A veteran of the furniture industry, Eugene Chrinian began his career as a sales associate and eventually became the owner of his own store. Today, Eugene Chrinian owns a large network of Ashley Furniture HomeStores served by a 40,000-square-foot distribution center. Over the years, he has had to adapt to a number of new environments, standards, and approaches to business.
Adaptability is one of the keys to continued success in business. Today, many business leaders are again adapting to a rapidly changing work landscape that is increasingly driven by remote workers. Managing a large team of remote workers requires a unique range of skills and qualities, including:
Success as a business leader depends largely on one’s ability to communicate effectively with employees. Creating an environment of open communication helps ensure that leaders keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening within their companies. Creating such an environment becomes more challenging when employees are not all in the same office, making it important for leaders take steps to convey approachability.
When leaders notice that they are often the last to learn about something, it is a sign that they need to work on approachability. Importantly, being approachable does not mean being everyone’s best friend. Instead, approachability means giving people the attention that they need and encouraging individuals to share their concerns.
Often, becoming approachable means developing genuine rapport with employees. Leaders should be sure to schedule regular time to talk to remote workers about business and non-business topics.
Because remote workers are not part of the daily culture of the office, they often miss out on the motivational news and success stories that show employees that what they are doing matters. Leaders need to make an effort to be company evangelists – even to those people who are not physically present. When people see exactly how their work makes a real impact, they become more motivated to work harder and achieve more in the future.
Evangelism needs to be genuine to travel. Motivating stories often do not have the same impact when not told in person, so leaders may find that they need to be extra positive with their remote workers. In this case, it is important to remain genuine while talking about the company’s achievements and its impact.
When managing remote workers, the concept of “availability” becomes a little strained. Leaders who are used to having an open-door policy need to think hard about how to translate this to a remote context. Sometimes, working with people in different time zones means holding calls or conferences at strange hours. In many ways, the remote work culture has challenged the traditional 9-to-5 workday, although even in-office workers are beginning to expect more flexibility. All of this change can add up to a leader who feels on the clock 24 hours a day.
To avoid becoming burned out while staying connected to remote workers, business leaders should leverage technology. Most messaging systems now have settings about status. Leaders should ask remote workers to check the status before attempting to make contact.
Leaders may also want to schedule weekly or monthly meetings with their remote workers. Scheduling these meetings can reduce the number of “emergency” calls that are not true emergencies because individuals will reserve their questions and concerns for the check-in call. Ultimately, availability is all about setting expectations and boundaries about when and how contact occurs and adhering to them.
Business leaders need to trust that their remote workers will deliver tasks on time and according to expectations. If leaders have a history of micromanaging people in the office, they need to be especially careful with remote workers. In the end, micromanaging becomes impossible when someone is remote. Constant emails or phone calls will quickly become exhausting for both parties.
Fortunately, trust can be developed. Instead of micromanaging, leaders should make sure that they set clear expectations and that employees understand them. Setting a few check-ins can help leaders know that everything is progressing according to the expected timeline.
For an in-office team, positive reinforcement is critical for letting people know when they do a great job and having them repeat their achievements. For remote teams, this reinforcement becomes even more important. Because leaders do not see remote employees regularly, it can become easy to forget about feedback unless it is negative.
Feedback can be most beneficial when it points out exactly what was done well. For example, telling someone that they did a good job on a report means less than pointing out the exact facts and figures that were impressive.
Positive reinforcement means the most when it is delivered in real time. Immediate feedback solidifies the connection between the action and the reward in someone’s brain. Also, the feedback should be genuine and unclouded by criticism. While criticism has its place, employees will focus only on the negative rather than the positive when the processes are combined. In other words, the employee will likely not internalize what he or she did right and will thus fail to repeat it.