During the Covid-19 pandemic, plenty of businesses have learned the hard way that managing a remote workforce requires a different set of skills than what's needed to manage in person. Tactics that worked well in the office became irrelevant overnight. Managers scrambled to fill in the gaps--some more successfully than others. Having learned from the experience, business leaders realized that, when it comes to hiring a remote manager, they need to look for a specific set of traits and skills.
Focus on Results
Traditional office managers can observe employees working. Remote managers, on the other hand, need to focus on results. Especially for new remote managers, this transition can be tough. They may inadvertently find themselves micromanaging employees. Although managers need to keep tabs on progress, it can be detrimental to individual and team morale to check in too frequently.
Good remote managers know how to balance the need for tracking with employees' autonomy. They trust their teams to do the right thing. Then, they use data to verify the results. When interviewing candidates, find out how they accommodate their direct reports' unique work styles while still ensuring that goals and projects stay on track.
Empathy is a core trait of all great managers. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get to know employees via Zoom calls and online chat. When managers work in the same physical space as their direct reports, they can observe facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal communication.
Remote managers need to take a more direct, proactive approach. They'll need to ask employees about how they're doing, work-life balance, and what they need to do their best work. During the hiring process, ask candidates to give examples of how they've built relationships with remote employees in the past. Make sure their values align with your brand's on topics like work-life balance, burnout, and flexibility.
Good remote managers say what needs to be said. They raise real issues and admit when they're wrong. They give honest feedback and praise. They're both clear and kind. They explain their opinions and decisions fully to the entire team or company--including why they've taken an action. In doing so, they encourage their teams to be transparent as well. This helps companies tackle important issues and seize otherwise inconspicuous opportunities.
In comparison to in-office workplaces, transparency is critical to building remote work trust and collaboration. During interviews, find out how remote manager candidates would communicate different pieces of information to their team and other stakeholders.
Dedicated to Detail
Remote teams rely on written documentation. Standard operating procedures guides, how-tos, and FAQs help employees and the company perform efficiently and excel. Detailed documentation also ensures that nothing gets dropped when employees take time off or transition to another role.
Beyond SOPs and how-tos, remote managers must be committed to documenting all important information. This includes expectations, feedback, and updates. While sharing these details in writing may require more effort from managers, it helps remote teams establish more open, transparent, and productive communication.
Choose the Traits That Align With Your Values
While these skills will enable most remote managers to succeed, the traits you choose to look for will ultimately depend on your company's values and goals. Work with your team to create a list of the traits that will help your new manager integrate seamlessly with your existing remote work culture and business strategy.