Remote working has been a real challenge, not only for team members but also for Managers who actually manage people. I say that because your rank doesn’t mean Managers positively take on the responsibilities of being a Manager. So to those Managers who want to manage successfully, this post is for you.
The biggest challenge for remote working is the inability to connect. Covid has shown us the importance of human connection which many of us squandered when we were in the office. Most management courses and leadership training don’t drill down into the importance of connection. Anytime I speak at an event or do a workshop about The Trust Triangle and I ask how many people love small talk, no-one raises their hands. Small talk is the ultimate way to start the connection process, but we dismiss, detach, and disregard small talk. That is apathy friends. Remember that it’s the smallest things that take up the biggest part of your heart. (Winnie the Pooh).
‘The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
George Bernard Shaw
I wrote a book called ‘The Trust Triangle: How to manage humans at work’ and one of the corners of the triangle is dedicated to clarity. People are different and how they consume information is also different. Just because you think you’ve explained it clearly doesn’t mean it’s going to land clearly. Not taking into consideration other people’s preferences is apathy and is a clear sign of low emotional intelligence. Now your team is working remotely, therefore their environment has changed and so will their focus. Please take this into consideration. They can’t and won’t ignore the dog all day.
• Build psychological safety so your team feels it’s OK to say that they don’t understand without being ridiculed or made to feel stupid. This is particularly important on zoom calls with remote workers.
• Build connection. By understanding them, they will begin to understand you. Understanding breeds clarity. Remote workers need connection just as much as when you’re together. Having a weekly ‘coffee and connect’ meeting is an awesome way to start.
• Evidence-based practices. This is a core discipline in The Trust Triangle. Trust but verify! You are their accountability partner and remote workers need to demonstrate progress. Once expectations are clearly set, make sure you have some form of visual indicator that shows the progress of that expectation. This is not micro-management. It’s the beginning of true autonomy based on accountability. The online course goes into much more detail.
Careful in this context has nothing to do with being cautious. It means being full of care. This is empathy and any good manager is empathic. Empathy has nothing to do with being nice, apologetic or acquiescent.
Empathy is a frikkin superpower! It’s the opposite of apathy. When you’re working remotely this becomes a priority, not a pleasure.
Empathy has it’s own domain in The Trust Triangle as it’s vital to building trust. Remember the number one rule in business is to solve another person’s problem. That is absolutely empathic. How can you do that by disregarding what the potential customer is asking for? Yet we treat our team members like that every day. It’s my way or the highway! This must stop.
You are not a prison guard or a parent. You are not their ‘boss’. You are their coach, mentor, confidant, accountability partner, the list goes on.
• Seek to understand as much as you seek to be understood. We will assume the worst and not the best. My online course goes into much more detail about the negativity bias.
• Remember you’re dealing with human beings, not microwaves that go ding after 2 minutes.
• Get to know them better. Treat them the way THEY’D like to be treated.
Consistency is the key to your success. If you’re a hot-headed person then your team will see you as a Jekyll and Hyde character. If they’re treading carefully because you’re a moody moron then, I promise you, they’re not performing at their best as their energy is being focused on you and not the job. Imagine if you were working remotely and didn’t know what mood your manager was going to puke over you. It’s just not nice! Build your emotional intelligence. There are tons of tools, tips and techniques in The Trust Triangle.
• Be fair. Now fairness is not always equal. But there is justice to fairness. So explain your actions if they differ dramatically. For example. Someone who is new to the business will not have the same autonomy that a fully accountable team member has. That’s fair enough right, but not equal.
• If you change the goalposts, be explicit. The more transparent you are the more your team will trust you.
• Secrets breed caution! Seek therapy if you’re struggling with emotions. Don’t bleed on people who didn’t cut you!
Working remotely is a challenge for team members as distractions are high. For Managers, making false assumptions about the work progress of your team members can be catastrophic to relationships. Building trust is a complex affair but if we agree that trust is the foundation of all relationships, then now is the time to build that trust. Check out my online course to help you build trust and increase performance.