Goal: Focus on the quality of your employees’ work, not their style of doing it.
The nuances of how people work, and when, become more pronounced when you’re managing a remote team, but they’re not a good basis for performance evaluation. Forget points of style — how long it takes an employee to reply to emails, for example — and focus on the results: both tangible and intangible.
Tangible results might include the proposal an employee submits for next quarter’s operating plan and whether it’s comprehensive, on target, and on time.
The intangibles are just as important: whether she collaborates well, makes decisions on her own, delivers what she promises, anticipates problems before they happen, generates ideas, communicates clearly, takes responsibility for her work, and goes beyond the call of duty, say to help a new co-worker get up to speed on a client.
Set goals and expectations.
Set and revisit expectations and goals, and put them in writing. Lay out requirements for the job and the relative importance to you and the company of meeting deadlines versus producing quality work, or giving a client what he wants versus the cost to your organization of giving it to him.
Jot quick anecdotes about each employee’s performance, positive and negative, every few weeks. Your notes become a starting point for the next performance review.
When work has a lot of variables (clients, contact with the media, etc.), reports give you a glimpse of how workers are spending their time. Orsini of Corecubed doesn’t expect people to be at their desks 9 to 5, but since her company bills clients for time, she asks employees to track their hours and estimate percentages of time spent on different types of tasks.
Ask detailed questions.
The more you talk to everyone, the better sense you’ll get for whether each person on the team is playing the role they need to. Don’t ask Eric if Andrea is doing her job well. That puts him on the spot. Ask specific questions about the project they’re both working on, which tasks he and she are working on this week, and what challenges they’re having to get clues about her role.
Danger! Danger! Danger! — Avoiding Burnout
While a results approach to management frees workers from a set shift, some forget to look at the clock entirely, and that can lead to burnout.
For remote managers, the trick is recognizing that an employee is losing steam before he quits or drops the ball on a project. “Burnout is usually exhibited when people are not completing deliverables because they have too many other things on their plate,” LaBrosse says. “The more emails that are going out, the higher the chance for burnout.”
To keep employees engaged but not overtaxed, LaBrosse requires them to finish a project or at least accomplish a significant aspect of it within three months. If someone is burning out, she’ll switch them to another project. Another option is to rotate people and jobs when possible. “An important factor is having the right people for the work,” says Bradley Starr, Chief People Officer of Marketing firm MRM. One person can be happy in another person’s burnout role.
Other ways to fight burnout:
- Suggest that the employee take a vacation
- Promote the employee, if it’s fitting
- Reward/recognize the employee
- Reduce the amount on the employee’s plate, if reasonable
- Ask the employee what would make their job more satisfying and less stressful
RD & Partners would love to sit down with you and explore how you can become the most successful remote team manager you can be. If you are interested in making yourself — and your team –more effective, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Adapted from an article by Kelly Pate Dwyer
Published on BNET.com 9/24/2007