Published by: Stephanie Jones
Is managing your remote staff making you manic? Does the daily pattern feel something like this: One minute every team member is working together, the next minute projects are falling apart?
In an age of digi-commuting and anywhere-access, mobile management may be ubiquitous, but it’s also increasingly confounding. Messages get lost in data translation and, before you know it, project scope becomes a matter of perspective faster than you can say “internal server error.”
Though you may find the communication age rife with misunderstandings, the right advice can transform remote-management practices from inscrutable to accessible—even reliable. We asked industry expert, Adam Roe, for an insider’s tips on the best practices for the successful management of remote staff.
“You can tell a lot about a company by how it invests in its training and culture. Remote full-time employees may not be at the [physical] office, and often don’t get to see how the things are made. They don’t get to work with a complete team, or a founding team, [so they] miss out on understanding a lot of the why.”
Witnessing the rise of the remote staff firsthand, Roe breaks down the mobile worker sect into the following four categories: full-time employees working from scattered offices, full-time employees working from home, outside vendors working from other offices and contract employees working remotely.
While each type presents a unique set of challenges, incorporating the following strategies into your overall project management style will help you become a highly effective PM with a successful and motivated staff.
Roe’s Remote-staff Recommendations:
1. Instill core values
Adopt a system that ensures your company’s values resonate with every remote worker. “Some companies have this [practice] down to a science,” says Roe. “[They] require that all [full-time] employees work in the office for 18 months, so when they work remotely they have enough “office core values” to operate effectively. This [practice] prevents the feeling of being disconnected.”
2. Check in frequently
Particularly with contract workers and outside vendors, getting in the habit of checking in with your employees has the potential to transform a failing project into a successful coup. “Let them know they matter,” says Roe. “I have done half day check-ins when directly managing [contract workers], and it is shocking how quickly things can turn good or bad. Act as their ally and guide them back to the rails.”
3. Proceed with hopeful caution
Roe recommends adopting an approach of “optimistic distrust,” when hiring new vendors for remote work. Maybe you’ve never worked with them, so you might not know their work ethic. You do, however, know yours. To have faith in your vendors is to trust your professional judgment, a resolve that sets them—and you—on the path to success.
4. Streamline communication
Integrate a correspondence system that works. Digital networks such as company intranets help facilitate project discussions. Companies that still rely on email as a project management tool find themselves at a disadvantage, according to Roe. “Consolidation of communication has to be the future of project management,” he says. “Without it, all communication lacks proper context.”
Managing your remote workers shouldn’t leave you tired and twitching. As the “rock solid foundation” of your business, you should promote enduring stasis through your management style. Adopting Roe’s practices will empower you to be a confident project manager who encourages productivity and maintains successful stability within the mobile workplace.
About Adam Roe:
Having spent the first half of his life as a competitive skateboarder on the east coast, founder and former CEO of Lunchbox, Adam Roe, applied the same focus, energy and creativity to the fields of publication, advertising and design.
He started his first company, Lunchbox Design, in 1991 as a type-foundry, advertising and design company, landing MTV as his first client. Roe then went on to focus on new business pitches, design, advertising and branding for hundreds of top-level clients. After spending some time leading AOL’s creative teams in Virginia, NYC and Los Angeles, he opened Lunchbox Studios in 2005.
Adam also is a Licensed Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Licensed Clinical Hypnotherapist, Certified NLP Communication Skills Master, and Time Line therapist, and has certifications from Richard Bandler, Society of NLP, American Institute Hypnotherapy and American Board Hypnotherapy, among others.