Managing a remote team

The pandemic and government restrictions on the number of people that can get together in one space have accelerated a shift in working patterns that is not likely to be reversed. 

As a manager or leader, you may want your team to come to the office full time – but some of them won’t want to and you will be managing them as they work from home (or another remote location)

If you try to enforce office attendance, as some high profile business leaders have suggested, you may lose some of your team and you will certainly reduce the number of candidates available for new positions. A quick glance at most job adverts will show that options for “on site, hybrid,remote” are used as filters by the candidates.

You are going to have to manage your team for remote working, but how – and what’s the difference?

I’m a believer in “Management by Wandering Around” (MBWA) as reported by Tom Peters (In search of Excellence” where you as a manager/leader take time to engage with your team at their workspaces – you have conversations around the daily tasks and these can spark creativity and keep you, as the leader, abreast of things.

From the team member’s perspective, you are showing interest in them and in their job – you are building a relationship with them that will increase their engagement with the business.

MBWA can’t work when your team isn’t in the office, but you can adapt and employ similar principles with a remote team.

Some 30 years ago, I was based in Hong Kong with teams across Asia Pacific from Seoul to Perth by way of Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Sydney, Melbourne & Brisbane! 

I was a frequent visitor to the offices but I wasn’t able to follow the MBWA principles just on those visits. 

I showed an interest by scheduling one on one time with each team leader – no fixed agenda, just an opportunity to catch up and for them to share their latest triumphs, challenges and problems. Quite a few conversations included their family lives or what was going on with my family.

This works if it is really clear to the team member what the purpose of their job is – what the required outcome is, what success looks like and how it is going to affect the rest of the team.

These calls were in addition to calls involving the rest of the team – group meetings – that carry on as usual, with an agenda and on a more formal basis.

So the key to managing a remote team – for me – is to show that you are interested in the person and engage with them.  Perhaps “The Great Resignation” won’t affect you business as much if you follow this principle.