holding themselves and their team accountable to achieving goals and objectives.
And lastly, affiliation is how managers overcome the physical distance required to coach others and build a supportive team. Not being able to have an in-person meeting or run into members of your team at the water cooler does not diminish the importance of these relationships. They are essential for information to flow, not only across your team, but throughout the entire organization. Most businesses rely on employees’ abilities to collaborate and work together toward a common goal regardless of industry or work environment. How managers interact with their team members and colleagues has a direct impact on their relationships, communication, and effectiveness. Therefore, it amplifies the importance of identifying remote managers who foster a climate of teamwork, activity coach and develop their team, and appropriately show compassion despite their distance.
Effective managers make it a point to adjust their behavior, maintain focus on achieving goals, and create a climate of teamwork, trust, and respect. Organizations that invest in their remote managers and ensure they are providing the support needed will reap the subsequent rewards of happier and more productive remote employees.