Loads of small business owners are managing staff who are either: working from home; on the road; or onsite with customers, clients, or suppliers.
In other words, working remotely. 📲
It’s just how we do business now. And since coronavirus, home working has become even more common.
But, plenty of leaders struggle with it. Managing your team when you can’t always see or hear them can be tricky for both parties – especially when you’re maxed out.
It’s harder because:
- You lose some control over what your employees do – and so it relies on a humongous amount of trust.
- You miss out on really important visual cues that tell you how your people are feeling.
- It takes a tad longer get to know your people as individuals – not just as employees – because you miss out on all the everyday, non-work banter.
Having spent time with a whole bunch of small business owners in this very situation – here are some tried and tested ways to become a top boss, when your people are all over the place. 🌍 Geographically that is!
GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT
You’re getting frustrated by what your employee isn’t doing right. And they’re sat at home wondering if they’ve interpreted your requirements correctly. Does that sound familiar?
As the boss, it’s your job to drive team performance. 🏎.
To do that, describe the end goal you want them to achieve. Not how to do it.
Don’t be tempted to micromanage because you can’t always see what your staff are doing, or because they’re not doing things how you’d do them. Trust them to deliver what you want, their way.
You can still give feedback. But say what you’d love to see more of, instead of what you’d like to see less of. It’s more motivating that way – especially if you’re delivering the feedback remotely. For example, you could say: “I loved the way you explained things to our client on that call. It would be fantastic if you did that more.” Instead of: “I think you totally confused the client on that call. Don’t use those slides again.”
Get loud and clear about actions too – including what they are, and when you need them done by. 🎈
FIGURE OUT HOW TO KEEP IN TOUCH
If you’re all working from different locations, or tend to be out and about most of the time – make sure you work out:
- How and when you’ll keep in touch with each other
- How quickly you’ll respond to each other
20% of remote workers say that loneliness is their biggest struggle. Regular, diarised check-ins, team meetings, and 1-2-1s are hugely important – so make sure they’re in the calendar NOW.
BE A GREAT, VIRTUAL ROLE MODEL
Stephen Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, says: “What you do has far greater impact than what you say.”
So, what are you waiting for? Inspire your people with behaviours you want to see from them.
Here’s how you can do this remotely:
- Be available when your people need you to be
- Do what you say you will
- Respond to messages quickly
- Get to calls or virtual meetings on time.
- Take a bit of time crafting your written messages, so they’re super clear and purposeful
- Listen. Don’t dominate conversations
- Ask loads of questions, show an interest in your people’s work and lives
- Work safely. For example, don’t ring people when you’re behind the wheel
- Respect your people’s work/life boundaries
- Don’t gossip about colleagues, clients, or suppliers
TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES LIKE HUMANS
42% of employees say the way they’re managed, causes them to feel stressed or anxious about work. Could you be intentionally stressing your workers out?
Your people have a life outside of your business. They have interests, passions, worries, concerns, and responsibilities – just like you do. And occasionally they’ll be distracted because of what’s going on outside of work. Being in a different location to them makes it harder for you to understand what’s going on. But, showing them a bit of support during these tricky times will build loyalty.
Get to know the real person beyond the employee – even if that’s over the phone. Make time for general chit-chat, instead of diving straight into work talk.
One of my clients does this successfully at the start of calls and team meetings, by asking everybody to use a word to describe how they’re currently feeling (in life, not just work). This prompts a bit of a debate and people offer to help one another out.
BE BRAVE AND ASK
Without body language – it’s harder to know what your people REALLY think of you. But awesome leaders ask for feedback.
It’s the only way to get better at being a boss – even if you’re a remote one most of the time. Yes, it’s a bit of a cringey thing to do. And yes, it’s a bit awkward for your people to tell you how it is. But there are ways to make it less embarrassing for all.
Try this ‘Getting to know each other’ exercise
Before a virtual or face-to-face team meeting, each member of your team, including you, scribbles down the answers to these statements – and then you use the time in the meeting to discuss the findings:
- My strengths are...
- My weaknesses are...
- Please do...
- Please don’t...
- How I communicate best...
This activity not only gives you some fascinating insights into your people, but it’s a great way to uncover what they really think of you. For example, if you reckon your weakness is getting back to your team quickly – will their reaction tell you they agree?
Take a look in my shop for downloadable cheatsheets and help on how to build an incredible team.
Create an open culture
Where you’re upfront and honest with one another, by regularly reviewing what you work on and how you work on things.
For example, after a project, ask your employees to say one thing that was awesome about it and one thing that was a bit pants.
FROM THE HORSES MOUTH
Okay, so how do others do it?
Two small business owners shared their tips on how they’ve become better bosses while managing a remote workforce.
- “Over the years, I’ve not had the money to pay the highest wages, but I’ve always treated my people decently – remembering they’re human beings – and that’s consistently worked for me. I don’t need to be there to stand above them, and bark orders.” (Creative Director of a marketing agency, with less than ten employees).
- “I’ve kissed many frogs to land the right employees. And now I have them, I trust them to get on with their work without me being there. In my experience, employees want to feel responsible for achieving something by themselves. As a boss, you need to decide if you’re going to run the hospital, or be a surgeon.”(Managing Director of an insurance firm, with less than 50 employees).
Here's a helpful list of my most popular resources...
- Take the Leadership Quiz to uncover your natural leadership style.
- Watch my free leadership masterclass to learn how to build a high performing team.
- Grab my free HR Guide to help you avoid costly legal mistakes.
- Access HR Templates here. Use code BLOG10 at the checkout to get 10% off your first order.
- Book a free consultation with Mandy here, to learn more about us working together.