You are not a control freak. You are not a micro-manager. (Keep repeating this until it either feels true or you decide to stop being a control freak micro-manager.) Still, your life would be a little less stressful if you just knew what was happening with the team members who work far from you. You’re not paranoid, but you would like to know…
That feeling is perfectly normal. When doing anything, you need evidence that things are working so you can relax and move on to whatever’s next. When you’re doing the laundry, you hear the dryer spinning and humming, and you’re pretty sure what’s happening with your clothes. The point for managers is, without evidence, it’s really hard to be confident that good things are happening.
For example, is Alice really working on that report? If she’s never missed a deadline before, that’s evidence that she’s likely to meet this one. If you spoke to her this morning, and she seemed calm and confident, that’s more evidence. If you’ve actually seen the first draft and think it’s pretty close, you’re probably feeling like you can sleep tonight. However, if you don’t know Alice’s work at all, you have no way of knowing how close she is to completing her work, you can’t get hold of her when she should be at her desk, and you’re probably freaking out a little.
The same is true of helping your teammates develop trust in each other. Do they really believe that the other members of the team will meet their obligations and commitments? Here’s the tough question: based on what evidence?
When we work together day in and day out, we build a body of evidence that supports our belief in our teammates. We see them working hard, coming in early, staying late, helping people with questions and picking up slack. However, when we work apart, we often don’t see all the little things that build up proof that we can, indeed, trust those people to help us get our work done.
As managers, there are some ways to help build that body of proof:
- When delegating tasks, ensure that everyone else on the team knows what people are working on.
- When someone does something terrific, make sure that you not only recognize that person, but do so in a way that helps the rest of the team realize what contributions they’re making.
- Have a way for you—and everyone else—to track progress. This can be regular status updates, but can also be dashboards and online forums as well as file sharing. The point is, people need to know that everyone else is holding up their end.
- This goes both ways. Does your team know that you check with everyone as much as you do them, or are they feeling singled out and picked on?
- Trust but verify… This is an old saying that goes back at least to the Cold War, but as a leader, do you have metrics and performance indicators? How often do you check in with people? Are you monitoring progress and achievement? You don’t want to look like you’re checking every little thing, but the longer you go between pieces of evidence, the more room there is for doubt, paranoia and even panic to set in. A steady flow of information will help keep your baser instincts at bay.
When we all work together, we pick up this evidence without even trying. When we work remotely, it’s important that we get the information we need, in ways we need it. You’ll probably have to work on systems to make that happen, it won’t happen organically.
As a manager, do you and your team have the evidence they need to be confident in each other? How do you know?
This concept is a critical component of our How Leaders Create and Manage Remote Teams class. You can learn more about and attend an upcoming, live workshop or contact us for more information about our soon-to-be-released recorded, on-demand class.