Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing some people in person and others remotely, part of Managing Virtual Teams.
Imagine you have a best friend who lives in California while you live in Florida. You'll likely maintain that relationship differently than you do with your friends who live across town. Maybe you spend a week at a time together, and make sure to do all of your favorite things. Similarly, you'll probably need to maintain relationships with your in-person employees differently than with your remote employees. I'll introduce some ways that can help you be more fair, manage more effectively, and avoid creating the wrong impression.
First, let's talk about a couple of traps that you should avoid. First trap - always allowing what's in front of your face to get your attention. This is simply that an in-person employee has the ability to pop into your office and divert your attention. The second major trap is that a visit with a remote team member always means a celebration or a stern performance management discussion. When you arrange to have your remote employees with you, it can be easy to make it seem like they are the reason for the celebration or always make it an ominous event, versus it being a generally accepted part of team management.
Next, let's go over a way to help avoid these traps. Consider referencing the "what" rather than the "who." I'll give an example, referencing the traps I just mentioned. Let's say you were on the phone with Adam, one of your remote employees, then Dan, one of your in-person employees, comes in with an urgent issue that needs your immediate attention. Consider sharing the situation this way. "I apologize. I was just informed of an issue "with Project X and I need to address it immediately.
"Let's reschedule for this afternoon. "When are you available?" What is important here is that I didn't make it about Dan, the local employee. If I did, it might have sounded something like, "Adam, I apologize. Dan is here, "and he needs to talk to me about Project X." This can create the perception that you value local people and issues over those who are remote. Second scenario. Here's a way that can help you make a celebration, or a performance discussion, be about the team, versus about the remote employees.
First, acknowledge the team for being able to take the time to attend. Second, highlight a few recent successes or shortfalls the team has had, and, third, share why it's important to you to give the team the opportunity to spend time with each other to share and grow. Again, notice, there is no mention that this celebration or performance discussion is because of any one person, rather, it's in service of the team. Third and last item. Focus on simply touching base with your remote employees, even when you do not have a pressing issue on your agenda.
They could be anxious to talk with you, and it helps make your discussions less ominous. Now, let me suggest some guidelines to follow to help you consistently appear to be focused on the team at large, rather than focusing on your local staff members at the expense of those who are remote. First, give all of your employees your undivided attention during one-on-one meetings, unless there's an emergency. If you have an office, you might even consider putting a Do Not Disturb indication on your door during these sessions.
Second, when you're on conference calls without video, announce to your employees on the phone who is in the room, and ensure those people in the room know who is attending remotely via telephone. Finally, consider a new definition that might make things easier for you. When managing remote teams, fair and equal don't mean the same thing. The time you get to spend with your in-person employees, compared to your remote employees, will not be equal, but how you treat the employees will be the same, and that's fair.
Just like your best friend who lives across the country, it's the quality of your time together that makes the difference, not the quantity.
Discover how to build rapport, set mutual expectations, communicate, connect, overcome conflict, get work done, and grow the team. Also included is a look at the top five challenges managers face in leading remote teams and helpful solutions that will get your team on track.
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