Tag Archives: remote management

Communication techniques to build respect and trust with a remote workforce

Managing a remote workforce can be challenging, especially when you can’t physically walk down the hall to see what they are doing.  How can you trust that they are getting the job done?  The starting point for any relationship is trust and respect.  Without daily face-to-face contact, these are more vulnerable to break-down in remote teams.  Field employees in particular need to know that their manager respects and trusts them to carry out everyday work functions, with little or no supervision.   This is also the catalyst to keep them self motivated when you are not around.  In the same token, managers need to know their employees are doing the job.  So how can you build a relationship of trust and respect with your employees to ensure that they are self-motivated and driven toward achieving goals, with a high level of integrity?

Creating an environment of accountability and motivation, for your remote team, starts with how you communicate with them.  Your communication style sets the tone for how you want your team to communicate with each other and you.  It will either encourage them to talk to each other, or shut them down and isolate them – which destroys team trust and motivation.  There are 7 key communication techniques you can use to help generate this respect, trust, and motivation.

  1. Keep all promises and respond to employees in timely manner – Don’t make a promise to an employee that you can’t keep, even if it is a small item. If you say you will get them something by Tuesday, then do so.  If you e-mail an employee with a request for response, how soon do you expect them to get back to you?  If your expectations are 24 hours, then that is the same response time you should hold yourself to.  They will mirror your behavior in the pattern you set.
  2. Set consistent communication schedules with your employees – Schedule weekly meetings or one-on-one phone calls with your employees. Setting consistent schedules helps give the employee a routine when they know they will be able to get in contact with you to discuss needed items.  This also helps ensure they feel connected to you and the team, and keeps them on track with the overall team goals.  Remote employees can easily lose sight of the company goals by focusing on what they think is important.  Having a weekly reinforcement with their manager, keeps them from veering off track.  Remote employees need more communication not less, than those in the same office.  Setting weekly communication schedules ensures they are each getting the contact they need.
  3. Stick to your employee appointments– Don’t change your scheduled employee calls and meetings unless it’s an emergency. If you often change scheduled time with them, it will give the indication to employees that the meetings are not very important, which will encourage them to also find excuses to reschedule.  It sends the message that you don’t think they are a high priority or as important as other things you need to do.  Let them know you respect their time, and their contributions to the team, by keeping your scheduled appointments with them.
  4. Provide details and reasons “why” for any requests – If you say to one of your employees: “Let’s have a call at 8AM tomorrow – there are some things I’d like to discuss with you.”  What types of things do you think are going through their mind?  It creates a stress level in your employee and sets false conceptions.  This type of request will also give the message to your employee that you don’t respect them enough to tell them the reasons you want to talk with them.  Instead, give them the reasons why or as many details as possible.  For example: “Let’s have a call at 8AM tomorrow to plan our strategy for the next client meeting we have coming up.”  Telling your employees the reasons why behind things also builds their buy in and support of ideas.  If someone were to ask to cut in front of you in a line, most of us would say “no.”  However, if they gave a good reason as to why they needed to, we would be more apt to let them in, and do so without resentment.  Giving your employees reasons behind decisions and directives will not only let them know you respect them, but will build their willing support.
  5. Ask rather than tell – Asking your employees to do something, rather than telling them, builds buy in and accountability. Asking an employee to cover a client issue, doesn’t mean they won’t do it.  Because their manager is making the request, they will inherently say “yes.”  However, if you ask rather than tell them, then the employee has committed themselves by agreeing, and they are more likely to hold themselves accountable, rather than you having to doing so.   Individuals are more motivated to accomplish tasks they have been asked to do rather than been told to do.
  6. Write positive e-mails – E-mails will always come across 10 times more negative than intended, which can be an issue in a virtual environment where e-mail becomes a heavily depended on communication tool. To avoid a negative miscommunication, try to be overly positive when you write e-mails.  Use exclamation points, use “hi” or “good morning”, say “thanks!”, use humor or positive feedback.  Make it a pleasure to do business with you.  You want your employees to look forward to your e-mails rather than dread them.  Consider re-reading specifically sensitive e-mails or have someone else give you their perception before sending.
  7. Ask them for their advice, opinion, and feedback – It can be especially hard to transition from a role as a peer to a role as a manger of those peers. How do you build respect from them in your new role?  This item is one of the best ways to help you do that, as well as build ongoing respect.  We value people who value us.  If you ask them questions and solicit their feedback, they will be more receptive to listening to yours when you give it.  It is like putting credit in your respect bank account.  People will ultimately listen to you, if you listen to them.  But if you haven’t built up that respect bank account, they will only partially tune into you.   People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Ultimately you cannot demand respect and trust from your employees, it must be earned.  By showing them that you trust and respect them, through your communication practices, you will generate the same in return, as well as their dedication and motivation.

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

Communicating with Remote Teams – How Much is Enough?

When managing virtual teams, how much communication is enough?  And when should you use the different vehicles for your communication:  E-mail, Phone, face-to-face?

There are 2 common mistakes made, when communicating with remote teams, which revolve around frequency and timing.  Most people managing virtual teams assume they will have less communication with their employees.  The opposite is true.  Successful remote managers actually have more communication with their teams than those that work in the same office.  So remote employee managers need to make a concerted effort to communicate more with their remote employees.

Also, remote managers tend to delay key communication until they know they will see their employees face to face, or until they conduct the next weekly call.  This can be a mistake because it sets the precedence with remote workers that they work differently when outside of the office.  If you would walk down the hall to talk with an employee, then don’t wait until a future time when they will be physically present, to speak to them.  Instead, just change the communication vehicle, and pick up the phone instead.  Delaying communication creates a gap between the virtual employees and the office or other workers.  That gap needs to be bridged, by utilizing different communication vehicles, to keep conversations as active as in the office.

Here is a quick guide for when to use each type of communication vehicle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email – You should have daily communication with your employees via email– either with a team email or individual.  This is to show presence and let them know you are working beside them, even if they can’t see you.  These can include feedback, information notices, best practice ideas, praise.

Keep in mind that you lose most of your message when communicating via email (65% of a message is conveyed through your non-verbal actions).  Email is like communicating through a straw – much of the message is filtered out as it is pushed through a more limited channel.  The recipient receives that message through the straw and adds their own interpretations of intentions, attributions, and judgments to them – due to the more limited information received.  This can be a dangerous scenario since often those recipient add-ins are not accurate.

Phone – You should have weekly communication with your virtual employees via phone, both one-on-one and as a team.  A weekly team call should be used to discuss goals and team info, feedback sharing, and building the team community.  One-on-one calls should be used for ongoing development and individual updates.

Face to face – Remote employee managers should meet with each employee once per quarter, one-on-one and as a team, at least once or twice a year, if not once a quarter.

Webinars – Webinars can be a nice hybrid between phone calls and face to face, allowing you to add a visual aspect to your calls.  They can be used when visual communication is required (such as demonstrations) or by using web cams to visually see virtual employees.  However, these should not replace the face to face team meeting.

When managing virtual teams, it is important to increase communication, and to not delay it, by utilizing all available vehicles when needed.

by Jenny Douras

For more on Remote Employee Management,

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

For more on Communication Topics,

take the online course at  Communication Series

Or call for private group training 303-900-0850

Building a Team Culture with Remote Employees

Because employees of a distributed workforce are in different locations, it is tougher for them to feel a part of the company and team, which is critical to their overall motivation and drive behind company initiatives.  That is why it takes a concentrated effort by remote managers to build a team community and culture for their employees.  Many remote employees feel left out when they hear of their office or others that have company events such as:  ditch days, breakfast or lunch brought in, costume contests, in office birthday celebrations, happy hours, bring your pet or child to work day, etc. . . These social engagements help to build that community in an office, but there are things that a remote manager can do to build that culture and community, for their team, as well.

  1. Create and encourage inter-team communication – Communication amongst a distributed employee base helps to build camaraderie. This strengthens the team by fostering an environment where the team members rely on each other for help, support and ideas.  This helps build trust within the team and fosters internal team partnerships to make it stronger and more productive.
  2. Partner remote employees for projects – Find reasons to partner employees on the team, especially those that do not always work together, for projects. This can include mentoring, developing best practices, or preparing topics to present to the rest of the team on a conference call.
  3. Create virtual water coolers – All of that time-consuming small talk that happens at the “water cooler” in office environments has an important purpose that is missed in distributed teams – it builds the team camaraderie and culture. A remote manager can find ways to create virtual environment to foster this “small talk.”
    1. Plan a small amount of “open time” at the beginning or end of team conference calls for small talk.
    2. User ice breakers, openers, and getting to know you exercises and games during team gatherings, calls, interactions, etc. . . This can also include a virtual bulletin board to post “getting to know you” related info about team members.
    3. Find opportunities to celebrate together virtually by sending out team congratulatory emails, or on conference calls. One company sent out Starbucks gift cards for their next team call so everyone could have “breakfast together” on the call.
  4. Re-live the past – Find opportunities to re-live shining moments from the team’s past. This brings back positive memories of the group and will help to renew that feeling again.  This can be highlighting accomplishments made by the entire team, or even one employee.  Even funny things that happened to team members when they were last together.  Think of the memories that strengthen the bond with your group of personal friends.  Talking about these always bring back those happy feelings of belonging to something good.

 One item to avoid that can be a common pitfall of new managers in building a team: avoid pitting the team against another in comments and remarks, such as “our team is better than theirs,” or “this is the best team in the company.”  This alienates other co-workers and the company.  Although competitiveness can be a strong motivator, competitiveness such as this within the company can have potential negative effects in the future.  What if a member of one of those other teams now becomes a member of yours, or vice versa?  It will make it that much harder to assimilate them into the new team that they are an “outsider” of.   Managers should tell a team how fantastic they are, but not at the demise or lacking of another.

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