By far, the biggest challenge in working with off-site employees is that communication becomes harder. In previous columns, I’ve suggested that setting office hours and planning on at least one informal phone call a week can be very effective in overcoming the problem of “physical distance”. Here’s another idea.
Obtain written monthly progress reports at least once a month. Have your employee put in writing two things – the accomplishments of the past month and an update on new and outstanding issues. This doesn’t have to be anything formal nor lengthy; in fact an e-mail note or one-page Word document will do. This written report serves two very crucial purposes. First, it forces the employee to acknowledge what has gone well over the past month and perhaps more importantly, it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge the work, something that often slips out of sight when working with remote employees. Second, it keeps you aware of what your employee is working on, and more significantly, where you can step in to help support his or her efforts. This written report will help you do two things – (1) offer praise and encouragement and (2) lend assistance where needed; both very critical functions of leadership.
If you’re in a “remote” working relationship, what else works (or doesn’t)? What are you doing to overcome the challenges of long-distance leadership? Do tell.
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