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Don’t Worry About Managing Offsite Teams—Just Use Solid Deadlines

Don’t Worry About Managing Offsite Teams—Just Use Solid Deadlines

There is still a lot of anxiety about working virtually or from home: Yahoo’s CEO has demanded that all employees work in the office from now on, yet a study has shown that by 2016, 63 million Americans are going to be working virtually to some degree. A whip doesn’t need to be held over your employees to watch if they are working—properly calculated deadlines and good management practices will weed out the low performers by making them starkly visible.

In a regular 9-5 office job, how is productivity proved?

  • Deadlines
  • On-the-spot progress discussions
  • Meetings

That’s all.

So if it’s a question of having evidence of what the workers are up to, take a look at this list of why managing a virtual team is better.

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    Reasons why managing a virtual team is better:

    1) Managing interactions with colleagues

    How often has the wrong thing popped out of your mouth on a whim? I’m not saying that using IM totally solves the problem of conveying the incorrect emotion (in fact, in some cases it’s worse) BUT there is the opportunity to give a moment’s pause and re-type your thoughts. IM does not demand an instant answer and hides your facial expression from the recipient. This gives a measure of control over the situation and can be used to an advantage.

    2) Check the team’s progress with shared access to the tools they use

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    Sharing documents via Google Drive or Dropbox, or similar service, allows the opportunity to see real action happening. It’s hard for an employee to bluff if there is no hard, fast evidence in the folder to show work in progress or problems solved. Some may argue that this is problematic because of trust, but that’s ridiculous. If you’re getting your work done, why not let people see? It also allows for great opportunities to advise and assist as the project is in development, rather than having to backtrack later on. Live management = awesome.

    3) Track your management style by the interactions online

    Reflexivity is great. Reflexivity means looking at your own actions and assessing them. Having a record of your management style and the quantity of interactions with the team can give insights that may otherwise be take for granted, or go unnoticed. Did you really notice how often Jonas pops up as the go-to guy for advice? Why don’t you talk that much with Heather? Why is your tone rather hostile towards Frank?

    4) Your time is better managed by having less on-the-spot distractions

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    Although it feels good to keep the rapport with your colleagues alive by dropping by for a chat, this affects productivity. Distractions are all around in the office. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that time spent asking Laura how the concert was is important for team spirit, but these minutes lost turn into hours and days accumulated over the year. It’s not to say that casual interaction should be stamped out—au contraire, it is essential! But in virtual management these interactions can be timetabled and controlled so that time use is maximised.

    5) Less time wasted on meetings

    Meetings are famously badly organized, by including people who really don’t need to be there and having poorly designed agendas. In fact, the entrepreneur’s bible Rework says: “If it only takes seven minutes to accomplish a meeting’s goal, then that’s all the time you should spend. Don’t stretch seven into thirty.” Use video conferencing (people get to remain at their computers, on task, rather than disrupting their flow by moving room). Have the agenda posted in a shared platform in advance and allow workers to make suggestions to tighten up the process, or elect that they have no need to participate.

    Let people be where they need to be

    The trust engendered by allowing the team to work virtually, either partly or fully, is a great motivator. Staff become loyal to those who treat them well, and feeling like they have control over their working life rather than it having control over them is a huge step in the direction of happiness.

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    It’s pretty easy for managers to see if the work is getting done or not by virtual teams. If a manager is afraid of being hoodwinked by the team, then there is a problem with the manager, the team, or both.

    The more we operate globally, the more that time differences impact working. 9 – 5 is becoming a myth; there is nothing special about those hours. It’s about getting the work done and using your time to the max, because you never regain time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

    More by this author

    Andrea Francis

    Andrea loves being productive and getting things done. She shares practical tips to help people achieve what they want in life.

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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