All posts by ms_admin

Managing Performance – Keeping a Remote Team on the Right Track

How do you keep a remote team on the right track and in-line with the company and team needs?  How do you ensure they understand how to perform and know how they are performing?

You can keep your team focused toward reaching the same goals and achieving them, by following a 5 tiered hierarchal structure that moves from vision setting to performance ranking.

  1. Vision – Would you rather be inspired to reach toward a clear purpose, or would you rather have someone pushing you from behind telling you to move faster and work harder? Your vision is that bright purpose that you want to be the inspiration for your employees to strive toward.  You might use your company vision as a catalyst for your own team, but rather than trying to make it a fancy marketing type statement, just make it a sentence or two on what you are really trying to accomplish as a team.
    When asked, most employees could not recite their company’s vision or mission statement.  Most companies spend countless dollars and hours coming up with a company vision or mission statement, but do a poor job ensuring that it is a driving force in the company or that the employees even know it.  Once you create your team vision it needs to be reinforced whenever possible.  Emphasize it in conversations and meetings with employees, to ensure they know the team’s purpose and the meaning is not lost.
  2. Expectations – The second step is to let your employees know how they can help reach that vision. A vision can be esoteric and it is easy for employees to self-interpret how to reach it.  If you tell your team to “think strategically,” that can mean very different things to different people.  Expectations are the ways your team can reach that vision such as: “identify company competitive advantages and create plans to market them.”   Make sure you clearly define what the team is expected to do to reach that vision.
  3. Goal Setting – Once expectations are set, create specific goals for each employee that can be tracked on a weekly basis, that helps reach these expectations. If the expectation is to “increase company sales,” how does that breakdown for the employee?  Do they need to make X number of sales calls a week?  Do they need to find a new way to position a product each week?  These goals should be SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, results oriented, timeframe) that they report their progress toward, each week to you. Numeric goals such as sales KPIs are always easy to set, but setting goals for more intangibles such as “strategic thinking” or “team player,” can be tougher.  To do this, think about what the behavior of a strategic thinker or team player would look like, and find a way to set goals around this.  If a team player is someone who helps others on the team, then set a goal for you employee to list 2 things each week that they helped teammates on.  This will get them in the pattern of this behavior.
  4. Performance Reviews – almost all managers dread performance reviews. That’s because they are done incorrectly.  The best performance reviews are: 1) done quarterly, 2) initiated by the employee, 3) don’t include numeric rating systems, 4) are really a goal setting conversation between the manager and employee.  Too often performance reviews are an annual event where the manager tries to think up clever phrases to support the number they gave the employee under each category: communication, motivation, etc. . . Instead have the employee list what they would like to focus on and accomplish over the next 90 days, as well as a review of how they did with their past quarter goals.  Then discuss these with the employee giving them feedback and guidance in the discussion.  By making these a working planning session, you will get better content and a more collaborative relationship, and the employee will have a much stronger understanding of where they should be going, and how they are doing.  No one has ever gotten a good understanding of how they could “communicate better” (or how they were successfully communicating) because they got a “3” on a review.
  5. Performance Grid Plotting – So if we don’t rate employees with a numeric system on their reviews, how do we understand how they rate in the overall scheme of the company? The most accurate way to understand how employees are doing as part of the whole, is to plot them on a grid (that measures both performance and potential), on where you think they would fall.  From top performance/potential, to lowest.  Then get together with other managers (ideally 1-2 times per year), and discuss why you would rate each person as such.  This gets all managers on the same page as to what they think constitutes a top player vs a bottom achiever, and often times, managers may shift where they think their employees fall, during these meetings.  This rating grid should never be shown to employees.  Instead it is a management tool to help each manager know where they need to focus, with each of their employees.

Using this progressive tiered plan will keep the messaging and goals clear, as well has ensure a consistent way to track and measure performance.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at Remote Employee Management

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Motivating Remote Employees by Making Work More Like Play

When you are managing a team of remote employees, it can be more challenging to keep them motivated, engaged and focused.  You need to know they are self-driven to do their best, even when you can’t be there to see them.  It’s a known fact that, employees who like their job and enjoy going to work, are more dedicated and self motivated.  One way you can ensure that your employees enjoy their job is to make their work more like play.  That doesn’t mean you should send your employees off to go ski the slopes or play a softball game, instead of working for the day.  But there are some key concepts we can apply, from how we play, that can make work more enjoyable for our employees.

What is it that makes work just that – other than the obvious – that we get paid to do it?  If you play the guitar for fun, what makes that different from a professional guitar player in a band?  If you like to play tennis with friends, would you feel the same way about it if you had to do it every day for a living?  These key differences are things we can look to integrate into the work lives of our employees, to create enjoyment and self-motivation in their job.

  • When you play, you have choices on when, where and who to play with. We get to make the choices on how long we want to play, who we are going to play with and the location we want to play at.  Give your employees the ability to make these choices themselves.  Allow them to pick teammates to work on a project with.  Let them select locations and times for meetings or projects when possible.  Give them the flexibility to plan their day, week and priorities in what they want to accomplish and when.
  • Playing is relaxing. It allows you to unwind, there is no pressure from others, and you can be yourself.   Be careful not to micro-manage your employees.  If you suffocate them, they will never take it upon themselves to work without your supervision.  If you ever have employees say “I didn’t do xyz because you didn’t tell me to do it,” that’s a good indicator that your employees are over supervised.  If you over supervise them, they will only do things when you specifically tell them to do it and how since this is the pattern that has been set for them.  They will not take any initiative outside of what you tell them. Avoiding a micro-managing style entails managing to the goal rather than the task.  Do you really care if your employee starts at 8AM each day, if they reach the highest numbers in the team?  By allowing them the freedom to make decisions and tasks within pre-set goals you have given them, you allow them to be themselves and work in a way where they can produce the best results.  Give them the bumper guards you want them to use to stay within the bowling lane, and the vision of the 12 pins, but let them decide if they are going to use the curve shot or fast ball to knock down all the pins.
  • Play involves social interaction with peers. We like to play with friends because we get to spend social time with them, share experiences, and create new ones.  This is an especially important concept with remote employees since they can often feel isolated.  Find opportunities for them to work together, collaborate, and generate ideas.  Set aside time during group interactions to allow for “virtual water cooler chat” where employees can share information that may not be work related.  You can help this along by using icebreakers or other team building “fun” activities to kick off meetings or phone calls.  Encouraging your employees to find things in common, and reasons to bond.  It will make them a stronger team and their work more enjoyable.  Research has found that if an employee has a good friend at work, it greatly decreases their likely hood of leaving the company, and increases their motivation.
  • Playing allows you to be creative. Many types of play allow you to be creative such as drawing or trying a new golf swing.  You can provide your employees with creative opportunities by allowing them to come up with creative solutions to issues as a group or individual.  Elect a committee of employees to find new ways to tackle competitors for the group.  Have a team come up with a new process.  Allowing them to stretch their minds will keep them driven and engaged.
  • No one is telling you what to do when you are playing. When you are playing, no one tells you what to do – and if they did, you could decide not to play.  Ask your employees to do things rather than tell them.  You will get the same response, but the fact that you asked them shows a form of respect, and in turn, they will be more receptive to doing it.
  • You have the ability to use your talents when you play. We play at things that we think we have some skill and talent in. It’s one of the reasons we enjoy it.  Find opportunities to utilize your employees’ talents and recognize them.  Have them create best practices to share with the team in areas where they excel.  Nominate employees to be Subject Matter Experts on various topics.  Give them opportunities to attend and participate in seminars and trainings where they can grow their talents.
  • Playing gives us the thrill of winning and accomplishment. We play because we like to win and feel a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s winning a game or accomplishing a puzzle, these make us feel good.  Find every opportunity to celebrate with your employees.  Highlight successes during any group meeting or call.  Give them positive feedback whenever you see them succeed.

By incorporating these aspects of play into your employees work environment, you can make their work more fun, keep them self-directed and create a strong, positive team of remote employees.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at Remote Employee Management

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

How to Be a Successful Remote Employee

I’m often asked what employees need to learn about working remotely.  The majority of success for a remote team is dependent on management – how the team is managed and the systems in place to support them.  However there is one key area that remote employees can focus on: their visibility.

When an employee is not physically in a company office every day, it can be easy to lose sight of what they are doing, and how they are contributing to the company, for those that do not work directly with that employee.  As well, remote workers have a concern that they will be “out of sight and out of mind” when it comes to company opportunities, promotions, etc. . . Here are some key ways that remote employees can ensure their work and efforts are highly visible to the company:

  • Tele-presence – Your tele-presence is your phone presence. Since you can’t talk to people face to face when you are working remotely, the phone needs to do that for you.  We are often hesitant to pick up the phone unless we feel we have significant information to share, but we will more likely walk down the hall to chat with someone in a more minor thing.  When we work off-site, we often resort to email for the more minor items.  This is ok to do occasionally, but if you drastically reduce your verbal communication when teleworking, you need a different strategy.  Jot down and collect ideas and notes on items you want to discuss with people, on a daily or weekly basis.   Then, rather than sending emails, pick up the phone to cover the multiple topics.  This gives the call more substance, will save you time, from writing multiple emails, and will ensure better quality communication.
  • Remote Access – You want to ensure you can access all network tools remotely when you are not in the office. Can you handle e-mails, access shared files, and any other company information that you would gather when in the office?  If not, figure out how you can leverage technology to do so.  If you find yourself saying “That can wait until I’m back in the office”, because you don’t have your needed files or access, then you are not leveraging your remote access effectively.
  • SharePoint – Use your corporation’s Intranet such as SharePoint, to keep you visible. Post responses to discussion boards, post pictures and documents, or share blog articles.  Have a sub-site created to collaborate with your team on a project.
  • Team Engagement – are you a team player? Do you support team members when they are struggling?  You involvement with your team will not only increase your visibility with your team, but also with your company.  The more successful your team is as a whole, the more you will be noticed.  Also, find opportunities to build stronger relationships with those on your team.  If you feel you don’t know someone well, call them to share ideas, work on a project together, or just talk to get to know each other better.
  • Solution Driven – Are you driven to find answers, or do you get hung up on the problem or why it can’t be done? Rather than presenting issues to others, always have some possible solutions and options to present with the issue. Don’t present issues for others to solve, but instead use them as a way to orchestrate your own creative results.
  • SelfDriven – Those that take action rather than waiting to be led by the hand, get the most visibility. Take initiative – don’t wait for others to motivate you, create projects and tasks for you, or give you ideas.  Leaders drive positive change and results rather than just being involved in them.  As long as you work within your company and team’s guidelines, create opportunities to increase their success, and ultimately yours.

By focusing on these key items, remote employees can increase their visibility and ultimate success when working remotely.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at Remote Employee Management

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

How SharePoint Can Help a Mobile Workforce

Mobile workforces need to replace face-to-face interaction and in-office time with other tools to stay connected and productive.  When working in an office, there inherently tends to be more communication, idea generation sharing, collaboration, transparency of information, and community/team building.  It is important to develop and encourage these areas with mobile workforces, so you don’t lose any of the in-office benefits.  Using SharePoint can help.

SharePoint supplies an Intranet portal that allows mobile employees to contribute and share ideas and information.  It is easy to learn, and allows users to be involved sharing ideas and content without requiring programming or IT.    This makes it an ideal tool that can be quickly implemented and gain adoption.

Some of the key areas where SharePoint can help mobile workforces:

  • Document Sharing & Management – Easy to use document libraries to share content. Can tag documents with any desired properties to make them easy to find in future.  Employees can change how documents are displayed so each can have their own unique way of organizing the same documents.
  • Discussion Boards & Newsfeeds – Generate idea sharing opportunities using these tools. Make this the location for “virtual water cooler” chat.  Employees can start items or join into existing ones, sharing ideas about any topic.  Users can also “Follow” topics to receive immediate updates when others post.
  • Wiki’s & Blogs – Give employees a forum to share more in-depth topics, ideas, and articles, or use them as a place for them to get important information such as handbooks, FAQs, help desk, competitor information, how-tos, etc.
  • MySites – Social networking for work. Each employee has their own landing page where they can post their bio – a great way to enable company searching for subject matter experts on specific topics!  Allows employees to connect to others in the company, follow and tag important topics and areas on the company site, and track their own tasks.
  • Dashboards – Create dashboards to display individual and team KPIs and metrics for weekly meeting discussions.
  • Team Collaboration on documents – Multiple employees can edit and work on the same document at the same time to view live edits as they happen. They can also utilize versioning, so that each iteration of a document is stored in archives, to access again in the future if needed.
  • Searching – Can search for any content on a site (documents, discussions, wikis, etc.) with lighting fast speeds. Search results provide quick filters to further define searches, as well as preview panes, to preview each item prior to opening.

These are only a small sampling of ways that SharePoint can help a dispersed team of employees across multiple locations.  But by using this type of intranet site, employees can still collaborate and communicate just as frequently as they would in an office, by supplementing the tools they use to do so.  SharePoint can provide an environment for team building to keep your mobile team working together and with others in the company.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at Remote Employee Management

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Goal Planning With SMART Goals

Setting clear goals with remote teams helps keep them focused and on the right track.  The best method involves using SMART goals.  If you are not familiar with these yet, here is a brief overview:

Specific – Goals need to be clearly outlined so employees know what to strive for.

Measurable –What will the successful completion of the goal look like?  If it is subjective “Need to get better client ratings”, there is room to argue if they have indeed succeeded reaching the goal.  Is .001% increase in ratings successful?  It is better than a zero.  Instead set a metric such as “Need to have at least 85% “Excellent” client ratings.

Attainable – On the flip side, if goals are too hard, ones in which most people are unlikely to reach them, people won’t feel motivated to try.  Is asking the team to “Increase your business by 100% this year” really feasible?  Make sure you set reasonable goals that people can obtain.

Results Oriented (or Relevant) – The goal needs to serve a purpose.  If a goal is something that everyone does anyway (e.g., “Spell check your emails”), it isn’t very motivating and becomes more of a busy work task in tracking it.  These types of things should just be noted in an overall team process handbook, or in training. Instead, you want your goals to motivate people to stretch.

Time Based – This can be another subjective area.  Make sure it is clear and concise when each metric should be obtained.  “You need to have at least 85% ‘Excellent’ client ratings by the last day of the month.”  Everyone is better motivated when they can keep a deadline date or timeframe in sight.

When setting goals for your team or individuals, use the SMART goal criteria to make sure they are clear, effective, and motivating.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at Remote Employee Management

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Getting Dispersed Teams Communicating

When teams work remotely, and are dispersed across multiple locations, team members can become isolated and cut off from their team coworkers.   This can stunt communication, since it is not generated as a natural byproduct of working in the same location together every day.   So how do you ensure you keep them communicating as much as they would when in the office?  You have to get them used to using different communication channels in place of traditional face-to-face time.  It often can take some forced effort until you get them in the habit.

  • During team phone calls, allow time at the beginning or end to allow small talk. Initiate this small talk by throwing out questions to get everyone participating.
  • Pair up team members on small projects or tasks that require them to communicate via phone. Have them come up with ways to combat competitor products, or have them find a solution to an issue and present to the team.
  • Have senior team members mentor new members through scheduled weekly conversations.
  • Have team members post items on the company Intranet, including blogs, wiki’s, and discussion boards, to share ideas and accomplishments.
  • Encourage employees to use IM for quick drop-in type questions
  • Have employees use web cameras, whenever possible during conference calls, so team members can have some visual interaction

There are many tools you can provide for your team to use to communicate when not in the same office.  However, you will most likely have to encourage their use until they are communicating as frequently as being in the same location.  It is also good to ensure they do not only rely on the electronic tools such as email, IM, and intranet, and that they are including just as much phone communication as other types.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at Remote Employee Management

For more on Communication Topics,

take the online course at Communication Series

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Establishing Respect In Managing Remote Employees

Many remote managers make the mistake of trying to establish their credibility through demands and force.  Have you ever had a manager tell you a new policy or procedure is being implemented with the reason of “because that’s the way it is” or “that’s what I decided” or “it is what it is.”  How did this make you feel?  Did it bring back bad flashbacks of your parents telling you when you were a kid “because I said so?”  People need reasons and explanations behind actions; this conveys that you respect their thoughts and feelings enough to include them in the rational.  It doesn’t mean you need to evoke their consensus, but it will display your respect for them, which directly builds it in return.   One manager told their employee they were making their decision because their “ego just couldn’t currently let them accept the other person’s idea.”  As irrational a reason as this was, the fact that it was obviously truthful and that they were willing to share this reason behind their decision with the employee, earned their respect for the decision.

Respect is earned, not demanded. 

Those that demand respect actually destroy it.  Have you ever known a manager that others display respect to when they interact with them, but immediately behind their back do the opposite?  They complain about the manager’s decisions, delivery, goals, etc. . .  This leads to a team that does not embrace the manager’s and company’s goals and initiatives.   A successful team is one that is motivated by their manager and is behind their decisions (of their own free will – not by being forced).  This allows a company to make quick changes, capture and develop innovative ideas, and stay competitive.   Granted, not every employee will like every idea that their manager communicates, but if they genuinely respect their manager, they are more likely to support those decisions in conversation with others, rather than spread dissent.  Because remote employees can more easily feel separated from the company, inter-team communication can spread like a brush fire and generate emotions not conducive to the team’s success.

Own your decisions.

Another common error made of managers is to do the opposite, when conveying a decision, by shirking ownership of it.  Some managers convey reasons for directives to their employees as: “executive management made the rule” or “it’s a new company policy,” while at the same time communicating that they as a manager don’t necessarily agree but their “hands are tied.”   This type of communication is generally motivated by a need to be liked by their employees.  Even though managers should strive to earn the respect of their employees, it does not mean they necessarily need to be liked.  The goal is not to be their friend, but to be their manager.

When a manger uses this type of communication they discredit themselves by not owning their decisions.  Employees will read this as a sign of weakness.  The result can be employees going above or outside of their management structure to get answers, approval, assistance, etc. . . or to question their manager’s decisions.  Rather than saying “I personally wouldn’t mind if you took the day off, but I don’t think if would look good to executive management”, be the authority yourself.  You are the face of the company for your employees.  You do want to give them the “reasons why” behind the decision, when at all possible, but don’t defer to another power.  Instead try something like,” We have a critical project right now and I need you to be here today to make sure we meet the deadlines.”

Credibility through commitments.

Another way to create respect and establish credibility is through commitments.  This is especially critical in distributed workforce teams.  A common compliant among these types of teams is that their manager does not get back to them when they try to contact them.  Absent managers leave employees feeling isolated and will generate either unwanted maverick behavior (employees feeling that they can do whatever they want without following protocol), or employees that don’t reach set goals, based on excuses of “but you didn’t tell me to”, or “I didn’t know.”  To keep employees motivated and feeling like they are part of the company and team, a manager needs to keep promises and commitments.  Even if it is a small promise; if you say you will get them something by Tuesday, then do so.  Set consistent schedules with employees and don’t change them unless there is an emergency.  If you have a time scheduled to talk with a remote employee each week, don’t reschedule it.  Otherwise this will send the message that you don’t think they are a high priority.  This sends the message that it is OK for them to reschedule or find excuses not to attend meetings and calls as well.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at http://www.remoteemployeemanagement.com/

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

7 Keys to Ensure Success with a Team of Remote Employees

Quickly disappearing are the days of companies where all employees are based in one office.  With the need to keep competitive in today’s business landscape companies need faster speed to service for their clients, they need to cut travel cost to see clients, and they need improved customer service.  This all creates a workplace which is spread out across the globe to better meet client’s needs.  In fact, the virtual employee scenario is quickly growing.  Research has suggested that now over 75% of US companies have some portion of their employees that work in separate locations from their teammates or manager.  If you have to pick up the phone to communicate with your employees, then you have a remote workforce (aka teleworking, virtual or field employees).  This creates challenges in company expectations of remote employees and in effectively managing a remote workforce.

So how do you manage a team of people who work in different locations?  What are the different techniques you need to employ?  Below are the 7 key areas that remote managers should focus on to ensure their team of virtual employees stay productive, focused, accountable, and engaged.  Click on each to see the short 1 minute video about each key.

  1. Increased communication
  2. Build a team community
  3. Manage to goals , not tasks
  4. Enable micro-monitoring for accountability
  5. Socratic coaching
  6. Motivate rather than move
  7. Build trust

The changing business environment and ensuing structure does not need to spell painful transitions for employees and corporations.  By understanding the needs and techniques, for managing this new business format of distributed and mobile workforces, companies can capitalize on success by implementing these new management techniques.   As many companies struggle, to figure out the new workforce, those that have streamlined it, will excel in the marketplace, and with their clients.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at http://www.remoteemployeemanagement.com/

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Effective Management, Not Telecommuting Bans, Make Employees More Productive

Company-wide cohesion is not created with a forced work environment, but rather with good management.  In today’s global workforce, the majority of US companies now have some portion of their workforce that works remotely from their main office.  Companies now need to do more with less, and having employees based near clients cuts down travel costs and provides quicker service.  As well, employees have been proven to be more productive when they can work from a home office, cutting down on commute time and disruptions.  This has created a shift in the old assumptions, that all work must be completed in the same office location.

However, some have a hard time releasing those assumptions, limiting their corporation’s ability to stay competitive.  It’s like the refusal to use an automobile, at the turn of the last century, because of a belief that a horse drawn carriage was more effective.   Yes, a horse drawn carriage has some charm to it and was effective for a long time, but eventually they were run over by the automobile and they are no longer a competitive transportation method.

You can’t care for an automobile the same way you do for a horse team and the same is true with a telecommuting team.  For a remote workforce model to work, it has to be managed correctly.  If it is not, it can impact communication and collaboration, as well as encourage non-focused employees.  But if it is managed correctly, you will have a much more effective and competitive business model.

There are 7 strategies to successfully managing remote/teleworking teams, that differs from regular employee management.

  1. Increased Communication – Communication with teleworking employees must be increased. The perception, as expressed by Yahoo, is that you will communicate less with virtual working employees – which will cause the decrease in collaboration and idea sharing that they experienced.  Managers need to make a conscious effort to communicate more with teleworking employees, as well as facilitate increased communication between team members, to foster the same level of idea sharing and collaboration.  Communication should never be delayed because you can’t walk down the hall to chat with someone.  Pick up the phone, send an email or use IM to foster that same chat.  It does take some initial assistance to get employees into this routine, but once that is created, it will happen naturally.
  2. Create a Team Community – Managers need to make a more concerted effort to create a team community when their teams work remotely. They need to find opportunities for team members to work together, celebrate together, and spend time talking about non-work related things.  This helps them get to know each other as individuals, so they can work more effectively together, and feel like a part of an important group.
  3. Manage to Goals and Outcomes, Not Tasks – Give employees the responsibility to manage themselves by providing the vision and guidance when needed, rather than explicit instructions that are task focused. Think of a team’s goals as a bowling alley.  You want to clearly outline what the goal is – knock down all 10 pins in 2 or less shots by rolling the ball.  And you also want to define the boundaries for them to work within – like setting up the bumper guards in the lane.  However, after that, you want to leave it to them to decide how to get the ball down the lane to accomplish the goal.  Do they roll it fast or slow, do they use curve balls or straight shots, do they bank it off of the bumper guards several times – these decisions should be left in their hands.
  4. Enable Team Micro-Monitoring for Accountability – One of the biggest fears when managing a team of remote employees is that they won’t be working and getting the job done when you can’t see them. Unfortunately, this fear can lead to micro-managing employees, which can lead to the direct results you are trying to avoid.  Instead of micro-managing employees, have them micro-monitor themselves.  Have them hold themselves accountable to their goals and have them report their success, or lack of, to you each week.  By clearly setting goals and providing a weekly status report to you, they will hold themselves accountable for their goal attainment.  No one wants to come to their manager and tell them they did a bad job.   Everyone wants to be able to take pride in their achievements.  Having them keep and report their weekly goal attainment status keeps them self-motivated to reach those goals.
  5. Ongoing Socratic Coaching – Teleworking employees need to learn how to make the correct decisions in the absence of their manager. The best way to prepare them for this is through Socratic coaching.  This coaching method is designed to coach through self-discovery by asking the employee open ended questions to teach a thinking process that enables them to make better decisions in future.
  6. Motivate Rather than Move Employees – What many call motivation is often really movement. It is the carrot and stick approach.  If an employee does something, they receive a reward, or if they don’t, it’s a punishment.  This method must be continuously re-charged, which can quickly fail when employees are not always in the same office.  Instead, it’s important to motivate remote working employees by developing their pride and self-esteem in what they do.   This is self-charged and will deliver longer lasting motivation.  Develop employees pride through giving them ownership of their job through decision making and idea sharing.  Also find ways to give them praise and a sense of accomplishment.
  7. Create Trust – Trust is critical for teleworking employees to work well as a team and as individuals. Without daily face-to-face contact, trust is more vulnerable to break-down.  It takes forever to build trust, but can be destroyed in a minute.  Remote employees in particular need to know that their manager respects and trusts them to carry out every day work functions, with little or no supervision.  They also need to trust that their team members are there to help them when needed and have their and the team’s best interests at heart.   Trust needs to be created through extending trust to employees, creating non-work related relationship building, communication, holding people accountable, and consistency in actions and expectations.

If managers are trained to manage along the 7 strategies, a telecommuting program can increase a company’s competitive advantage.  They can hire and retain better candidates. They can reduce office costs, increase productivity, and have more highly motivated employees.  A remote workforce model will only breakdown if it is not managed correctly.  Don’t get left behind in the race, with the horse and buggy, when today’s companies are testing out the fast new sports cars.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

take the online course at http://www.remoteemployeemanagement.com/

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Creating Accountability with a Distributed Workforce

When the term Micro-Manager is mentioned, it incites painful ideas of a manager that is smothering, controlling and demotivating.  But the conundrum for most managers of field teams or distributed workforces is how to ensure that the job is getting done without over managing.  Because a team of employees, spread across multiple locations, is not as easy to monitor with drop-in daily observations, like a centrally located team, many managers can overcompensate by trying to over control those things that they cannot see.  Manager’s want their teams to reach all set goals, but without smothering them.

The key to ensuring management’s happiness with a team’s performance levels as well as the team’s happiness with their ability to spread their wings, is a combination of clearly outlining goals, creating responsibility, and generating individual accountability.

Setting the vision & creating expectations

A good vision creates inspiration and motivation for a team which creates the catalyst to drive a team’s performance.  When setting a vision, keep it at top level goals, not the specific tasks it takes to reach them (this is covered next).  Because a remote team is more at risk for feeling disconnected from the company, they can tend to focus more time and energy on things that they perceive to be important but that might not really be of the most importance to the team or company.  So setting a vision, and keeping a remote team focused on it, is critical to the team and company’s success.

Once the vision is set and communicated, expectations need to be created to define how the remote team will reach that visionEvery employee wants to do a good job, but they need to know what that looks like to obtain it.  Creating the expectations, lets each employee know what they need to do to be successful, and what the end picture will look like.

Creating Responsibility

If you give someone the responsibility, they will more likely than not live up to it.  However, if you don’t trust them with the responsibility, then they will never have a chance to reach it.  Take a simple scenario observed at a corporate meeting where all sales people across the country met semi-annually to discuss the new product line and strategy.  At this meeting, for the first 2 days, after every 10 minute break, the regional managers would go out to find their employees and alert them that the break was over and they needed to get back into the meeting room.  As a result, over 75% of the sales reps never returned on time to the meeting and waited for their manager to alert them to return.  They were conditioned that the manager would let them know, so they didn’t need to take the responsibility to look at their watches to see when 10 minutes was up.   This approach removed the responsibility from the sales reps and placed it on the regional managers.

On the 3rd and 4th days, the regional managers took a different approach; they didn’t alert anyone when breaks were over and just started the meeting on time – even if everyone was not in the room.  Those that arrived late (after the allotted 10 minutes for the break) had to disrupt the meeting to get to their seat.  Those that arrived late more than once over the 2 days, were pulled aside on the next break for a discussion with the manager on the importance of being on time.  By the end of the 4th day and the last (5th day) of the meeting, not one employee returned late to the meeting after break times.  With the regional managers shifting the responsibility to the sales reps, it freed up their (the managers) time and made the sales reps responsible for their own actions.  The key to this was setting the expectation and holding them accountable if they didn’t reach it.

This is a good example of a micro vs non-micro management approach.  Releasing yourself from these micro management tasks frees up your time to focus on more important things.   Increasing team member responsibility creates less management needs.

Accountability – Micro-monitoring vs micro-managing

Setting clear goals is like a virtual manager that keeps everyone focused without having to constantly look over their shoulder.  However if you set these goals but don’t implement some sort of accountability and tracking system, YOU will ultimately have to be that system.  This means a very time consuming, management intensive process of nagging employees, to inquire on how they are doing toward their goals, and micro-managing to ensure goals are met.  The more you can empower your employees to track their own progress (with a simple delivery method to you), the better results you will get:

  • They will manage themselves
  • They will be more self motivated to reach their goals
  • You will empower them to be responsible for themselves which will demonstrate your respect and trust for them
  • You can free up your time to work with them on more productive items such as their talent development

Shared accountability creates a feeling of partnership with each team member.  It also enables people to learn from both their successes and mistakes.  So rather than micro-managing a team, a manager can enable them to micro-monitor their own individual performance.

To do this successfully, managers need to implement a tool that helps employees track their own progress.  This tool should also be something that they can deliver to you with minimal effort.  It should not be too time consuming and should be easy to decipher for both you and your employee.  An Excel spreadsheet or Word table are good vehicles, or possibly an automated intranet system if that is available to the company.  These should be completed and submitted weekly and monthly to keep everyone on track.  Here are some things to consider when deciding what goals you would like them to track:

  1. Specific – Clearly outline the details of each goal so they know what to strive for.
  2. Measurable – they must be measurable.  What will the successful completion of the goal look like?  If it is subjective “Need to get better client service ratings”, there is room for argument on if they have succeeded on the goal.  Is a .01% better rating successful?  It could be argued that it is a better rating than 0.  Instead set a metric such as “Need to have at least 85% excellent client ratings.
  3. Attainable – on the flip side, if goals are too hard, where more than likely most people won’t reach them, then people won’t feel motivated to reach them.  Ie. “Increase your business by 100% this year”
  4. Results Oriented – if a goal is something that everyone does anyway “put details of each transaction in the system every day”, then it isn’t very motivating and becomes more of a busy work task in tracking it. These are processes in how things should be done in the business, but not a performance goal.  These types of things should just be noted in an overall team process handbook, or in training.  Make sure goals are geared to motivate people to stretch.
  5. Time Based – This can be another subjective area.  It need to be clear and concise on when each metric should be obtained.  “You need to have at least 85% excellent client ratings by the last day of the month.”  Everyone is better motivated when they can keep a deadline date or timeframe in sight.

Once the goals are set, and a self-monitoring matrix system is put in place to track goals, set time frames on when each employee should deliver their tracked goals to you electronically.  Then spend a portion of your regular communication with them reviewing the overview of the goals.  Don’t fall into the trap of going through each individual item with them.  Look at the matrix obtainments from a balcony view, to discuss trends or patterns with them.  This will allow you to look at how their performance is doing overall, and coach them on their overall progress.

What can be monitored – how can we monitor it?

What must be managed – how can we manage it?

It is important as a manager to identify what can be monitored by the individual team members, and then create a tracking matrix that they use to deliver their progress.  This will set their responsibility and create the accountability system.  Start by identifying tasks and goals that they can track themselves, to enable them to micro-monitor themselves and free you up from micro-management.  Secondly, it is important to identify what items must be managed because they cannot be self-monitored by an employee performance tracking system.   Because enabling micro-monitoring through your employees will free up your management time, use it to focus on more of the talents that are critical to the team, but harder to track quantitatively.  Look for qualitative things that are important to the business, to focus your management and coaching efforts with each employee on, such as: team work, creative ideas and innovations, strategic thinking, positive attitude, etc. . . .

by Jenny Douras

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