I didn’t meet my boss for a year. In-person, that is: She was based in New York City, and I lived and worked from the West Coast.
Although remote management is definitely challenging, my supervisor executed her role so well that I didn’t even miss the traditional in-person arrangement.
Would you love to hear similar feedback from your distributed team? Read on for five ways to be an effective remote manager.
Use All the Tools Available
Email is good for non-timely, short interactions—not so much for personalized interactions. When you’re not in the same office as your employees, you have to actively facilitate relationship-building moments.
And that requires a full suite of tools. Group chat platforms like Slack and Basecamp allow you to have friendly, informal conversations with your team members. You’ll develop inside jokes, learn details about each other’s lives, discover commonalities—basically, all the stuff that normally happens when you’re working side-by-side.
(Also, don’t forget the power of emojis, pictures, and GIFs in creating a rapport!)
You should also take advantage of video communication platforms like Skype and Google Hangout. Video is a much richer experience than phone or text, which will make your team both closer and more engaged.
Check out more tips on collaborating remotely.
Make Time for Fun
If you don’t plan “non-work” time to hang out with your employees, it’ll never happen. However, it’s crucial to have this time, because it’ll show those whom you’re managing that you care about more than just their output. As a result? They’ll be more trusting, motivated, satisfied, and honest.
Try setting aside five to 10 minutes of every one-on-one call purely for talking about unrelated things like:
Your weekend plans
What books you’re reading
The trips you’re planning
How your day is going
You’ll likely find that, over time, you’ll start to really enjoy the social part of your check-ins.
And if you’ve got the budget, plan a company retreat. Bringing the entire team together in a single place accelerates bonding like nothing else.
Managing remotely means you have to be even more organized than an on-site supervisor.
First, it’s essential that you’re always keeping track of what time zone your employees are in versus the one you’re in. Scheduling a call at 9:30 AM is perfectly reasonable—unless they’re in California, and you’re calling at 6:30 AM their time.
Furthermore, make sure you always know the status of your team members’ projects and tasks. It’s easy to let accountability slide; after all, you have no idea when your employees are being productive.
You can monitor their current assignments with a simple solution like Trello or Google Sheets. Lastly, track how many hours your employees work (whether that’s with software like Hubstaff or HiveDesk or on an informal, “send me your hours” basis).
Set Clear Goals
Establishing clear expectations goes hand-in-hand with being organized. Without the structure of the traditional 9-5 experience, many remote employees struggle.
Unfortunately, some managers are afraid of micromanaging, so they try to give their team members freedom—but in a remote environment, this “hands-off” approach is very dangerous, as it can lead to people working aimlessly or not at all.
You and your direct reports should work together to establish individual deliverables. At any given time, both of you should know exactly what that person is supposed to be working on and when he or she will finish.
Manage Conflict Quickly
Miscommunication is common within virtual teams—and if you don’t address tensions quickly, your entire group can implode.
Fortunately, there’s a solution at hand for resolving conflict: conference or video calls.
Begin the call by explaining your role as a mediator and setting the ground rules (i.e. each person gets four minutes to explain their side, no one can interrupt, and so on.)
Virtual teams expert Yael Zofi recommends you remind everyone the goal is not to decide a “winner,” but to settle the issue.
After that, have each employee give their perspective. This activity will help your team find the main area of disagreement and brainstorm potential fixes.
In your moderator role, you should clarify the agreed-upon solution and make sure every member is committed to the steps or actions they’ve said they’ll take.
In some ways, being a remote manager requires you to be even more present than a standard one. These tips should help you successfully lead your distributed team.
About the Author
Aja Frost is a freelance writer who covers career, lifestyle, current events, and social justice. Say hi to her on Twitter.
Tags: remote manager, virtual teams