Managers have one of the toughest jobs around. As a department or company head, you always have to stay on top of everything, ensure all operations are running smoothly, make sure your employees are performing up to par, and make executive decisions that can potentially affect the company and your team.
As a manager, taking on all these responsibilities and others more can really be taxing. But your job can even be more difficult when you are given the task of managing remote workers.
The Rise of Telecommuting
Telecommuting is an employment trend that continues to be on the rise. According to a report published in The Seattle Times, 43 percent of surveyed workers in the USA said they have spent some time working remotely.
This number is expected to increase in the coming years since working remotely full or part-time presents various advantages that job seekers and current employees find appealing. This trend is also not just popular in the US; a lot of organizations around the world are already offering this work setup to their current employees and to their future ones. Many companies are seriously considering this option as well.
Managing Remote Workers
Although managing remote workers presents some challenges which you may find difficult to handle (especially if it’s your first time to do so), having the right set of leadership skills will help you take on this responsibility smoothly and more efficiently.
To be a productive and effective remote manager, here are the top leadership skills you need to develop:
1. Self-awareness and management
All managers should possess these two important leadership skills. As a remote manager, having these two skills will help you greatly in managing and motivating your team.
As a top executive, you need to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand your competencies and limitations, you will be able to set realistic expectations or targets for your staff. You will then avoid falling into the trap of doubting your employees’ capabilities and commitment to their job.
You also need to be an expert in managing yourself: your work schedule, meetings, business trips, etc., even if you have a secretary or assistant. By doing so, you will be able to relate to your employees and understand their work schedule, needs, and predicaments. You can then share tips and advice based on your experience or research.
Additionally, when you have mastered these skills, you will be able to give honest feedback to your staff that should ultimately help them be better employees.
Although remote workers can be a bit lax in terms of work schedules, they need to know that they have to meet your expectations. You, therefore, have to set expectations for output early and consistently reinforce them.
Let your employees know that everyone should focus on results. Regardless of where they are and what time they begin or stop working, at the end of the day or their schedule, they should complete tasks or projects they have been given within set timelines.
3. Sense of responsibility
Even if you don’t see and talk to your employees personally since they are working from different parts of the country or even the world, you are still responsible for their performance. As such, you have a hand in both their successes and their failures.
To be sure that you will minimize team failures and enjoy more accomplishments with them, always keep tabs on all of your employees. Find out what you can do to keep them motivated and help them become better employees.
4. Communication skills
Managers are often distinguished by their good listening, writing, and oral communication skills. However, when using technology to communicate with their team members, many high-level executives err on the side of over or under communicating or even both.
To be an effective remote manager, you need to be a good, unbiased listener. You also have to exude trust and respect even from a distance. Additionally, you have to inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging and sounding overbearing.
Finally, you need to show expertise in using various devices and tools for communication, especially the ones that you and your team will be constantly utilizing. You have to know which platform is best to use for meetings, sending instructions or tasks, onboarding new employees, etc.
Problems occur in both physical and virtual offices. As a manager and leader, you need to have the ability to think on your feet and solve problems fast. Keep in mind that most of the time, your employees will depend on you when certain issues come up since you are an expert in this field.
Aside from recommending or giving solutions, you should also know when to allow your employees to solve some problems on their own. Encourage them to collaborate. In addition, it is important that you develop the skill of remaining calm and focused while your team comes up with the best solutions.
The most successful and well-liked managers are those that are available at all times of the day. They also respond quickly to their employees, especially during emergencies.
This is a trait that you can easily develop and practice thanks to modern technology. Different apps and online tools for communication will allow your staff to get in touch with you for free wherever they are at any time. You can talk to them via the same platform or through other channels as well.
Regardless of the tool you use, keep in mind that what is important is that you respond to your employees’ queries and concerns as soon as possible.
7. Team building
Even if you and your employees do not work in one office and rarely see each other, you still need to prioritize building relationships and camaraderie within your team. Take the time to really get to know each of your remote staff and form personal bonds with them.
Don’t wait for them to send you a message or email or get in touch with you because there is a work-related problem. Ask about their personal life, hobbies, or even what they did during the weekend from time to time.
You can also encourage familiarity and solidarity within the group by giving your employees meeting time for “water cooler” conversations. Allow the entire team to create personal connections and strengthen relationships in group chats or webinars.
Being a remote manager comes with a certain set of challenges. But you can easily handle and overcome these obstacles and be the leader your remote team can rely on and look up to by having and exemplifying the right leadership skills and attributes.
Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.