One of the biggest fears when managing a team of remote employees is that they won’t be working and getting the job done when you can’t see them. How do you know that they are spending their time wisely and doing things the correct way? Unfortunately, this fear can lead to micro-managing of employees, which can lead to the direct results you are trying to avoid.
When employees feel they are micro-managed, they feel overly controlled and become demotivated. This leads to a team that will not think outside of the box, or push themselves harder than they have to. They assume “why bother” – since everything is so tightly defined for them – there is little room for creativity and they will need to ask you for approval during each step, since they are not confident in proceeding without explicit direction.
So how can you ensure that you have a motivated and productive team that is getting the job done correctly, without micro-managing them? The key is in giving them the responsibility to manage themselves and providing the vision and guidance when needed, rather than explicit instructions that are task focused.
Think of your team’s goals as a bowling alley. You want to clearly outline what the goal is – knock down all 10 pins in 2 or less shots, by rolling the ball. And you also want to define the boundaries for them to work within – like setting up the bumper guards in the lane. However, after that, you want to leave it to them to decide how to get the ball down the lane to accomplish the goal. Do they roll it fast or slow, do they use curve balls or straight shots, do they bank it off of the bumper guards several times – these decisions should be left in their hands.
By allowing your team to make all of these other decisions, they will learn what parameters they need to work within, and their goals to focus on. In turn, they will be able to make their own decisions within these limits and will only need to seek your advice when they have something that is outside of these parameters. This ensures that your team will not be paralyzed without your every authorization or decree, and will be motivated to seek new creative ways to enhance the team’s success.
The last step is to have them hold themselves accountable to their goals and have them report their success, or lack of, to you each week. By clearly setting goals and providing a weekly status report to you, they will hold themselves accountable for their goal attainment. No one wants to come to their manager and tell them they did a bad job. Everyone wants to be able to take pride in their achievements. By having them keep their goal attainment status on the top of every weekly conversation with you, they will be self-motivated to reach those goals.