A Lot rides on a Manager’s Communication Skills While Managing Teams Remotely [A Guide to Managing Remote Teams Effectively]

Working remotely has lately become one of the most sought-after job perks. Having the flexibility to work at the comfort of our home regardless of where the offices/corporate headquarters are located, often attracts us to take jobs that offer work-from-home, over others.

As much as this sounds convenient and luxurious for employees, a study by authors of bestsellers Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability, David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny says otherwise.

According to their study of 1153 employees, communicating and working from different locations is challenging for remote workers. Let’s explore why –

  • 52% of the respondents who worked remotely felt their co-workers did not treat them equally.
  • 41% of remote employees felt that their colleagues said bad things behind their back vs 31% of onsite employees who felt the same way.
  • 64% of remote employees felt their colleagues made changes to the project without communicating with them vs 58% of onsite employees.

These problems not only affected their professional relationships with other colleagues but also, remote employees saw negative impacts on their overall productivity, costs, deadlines, morale, stress and retention.

But since the trend of remote working is here to stay, Maxfield and Grenny say the solution does not lie in calling the troops, but to focus on stellar communications to overcome these problems.

“Our research over the past three decades proves the health and success of any team is determined by the quality of communication between colleagues,” says Maxfield. “Teams that can hold candid and effective dialogue—minus the emotions and politics—experience higher morale and results like better quality, shorter time-to-market, better decision making etc.”

Grenny adds that Managers have a very important role to play when it comes to communicating with remote employees.

“When managers model stellar communication, the rest of the team follows suit,” says Grenny. “You can’t overestimate the influence a manager has on his or her team’s ability to engage in dialogue and create a collaborative and healthy culture.”

The study by Grenny and Maxfield determined the topmost successful skills of managers while managing remote teams/employees. In this study, respondents were asked to describe a manager who is good at managing remote teams/employees. The stories shared helped them draw specific management skills that were most successful while managing remote workers. Let’s look at a few of these top skills –

Top 7 Skills for Managing Employees working remotely:

  1. Consistent and Frequent Check-ins: Check-ins from daily to twice weekly to weekly but consistent, usually entailing a standing meeting or meeting scheduled one-on-one, proved to be the most successful characteristic of successful managers.
  2. Face-to-Face Catch-ups: One on four employees felt managers who insisted on having meetings face-to-face (either in person meeting at the office or through a video conferencing tool) once a week, month, quarter or a year, with remote employees were more successful.
  3. Stellar Communication Skills: Most successful managers are good at listening, communicating trust and respect, inquiring about workload and work progress without pushing towards micro-management or over-communicating. It is essential to maintain a balance to ensure a collaborative and cooperative relationship with remote employees.
  4. Communicating Expectations Clearly: When it comes to managing remote teams, having clear expectations is crucial. Managers that are clear with their expectations from remote teams have happier teams that can and are ready to deliver those expectations.
  5. Available when they need you: Successful managers are available quickly and at all times during the day to help their remote employees stay on top of everything. Going above and beyond to be available at all times across multiple time zones across various channels (Slack, Skype, Email, Text, Phone), instils trust on remote employees.

  1. Efficient Use of Technology: Successful managers use multiple channels of communication to stay connected with remote employees. They are not restricted to just phones or emails, but also use various video conferencing technologies to tailor to each employee’s communication style and need.
  2. Prioritizing Relationships: Team building is equally important for remote teams as much as it is for on-site employees. Good managers make that extra effort to go out of their way to build strong and healthy relationships with remote workers. They often check-in with their employees to ask about their personal life, families and hobbies.

Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield say managers that showcase the above skills with remote employees will see their teams happier, healthier and successful.

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