While we may be used to navigating remote workplaces by now, there are still opportunities to fine-tune our management styles to meet this new environment. We all know that micromanaging creates a poor employee experience, but learning a management style that we can use with remote work but that doesn’t cross the line into micromanaging can be difficult. You aren’t alone in this feeling, a Microsoft study about remote work environments found that 61% of managers have said that they have not effectively learned how to delegate to and empower virtual teams.
In order to create the best workplace culture for your employers, it is imperative that managers learn the skills they need to be better managers in hybrid and remote workplaces. Being a better manager in these new workplaces requires learning different communication skills, how to promote communication, foster new ideas and engage employees, all without crossing the line into micromanagement.
To better help develop those skills, managers can begin by following these four actions to better their remote leadership skills.
- Create processes and structures for checking in
In a remote environment it can be tempting to micromanage because you aren’t getting frequent verbal check-ins and cannot physically pop by to ask a quick question. Creating structure around check-ins will help you get the information you need from employees without you having to check-in so frequently. If you don’t already have regular one-on-ones scheduled, get them on the books now. These meetings should have standard agenda topics covering current project updates, barriers and next steps and those items should be gone through at every meeting. Ask your employees to share their agendas with you at least a day in advance of the meeting, this will enable you to add on other topics and give the employees enough time to come prepared to discuss.
- Use project management tools
There are so many project management tools out there that can help your team better work together and get on the same page, and a lot of them are pretty affordable or even have free options! Tools like Asana, Basecamp or Trello can help you see the latest updates on projects without you having to check in with the team. These are cloud based platforms that make it easy for everyone to access information on projects. The tools also have built in communication tools like commenting and reminder emails to participants to add information. At the very least, you can use project plans as a way to map out your existing projects. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles and collaboration tools, but it still allows you to see the updates on projects within a project plan.
- Be clear about expectations and deadlines
Lack of clarity can create an urge to check-in and employees will feel like they aren’t being trusted to do their job. By being up front about what the expectations are around a project, what the milestones are and when those milestones are due it means your team knows exactly what is expected of them around a project. It means that they know they are being given freedom to get the job done, know when they should be communicating back with you and it also means that they know to expect a check-in from you if any of those items are missed.
- Reset your mindset about remote work
Evaluate your employees by the work they are getting done, not by when they appear to be online. Most offices have shifted to a more flexible work model, and that means you have to shift your mindset accordingly. Taking work calls can make an instant message status appear like someone is away, but does that mean they aren’t working? No. Don’t fall into the leadership trap of trying to know where your employees are at every moment of the day and watching their status indicators as an indicator of their work, that isn’t accurate and it isn’t what is important. If your employees are showing up to scheduled meetings, responding to messages in a timely manner (and no, that doesn’t mean responding instantly), and getting their work done, then that is how they should be judged.
It is important to have a productive and engaged team, but many employees don’t work well when every detail of their workday is being micromanaged. Moreover, micromanagement creates feelings of distrust and can materially impact job satisfaction. Try employing the four strategies outlined above to have more successful remote teams without micromanagement.