Last week I discussed remote onboarding, which got me thinking about how a manager can manage staff remotely and effectively.

Having managed global teams remotely, I realised that this wasn’t a skill I was taught but one I had picked up through my career. So then how would leaders who haven’t had global teams or worked remotely before manage? Given the current situation with COVID-19, it is a skill that most managers of local companies are learning as they go.

Although managing teams remotely seems easy enough to do, it requires the right execution, as well as the commitment to make it work.

An essential skill for a manager to have is to listen. Listening to team members’ views was something that I learned early on in my HR career. I had a manager when I worked at Mondelez International, who taught me not only to listen to the team (like he listened to us) but also to be patient when a piece of work was not progressing as quickly as we would have wanted. But listening doesn’t mean giving your team an outlet and not doing anything about it. It means you are allowing them to voice their opinion, and you then follow up on the feedback.

This leads me to the next skill. I think a good leader should have – adaptability. To build a high performing team, a leader must be willing to adapt to the changes first. Only then can they support their team through the transition. The current situation we are in wasn’t a planned working-from-home case where your employees would have arrangements in place for childcare etc. So, expecting the same performance from your team is going to be an unrealistic expectation. Employees might be home-schooling their kids for the first couple of hours in the day and might not be able to attend regular morning calls. Everyone’s circumstances are going to be different. Hence, a leader needs to have conversations about achievable deliverables early on, so no unrealistic expectations are floating around, and team members don’t feel burnt out. There will, however, also be a small portion that might slack off. So how do you manage them? These will need to be managed individually, as each case will be different.

The third is managing your teams’ wellbeing. It is essential that management coordinate wellbeing check-ins. The last thing employees need is multiple leaders calling for a check-in on the same day and then not hearing anything from anyone for a few days. It is also an opportunity for leaders to get to know team members who might not directly report to them.

The last vital attribute to have as a manager is, recognising your teams’ efforts. In a time of uncertainty, employees may feel like their efforts are going unrecognised. There might be team members who are starting work early in the morning before the kids start home-school or working late into the night once they have put the kids to bed. Productivity should not be measured by ensuring your team is continuously online during business hours unless the role requires them to be available between 9 am and 5 pm. Working in a global role, I have been lucky to have a manager who is understanding of the effort that is put in after-hours to cater to countries in different time zones. Likewise, as a leader, I have also been accommodating of the fact that many of my team in the same or other time zones may have other commitments. We use our daily or weekly check-ins to recognise the efforts the team members are putting in during these times of uncertainty.

The four points I have mentioned are a start to ensuring your team is on the path to being a high performing team. It also gives team members the confidence and commitment they need to ensure they are on track with their work.

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