The Human Dynamics Around Successfully Managing Remote Teams

By | January 19, 2011

If you  you need to think very carefully about how you can achieve optimum effectiveness. Command and Control doesn’t work, and hierarchically based power structures are ineffective. A different kind of boss/subordinate paradigm is required.

There are several critical behavioural and process dynamics required between manager and their team member for remote working to work. These form the basis of an effective psychological contract.

Mutual respect. Both must believe that the other person is credible, adds value in their role and is supportive of what the other person is trying to achieve.

Sharing the same, common purpose. When people line up on the important, fundamental issues the focus of the relationship can shift to the work and away from checking, expediting and reporting.

Trust. What is your personal attitude to trust?  Are you able to trust people who you don’t have detailed oversight of? Forget the individuals you might manage for a moment and think about your own fundamental position. I your  glass half full of trust, or are you a half empty kind of person?

Personal accountability. Are you able to engender high levels of ownership?   Autonomous people need to own their work and its required outcomes; they focus not what they’re told to do, but what needs to be done.   You know  remote managing is working when the team member takes responsibility for their  required outcomes (the KPIs – Key Performance Indicators),  and the manager takes responsibility for helping to optimise the required inputs (the CSFs – Critical success Factors) that enable the delivery of the necessary results.

Clarity. Of objectives, of working arrangements, of each other’s preferred work style and around what is mandatory (the non-negotiable policies that have to be adhered to)  and what is discretionary (guidelines, suggestions etc.). See next heading

Tight/Loose Engagement There are some things that should be carved in stone. Regular face-to-face meetings dates  should be fixed and not moved unless for extraordinary reasons and reports submitted on time.  These are the ‘tight’ aspects, the looser ones are about giving people the freedom to organise their time to best effect. Sometimes you won’t know where people are, they haven’t got back to you to your timetable. The ability to flex, and, on occasion to be pragmatic are very helpful to working remotely.

You might notice several things about the above. One is the contradictory nature of some of the issues covered. Managing and working remotely does require both a high toleration of ambiguity and a laser like focus on certain things being done in the approved fashion.

Another key insight you may have gleaned is that effectively managing remotely has a lot more to do with leadership rather than management.  Good leaders connect with people, they are able to engage peoples’ discretionary effort and through this deep rapport the daily managing of people largely looks after itself.

 

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