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3 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make with Remote Teams

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Marina Vorontsova. She is a copywriter from Soshace.com, a hiring platform for web developers. Her opinions are her own.

Managing any team can be a daunting challenge. When it comes to remote work, it’s even tougher: you’re not physically present, you cannot communicate with co-workers face-to-face, there’s lack of proper collaboration, and sadly, the subject is not yet extensively covered in management literature. However, thanks to an ample number of online resources presently available and our own expertise in building a fully remote company, we can share some of the mistakes that you’d better avoid in managing a remote workforce. 

Unfortunately, we’ve been there before and made some of those mistakes ourselves; nevertheless, we’ve been able to overcome many challenges associated with remote work and we continue to strive for excellence sharing our experience with the other companies which undergo transitions to remote work. Let’s address some of the major mistakes managers make in detail below. 

Micromanaging vs Leading

At some point in time, everyone struggles with micromanagement. If you’re slightly aware of the phenomenon, but not sure exactly what it is, let’s briefly define the term. Micromanagement is an inefficient style of management whereby a manager closely observes and controls the work of their subordinates. While, at first, it might seem like a good idea — to oversee everything that happens within and outside the team — this approach bears negative connotations because it implies the lack of freedom in the workforce, the inexperience of a manager, lack of trust, and inability to focus on major details defining the business.

If you’re not sure if you’ve been micromanaging your team all the way, then these are the major symptoms to watch out for:

  • monitoring and assessing every step of the business process;
  • being irritated when someone makes the decision without consulting you;
  • asking for unnecessary and overly detailed reports;
  • checking in on procedural trivia; and finally, showing off your narcissistic behavior.

Even if you have noticed that you’ve been slightly behaving in the ways described above, it’s high time you thought of changing your management style from micromanaging your team to actually leading it. 

Besides, remote work is a tricky one. You can’t just walk to a person’s desk to check in on them, you have to message them on Skype, Slack, Whatsapp, any other messaging app you use; but what if that person is in a different time zone, has a baby, or something else? Sometimes remote communication cannot be scalable, and some of the issues cannot be resolved instantaneously, you really have to learn to exercise patience and trust your employees. 

There are a few suggestions on how to deal with those issues. Instead of being reactive, try to be proactive and prevent similar issues from happening in the future. To do exactly that, work on the workflow and procedures beforehand, establish a clear onboarding process, organize trainings, so everyone on the team knows how to deal with customers, partners, sponsors, and so on. However, even if you have all processes smoothed out and taken care of on paper, there will always be problems, no matter what. In this case, you need to have a fallback plan ready that will ensure everyone on the team gets timely updates, has time to catch up, respond, etc. 

We understand it’s really hard to trust employees, especially if they are based miles away from you, but we highly advise you to make everything possible to help employees earn your trust. These are a few suggestions of how you can benefit from establishing mutual trust with your coworkers. 

While giving autonomy to your subordinates, try not to go overboard and give more freedom than your employees actually need. Supervision and monitoring still play critical roles in the management process, so it’s essential to find your balance. Accept failure, guide through hardships, and celebrate achievements. Avoid checking in every hour or every day if need be; establish regular meetings where you ask for everyone’s progress on a project; embrace recruitment software, where everyone logs into their daily activities; put time trackers on their computers; delegate supervision to other team members, etc. 

Hours vs Output

Since we have already mentioned putting time tracking software on your employees’ computers, it’s worth noting that sometimes, tracking your employees is not the answer. At Soshace, we use an employee tracking system from Hubstaff, since all of the remote developers we work with are paid by the hour. However, most of the other employees’ work is measured by output. Performance can be estimated based against monthly or weekly KPIs or any other milestones.

For example, for copywriting, it might be the number of articles published per week, for lead hunters — the number of leads taken care of, for sales – the number of successful deals, etc.  The output is, as always, what truly means in business growth and development, not how many hours your employees actually work but how much they deliver.

HR vs No HR

If you think you can manage your team on your own or without qualified professionals who specialize in recruiting, on-boarding, and managing talent — then you’re making a big mistake. Finding qualified talent, understanding the intricacies of the interviewing process, supporting new employees through onboarding — these are the things that are better be taken care of separately by a certified recruiter or an HR specialist. Besides, a professional will help you build and develop an inclusive diverse culture, scale your team as soon as you realize there are not enough resources, prevent conflicts or solve problems, advise on appropriate communication channels, recruitment software, and many more. 

Conclusion

Instead of trying to micromanage every single process that happens within your organization, become a leader who actually leads and can be trusted. In return, learn how to trust others and make it easier for employees to earn your trust. Sometimes hours do not matter, what matters is the output or the value an employee brings to your company.

Not sure how to deal with all this? Hire a professional HR specialist or recruiter, who’s going to help you find talent quickly, establish company culture, make onboarding smooth, and help manage your employees.

Marina Vorontsova

Marina Vorontsova is a copywriter at Soshace.com, a hiring platform for web developers. Marina primarily writes about hiring remote developers, entrepreneurship, startup and internet culture. She also interviews developers about their lives as digital nomads, their experiences while searching for freelance jobs, as well as writes about their achievements in web development and beyond.

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