It has long been recognised that one of the key drivers behind companies adopting cloud technology, is flexibility. Research provided by CIF in 2012, showed that employees are actively campaigning for cloud technology, because it gives them a new way of working.
And, whilst most companies are now getting to grips with cloud technology, it still seems that some organisations and individuals are yet to grasp the full benefits, or the skills needed to make the most of a flexible work environment.
Feedback that we have received from clients, is often team leaders or managers lack the ability to move from a traditional management style, to one that embraces managing teams online. Whilst on the flip-side employees say that companies offer little support or training when it comes to developing online management techniques. Below we take a look at those skills essential for any remote manager.
1. When it comes to creating a remote team, choosing the right people is paramount. You need to identify those individuals that possess the right skills, such as being self-motivated and independent. Individuals that need constant motivation and encouragement will struggle to maintain the discipline needed to work alone. They must also be driven by results, or be goal orientated and understand how KPIs can work in their favour.
2. Both you and your team need to have excellent ‘hard’ communication skills. By this we are specifically referring to technology. Ensuring that each member of your team is provided with enough training and support on the various technologies such as, Skype or Gotomeeting, will mean that they will be able to communicate confidently with other team members and customers.
3. As for ‘soft’ communication skills, this refers to how you communicate. Poor managers and team members are often those, that can only communicate effectively in one direction. Whereas good managers and members, are more often people that are good listeners and observers, as well as being able to give directions. By listening to your team, you will understand their strengths and weaknesses and the management style they respond to more. Now you might think this is much harder when teams are working remotely, but scheduling time for a conference meeting with the whole team and individuals within the team, will still afford you an opportunity to observe the individuals. Try to encourage honest and open feedback from them during your sessions. Try the following:
- Practice actively listening. This means taking care to listen to each word being spoken whilst maintaining eye contact and observing body language.
- When you speak , do so slowly. Ask questions to ensure the listening party has understood what you are communicating to them.
4. When giving an objective or delegating a piece of work, whether it is written or verbally, it should always be a S.M.A.R.T objective (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). Objectives should be summarised clearly and concisely into a short paragraph and include all of the five elements above, allowing the individual or team to fill in the blanks and flesh how they are going to fulfill that objective. Try asking questions to ensure that they have fully understood what is expected of them.
Don’t always presume the fault is theirs if they do not understand, consider, if your direction is clear and concise enough!
5. Whilst you may promote open communications, not all individuals will be respond to this, which will inevitably lead to poorer performance. Staying on top of this can be difficult, especially if the team are working from very different geographical locations. Be aware of the warning signs, such as reduced output from individuals in the team, abrupt email responses, reluctance to join in conference calls or team meetings, reduced input and ideas and an increase in sickness.
6. Remember to reward those people who are performing well or over-performing, but make sure your praise and rewards are fair and consistent across the team. Research shows that individuals work better when they are being recognised for their efforts. But this can go awry when teams are not located in the same office, as it is very easy to forget to give praise when someone is not there. Make sure to schedule time with members of the team, so that you can provide constructive feedback and offer praise when due.
7. Team bonding is essential when you work remotely. Whilst ‘office banter’ can often be distracting, it does serve a purpose in bringing together a team. For remote teams, regular team meetings, team building exercises, social events, fundraising events, intranet or team web pages, team video conferencing, are great ways to make members feel connected and feel they have an identity.