Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Managing People You Can’t See

Employees who work remotely comprise an ever increasing percentage of the workforce. For this reason, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that come with managing this type of employee. Here are 8 tips for managing, and working with, remote teams.

1. Identify and Acknowledge Discomfort. No matter which management style you have, you are going to have some level of discomfort with managing people you can’t see. Figure out what your management style is and then identify what challenges you would face while managing someone remotely. Explore tactics and skills you can use to overcome those challenges.

2. Evaluate Remote Work Requests Objectively. Remote work requests should be handled much like any other work decision. Use the following factors to evaluate each request.

• Needs of business
• Nature of position
• Individual work style
• Department restrictions/limitations
• Individual performance

3. Say either “Yes and…’ or “No, and…” Always give a reason for your decision. If you said no explain why you would not be comfortable with an employee working remotely. If you said yes, explain any concerns you might have and establish ground rules.

4. Agree Upon and Document Team Values. Create a team document that outlines a certain set of behaviors that everybody on the team agrees on. Review and update this document every 6 months.

5. Harness Technology. There are many technical resources out there that allow remote teams to work together. Discuss with your team their preference and decide on the best plan for your team.

6. Set Goals and Track Performance. Make sure you clearly communicate deadlines and projects. Everyone should know who is responsible for completing each part of the project.

7. Communicate Deliberately. Body language can tell us so much during a conversation, and it can be more difficult to communicate clearly when we can’t see someone. Say only what is meant and leave no room for interpretation.

8. Build a Strong, Cohesive Team. Promoting teamwork will build a sense of community among remote teams.

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