A few tips from years of experience managing remote workers.
For a lot of people, working remotely is completely new. I mean, maybe it was something you did on Fridays when you didn’t have any meetings and you decided it would be nice to work from home. Maybe your company even encouraged that freedom.
That’s not quite the same as working remotely on a full-time basis. Especially now that, in many cases, your spouse or partner or roommate is also trying to figure out how to make remote working work. Throw in a few children you’re also trying to homeschool. Oh, and there’s a pandemic.
Maybe it’s a bit of a challenge.
It’s even more of a challenge if you’re leading a team and trying to figure out how to keep everyone engaged, connected, and productive. I get it. It can be completely overwhelming trying to navigate the systems and tools and schedules that come with a full-time remote team.
Fortunately, there are things that can help. I’ve been leading remote teams for years in a variety of contexts, and along the way, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve also learned some simple lessons that might help you.
Here are three things I’ve learned:
Be Clear in Your Expectations
The first thing to consider is how you set expectations. Whether or not your remote team will be successful depends entirely on this. Generally, people fail to live up to the majority of the expectations they don’t know you have. If they somehow manage to meet them, it’s by accident, which really isn’t that helpful for anyone.
On the other hand, a good leader sets clear expectations for her team. That means establishing up front what your team is accountable for, and what it means to be successful.
Focus on Outcomes
There’s really no question that the type of work you can accomplish working remotely looks different from what you do in an office. More important, however, the way you measure productivity should be different. Instead of focusing on activities and tasks, look at how the big picture can be broken into manageable outcomes, and hold people accountable to those.
For example, instead of worrying about how long someone is sitting at a desk sending emails or making phone calls, measure how they are contributing to the overall business goals. You can’t possibly keep track of what everyone on your team is doing all the time, and that’s OK. Focus instead on helping them establish realistic outcomes, and help them meet those.
Trust Your Team
Finally, and probably most important, leading a remote team requires trusting them. There’s a reason you hired them in the first place, so equip them to do their jobs and hold them accountable. That doesn’t, however, mean micromanaging them. If you find yourself anxious about what your team is doing, chances are you can solve that problem through better communication.
By the way, in almost every case, the natural result of trusting your team is that they rise to the occasion. In the few cases that isn’t the case, well, then you’ve probably found a deeper issue that needs to be dealt with. On the whole, giving your team the freedom to thrive in their role and responsibilities will be a net positive for them, for you, and for your business.
© Inc. 2020