How to Manage Remote Employees

Feb 23, 2021 | blog

This episode.

Today, I’m going to talk about the tricks and the tips and the hacks and the best practices for managing remote teams. Now, the first thing we have to recognize is that managing remote teams is very different than managing captive teams. Now, it would be easy to believe that the exact same leadership principles and managerial principles apply, but the truth of the matter is, they really don’t. So we have to begin from that trajectory of realizing that, you know, this is a very, very different discipline. So from that beginning, let’s talk about those differences. You know, what are the key differences is that your team members are feeling isolated, they’re feeling disconnected. Oftentimes, they’re distracted, they have many things that are going against them that could adversely impact their quality of life, and also significantly, adversely impact their productivity, presenteeism, and output yield. So what we really want to do here is we want to make sure that we serve these amazing people who wake up every day to serve our mission. So I believe that any good leader should always begin the process from the perspective of looking at the quality of work life as the foundation for their leadership skills while managing remote workers. What do I mean by that? Look, if we want them to be productive, if we want them to serve our mission, if we want them to do the things we want team members to do? We first and foremost have to make sure they’re okay. You know, it’s not easy for many people to create what I call compartmentalization. And that’s one of the first things I’d like you to think about. compartmentalization suggests that an employee is happy and productive to the extent that they compartmentalize work, and home. Now, there are two aspects to compartmentalization. One is the fact that they have to compartmentalize themselves physically, we know that we can have far more productive employees that are far more happy. If they can go to a physical space that feels like a workspace, that’s a way from distraction, where they can really feel kind of emotionally that they are at work. The other thing that is important to this whole scenario is that in their physical space of compartmentalization that feels like an office, they also have to be in a psychic space. And that’s why most of the successful workers that work from home, create environments that really look like a work environment. If you’re working from your couch, you’re probably not going to be very productive. And you’re also going to always feel like you’re at work yet, you’re gonna feel like you’re never at work, you’re gonna feel like you’re always at home, you’re gonna feel like you’re never at home, it’s really important to create the visibility, through compartmentalization, both spatially and psychically. That’s my first recommendation. Now, the other thing is, is that we want to really be able to increase engagement and the management of productivity and yield. Here’s something that’s interesting. And I’ve used this method with my consulting clients with tremendous, tremendous success is it turns out that your team wants really clear and crisp and very specific direction every single day, without it feeling like specific direction every single day. And in this presentation, I’m going to talk to you about the way in which we use sprints that are agile, that are fast, that are measurable, and they’re really received well by your teams, we’re gonna, we’re gonna build out weekly sprints, because that’s the way the best organizations are providing a beautiful experience for their teams, while also serving their enterprise goals of productivity and presenteeism. Okay, now, there are five M’s, I like to call it for managing employees remotely. And let’s go through those because I think these are important. And I only have a short period of time in that pot, this podcast to introduce you to lots of stuff. So let’s get busy here. Number one is meaning. Meaning we have to continually communicate our mission to our teams. In other words, they need to know that this is

Meaning, this mission matters. Turns out that when we look at the science and the statistics about happy employees, happy employees are involved in what I call the heyday principles. Number one, they are constantly involved in self evolution, they’re getting better every day, and they know they’re getting better. And we have to help them get better through training and through support and through collaboration. So number one, they’re getting better every day. Number two, they’re involved in a mission that they understand and that they believe in. That’s our meaning. And lastly, and not leastly, most people want to only be involved in missions that impact the quality of life of others. So if you’re communicating, meaning that we need to create higher degrees of profitability, and we need to create better returns on investment, and we need to, we need it, those are not meetings that matter.

So as a leader, always and routinely communicate the meaning of the work that will increase the quality of work life and productivity in one fell swoop. Now, the second m, of the five M’s of remote leadership is what I call management. We need to create systems and tools that are understandable that are predictable and create schedules. One of the reasons that most remote employees are unhappy is they feel like their schedule is a morphus. If you’ve raised children, you know that kids like schedules, they do better with kids. And I don’t mean that in a demeaning way. I mean, our employees and our team members, they want to be involved in a predictable day, a day that is thoughtful and respects their time, but also gives them the opportunity to show their incredible talents and it’s movement of our mission, have to create the systems, the tools, and the managerial infrastructure to drive productivity and quality of work life.

Now, the third m of the five M’s of remote work is what I call meetings, meetings, meetings meetings. The first thing I’d like to point out, especially when you’re managing remote workers, is that meetings are an absolute last resort.

Nobody wants to stop their productivity to participate in a meeting. And when they do participate in a meeting, it needs to be about 15 minutes long max. The meaning should be pre prepared so that everyone on the meeting on the zoom call or in the teams meeting is participating. Meetings need to matter. Never call a meeting. Unless it’s absolutely necessary. When I share with you my ideas around sprints, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Okay, here’s the other thing, measurements, your boss probably wants you to show the productivity of your team, your team members need to show you their productivity, not in a creepy authoritarian way. But in a way that just helps you, their partner in productivity, what they’re up to, and how they’re doing and what resources they may need. It’s not as designed to be this totalitarian monster with you’re looking over their shoulder, it’s really about making sure that you understand so that you can make sure you’re giving them the resources. One of the things that I do in my business with my team members is I do a thing called wellness checks. And these wellness checks are just arbitrary calls, phone calls. Yeah, remember the telephone. And I asked him a few simple questions. Hey, listen, I appreciate all the great work you’re doing. Just wanted to touch base and make sure everything’s okay. I mean, I’m giving you too much stuff. Do you feel like the the Sprint’s that we’ve put together for the week makes sense? And do we need to share some of that work with other team members. I can’t tell you how much my employees and my team members appreciate the fact that I genuinely care. And that’s because I genuinely care. I put my team first, their happiness is the most important thing to me. productivity and work and output report. That’s easy. That’s super easy, especially when you have people that respect and love the fact that you care about them.

So meetings should be done only because you have to and when I talk to you about how we run our sprint programs, you’ll see the best way to run those. Okay, so meetings, measurements. And then the last thing is, is that in a time of disconnect, our teams need to learn a lot of new tricks. They need to become expert digital presenters. Let me say that again, because it’s so important. Your team members need to become expert digital presenters. That means they know they need to know how to and they need to have access to the right technology then they need to have

Communication training, so that when they’re talking to vendors and partners and other team members, that your team is well represented in the bizarreness, that is digital presentations. So there you go. Those are the five in terms of managing remote employees. communicate your meaning your mission, why it matters, develop systems of management that provide the optimal level of support for your teams. Don’t do meetings unless you have to. And when you do them, make them short and make them matter.

Develop well defined reports that provide measurements of productivity based against timeline and key priorities. And then lastly, develop mastery in the area of digital communications, your teams are doing that, if they’re doing that kind of work, you will find they will absolutely do an incredible job of really serving your enterprise. Now, there are some dimensions to those, right. And so here are the five dimensions that make up for management. Number one is you have to assess priorities, I have my team’s break down their priorities across four areas, and here they are must dues. These are things that absolutely have to be done this week.

Should dues these are things that need to be done after you do the must dues can do is, these are the things that you do after you’ve taken care of the must dues and the should dues if you’ve got the time. Here’s the last one. And it’s a little tricky. Stop dues. This is a list of things that you’re going to stop doing. There’s nothing more liberating than looking at your schedule every week and finding out what can honestly be thrown overboard. It’s incredible how many things that we do, historically, that we should not be doing at all, and they just need to be taken off the docket. So those are the things that you need to think about when you’re thinking about the managerial dimensions of managing your team. prioritization. The other thing is velocity, how fast is this stuff really need to be done? The other issue is dependency. What things depend on other things? And how do we make sure that we have all of the connectivity done, so that the dependent goals and tasks are properly resourced? The other issue is, and this is not incidental volume. How much work? Can that person really, really do? You know, what I found when my teams went remote is that since I couldn’t walk over to their desk, I wasn’t completely sure what they were already working on. And I have a very thoughtful, amazing team. And I was sad to find out that I kept on piling more work on people that already had lots of volume, lots of work, because I just didn’t know what they were doing. And that’s why I emphasize today so much about productivity reporting, not to make sure they’re not working. Let me repeat that I’m not worried about if they’re not working, I’m worried about are they working too much. And it’s important to communicate that to your team when you present them with their reporting requirements. This is about making sure you don’t throw too much stuff at them.

And then lastly, is ideation. Can we workshop this with the entire team to come up with better innovations. So there you go. Those are the dimensions of managing time, people resources, priority, velocity, dependency, volume, and ideation. Okay, now I’m just about at a time here so I want to give you another great tip we use with our clients a thing called sprints. Now Sprint’s come from the concept around Scrum or lean best practices and an agile best practices. And I borrow some stuff from agile some stuff from lean some stuff from traditional project management, and then the innovation stuff I’ve created myself. So when you mix it all together, it’s a very thoughtful approach that really works extremely well. So here’s the kinds of things that you you need to do to build out your Sprint’s, right, here’s what it looks like for me. And Friday. By the end of the day on Friday, my team

provides me a sprint plan spreadsheet of all of their stated priorities based remember on the must dues, should dues can dues and stop dues. And then they give me the timeline to reach those various milestones. Obviously, those priorities that my team members have also have to roll up to the departmental priorities. And of course, the departmental priorities need to roll up to Yes, the enterprise priorities right so it’s a hierarchical structure. So on Friday, they give me their spreadsheet. It tells me the tasks and priorities tells me when they intend to

To complete them, and then I leave them alone, I let them do the amazing thoughtful work they do.

And then on Monday, we review that together that gave me a chance to make sure that I’m giving them the resources they need, in a Monday on a what we call the Monday huddle. That’s what most of my clients do as well. On the huddle meeting, which is no longer than 30 minutes, we all talk to one another to find out how we can support each other sprint plans for the week, we find out if there’s any resources that need to be filled, we check for things like dependency to find out if there is one person’s success dependent upon another person’s work. And we make sure that we create those connections. And off we go. Now we have a thing called pings and variants alarms. So a ping is, hey, just wanted to ping you. In other words, an email or text to let you know that some things have changed. We didn’t get approval from procurement. So we’re not going to be launching x y&z Well, that’s good to know, do you have time to do something else? And if so, let me give you something I’d like to have you consider, right? So pings are just a change in the process.

Some people, when they see major changes, they do a thing called a variance alarm. And this is a more detailed email that just says, hey, look, we’re we’re seeing some major changes in our trajectory this week from what we agreed upon on the Monday meeting. And perhaps we need to talk about how we redirect things based on situational changes. And then on Thursday, at the end of the day, we have what we call the eow the end of the week. And this is another quick huddle meeting just to talk about the progress that we all enjoyed. And the good news is is that the scrimp the sprint spreadsheet also serves as a wonderful reporting document for you. And also you can use the combination of your team members individual sprint reports, to report up to your whoever you report to, to really show a very, very impressive report of productivity. I also recommend using things like Kanban cards or some form of executive dashboards that show a summary including possibly KPIs that were achieved as a result of of the body of work. So using executive dashboards, combine cards are even narratives can work extremely well to make that all happen. All right, well, listen, there is so much more that I could cover. But regrettably it takes a really long time, I would suggest that you consider our certified remote leader program, that program takes this stuff and really provides it in great detail. With that program, you get our template, you get the workbook where you get to create your own remote leader plan and strategy. And we also have a bonus video in there from one of my colleagues and friends, Dr. David Barron, who is a Board Certified psychiatrist, where he talks about how to identify stress and how to really manage it. I want to leave you off with one more point here. You know, this is life. This is what we do for a living. And I think the most powerful thing as a leader or a manager, the most powerful thing that you have is the ability to impact others. Isn’t that incredible that your management skills and your behaviors and the way in which you lead your teams can impact them and ultimately, even their families. I think this is something that we need to treasure and to respect and to be thoughtful of. Make sure that their self care and their quality of life is the foundation of everything you do. If you do that, not only will you have beautiful human impact. You’ll also serve your organization with the most productive team in your organization. Hey, listen, thanks so much. I love to have you as one of my students on our certified remote work leader program and thanks for listening. Have a great day.

A real human