Remote workforce success depends on the ability of managers to get and stay tuned in to their employees. Managers need to aim for a sweet spot between micro-management and lack of supervision.
In most situations, employees want direction and an opportunity to be part of a team—as long as they don’t wind up feeling smothered. Even seemingly self-reliant types want some level of interaction. And, everyone deserves consistency—so once a course is charted, it requires reliable follow-through.
As individual styles and needs vary greatly, the wise remote manager will discuss issues and attempt to get buy-in and consensus wherever possible—before implementing processes or procedures. Feeling included almost universally leads to better performance and less need for the manager to look constantly over his or her shoulder to make sure employees are doing their jobs.
This process also will give the manager additional tips about individual idiosyncrasies of those being supervised, enabling meaningful “customization” in how each employee is treated.
From the beginning, there must be trust and respect between the manager and remote workforce. Without daily face-to-face contact, there is more vulnerability to remote team breakdowns. Field employees in particular need to know that their manager respects and trusts them to carry out everyday work functions, often with minimal supervision. This is also the catalyst to keep them motivated when management isn’t on-site.
How can management build a relationship of trust and respect with remote employees to ensure that they are self-motivated and driven toward achieving goals, with a high level of integrity?
Creating an environment of accountability and motivation for a remote team first and foremost requires communication excellence, both in substance and style—as this sets the tone for team interaction with each other and management.
Substance of communications must be clear, complete and unambiguous–much like a sports team requires players to be on the same page of the gameplan. This is even more critical as remote employees typically have less day-to-day access with a manager to ask questions or clarify issues.
Communication style is equally important. Condescending or dictatorial tones can destroy even the best message. Being confident and welcoming at the same time can be a powerful one-two punch to develop and maintain positive relationships with a remote workforce.