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What makes a great remote manager?

Erin Iafelice

What makes a great remote manager?

Managing employees can be a challenge, regardless of the situation. Remote management is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Even those that have managed staff remotely for a long time may not be adequately prepared for the opportunities and challenges before them. And now, with the majority of the country on lockdown, many companies are unexpectedly finding themselves in the position where they place or hire managers to manage staff remotely for the first time. While on-site managers share many characteristics, some traits and characteristics become even more crucial when they are managing remotely.

The good news for companies new to having remote managers is that there are some key attributes that you can look for to identify those candidates best suited to excel in the role.

Good communication and observation skills

Good communication and observation skills may seem like a no-brainer, and it should go without saying that managers need to be proficient communicators. But, it is increasingly important when management is happening remotely. For employees to be successful, they need to understand expectations, have clear guidelines set for them, and have measurable deliverables prioritized.

Good remote managers also know that communication is a two-way street. They know that beyond providing assignments and instructions, they need to be able to listen and pay attention to non-verbal cues. Observing body language and expressions can still be done if your company uses videoconference technology. Stress and anxiety can’t often be heard if they are speaking over the phone, and the psychological distance newly remote employees may be facing can impact their performance. Either way, the best remote managers can tell when things are not right, even when it’s not verbalized, and course correct.

Ability to focus

It was already a fast-paced world. Now many companies are faced with the need to ramp up product shipments, increase the number of calls they handle, fast-track product updates and launches or even do more with less. Companies still need their employees to accomplish the essential tasks at hand; that means managers need to find the right ways to motivate and guide their staff to get the job done.

Good remote managers, much like their on-site counterparts, can focus their team’s time on priorities and activities that add value with precise goal setting. Great remote managers can focus on their interactions with employees. When you have someone that needs to speak regularly to their remote staff members, they need to be able to refrain from multitasking or getting distracted by other things happening around them. That means putting down other electronics, turning off the TV or music, removing distractions, and focusing on the conversation.

Process-minded

Things that flow smoothly in the office, such as the preparation of reports or routing of documents, can be challenging in a remote setting. File servers previously used for sharing documents may not be as readily available. People who usually sit right next to each other may need to collaborate virtually and could over-write each other’s work if version control guidelines aren’t defined. The best remote managers know that even if it’s not perfect, a pre-defined and communicated process will minimize some of the risks and eliminate some of the errors that a remote team may face.

When everyone is on the same page about how things are going to happen, there is a much higher likelihood of success.

Feedback-oriented

Companies want results, so do managers. Any manager has to set goals and then communicate back an employee’s job to achieve those goals. Great leaders encourage their employees to repeat great performances by providing specific feedback about tasks. Rather than someone who says, “Great job on that presentation,” a great manager will include what actions were appreciated. “The way you were able to develop that presentation ahead of schedule will help me get my part done faster, and the additional analysis you included at the end will give our customers better insights to improve their sales.” These two specific behaviors are repeatable when the employee is given the feedback in this way.

While giving feedback right at the moment is always preferable, it may not be possible when remote, so good remote managers ensure that they schedule regular touch bases with their staff that are performance specific and not related to individual projects.

Identifying the right skills is essential when you assess any candidate, but when those employees work remotely, it’s even more critical to get it right. Our virtual interviewing platform covers the entire hiring process, including pre-hire assessments and virtual job simulations which can help you identify candidates with the traits listed above and many more. With our 30+ Industrial Psychologists, you can rest assured that your Modern Hire-driven hiring process will be efficient, effective, and fair while helping you assess what matters most to your business.