Have you ever heard these complaints from your team?
- “The people in the home office have it so much better than the people who work from home.” (or vice versa…. Both sides complain about the other)
- “I don’t even know what everyone else is doing.”
- “My boss keeps changing priorities on me; it drives me crazy.”
The problem may lie with what people see—or don’t. As a leader, we talk all the time about “transparency,” the need to see what’s going on and why we do the things we do. The problem is that it’s hard to see anything from a hundred miles away.
The difference between leading from a distance and leading when everyone’s all in the same location is the sheer volume of clues and cues people get to tell them what’s going on. Here are a couple of examples of how we need to be intentionally transparent with our people when they don’t all share a workplace.
Delegation can feel like picking on people. One of the most common complaints from mixed teams (where part of them are in the office, part are working from home or elsewhere) is how tasks get delegated. Often the manager requires something done, and they reach out to the first person they think of. Often that’s the first person they see. This can lead to the notion that the reason remote workers are so productive is that they’re not getting the last-minute tasks and grunt work the folks in the office have to deal with. The thing is, the home team doesn’t know what’s been assigned to the remote folks either. When delegating a task, make sure everyone knows who is doing what. That way, the perception of fairness matches the reality. Also, if you are assigning tasks unevenly, knock it off.
Praise and recognition should not be (just) one-on-one. How do you know that the people you work with are competent and doing a good job? Usually that comes when the manager commends them for a job well done, or points out the work to the rest of the team. One of the unintended consequences of managing remotely is that sometimes leaders do a good job of recognizing work to the individual in question, which is great. The problem is that no one else hears it. Take time in meetings or in emails to share the good news about teammates so that everyone can build trust in their colleagues, even if they don’t see each other very often.
Your requests become their priority—help them get the big picture. When someone’s working from home, and we ask them to do a task for us, it sometimes has unintended consequences. For example, if we just send an email asking for information, we may not need it right away (or at least at the expense of other work they’re doing at the moment.) We don’t see them roll their eyes or curse us for re-prioritizing their work. That’s because we can’t see what they’re doing at that moment any more than they can see how your priorities and needs have changed since last you spoke together. Leaders must be transparent about what they’re asking for, why it matters and how it impacts other priorities. This may mean an actual conversation rather than an emailed request. It matters.
We must remember that when people work apart, they don’t have—in fact can’t have—the same depth of information and context as you do. It’s your job as leader to give them all the information they need. That means taking the time to be open and honest about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and being conscious of information they may need to do their job.
To better understand how leading in a remote environment is different than traditional leadership, consider attending The Remote Leadership Certificate Series. From communication…to performance management…to motivation…and more, as a remote leader, you’ve got to be prepared to stay connected, handle meetings and schedules and provide the support your staff expects and needs. The Remote Leadership Certificate Series brings together experts in leadership and tools and technology to help you get the results you want. LEARN MORE HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.