Managing Remote Employees
Many managers are asking the question, “How do I manage employees remotely?” Managing employees remotely isn’t too different than managing in person. Whether someone is sitting with you or in their home office, the steps involved in managing people are the same.
There are a few things effective managers do repeatedly. Do these handful of things and managing people will go well, provided you have the right person in the job. Managing someone who is a good fit for their current job is challenging but doable. Managing a person who is not a good fit for their job is extraordinarily hard. No management practices or skills supersedes hiring the right person. Hiring the right people is the single most important thing managers do. Managing and coaching employees are the next most important things managers do.
Here are the three things effective managers do:
- Set clear expectations:
Conversation with new/inexperienced employees: “This is what I want you to do and by when.”
Conversation with experienced employees: “What do you think needs to be done and when is a manageable deadline?”
New/inexperienced employees: “Here is my vision of how this should look.”
Experienced employees: “What’s your vision of how this should look?”
3. Review work, coach, and give feedback:
Review small pieces of work so employees can course correct as they go, reducing wasted time and frustration. Agree on a schedule to review work in process, so employees feel supported and not micromanaged.
New/inexperienced employees: “Here is what I would do differently and why.”
Experienced employees: “Here are my areas of concern. What changes do you think need to be made?”
That’s all you need to do. It’s so simple. And so hard. Managing employees is very challenging.
Here are five ways to make it easier to manage well:
- Spend time at the beginning of working relationships and projects getting to know employees work styles and preferences and sharing your own.
- Check in with employees regularly, asking questions that elicit what employees need to be successful.
- Have frequent, short conversations. A weekly 15-minute touch base is more effective than a monthly 60-minute meeting.
- Do a plus/delta every time you meet, giving positive and upgrade feedback as events happen. Waiting to give feedback negatively impacts results and damages trust.
- Have courage and know that employees want to work for a manager who sets clear expectations and gives clear feedback. Working in the dark is frustrating and difficult.
If you’re hesitant to do any of the actions above or are worried about how those actions will be perceived by employees, tell employees that. Be authentic and candid. You could say something like, “I want to review your work more frequently than I have in the past, but I’m concerned how you’ll perceive that.” “I want to give you regular, timely feedback to be helpful to you, and know feedback can be hard to hear.”
Lastly – remote meetings can be held via video conferencing but don’t need to be. Sometimes it’s nice to talk via phone and not have to get dressed up or manage your facial expressions. If you’re not sure if you should meet with employees via video or phone, ask them. Setting clear expectations is the first step in managing all business relationships effectively.