Managers Need to Ignite Their Remote Leadership Capability

Last Updated Jan 25, 2011 7:08 AM EST

For decades, there has been a short list of "core competencies" that organizations expect from their managers. With 80% of function managers--and a higher percentage of project managers-- dealing with remote or virtual teams that list has expanded by at least one core skill: the ability to create great working relationships when you're not sitting at the next cubicle to your reports.

With pressure from the C-Suites, pressure from the customers and pressure from the team, most managers find themselves not so much at the top of the pyramid but rather in the middle. Still leading...but leading in limited space. It's easy for managers to feel beat up and dispirited, but that's not really a solution.

In his bestselling book Ignited, Vince Thompson makes the case that managers are playing a critical role in reinventing industries as well as the workplace. This week only, Amazon and FT Press have teamed up to offer Ignited free for Kindle and Kindle App users. In light of this special offer to our readers we've asked Vince to join and answer a few questions.

We know they need to motivate their teams, but why is it so important that managers keep their own spark glowing?
For the same reason the Idol contestant has gotta "make em feel it" or the great chef
has got to deliver their dish with TLC. If you ain't got it--they ain't getting it.

In order for you to get it, you need to take care of yourself first. Work on being
rested, being centered and being thankful. Then--proceed with the end in mind
working daily towards the daily realization of the goal.

What happens if we managers lose our focus and enthusiasm?
The stakes are high. Teams wanders, people lose sight of the prize and generally
speaking-- everyone has a lousy time. If you lose your way retreat and then let a
passionate team member carry the vision while you head back to the well.

How can we maintain human connections when they never get to see human
beings and have to communicate through technology?

Technology absolutely has the power to influence the quality of the dialogue if you
let it. Ever notice how no one has a conversation on a walkie-talkie or before
Skype how short international calls used to be? "Uncle Fritz--you still alive?
Wunderbar! I'll call you next week."

The thing to understand is that the quality of the communication is up to you. If
you live with a Dragnet approach "Just the Facts" you'll get just the facts and none
of the relationship. Given that people are motivated by much more than a
paycheck you are going to need to connect, show them you care and then
understand their needs.

So....in the same way you get the facts allow time to understand the individual.
Where do they come from? What are they proud of? What do they aspire to do?
Ask questions, share photos and articles, shoot a quick text to stay connected and
be sure to have regularly scheduled catch up time.

With web cameras, instant messages and presentation software we're getting
close to bridging a good part of the remote workforce divide.

What are some specific best practices to stay connected and "Ignited"?

  • Ritualize the water cooler and fun time as well as the actionable stuff. You'll do these more efficiently when remote, but you can't miss them. You'll pay in the long run
  • Set your standard meetings and reporting and hold yourself and your team accountable for their success
  • Set general meetings for catching up. Whether it's the close of day or lunch hour, find a time to just touch base with your team
  • Finally,something I call "Friday's on the Coach". In two companies now we've take Friday afternoon as a chance to pull the team together virtually, crack a beer or soda wherever they are, and talk about the week's accomplishments. This serves as a chance to celebrate as well as set a dividing line between the work week and the weekend. This is especially important for remote workers as worklife and family life blend into one. If you can help your teammates establish more balance you'll see the payback in greater productivity, work quality and loyalty
Click here to get your Free Kindle copy of Ignited, Managers!, Light up your Company and Career for More Power, More Purpose and More Success â€" This Week Only â€" US Only

Hear Vince Thompson on The Cranky Middle Manager show here
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photo by flickr user charles chan* CC 2.0