Leading Remote Employees
In an article on Inc.com entitled How to Lead Without Being There the author discusses how important it is to allow employees to take on some leadership roles and that relinquishing control to some degree is requisite to grow a business.
I thought there was an interesting parallel here to leading remote employees and since we were just getting into the topic last week, now I’d like to delve a little deeper.
Could remote employees actually lead to a more productive workforce?
Employees themselves are often happier working remotely but bosses of remote employees also become masters of these skills since their employees work independently most of the time.
Leading a successful remote workforce comes with its own set of initial challenges. The manager must prepare his employee with adequate training as well as reinforce a sense of purpose to the employee, both on the individual level and at the company level.
Some employees just seem to train themselves, while others need a lot of guidance. What type of employee you’ve got becomes obvious pretty quickly when you work together every day, but what about when you only see the employee a couple of times a week because she works from home? Or worse, when you never see her at all because she works out of state? Then offering good training and recognizing the personality type of the employee becomes a little trickier.
In order to get to know your employee you kind of have to micromanage at first, even if that’s not your style. What I mean is, you have to make a real effort to stay in touch. Whether it be via phone, email, text, instant message, skype, or all of these. You want to be in contact with your employee throughout each day, talking and listening, teaching and learning.
Regular office employees can get by for a while without a purpose. There are usually plenty of little tasks to keep them busy while they learn the ropes, plus they are surrounded by co-workers to observe and question. Time probably won’t be wasted even if the employee doesn’t have a well defined purpose at the outset.
But with remote employees the story is a little different. What happens when the employee finishes a task and has no one to bug for a new task or even for a little extra training?
If he understands his purpose within the company then he has a better chance of finding his own way to make himself useful by learning on his own and by trying out new ideas.
Not only should employees have a solid purpose of their own role in the company but they should also understand the purpose of the organization. This will help the employee best utilize his independent time.
Once the employee has a firm grasp on his place in the company and what the company is all about; once he is properly trained and communicates with his co-workers, he can be safely untethered by a micromanaging boss. His creativity will take off and he will help the company grow. What it takes to get there might just come a little easier for remote employees and remote bosses since it is weaved into the fabric of their jobs.