There are tried and true management philosophies that I generally believe to be true...mostly because they seem to work. Many of these have been proven time and time again and get at real human-centric shifts in your mindset as a manager.
Adam Grant, in his revolutionary research on being a giver, puts forward a management principle built on being more giving--by being generous with time, ideas and resources, a manager can actually improve her own productivity and the effectiveness of her team. Jack Welch, GE's legendary CEO, advocates a management style based on being honest and upfront with your employees, stating, "You have no right to be a leader if someone who works for you doesn't know where they stand."
New economy business leaders like Warby Parker's Neil Blumenthal said in an earlier Inc. article that one key to management is empathy--"I want our managers to care deeply about the people who work for them, to know a lot about each person individually and what motivates them."
These are terrific and highly practical pieces of advice. They're also much easier to accomplish if you can walk over to your employee's desk and have a face to face conversation.
However, remote workers are becoming a much bigger part of the workplace, especially in tech--so how do you still manage with a giving spirit? How do you get to the bottom of each employee's motivators? How do you provide lots of feedback?
You still have to do these things, but with remote workers it is different. Here are five ways that you can manage remote workers differently and still lead in ways that boost the output and engagement of your remote workers.
- Integrate Your Work: I talked to an expert on management and how organizations function, Bob Gower, to source this nugget of managerial wisdom. Bob directs process for a remarkable team of software engineers and literally wrote the book on creating an agile workplace, a methodology that relies on speed and iteration to build better products. Bob said that using tools like Google Calendars and Trello to make work visible, and Slack for conversations, can make it seem as though the remote gap is narrowed. "The trick is to make it easy for others to see what you're doing and working on, but not overwhelm them," says Gower.
- Be Highly Visible: The best way to connect with remote workers is to mimic the real-world (the face-to-face world) as closely as possible. That means using tools like Google Hangouts, Lync, Skype and other video conferencing. Even FaceTime can be a great tool. If you are going to have a meaningful conversation, use video.
- Understand People Deeply: A few years ago, Western Union came to us and wanted to extend the usage of Emergenetics into their global call-center and customer service teams. The reason was that because we'd worked with their corporate HQ managers and team members around developing a strong understanding of individual strengths and preferences, those employees were starting to speak in a common language. The company wanted that same level of connection with its far-flung remote workers. What that meant was using a lot of eLearning and webinars, but in the end, more than 3,000 additional employees began to understand what it meant to speak in Emergenetics and know why each employee approached work differently, based on their brain and preferred behaviors.
- More is More: Remote workers don't have the luxury of catching you at the coffee machine or grabbing a 5-minute meeting in between other work. That means for you as a leader and manager, the more you can connect, whether by video, phone or even emails or Slack chats, the more they'll feel connected and keyed into what's happening. Make time for it.
- Actually Meet Face to Face: Ok, this one is cheating, but it was too good not to post. Bob recommended this one and I couldn't agree more. As the leader of a satellite office in NYC with our company's headquarters in Denver, having our President or CEO come to this office was incredibly valuable to our team--not just for ideation and goal alignment but for morale as well. The same could be said when the company flies all of our team members around the country in for our strategic planning meetings in Denver in the beginning and middle of the year. It makes a huge difference and ramps up productivity.
Making your company more agile and competitive should be the goal of any leader...and chances are in today's economy you'll need to branch out to get the best talent. If that means remote workers, then go for it. Just know that you'll need to manage them differently.