How working remotely made me a better manager

My biggest fear as a manager is that I won’t be able to be an effective one.  Layer on managing a REMOTE team and that fear magnifies a hundred fold. The stakes are so high – what if I can’t maintain control? What if I jeopardize my career or my business?

It’s hard enough when your employees all work in one office with you!

Managers have to be the best versions of themselves at all times.  They need to inspire their team and be known as approachable and friendly.  They need to make tough strategic decisions and solve complex problems. The buck stops with them when it comes to deadlines, launches, and results.

You can understand why I was hesitant when faced with the decision to manage a remote team, where every team member worked not just in different locations but on different continents.

I took the leap, chasing the promise of a freedom lifestyle where I could work and travel at the same time.  That was 2 years ago, and since then I’ve grown my remote team from 2 employees to 10 while creating a profitable service-based business that I can manage from anywhere in the world. Along the way I’ve learned that managing a remote team isn’t a disadvantage – it’s actually a huge opportunity to level yourself up. Here are the top 7 ways managing a remote team can make you a more effective, powerful leader.

Remote Manager
Running a team meeting from Bali, Indonesia

Prevents Micromanaging

Micromanaging is an overused crutch that a lot of managers use to maintain control.  It’s natural, because at the end of the day we’re the ones accountable for our team’s results.  But micromanaging your team has huge negative long term effects.  

Your lack of trust in your team members and processes will prevent you from pushing your business further, and slow business operations as you get bogged down by the endless edits, critiques, and status update phone calls.  It will also shy your employees away from taking initiative.

When you’re managing a remote team, it’s impossible to micromanage.  If you were to try to do everything yourself, you’d start dropping balls and missing deadlines!  By removing this crutch, you’ll learn how to delegate effectively and powerfully to the rest of the team.

Forces you to master how you communicate

Communication is one of the biggest issues on any team. One-way communication and mitigated speech are HUGE productivity and profit killers.

Working remotely forces you to think deeply about the words you choose, the tone you use, and the interactions you have.  You have fewer chances to get your point across! Instead of sending long emails and holding a lot of meetings, I communicate almost exclusively through our task management platform and via screencast now.

Connects your team’s work with results

The idea of “face time” – the time spent at work used as an indicator of an employee’s productivity and commitment to the company – is an outdated social cue that I’ve chosen to cast out while building my remote business.

Instead, results are what shine in a remote team.  Every team knows that results are important, but to a remote team, they are truly given the respect and recognition they deserve.  There’s no room for idle chit-chat, talking in circles, and wasting the day away on social media.

This shifts the measure of performance towards results and value, and makes projects much easier to manage. Employees are clear on what they need to do to execute with excellence, and can relax knowing that their boss isn’t carefully counting the minutes they spend at their desk.

Makes you get clear on the real priorities

Only about 50% of employees truly understand their priorities, according to a Gallup poll. There’s a variety of reasons for this – from a lack of performance management to poor communication in meetings.  But this huge issue is completely avoidable.

Working remotely creates an environment where you need understand your top business priorities at every moment, and communicate them to your team effectively ahead of time. We’re all on separate time zones and surrounded by different environments.  The further ahead of time I can communicate priorities and the sooner I can get buy-in from my team, the more successful we’ll be.  The alternative is scary – a team that’s disjointed, misaligned, and scattered.

Opens your mind to new way of doing things

It can be easy to fall into the trap of “We’ve always done it this way, so let’s keep doing it this way…” But remember – rigidity is the enemy of progress.

Working with a remote team forces you to be open to new ways of looking at things. If a system isn’t working well, it’s immediately apparent because you’ll stop getting results.  You’ll need to quickly trim the fat from your processes so they run in a streamlined, bullet-proof fashion.  And you’ll be open to scrapping your systems entirely if they don’t serve you anymore.

Protects your time as if it were gold

Office distractions are like death by a thousand cuts.  When you’re in charge, everyone is coming up to your desk and tapping you on the shoulder – “Do you have a minute? I have  a question about X…”  And because you want to help them, you stop whatever you were doing to get their issue resolved.

When you work with a remote team, you can’t be interrupted for questions! I batch all questions to be answered all together at the end of the day.  It helps me eliminate distractions, and also forces employees to think through problems on their own as they won’t get an immediate response.

Can you imagine how much your productivity would skyrocket if you weren’t being distracted all the time?

Improves your observational skills and ability to deal with conflict

Without the ability to see people’s body language every day and connect with them on a personal level, it can be a lot harder to know what’s going on in your team.  

But working remotely is an opportunity to massively improve your observational skills.  You’ll need to take your team’s temperature in other ways and will quickly develop a 6th sense for trouble and issues.  It also means that when there is a conflict, you have the space to deal with it fairly and directly.  The lack of physical proximity is a benefit in instances like this because you’re less likely to thoughtlessly react.

 

The idea of remote management can be a scary one.  But instead of despairing over the downsides of managing a remote team, take a look at all these incredible opportunities that arise when taking a step outside of your comfort zone!

Managing a remote team has massively accelerated not only MY skills, but those of my employees too. It has made me a better boss of a company I can’t imagine being managed any other way.

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