10 Tips To Becoming The Remote Manager Everyone Loves

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Remote managers have it tough.  They have to get others to cooperate and be on board with their projects and to like them even though they may never meet these people face-to-face, and even though these people may not even be part of the same organization!  While a big part of making this happen is using the right technology, what’s more important is being able to convey a human touch in spite of the technology.  Three excellent principles for the skilled remote manager include:

  • Erring on the side of overcommunicating
  • Intentionally getting to know others as people and allowing them to get to know you as a person
  • Being aware of and respectful of other’s work procedures, situations, and environments

The following tips, based on these principles, I’ve shamelessly lifted from voices of remote management experience:

Tip #1 – Make sure that every written communication you send is extremely clear.

“Proofread.  Use short sentences, frequent paragraph breaks, and numbered lists or bullet points.”

Tip #2 – Add some warmth to written communications.

“Use emoticons, exclamation points, personal greetings, and wish-you-wells to convey warmth.  Address the person by name.”

Tip #3 – Ditch email.

“If your email is more than a few lines or turnaround is slow, CALL (phone or video chat)!  It’s faster and more productive to speak with someone directly than it is to send emails back and forth. Same goes for IM.”

Tip #4 – Phone or video call your most important contacts one-on-one at least 2 to 3 times a week.

“Try to make these calls more personal – You can always start a conversation by asking about the weather, the local sports team, plans for an upcoming weekend or holiday….   Also try to share a few personal details about yourself – kids, hobbies, favorite food – anything that can help your recipients develop a good mental picture of you.  It’s also not a bad idea to look up your contacts’ professional profiles (LinkedIn or Google search) to learn a bit more about who they are and where they come from.  Conversely, make sure your own LinkedIn profile is updated and includes a good picture.”

Tip #5 – Have a clear purpose and time limit for conference or video meetings.

“Send an agenda beforehand, and follow up with a list of agreed-to next steps afterwards. People are probably multi-tasking through the call, so assume they will remember nothing. Also, does the call really have to be longer than a half hour?” If you’re working with a team, daily stand-ups via videoconference are another great format for keeping everyone on the same page.

Tip #6 – Exercise a sense of humor.

“A little humor goes a long way.  Joke around and get them laughing.  If they laugh with you, it will be much easier to work with each other.”

Tip #7 – Respect each person’s processes and procedures.

“If they like to receive things in a certain format, do it.”  Especially if they work for a different organization, it’s very helpful to know what their work schedule, work environment, and office policies are like.

Tip #8 – Understand what the other person’s workload is like.

“Chances are you’re not their only responsibility. If they are over-burdened, find out if there’s someone else who can substitute, or if you can get an extension on your milestone.”

Tip #9 – Show appreciation.

“Everyone has a job description, sometimes we need people to go above and beyond. If anyone does this for you, even in the smallest way possible, you can’t praise them enough, both directly and to their manager.”  If it’s your own team, find ways to celebrate the completion of major milestones or projects.  Creative tokens of appreciation like certificates for massages, babysitting,  or housecleaning service can go a long way.

Tip #10 – Fall on your sword.

“Don’t expect everything to go perfectly on your project. It won’t. Somewhere, somehow, someone will mess up. If it’s you, own up and beg for help. It’s refreshing when someone actually ‘fesses up to their mistake. If it’s someone on your team, the best phrase I can offer is: ‘Hey, that’s why pencils have erasers. What do we need to do to get this on track?'”

What are your best tips for building remote relationships as a manager?

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