Traditional descriptions of leaders and managers imply that any who hold these titles simultaneously hold the reigns of his or her team tightly and tactically. Enter the age of technology and workshifting. Can a workshifter lead and manage equally as well?
The easy answer is yes, as long as your organization has adopted and embraced workshifting, telecommuting and the supporting technologies. But what if your organization is primarily a traditional 9-to-5 shop, and you’re an anomalous manager who workshifts?
I’ve found that, using the very same traits which embody success in workshifting as our guide, one can manage effectively and set a solid example for employees while remote.
Know Your Team
No two employees are created alike, and there is no “one size fits all” management style whether you’re on site or off. Some employees will naturally need more frequent check-ins, consistent review sessions and support on different tasks, while others may work independently and require only a weekly call or daily email saying, “How are things going?” So, much the same as you would manage disparate projects or clients remotely, customize your support for each employee to accomplish the goals at hand.
If employees cannot pop their heads into your physical office, they have a greater need to know when and how they can contact you. Cell phones, email and the like make it easy to be reachable 24/7, but be sure to let them know when they cannot reach you (i.e., what your meeting or appointment schedule looks like and even when you plan to take a day “out of the office”). Although you may not be physically there, you still lead by example.
You are the workshifter, remember? You know how to manage your schedule and multiple meetings and tasks all before 7 AM. Your employees, if in a traditional 9-to-5 position, are probably not that efficient (yet) and could get sidetracked in the coffee room or on a business call. So, be patient if their email responses don’t come at lightning speed or if they happen to log in to a GoToMeeting session two minutes late!
Maintain the Standard
Flexibility (see above) is one thing, leniency entirely another. Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean your employees can treat your rules and goals lightly. You follow routines and systems in order to get your work done each day in your home office, and your employees need structure as well. I’ve found that creating a buddy system helps tremendously. Even when a physical management presence is not there, the buddies are accountable – first to each other, then to you. And, rest assured, if one buddy slacks, you will hear about it!
There is no real substitute for proximity when it’s needed, so show your support and go into the office when important meetings or other events arise.
And, when your team members support, cooperate and meet mutual goals well, don’t forget to reward them. Comp time or the occasional chance to workshift is always welcomed!
Have you had any experience managing remotely? What strategies were successful for you?
Photo credit: splorp