In the midst of the growing remote work trend and the increasing number of companies implementing work from home policies, managers without any experience are faced with an unfamiliar problem; how do I manage my team? How do I ensure productivity and engagement? How do I measure it all?
We compiled in these Remote Manager Series some advice to answer these questions and make it easier to manage a team, whether you’re transitioning from an office setting to working from home or going fully remote for the first time.
What’s the role of a manager? The first thing that might come to mind is to drive teams towards a common goal or create and execute strategies.
The best definition I’ve encountered comes from HBR’s On Managing People Book that says — ‘The job of a manager is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance.’
Take notice that it doesn’t imply that we have to rally employees towards an objective or implement particular strategies, rather it focuses on the employees.
It’s a manager’s duty to realize that each employee is different and to challenge each of them to become the best version of themselves in their own way.
With this definition in mind, let’s dive in.
For me, this is the most important part of being a remote manager (I’ll use this term to refer to managers of remote teams). Per our definition discussed above, it’s the objective of a manager to turn talent into performance and working remotely can impact employees in a variety of different ways.
To some, the isolation might mean a loss of accountability, a loss of empowerment or a loss of motivation. Others are at the other end of the spectrum, where they might look at it like an increase in productivity, a work-life balance and a better way to organize.
A very successful colleague of mine that’s an Enterprise Sales Executive at a prominent tech company (he preferred anonymity) once told me that he looked up to this manager for empowerment and support to keep driving forward even when things got rough.
For an office manager, keeping tabs on the general sentiment is easy to spot in an office setting, but what about remotely? My colleague would’ve thought he was doing a horrible job and might’ve downgraded his performance only by not receiving the support and engagement he needed to perform at his best.
Take the time to understand your direct report strengths, weaknesses and personality types. Putting remote work aside, It will help you know how to approach and motivate them better.
Whether you’re transitioning from an office setting to remote work or starting from scratch take a moment to think through the following as you transition or grow your team:
Is this person a self-starter? How do they get their motivation?
Are they high-touch or low-touch?
How well can they follow indications?
There are other parts to take into account, but from what we’ve seen these are the fundamental pieces that help you turn talent into performance.
They will give you a very clear way on how to interact with your direct reports in a meaningful way both for their personality types and for the efficiency of your area.
We’ll touch more on communication in a later series
1:1’s are a must in today’s world, it’s a great way to keep a pulse on how your team is doing.
Remote managers should hold 1:1’s in a weekly fashion, it will help spot and correct issues quicker and more efficiently.
Without the office setting, it’s hard for employees to literally walk into your office and ask for help. Being vocal about having an open-door policy during remote work is an absolute must.
We’ll talk about communication later on, but always over-communicate. Make sure they understand that you’re there to help them make their jobs easier and support them along the way. Be explicit in telling them about your open-door policy.
This might be most of the overlooked aspect of engaging a remote team, but in my eyes, the most important part.
Being part of a company means feeling part of something bigger, being inspired by a mission and by the fact that your work means something. This feeling can be lost in a remote setting where you interact with coworkers virtually.
How do you create a feeling of belonging and lighten the mood?
The answer is rituals. This might sound mysterious, but it’s really another way of referring to a predefined event or process that you follow regularly. It might sound like a total waste of time, but believe me, it’s a game-changer.
It will engage your team, you’ll get to know them better, and they’ll feel related, which will translate into a commitment to their job.
We keep our rituals light and try to make them fun.
Wednesday is ‘Question Day’
Friday is ‘Book Club Day’
Yearly company meeting
But… It can be anything! Like silly-hat Fridays or Taco Tuesdays. The objective is to make direct reports feel involved in the company.
The most important part of this — and kudos to our head of recruitment for reminding us of this every time we talk about rituals — you have to be genuinely interested in your team. That’s the key, if it’s genuine, it will matter.
We just released our Ultimate Guide to Build Remote Tech Teams that will give you a tactical look at what to do to find a great hiring partner, how to prepare to build a remote team, where to find talent and how to manage the talent once hired.