3 Ways Managing Remotely Made Me A Better Leader

Managing people is hard enough, but try doing it remotely.

On a weekly basis I spend the bulk of my hours at work meeting 30 individuals via Zoom for 30 minute check-ins. During that time we cover a myriad of different metrics that rate their performance, but I choose to focus on 3 things solely:

1. Connecting – technology has widened the talent pool, but also breeds disconnection. Instead of being concerned about physical location as a barrier, I try to immerse myself in a session as if we were in the same room. Human connection is a powerful thing no matter where you are. Relationships are formed over time through trust regardless of distance. Working remotely can present challenges yet with empathy, active listening and genuine care the virtual gap can be closed. Think of having a conversation with a friend over coffee. The same principles of building a friendship apply here. Connection is the foundation for any working relationship to thrive.

2. Community – working from home sounds glorious until you look around and realize you’re alone. If employees can feel isolated in an office full of co-workers imagine how remote employees feel. The concept of a “virtual water cooler” has been talked about, but how do you make it happen? As a suggestion, Slack is a great place to start. The platform you choose isn’t as important as it’s function. In this case it’s to organically build relationships during personal time. Instead of gathering at the lunch table or local bar, it’s responding to someone’s question, comment, photo or video. It’s not something that can be forced, nor in some cases facilitated. It takes several people in the group to take initiative and put in the effort to communicate. In fact the best interactions are when the manager isn’t involved. The voluntary part of it makes it real.

3. Cultivate – the uniqueness of each member of the team makes the whole together special. Most managers try to control employees working remotely because they have trust issues. The problem is the more policies and procedures you enforce, the more anarchy is created. Trust is built via connecting so everything grows out of that. Don’t try to mold everyone to be the same, celebrate their differences. When each person brings their unique talents and strengths to the table, why would a manager quell them? A manager’s role is to bring out the best in each person by leveraging personal strengths. If you’re not developing people as a manager you’re crushing their spirit. It’s not enough to have the right people on the bus. Each person has to be on the right seat in order to reach the promise land. My job is to allow my team to shine by getting out of their way.

As a leader managing people remotely is challenging, but a true test of your abilities. Similar to organizing volunteers, when you are stripped of power, money and resources all you have is your relationships. My belief is if you can lead others remotely, you can lead any team anywhere. If you want to test your leadership capabilities manage people from a distance. You’ll be forced to give up control, ego and certainty…and that’s not a bad thing at all.

What You Shouldn’t Offer Millennials As A Perk

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Remote work.

What? Flex time, yes. Working full-time from home, no.

Believe it or not Millennials desire to connect relationally more than any other generation. They tend to prefer virtually, but putting a Millennial at home takes him/her out of any opportunities for interacting face-to-face.

If Millennials are perceived as poor communicators, why would you want to make it worse by eliminating social situations?

Take it from an entrepreneur himself, working from home can get lonely. Instead of complaining about other co-workers not getting their work done, you can only vent alone (occasionally talk to yourself…at least I’ve heard). Lifestyle entrepreneurs desire solidarity and freedom, but it’s not for everyone. Traveling for vacation is much different than waking up at work.

Workplace culture has overtaken following your passion. Without a shared physical location it’s nearly impossible to create culture (unless you’re a 100% remote company). Millennials love to collaborate, therefore working in close proximity breeds socialization.

There’s a downturn in entrepreneurship of Millennials for the simple fact: it’s lonely (risky too). Millennials love to consume and that’s where the steady paycheck comes in. Companies offering career development programs shouldn’t worry about Millennials leaving. Your 20’s are a time of career exploration and companies can address this by providing long-term on-boarding programs (structured like an internship) comprised of: mentoring, cross-departmental training & soft-skills workshops. Do that and retention rates will skyrocket.

Stereotypes of any grouping are a place to start, but never the place to finish. Millennials get a bad rap on many issues (some deserving), but if you really understand their values and motivations you can focus on their potential and strengths.

Perks are meant to improve engagement which results in increased productivity. Don’t make the mistake of offering working from home to Millennials or else you’ll become a former employer soon.

 

The Death Of The 40 Hour Work Week

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Have you ever wondered when the 40-hour work week became the norm?

Traditions don’t always stand the test of time (just ask the church) when purpose is lost.

Just because you work 9-5 doesn’t make you productive. This is what matters: getting stuff done. If you can accomplish the same amount of work in 30 hours vs. 40 hours shouldn’t that be rewarded?

People should be judged on the outcome, not the process. Companies who crack down on their employees by banning social media at work are ridiculous. I’m not condoning “online chatting” on the job, but who cares as long as they get their work done?

Think back to the last time you worked for a micromanaging boss. Did your performance thrive of suffer? How about company loyalty? Morale? You get the point…

Today, we have choices. Finding a job isn’t easy, but more people quit now because they’re not “happy” or “fulfilled” than at any other time in history. Companies recruit talent with perks more than salary now because lifestyle matters.

Yes, paying the bills is important, but being miserable at work literally sucks the life out of you. That’s why flex-time, remote working and paid vacation time are at the top of the list for most wanted rewards.

Your paycheck supports your way of life (not the other way around). Companies need to figure that out or suffer the consequences of high turnover. That doesn’t mean you offer free food (although that doesn’t hurt) and enable entitlement, it just means focus on: outcome & culture.

What if the mandate was a 4-day work week with an optional 5th day if you don’t finish your work? My bet would be most people would work a lot harder to have a 3-day weekend.

Salaried jobs have become ridiculous, some demanding 60+ hours weekly. There aren’t any badges handed out for working the most hours. In fact, if you need to work that long maybe you’re set up to fail.

Too many hours spent at work is playing with fire. It’s risking burn-out and disgruntled workers. Culture has as much to do with employee health, as core values and mission statements.

Maybe the problem is we’re measuring the wrong things. Are you more concerned about being busy or productive? The answer to that question affects your bottom line greatly.

How Remote Working Can Enhance Leadership

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The fear of hiring remote workers is if left unsupervised people won’t finish their work. But at the heart of that argument is a lack of trust.

As a leader with your subordinate nearby, you still shouldn’t micromanage him/her. Often we don’t manage the way we would like to be managed.

Here is how remote workers can enhance your leadership.

As a manager, focus on the outcome, not the process. Translation: be concerned about people getting their work done, not how they complete it.

Working remotely relies on trust. Leaders trust their workers to get the work done and until they don’t, they’ve earned autonomy.

Remote working is teaching us that location shouldn’t determine practice. If we limit ourselves to talent nearby, we miss out on the global resources accessible by technology. In order to harness the best talent around, managing remote workers is a necessity.

The concept of working remotely isn’t a pipe dream for workers anymore. Once technology bridged the gap between locations, it opened the portal for virtual connections.

Leaders sometimes forget how it feels to be managed. The golden rule applies here: lead others the way you want to be led.

Today’s leader is a coach. You coach by leveraging individual strengths to help optimize the team. Motivating, guiding and supporting are the leadership skills needed to manage from afar. The beauty of managing remotely is that it is built on the foundation of trust.

Trust means respect and what makes us all feel “safe” at work. That’s what we all want from our leaders.