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6 Signs You Are Ready to Manage a Telecommuting Team

by Aug 19, 2019Language and Culture

Sean Hopwood
MBA President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc.

Heading a team of remote workers is more challenging than dealing with traditional employees working in an office. It is generally more difficult to manage people in the absence of personal interaction. It’s either workers become more productive or it becomes easier for them to procrastinate and find excuses as they underperform.

If you want to become a telecommuting manager, go over this checklist of indicators as to whether or not you are prepared for the task.

1. You are organized

Doing things in an organized manner is something easier said than done. It’s also a trait that is difficult to self-evaluate. How do you know if you are being organized or if your way of organizing is good enough?

The best way to examine your ability to work in a well-organized way is to ask someone to assess the manner by which you do things. If other people can easily understand the processes you lay out, it means you are generally doing it right. If they can see a pattern or predictability in your management style (not necessarily your decisions), you are working systematically and coordinately. Conversely, if they have a hard time following the procedures you put out and they need regular follow-ups, your sense of organization needs improvement.

On your own, you can say that you are adequately orderly and organized if you say no to the following questions:

· Do you have difficulties finding documents or information (you are responsible for keeping) when you need them?

· Do you have a hard time going back to a task you had to leave temporarily to attend to something important or when you lose your momentum?

· Do you have issues with prioritization?

· Do you find it difficult to delegate tasks?

· Are you easily distracted?

Being organized is necessary to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Managers who are incapable of maintaining order or imposing self-discipline can’t expect their subordinates to work in an orderly fashion. Most telecommuters rely on their supervisors or managers for the flow of their work. Imagine what would happen if task assignments are not well-planned and properly coordinated.

Tip: You can use apps or software designed to ensure organization and boost productivity. You can try Process Street, The Time Doctor, Hubstaff, Basecamp, or Slack.

2. You are reasonably patient

Patience is a virtue especially when it comes to working with people who may not always meet deadlines or those who keep misunderstanding instructions or guidelines. A good manager needs to have the resolve to try to make everything as simple as possible for everyone to understand. Not every telecommuter has sound practical judgment or a good sense of initiative, so a manager may have to be as detailed when providing instructions and explaining all the details of a project. It is a must to be patient enough to repeat instructions and do regular follow-ups. It’s better to sound like someone explaining details to a child than to presume that everyone understands the nitty-gritty of the job and the objectives of the team and end up with misunderstanding and confusion.

This is not to say, however, that you should repeatedly tolerate underperforming employees. Failing to meet deadlines or output quality standards once or a few times is inevitable, but doing it over and over again is a problem a manager should deal with sternly. There should always be a limit to the patience or consideration a manager extends to remote workers. Moreover, it’s also expected that a good remote team manager will eventually train everyone to have a good grasp of their responsibilities and the processes involved in completing projects. Firing remote workers will be unavoidable if they still fail to meet team standards.

3. You have exceptional communication skills

Communication skills are a fundamental requirement in managing a remote work setup. You can’t just be good with it; you must be exceptional. A manager should be excellent when it comes to both verbal and written communication.

The following attributes are associated with being a brilliant communicator:

· Active listening

· Responsiveness

· Patience and Tolerance

· Adaptability

· Friendliness or Approachability

· Confidence

· Clarity in conveying thoughts

· The habit of giving and receiving feedback

You have suitable communication skills to be a remote team manager if you are able to attentively listen to what teleworkers are saying. You must know how to acknowledge their words and act on them accordingly when necessary. During verbal communication, it’s never a good habit to outtalk each other to assert points. Emotions shouldn’t get in the way even when it comes to talking via email or chat. Everything should be settled diplomatically.

An ideal remote team manager exudes confidence without appearing haughty or arrogant. It’s important to be clear and decisive to avoid giving the impression of being unsure with instructions and the implementation of policies. Moreover, it’s advisable to maintain an air of approachability and to habitually ask and provide feedback to employees to avoid misunderstandings and improve or address issues in the communication process.

Tip: Don’t limit communication to just one or a few platforms. As much as possible, everyone in the remote work setup should be able to reach each other via phone, email, instant messaging, and social media.

4. You are a people person

Make no mistake – while managing teleworkers prominently entails the absence of personal interaction, it’s a must for a manager to be personable. You can never be a good manager if you dislike dealing with people.

It is advisable to treat telecommuters as if they are actually in the same space with you. With all the advancements in teleconferencing and other related technologies, communicating with people on the web is no longer as limited or challenging as it was in the past. You can do video calls or teleconferencing, emails, or instant messaging (chat). If there are problems connecting online, you can always turn to the traditional telephone. What’s important is to establish a working relationship that

How good you are in interacting with others in person is usually similar to how you work with people online. However, not being a people person offline does not necessarily

mean you will be the same online. Some people are more comfortable interacting with others on the web than in person.

Tip: Personability is not always apparent. The teleworkers you manage may not feel that you are making yourself approachable. Sometimes, you need to exert extra effort to make it clear that you want to get along with everyone. It’s possible to do online team building activities. You can host games, set challenges related to the work output, or discuss various topics such as popular movies or TV shows and current affairs.

5. You are accustomed to using various online communication and collaboration tools

Managing a team of telecommuters requires software tools. You can’t just rely on a telephone or mobile phone, Skype, or email to coordinate everything. The software you need can be grouped as follows:

· Communication software

· Task/Project management software

· Collaboration software

Communication software tools include the email client (for those who prefer it over using the web-based email interface), messenger apps such as Skype and Facebook Messenger, teleconferencing software, and other applications that enable textual, verbal, or video-based communication. For task management, there are several options to choose from. Some of the most popular ones are Trello, Basecamp, Asana, and Teambox. For collaboration, some of the best options are TeamViewer, Sync.com, Sharepoint, and Wunderlist.

For the uninitiated, project management software is used for the assignment and monitoring of tasks. Collaboration software, on the other hand, is designed to enable joint working over something. This software usually provides the ability to share files, links, as well as screens (screen sharing), which make it easy to work on the same documents or use common resource files. It also comes with the ability to leave annotations or comments on certain projects, files, or documents.

At least two of these types of software (communication, task management, and collaboration) are needed for an effective remote team management. You need a combination of a communication and project management software or a communication-collaboration software duo. You may also find remote team management platforms that incorporate all communication, collaboration, and task management features.

Tip: It’s not enough to just know the basics of the software mentioned above. A good manager should have some advanced knowledge about how to use them. For instance, if you are using Gmail, you can schedule the sending of emails so you don’t forget to send email instructions later on. On Skype, you can use the keyword notifications feature, which lets you receive notifications when certain keywords are mentioned in messages or conversations. If you are using TeamViewer, explore the less frequently used but highly useful features such as remote printing, wake on LAN, and session auto recording.

6. You know your role by heart

Lastly, you know you are ready to lead a telecommuting team if you know your functions and objectives (as a manager) by heart. It’s not enough that you were appointed to become the manager for a company’s remote workers. Your obligations should be clearly laid out by the management (your inputs may be solicited in the process). You then need to properly understand and memorize your responsibilities. Know what you are supposed to achieve and how you are meant to reach these achievements.

Tip: It’s always advisable to have written guidelines or outline of your functions. If the management does not have it, you can come up with one on your own and have it approved by the higher-ups. This outline of responsibilities does not have to be detailed, but it should clearly define your duties, goals, and courses of actions as you deal with the teleworkers you are tasked to manage.

Helming a group of telecommuters can be difficult. If you are up for the challenge, make sure you are equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge, and mindset to the the job right. Take note of the indicators and tips discussed above.

Sean Hopwood
MBA President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc.

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