Remote Management – Straight Talk
The COVID-19 pandemic thrust organizations – via trial by fire – into managing the operations of the business remotely. While some managers thrived, others struggled, resulting in trust issues and resorting to micro-management in an attempt to maintain gain control over the situation.
So what exactly accounts for the difference between these two groups of managers, and what exactly should new managers hired to manage remotely be aware of so they don’t make the same mistakes as their less successful peers?
There is an avalanche of information online on management: how to manage, management styles, and tools managers can use to manage more effectively, so it will not be beneficial for us to replicate that information here but to develop a baseline on which to build on, later on. To truly understand what differentiates effective remote managers from those who struggle, let’s look at the 6 core duties of a manager.
- Plan – plan the work needed to achieve the objectives assigned to the unit through its manager.
- Act – execute the plan by hiring and managing the resources needed to do the work required to achieve the unit’s objectives.
- Direct – direct subordinates in the execution of their duties to achieve the unit’s objectives.
- Control – control the progress and quality of work completed to achieve the unit’s objectives.
- Measure – measure how effectively the team worked to achieve the unit’s objectives.
- Lead – create an environment in which the unit function optimally to achieve the unit’s objectives.
It is undeniably much easier for any manager to execute their duties in the office. However, despite some managers successfully executing their responsibilities in the office, the fact that the pandemic highlighted remote management disadvantages such as an increase in lack of trust and more aggressive micro-management; remote management demands some intentional attention.
4-Pillars of Intentional Management
Ultimately, outside of one’s education and technical knowledge, intentional action is what differentiates an effective manager from an equally qualified, less poor manager. They dedicate the time and effort to question what they are doing and why, deliberately considering all factors holistically before deciding how to act—developing their critical thinking skill by proactively seeking opportunities to improve.
Intentionality is one of the reasons one group of managers thrive while others struggle. A person taking on a new role as a remote manager can improve their chances of succeeding by executing their managerial duties within these 4-Pillars of Intentional Management.
Intentionality. The word intentionality is powerful because it embraces thought-provoking practices. It encourages someone to pause to consider their objective, their resources, and the task in front of them before acting. It’s satisfying when you experience a manager managing intentionally, and awkward or painful to observe a manager managing without intentionality. So how can a manager increase the chance that they will thrive by adopting a practice of intentional management?
Pillar 1: Build Relationship & Trust:
The foundation of Effective Management is Trust, which cannot be manufactured but only develops through the relationships a manager builds with their subordinates. On the plus side, whenever we meet someone for the first time, we assign a certain amount of trust because we automatically assume that because of the trusting environment within which this connection was made, this person is to be trusted. However, trust needs to be nurtured and earned with every interaction, with their behaviours, communication, and interaction either strengthening or eroding their initial trust in someone.
In a work environment, trust exists in the form of managers trusting that their subordinates will get the job assigned to them done, managers, trusting that their subordinate will complete their tasks diligently, and subordinates trusting that their managers will support them in the execution of their duties. This trust though initially given, is reinforced by the relationships you build. Here are a few questions to get a new remote manager started:
- Who are your subordinates, and what do they do?
- What are they interested in, and why are they part of this team?
- How do your subordinate want to contribute, and what are they passionate about?
- What are their strengths and skill sets, and how is it being leveraged?
- What are their weaknesses, and what, if anything, is being done to overcome them?
- What are their concerns, and what, if anything, is being done to address them?
- Which, if any, of your subordinates are disengaged and why?
When managers demonstrate an interest in the people reporting to them, it inspires them to work with their managers to achieve the unit’s objectives.
Pillar 2: Roles & Responsibilities:
Having clarity on one’s role and responsibilities, meaning what they are responsible for and how they are expected to deliver that responsibility, is fundamental for the alignment between a manager and their subordinate. It is even more critical for a remote manager not in the same building or location as their peers and critical for productivity, which is necessary for efficiency and a functional unit. Conversely, a lack of clarity on one’s role and what they are responsible for only leads to frustration, exasperating the challenges of a remote manager who can resort to micro-management to gain control of the unit.
A few questions to get clarity started on your subordinate’s role and responsibility:
- What’s every subordinate responsible is?
- What is necessary for each person to deliver on their responsibilities?
- What is missing or impacting a subordinate from delivering on their responsibilities?
- What are the Protocols for escalation when someone’s ability to do their job is impacted, and are your subordinates aware of these protocols?
- What are the unit norms for resolving conflict, and is it effective?
It is highly recommended as you dive into the exercise above to:
- Seek to understand what they do and why, and ensure you gain alignment and consensus on each person’s role and responsibility.
- Listen first and only after developing the big picture of how everyone contribute toward your unit goals and objective, then manage.
- It’s understood that your superiors expect you to execute your duties during the transition phase, so rely on your judgement and your team’s expertise to execute the unit’s day-to-day operations.
- Don’t be one of those managers who join an organization; the first thing they do is tell everyone else what to do and how to do it without first understanding their point of view; this will only frustrate your subordinate, making your remote management task unnecessarily difficult.
- Develop your metrics and system to measure productivity, progress and performance while developing your system to motivate and support the team.
So when starting a new role as a remote manager, prioritize trust and relationship so you deliver your best and, in turn, get the best from your subordinates.
3: Communication Plan & Strategies:
Communication is the means and modes of sharing your plans and ideas with your team, seeking feedback, and instructing your team to act. The sad truth is that poor communication is often at the root of all dysfunction and managerial issues. Why? In Part 4 of the Strategic Initiative Miniseries, we highlighted that communication channels are generally open and functioning when things are going well. However, communication clogs begin forming with the development of issues, concerns, or the fear of being in trouble. It is safe for any manager to assume that when things aren’t going well, it is because of a breakdown in communication at one or many points in the transaction process.
Every manager’s communication style is unique and specific to their management style, management of sensitive information and the demands of their unit, so it will not be beneficial to recommend communication strategies in this article that are “fit for your purpose”. Three points a new remote manager should take note off:
- Develop your functional system for relevant transparency and communication with the team, one meeting the needs and demands of individual team members as well as the demands of the combined team.
- To minimize clogs, ensure that relevant and essential information reaches your desk promptly so you can act, and create avenues and opportunities for issues to be raised and discussed in ‘safe spaces,’ which encourages team members to reach out and share their concerns with you.
- Keep all communication respectful, regardless of the stress, frustration or anger other parties demonstrate.
Effective communication is at the core of every successful manager’s ability to execute their duties, without which they lack the information to make informed decisions in a timely manner, impacting their ability to control and guide their subordinate to achieve the unit’s objectives. So prioritize effective communication if you ought to have a chance to thrive as a remote manager.
4: Plan & Growth:
Managers, in addition to directing and controlling the work necessary to achieve the current goals and objectives of the unit, are also responsible for developing plans to grow and improve their units to coherently grow with the business. In all my roles, I keep a diary of ideas, capturing ideas and thoughts that would make my duties easier and more efficient or with observations on how the organization can effect change in areas of concern. I developed this practice because creativity is spontaneous and likely triggered by ongoing activities and events. You see, not all creative ideas come to you during Planning or strategizing because not all aspects of the operations of the business are engaging during this activity. It is worthwhile to develop your remote management practice with the following considerations in mind:
- Growth and Planning is a year-round effort: identifying, evaluating and curating information throughout the year.
- Collect and Assess Productivity ideas and Feedback from your team year-round, extracting ideas and information during team meetings, one-on-ones and other communications with the team. Information that could supplement or rule out growth ideas during the annual planning activity.
- Ideas or plan without supplementary data to support it is futile. Throughout the fiscal year, measure critical success factors and forecast to ensure that based on your current and planned activities, the unit is trending to deliver on its objectives while simultaneously using the information to plan for the upcoming year.
In the last twelve months, we have seen an increase in roles for remote managers, directors, VP and C-suite resources, with remote work not relating to the pandemic but a shift in business management. The benefits of this strategic shift include a reduction in the cost of office space, the organization having access to a wider range of qualified resources and even a reduction in the need for relocation costs to incentivize high-calibre candidates to join your organization. On the flip side, the increase in remote management has seen a reduction in productivity resulting from the corrosions of organizational culture, as managers and employees find ways to rebalance productivity and work remotely.
The bad news continues with an increased number of employees quitting their jobs, citing frustration, stress and disenchantment as the reasons for resigning. This reminds me of the popular saying, “Employees don’t leave organizations; they leave their bosses.” I recall telling my supervisor on our one-on-one, only a few months working under his leadership, that I was disenchanted. You see, he practically joined the organization as a remote manager and made changes without considering how the role was executed, which made executing my duties difficult.
Don’t make this mistake in haste because, despite your expertise, goals, objectives, and managerial style, you only succeed if your team succeeds.
Intentionally manage the 4-pillars as detailed in the 4 pillars of Intentional Management in the execution of the 6-Managerial Duties to deliver on your Unit’s Goals and Objectives.
What do you think? What other pillars of success can the savvy remote manager provide to help the up-and-coming leaders in their group?
For more information on individual topics to supplement your Intentional Management, check out our Insight Corner articles and videos here
And if you’re interested in Elevating your Critical & Strategic Thinking Skills – check out this book on Amazon. A game-changing handbook you will not want to lose.
I’ll leave you with this quote, and choose every day to be strategic!