Hummingbirds are lovely when they hover, managers, not so much.
Good leaders understand the value of communication for remote teams. It’s important for your whole crew to be on the same page and for you, as a people manager, to know exactly what each member of your team is doing. That said, it’s also crucial that you leave them alone.
Sounds like we’re giving conflicting advice, but we’re not.
If you have kids, siblings, roommates, or significant others, you’ll understand this. Watching them load the dishwasher can be an exercise in frustration. They put dishes in any old order and aren’t efficient at all with the space. If you were doing it, you’d get twice as many dishes in there! It’s tempting to push them out of the way and do it yourself, but you know if you do that, you’ll never get them to do it again. They’ll also never learn how to load it. After all, at some point they’ll figure out the more efficiently they load it, the more they can fit in there and the fewer times they’ll have to do it. Managing your remote team can be uncannily similar.
Managing remotely is a balancing act
Sure, you have years of experience and have completed similar tasks many times, but if you want your team to thrive, you have to leave them alone and let them get to it. If you don’t, you’ll have a team that’s so dependent on you, they can’t think for themselves. They might also find your constant intrusion insulting. Using the dishwasher analogy again, if you asked your teenager to unload the dishwasher and then walked into the kitchen fourteen times asking, “Have you started?” or “Have you put the spoons away?” or “You know where the glasses go, right?”, she’d run screaming from the house. Your remote employees might not scream, but they might run — to another company.
No one wants a helicopter boss
Remote employees have to understand their tasks, have the right technology to complete them, and feel trusted to do their work without their boss hovering over them the whole time. It’s a skill that a good remote manager needs to learn and it’s not easy.
Managing each remote employee is different
Even in a normal office setting, every person needs a different type and amount of supervision. Ray is a self-starter who just moves along with very little instruction. Marla works independently on some tasks but needs more advice on newer ones. Alex needs more reassurance. She’s sharp but lacks confidence. You tend to check in with her more often than you do Marla and Ray. You understand this after working with these folks for a while. The same factors come into play with a remote team. You’ll learn who requires more frequent check-ins and who rolls along with minimal supervision.
Making the effort to get to know how each of your team members works and what they need from you will help them work efficiently and happily.