The Key to Being an Excellent Remote Manager

- Remote Working

by Limor Halfon

One of the major challenges for managers in this era is working remotely.
However, it doesn’t feel the same for everyone and the difference in its impact often relies on the type of the manager we are.

“Nothing reveals character like a crisis”

A manager I started working with asked me: “How can I know people are working (from home)?” So I asked him: How could you know they were working while they were in the office? Some managers think the answer to better remote managing, means having more meetings.

If you find yourself now with more meetings than you had before, ask a few questions:

  • What is the profile of the meetings that was added to your calendar?
  • Are there more status meetings with managers?
  • More meetings to see that you/your teams are really working from home?
  • Does it sound familiar?
  • Do you find it motivating or demotivating for the teams?
  • Empowering or disempowering?

Indeed, many times this behavior causes the team to be less engaged and eventually requires taking more control.

There are ways to check in regularly with your co-workers, not by overloading and disrespecting them with unnecessary status meetings, but by supporting and empowering them, by over communicating, and asking them how they feel, how are they doing, do they need help and how can you help them.

From Controlling to Enabling

Many managers felt like they were losing control while working from home. They can’t see their teams, they can’t monitor them, so they also felt at a loss. The questions start to be whether it’s about monitoring and fixing or promoting a culture that focuses on outcomes and not on output.

It is better to ask yourself:

  • What am I missing control of?
  • What is this thing that I’m worried about?
  • Is this thing related to outcome or output?

For example: If I’m worried about the working hours, it is an output concern. And it underlines my assumption that there is a high correlation between working hours and a desired impact. If I’m worried that we won’t achieve the expected business results, will monitoring and controlling a distributed team working from home be the best approach?

Here are some other questions to consider before making remote management decisions:

  • Can I delegate the management responsibility to the team?
  • What do I need from the team so that I will feel comfortable towards our business goals?
  • Do I need more transparency on progress?
  • Do I need to make sure we are all in sync on the goals and priorities?
  • Do I trust the team that they are doing their best working from home?
  • What do I need from them to gain this trust?

When you communicate your business goals and motivation, you create business alignments to focus and work towards. When you share your needs as a manager from your team and expose your vulnerabilities, you create psychological safety with your team.

By working together, creating more openness, compassion, and showing vulnerability, you create a cultural climate that enables the growth of high performing teams. And there is nothing that can beat an Agile team!

Some practical approaches:

#1: Clear boundaries with autonomy are enablers for high performing teams. You can use delegation poker to get there. Understand what kind of knowledge, competency, level of visualization, the team needs in order to make intelligent decisions, focusing on delivering the business goals. Release bottlenecks, especially while working remotely, by promoting better decision making and delegate decisions to the team.

#2: A shared working agreement creates a better team commitment. Discuss what you expect from each other, what should be the time you focus on work vs. family. What should be the setting for an effective meeting, what kind of tools serve us and what is the expected response time we look at from each other, and so forth. What do you need from each other while working from home? What are the principles that guide us?

#3: Promote trust. Showing your home environment & challenges is a courageous leadership act that shows vulnerability and promotes trust. Be the first to show up. Acknowledge and be empathetic of the working environment of your team members. If your kids show up, don’t hide them, introduce them 🙂 own it. You will see how many cameras turn on when we recognize that we all share such challenges working from home, and we all (or most of us…) miss the personal interaction of seeing each other.

#4: There is no over communication, visualize your flow using visual boards, communicate your business situation & strategies, keep sync, keep scrum routines to continually inspect & adapt, keep teams focused, keep teams knowledge sharing & learning from experiencing and practicing. Use the Celebration Grid to discuss the outcomes of your team behavior and how can you generate learning and improvements from that.

To Conclude:

The need to create self-organizing teams becomes even more urgent while working remotely. Being aware of the forces of the need for controlling, and yet realizing that there are more options to control the situation without controlling the people. By giving control, it can be a game changer for remote management.

Photo credit: Unsplash via XPS

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