Unpacking Remote Management

By Dr. Lisa Aldisert,

Many of us are a good ten months into managing a remote workforce. Although some have done well and even flourished, others are stumbling. This can be frustrating, especially if you felt successful when you were together with your team in the office.

Work will eventually return to an office environment, but it will not likely ever revert to the way it was a year ago. The managerial skills that make you brilliant in the office are different than the ones you need to succeed remotely. And whether you return to a conventional office environment or stay remote, the skills to successfully manage remotely will serve you well.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring issues related to remote management and how you can tweak what you’re doing to be more effective.

+ At the onset, this takes more work, especially for those whose style was “managing by walking around”. It’s not as easy to check in on your staff and determine through observation whether they are really doing OK. Because of this….

+ Departments or teams should have a daily check in to make sure the team is aligned with your goals and expectations.

+ You also need to have frequent check ins with your direct reports. Even if they were great self-starters in the office, behavior can change working remotely. This is especially true if they are dealing with family issues during traditional office hours.

+ Determine how wide their bandwidth is. You can’t keep piling on work when they are already stretched to capacity. That said, use your judgment about how much bandwidth they really have.

Here’s the challenge: to successfully manage a remote workforce, you’ll probably spend most of your daylight hours working directly with your team leaving the evening to cover your “real” work. This can certainly be frustrating, but the sooner you have a good rhythm in place with your remote workers, the easier it will be for you to reclaim time during the day.

Know when to push or dig deeper. This is especially relevant with your stronger people. They will always say that they have something under control, if for nothing other than it will “help” you by not being a burden.

Next time we’ll focus on “remote listening” as acute listening skills are critical to successfully managing a remote team.