If your team is working at home, as most are these days, you may be interested in how to avoid the pitfalls of remote management.
Robert Chen, who coaches Fortune 100 business leaders, reviews three major sins of remote management and suggests fixes. I’ve worked from home as an employee and also as a self-employed content creator, and his article “3 things you do that drive your people crazy” certainly resonated with me.
“Sending emails during off hours”
Off hours? What a concept! Mr. Chen remarks, “ … when your people see these emails hit their inbox, they’ll feel compelled to look at them.” Maybe you’re just trying to clean out your inbox, but when team members realize your messages are not urgent, they will be annoyed by your encroachment on their personal time. They’ll tend to tune you out, which is counterproductive if you really need to communicate something urgent. (Of course, many of us are functioning in a work environment that doesn’t truly recognize off hours, a whole ‘nother problem.)
What to do? Schedule messages for delayed delivery or send them in the morning. This is a great suggestion. And you can resist your artificial sense of urgency, right? Even better, don’t work during off hours. (I have highly productive colleagues who don’t check email after a certain time of day or on weekends.) Mr. Chen adds that it’s OK to send emails during off hours if your team is waiting on information from you.
“Following up excessively”
This kind of follow-up is annoying, often unnecessary, and, in my opinion, stress-inducing. Mr. Chen believes that it may occur when management expectations are “unclear or unrealistic.”
What to do? Be clear about a deadline from the get-go and make sure team members have capacity to take on more work. Negotiate a new deadline if possible. Ask direct reports to suggest a deadline based on their workloads, and get their commitment to deliver on time. If they don’t, then you can follow up.
Argh. How annoying is that? You may be repeating yourself because you’re not getting the response you want. Or perhaps you think a team member has forgotten your request.
What to do? Acknowledge that what you’re asking is tough to deliver. Ask questions instead of repeating yourself. (I add: Don’t ask the same question in different ways to try to trip someone up.) Be clear about what will happen if someone consistently fails to meet expectations. That puts the responsibility on your team to request more support. As Mr. Chen says, “The next time you find yourself being repetitive, think ‘nagging parent’ and consider stopping and asking, ‘What’s most helpful to you to complete this deliverable?’”
I hope this post is helpful both for managers and their teams. We all tend to see things from our own perspective, which can muddy communication and cause resentment and impatience. Managers need to think about how those on the receiving end see their behavior. And employees need to take responsibility not only for delivery but also for communicating upward effectively.
Now, for a little comic relief, the hysterical “Did you get the memo?” clip from Office Space. Gary Cole is, as always brilliant.