Here is the second of the four challenges managers identified when managing their teams remotely and some possible solutions to the difficulties encountered when managing a virtual or geographically dispersed team.
- Misunderstandings about expectations.
- Giving feedback effectively.
- Having difficult conversations.
- Tracking what people are doing.
- Finding a balance between trusting them to get on with their job and keeping some accountability.
- Keeping team motivated.
- Praise and congratulate them for the positive things and behaviours they demonstrate. Try and ensure that positives are more than negatives; it can be lonely and isolating being out on the road or not seeing people in person.
- Give lots of feedback on performance and ask for just as much feedback on how you are doing and what you could do to make things better.
- Agree at the start of the relationship (i.e. when you start managing them) ground rules for giving and receiving feedback. You do sometimes have to give feedback over email so agreeing this upfront can help.
- Remember that giving constructive feedback can have more of an impact and stay with them longer if you are not seeing them regularly. Call them the next day so see how they are after giving feedback.
- Give feedback well (be specific, give consequences, ask open questions to find out more, give them a reason to change, focus also on positives if appropriate).
- Having difficult conversations should not be shied away from. Script what you want to say, do face to face (or virtually face to face). Check with them how they are feeling after.
- It is imperative to have quarterly reviews where you update objectives, review performance and discuss training/development/career aspirations.
- Set really clear objectives and expectations about what you want the outcomes to be (measures of success).
- Define goals together.
- Do not get too involved in the how, define the outcomes (measures of success) and then allow them to find their own way to do things (if they have the right levels of experience).
- Try and make as many of the reviews face to face or at least the annual review.
- When managing poor performance you have to consider how and when to give messages as this can be even more de-motivating than if they were in the office and you may not see them in person for a while.
- Understand HR differences.