Today's workforce is rapidly evolving, with more workers than ever working remotely. Increasing globalization, changing technology, and emerging markets all contribute to the growth of remote working. According to a recent study released by IWG, 70% of employees now work remotely at least one day per week. More than half of employees work remotely the majority of the week. The world's best managers have responded to these changes by expanding their skill sets to adapt to the needs of remote workers. Below is a look at the top eight leadership skills for managing remote employees.
1) Active Listening
Active listening is vital to ensuring that managers and remote team members understand each other and remain on the same page with respect to common goals. Active listening also helps employees feel that their thoughts and ideas are valuable. Here are some of the ways that top managers master the art of active listening when communicating with remote employees:
- Paraphrase feedback from employees to illustrate that you clearly understand what they are saying
- Eliminate distractions before engaging in a phone call or conference call with remote employees
- Use video conferencing or SKYPE to personalize communication and enable nonverbal communication
- Ask questions while remote employees communicate information to you
"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
- Theodore Roosevelt
Knowing how to delegate tasks and empowering employees is essential to the success of a business - especially when many employees are working remotely. Part of this process is resisting the urge to micro-manage employees who have demonstrated the ability to perform their job responsibilities well. The most accomplished managers delegate tasks well and provide guidance without being overbearing or impeding the employee's natural motivation to succeed.
Successfully managing remote employees requires creativity and innovation. David Slocum of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership notes that creativity is critical for companies that seek to maintain a competitive edge in a business world that is increasingly being driven by technological wizardry and automation. Slocum highlights the importance of embracing innovation and notes that many leaders serve as "Imaginative Guides" who encourage risk-taking and discourage a cookie-cutter approach.
4) Regular Communication
The most accomplished managers of remote employees communicate on a regular basis with their teams. They are accessible, open, and responsive to phone calls and written communication from workers. Some specific ways that effective managers communicate regularly include the following:
- Establish a regular meeting schedule (even if meetings are held via conference call) and do not deviate from it
- Be accessible by striving to respond to phone calls and emails as quickly as possible
- Display transparency by relaying any upcoming company news to remote team members immediately upon receipt
- Strive to meet in person at least two to four times per year to solidify working relationships
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
- John Quincy Adams
Passion is and important quality for any manager to have. However, passion becomes even more important when managing remote employees. It is not always easy to motivate employees from a remote location, but the most effective leaders achieve this goal with aplomb. Their verbal and written communications are inspirational and leave employees yearning to exceed their goals and learn more.
Each day brings about fresh challenges for evolving businesses. From changing regulations to expansion into emerging markets, managers of remote employees must be prepared to tackle those challenges head-on. Effective managers encourage their remote teams to embrace challenges and change. Additionally, managers who are able to adapt well to change serve as a positive role model for remote workers, who must be able to sustain their productivity in the midst of change.
7) Technologically Savvy
Effective use of technology is the cornerstone of success for leaders who manage remote employees. Technology can be used to build an employee community and keep workers engaged with managers and colleagues. The technology experts with 31West Global Services outline several key technologies that help managers lead their remote teams to success:
- Collaborative Tools: Apps such as SharePoint, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Linc bolster productivity and efficiency among remote workers.
- VPN: A virtual private network enables remote employees to communicate through a secure channel using public internet connections.
- VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol bolsters team versatility by enabling remote workers to perform phone-related tasks from any location.
- Data Backup/Recovery: Top managers know how important it is for remote workers to keep data safe and have access to backup solutions.
8) Cultural Sensitivity
"We now live in a hyper-connected world, where cultural borders have become blurred with the adoption of technology and the increase in diversity in our workplaces. Without a doubt, successful entrepreneurs and managers need not only understand these cultural differences but embrace them as well for the many benefits they offer businesses."
- Peter Gasca, Founder of GascaCo, LLC, Lecturer at Coastal Carolina University
Managing remote employees may involve managing individuals from other countries or cultures. Top leaders recognize a cookie-cutter management approach is often not effective when a team is comprised of employees from different cultures. Peter Gasca, founder of GascaCo and Lecturer at Coastal Carolina University, highlights some key ways that leaders can increase their cultural sensitivity. They are as follows:
- Respect the norms and traditions of individuals from other cultures
- Understand the cultural motivations of your team members
- Learn another language
- Understand how employees and clients from other countries perceive time
The Bottom Line
Managing remote employees is not always an easy or straightforward process. Managers who embody the leadership qualities outlined above are typically better equipped to drive productivity and success among remote teams. We invite you to contact us to learn more about the skills and qualities that prime managers for success in a workforce comprised of telecommuters. We look forward to helping you build a more fruitful remote workforce.
Download our whitepaper "How to Help Managers Develop Leadership Skills". Leaders play the most critical role in your organization to propel it powerfully into the future. This whitepaper is designed to address key strategies and best practices to help managers develop the specific leadership skills they need for the future.