Client Question: “My new role has remote employees in multiple locations. What do I need to do to make sure I am leading them as if they were here locally with me?”
Meeting them in person is the ideal first step. If that isn’t possible due to financial concerns, then the most important element of managing people remotely is communication. This is a bit easier to accomplish with the technology capabilities that we have now, but it needs to be intentional. You will need to think about the best way to do this with each person that you have on your team. Creating a virtual relationship is absolutely possible, but you will need to make the effort. Here are some things that you will need to consider:
- Set Expectations – ensure that the person working remotely understands what you are expecting as their leader. Are you looking for immediate responses or within a certain timeframe? How often should they check-in?
- Cultural differences – be mindful of the cultural differences that may exist for people outside of your home country. Expectations, holidays and ways of working can be very different and need to be understood.
- Time zones – plan out the best time to talk with each of your people that works best for them and for you. Take turns having meetings in the other person’s time zone so that it isn’t so on-sided as to who has to adjust. (Note of caution: don’t try to work in all the time zones all the time. It is not sustainable and will burn you out quickly.)
- How often will you meet? – initially you may want to meet at least once a week until you establish a stronger relationship with them and they feel like they are a part of the team
- How will you meet? – will you meet over the phone or by video? Technology has definitely made it easier to see each other now. This helps to establish more of a relationship because you can hear them verbally but also now see any of the non-verbal signs that would be missed without using video
- How will you keep them up to date on any “hallway conversations” that may take place? – This is one of the biggest challenges especially with the speed of information that happens now. You could do a quick recap email to them at the end of the day or a group text letting them know the details as they have occurred? Instant message is also another option to consider.
- Inclusiveness – be intentional about how you run meetings and have group conversations with them. Ask for their input if you aren’t hearing from them. Make sure that you have the best audio/video that you can so they feel a part of the meeting. There is nothing worse than being remote and not hearing things as they are communicated. Create shared communities using technology to bring the whole team together.
- Rewards/Recognition – you need to be creative to ensure that this happens. Now that there is so much being done electronically, you can create some electronic rewards. You need to check the policies on giving rewards and recognitions with your company to stay in the guidelines, but you could create Certificates, gift cards, deliver things to them, etc. Make sure that these are highlighted along with any of the recognition you would give to people locally.
- Visibility – this is also a challenge. They can’t be in person with senior management presenting things, so giving them opportunities to do this remotely is important. Promote what they are doing to senior management as well. Give them opportunities to do communication and have one on ones with senior management. If there are any managers traveling to their location, ensure that there is an opportunity for the managers to meet with your team members.
- Performance Reviews – will these be done in person or remotely as well?
This list should give you some ideas for leading a remote team. Try things and evaluate if they are working. Be open and continue to evolve how the remote leadership situation is going. Ask for honest feedback regularly so things can be adjusted if necessary. Find the person a mentor in their location that can help them if they need it when you can’t be there. Keep an eye on the morale and engagement of the remote person. Seek advice from others who are leading a remote team successfully and do some self-reflection on how you are doing.
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