This matters a lot, because while HR departments and companies think they do a pretty good job of evaluating talent, no matter where they are, studies indicate that remote employees feel cut off and off the "promotion radar screen". When managers help people elevate their presence in a positive way, these employees are more likely to feel wanted and engaged.
Patty Azzarello is the author of "Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work AND Like Your Life". In a recent interview on the Cranky Middle Manager show, she gave us some great practical tips for both remote workers and their loving managers.
What are some of the practical things people should do to maintain visibility without becoming annoying or overtly political?
The easiest thing is to step forward when things need to get done. Take the lead. Put yourself in the center of a project even though you are not there physically. Get yourself leading a project that everyone knows cannot succeed without you. Of course it needs to be something you can succeed at remotely, but don't fail to ever take the lead just because you are remote. Leading something amplifies your personal presence and builds your credibility.
Thoughtfully contributing to company blogs and internal discussions is a good way to prove your competence and eagerness to help without showboating. The important people may even reach out to you as a result of your efforts.
What about the managers' role in this?
A lot of people are shy about promoting themselves, often because they believe the work should speak for itself. It doesn't, though. Not without some help.
There are several things managers can do to help people raise their profiles. We all do team building activities when everyone in there, why not do this with your remote teams as well? Prepare ahead of time by getting input. Distribute a template that each person fills out. It should include a photo of them, and questions which help people get to know each other. Some examples:
What's on your iPod?
What was your best/worst job ever?
What are your hobbies?
What is your favorite book, movie, sport, animal?
What is an experience from your childhood that has stayed with you and you use in your work?
Then when you have your virtual meeting, show each person's template and photo, and have them talk about it. It is an amazing way to help your team get to know each other as people, and build a much more productive working relationship. (note: if someone refuses to submit a photo, let it go, don't force the issue, this can be a cultural thing.)
A great way for managers to spotlight individuals is to share meeting leadership on conference calls and webmeetings so everyone gets a showcase for their talent, personality and abilities.
Remember that the trick is to "visible but not annoying". Don't over-post or monopolize teleconference conversations. If you seem too eager to be visible, your efforts will look like politicking or "sucking up". You don't want that, either.
To learn more about her book and her career advice, follow Patty Azzarella on Twitter. While you're there, follow us as well. What do you think of these tips? Any of your own? Post away, we'd love to hear them.
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Photo by flickr user Alec.mills CC 2.0