Managers are increasingly leading teams that are scattered geographically. How can they improve their ability to handle these situations?
The skills associated with managing a team of employees change depending on the physical arrangement of the company. When employees are scattered geographically, there are extra challenges and demands placed on leaders. With telecommuting increasing in popularity even before the novel coronavirus pandemic forced a large amount of companies to adopt remote work as an everyday solution, these unique skills are worth focusing on. Fortunately, there are training courses designed to specifically help team leaders whose employees are mostly or entirely based off-site.
What Does It Take to Be A Remote Manager?
Taking charge of a predominantly remote team comes with unique challenges. According to CIO magazine, there are inherent disadvantages to working entirely off-site. Namely, workers who don’t come into the office are especially susceptible to feeling they are being excluded or decisions are being made without them. Furthermore, when these issues affect remote workers, they may let them linger for longer than on-premises employees. Leaders need to be proactive about getting involved in these situations and intervening on behalf of their telecommuting team members.
The natural disadvantages to working remotely can be overcome with good management, CIO added, citing research by social scientists Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield. The study revealed the value of clarity around communication and expectations. Whether workers are remote or on-site, a lack of ambiguity is a good thing. Remote managers may have to put in extra effort to make sure their messages get through. In fact, even when these leaders feel like they are over-communicating, they should lean toward giving too much information instead of not enough.
When speaking to their remote workers, managers should not limit their available hours too much, and it helps if they choose communication platforms favored by particular employees. The results of the Grenny and Maxfield survey demonstrated that remote workers are happiest when leaders meet them on their own terms, whether that means sending text chats or engaging in video conversations. Furthermore, motivational tactics work best when there is time for social bonding and small talk, rather than only conversations about assignments and priorities.
Where Does Technology Use Come into Remote Leadership?
Communication technology has enabled the present age of off-site work, and managers who use their IT solutions to their utmost extent are more likely to succeed than less-connected leaders. The Forbes Coaches Council polled industry insiders about the most promising ways to lead off-site teams, and Leila Bulling Towne of The Bulling Towne Group, LLC explained it pays to focus on software when first setting up a remote work system. People who have access to high-quality tech tools, as well as clear and sensible processes for their use, are best equipped to get consistent performance out of their teams.
Linkage, Inc.’s Matt Norquist added, collaboration among remote workers is at its best when people aren’t multi-tasking, but are focusing on their current projects. Use of technology plays into creating this more productive workforce. He suggested using video meetings instead of audio-only phone calls to hold team meetings. This setup encourages everyone to engage directly with the content of the current discussion. Furthermore, when managers use email as a targeted tool instead of sending out frequently updated chains to the whole team, it helps keep employees on task instead of sabotaging productivity in favor of engaging in nonessential discussions.
When technology becomes an essential tool for everyday office life in addition to the specifics of particular assignments, the remote workforce can start to feel like a true team. That’s why UpwardAction LLC’s TC Cooper suggested employing IT tools to celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries and more. Creating a community through technological means may not be as straightforward as encouraging engagement between in-person workers, but considering the increasing prevalence of work-from-home models, it’s wise for leaders to become skilled at working in this medium.
What Kind of Training Exists for Remote Team Leaders?
Today’s training content is targeted at modern requirements and common needs, which includes remote team leadership. All types of topics regarding off-site work, from forming a team to keeping those employees motivated over the weeks, months and years ahead are the subjects of their own courses. Plan to invest in the materials that relate most directly to your company’s present situation or its targeted direction in the near future. If you’re planning to step up your use of remote workers or have pivoted to this model following the coronavirus outbreak, it could be valuable to invest in relevant training materials.
Leadership is a skill some may assume is inherent and natural. However, having the right training can enable a person to thrive in a position of authority. This is especially true when considering the granular skills related to specific elements of management such as remote team direction. Since the experiences of all your employees are shaped by the input of their team leaders, improving the skills of the people in charge can have positive ripple effects through the whole company.