One of the most frustrating problems remote workers experience is not knowing who to turn to for information. This is made worse when we don’t actually have a working relationship with someone we and our team could or should be using as resource.
Organization charts are handy items. They tell you who has what job title, and who works for whom. That’s helpful, but we all know that real knowledge in an organization doesn’t depend on titles or job descriptions. Do you and your team know where to go when you need answers, help or how to find them?
As a member of a remote team, and especially as the leader, it’s useful sometimes to compare the organization chart, to how things REALLY work, and share that with your team by drawing a process or flow chart and identifying strengths and gaps.
Do you have someone who’s been at the job a long time and knows where the (hopefully figurative) bodies are buried? Is there a team member who’s an expert in Excel and is willing to help coach newbies and those who struggle creating a readable graph? Is everyone aware of that expertise and knows they can go to her if they have a question without struggling in silence?
Another useful exercise is to occasionally compare the organization chart, and your knowledge chart. When we work together, we often have at least a nodding relationship with people we don’t work with every day but may need to communicate with occasionally. When we work remotely, we are literally out of sight and out of mind for people. Calling them out of the blue for information or a favor may not get you the best results.
Take a look at both how your team should work (the org chart and everyone’s official title) and also your knowledge chart (or how things really work and get done.) You may find some interesting questions:
- How is my working relationship with the people on the organization chart? Do I know them, and do they know me and my team? Maybe some networking is in order.
- Are there people that don’t have official power or titles but are influencer or subject matter experts? Maybe it’s time to reach out to them and formalize their relationship with the rest of the team.
- Share this information with the team in a way that works on-demand. Having a SharePoint site or a shared file with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) where someone can identify a resource or a point of contact in a hurry may reduce rework and lighten your load as the leader.
Finding ways to capture explicit information (things that are formally written down) is easy. Tacit information (the stuff “everybody knows” but isn’t documented officially) is often more useful, and helps speed up onboarding and everyone’s work.
This is only one of many ideas in my upcoming new book, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, coming in June of 2018 and available now for pre-order at Amazon.com. Go here to learn more and reserve your copy!
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.