Managing staff from a distance

For business travellers constantly on the go, being out of the office conjures up images of slack employees lazing by the water cooler or surfing social media sites for hours on end instead of working… It really needn’t be this way, though – selecting the right team members is the first step.

The people you need on-side are qualified, capable, hardworking, responsible, and conscientious, and most of all, independent workers. Get that part right, and the rest is easier. Once you’ve assembled the right team, here’s how to manage them when you’re travelling…

Set clear tasks

Manage staff from a distance

Before you leave on your business trip, sit down with your team and go through the tasks you’ve assigned to them for the time that you’re gone. Make sure that each and every person is clear about what has to be done and when.

Address any questions or concerns they may have and assure them that you’re only a phone call or email away should they need you.

Galvanise the team

Give your team a pep talk before you go – emphasise the fact that you’re relying on them to get the job done in your absence. Speak to the need for teamwork and for team members to help each other, share ideas, and to collaborate on tasks.

You might like to consider the idea of a team captain, who can chair team meetings and provide a single point of contact for you while you’re away.

Name a stand-in

Often, there’s admin which needs to be dealt with by a senior person who’s physically in the office – authorising payments, signing order forms, or signing off projects, etc.

Ask another senior manager to stand in for you while you’re out of the office and let your team members know to whom they can turn when they need senior management approval or input on a task.

Give your team space

Resist the temptation to micro-manage. Nobody likes to be treated like a preschooler, so give your team the space they need to execute the work assigned to them.

Now’s a fine time to observe individuals in action – who’s demonstrating self-motivation, self-discipline, and self-reliance, and who isn’t?

Schedule regular report-backs

While giving people space is important, you still need to keep a firm hand on the rudder. Ask each team member to submit a formal weekly status report via email. Diarise telephonic meetings with each team member, and group conference calls, to discuss how projects are progressing, get feedback and to work through any challenges they may be experiencing in your absence.

Make technology your friend

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for non-communication. Phone, email, Skype, text or instant message your team members and find out what’s up!

Set up a group sharing folder such as Dropbox or Sugarsync so that you’ll be able to share sensitive or privileged information with your team securely. You and your team can also make use of online applications, like project management and customer relationship tools, to facilitate workflow and communication, enhance collaboration, and manage productivity.

Remember, the people you hired for your team are competent and qualified. Show trust in their capabilities – they’ll appreciate the fact that you have faith in them and will rise to the occasion.

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