For Employers

10 Traits of the Best Remote Managers4 min read

By January 14, 2020 3 min read

A recent Inc. article recalled a time back in 2002 when Google tested a hypothesis that managers were a “necessary evil” and weren’t important. This hypothesis wound up being incorrect, but it ultimately led to Google’s discovery of ten traits of highly effective managers.

Interestingly, these traits seem to be even more critical for managers of remote employees. Here are the characteristics and why they matter for boundaryless teams.

1. Be a good coach.

While coaching is beneficial for in-office employees, it’s even more crucial for remote teams who don’t meet and influence each other in person. The best remote managers coach their employees by helping them improve their productivity. They also help their teams sharpen their career skills and coach them toward staying self-inspired and self-motivated.

2. Empower teams and don’t micromanage.

While micromanaging is ineffective in the office, it’s an absolute death knell for remote teams. Constant emails and Slack messages to the same employee regarding every aspect of their work reflects a complete lack of trust by a manager. It means the manager has no confidence in the employee’s talents.

The best managers trust their remote teams. They empower their staff with the tools and coaching needed to do excellent work on their own.

Operating with a high level of trust requires good hiring practices. So hire the most skilled people on earth (an ability made possible by remote work) and then trust them to do what they do best.

3. Create an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being.

Many companies have a mix of remote teams and in-office employees. Managers need to foster morale and a strong sense of community. If a distant team member feels left out of the company’s social structure and culture, their sense of isolation will make their work suffer. Managers can’t let this happen.

4. Be productive and results-oriented.

Traditionally, a primary measure of employee performance has been the number of hours spent in the office. But managers of remote employees need to shift this standard to one of results. As long as an employee is performing well, when and where they work should be of little concern.

5. Be a good communicator. Listen and share information.

Communication has always been important in business. But with distributed teams, it becomes even more important. As a general rule, managers should do what they can to communicate overly. All staff must be receiving the right communications at the right time, regardless of their location.

6. Have a clear vision/strategy for the team.

As the Inc. article pointed out, “with no North Star, employees sail into the rocks.” Especially with a remote team, a manager should involve the entire employee base in the creation of the team strategy for success.

7. Support career development and discuss performance.

I already mentioned the mistake of neglecting remote employees and allowing them to feel isolated. It’s also essential to help them grow in their careers and make sure they know they’re appreciated.

Help them work through their weaknesses, point out opportunities, and acknowledge them for their strengths. When employees aren’t physically present with their manager and co-workers, career development needs to be an even stronger effort than it is with office workers.

8. Have the expertise to advise the team.

The best managers are highly proficient advisors who gain trust and admiration from the team. These characteristics are especially important for employees who don’t often (if ever) see their managers in person. The leader of a remote team should be even more skilled in their trade than the highest-performing team members.

9. Collaborate.

The need to collaborate is magnified with remote teams. Team leaders should be aware of the latest apps for messaging and video conferencing. Managers should also encourage their people to test tools and suggest new ones.

10. Be a strong decision maker.

Boundaryless teams must have someone to count on for quick, proactive decision making. Otherwise, the “out of sight, out of mind” nature of a distributed workforce will lead to attitudes of “it’s not my job.”

Remote teams need to know a project’s direction, and everybody should understand who is doing what. Managers should be trustworthy, quick-thinking, and decisive.

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