How to Stop Micromanaging When Managing Remote Teams

How to Stop Micromanaging When Managing Remote Teams

Managing remote teams is tough if you don’t set expectations. Use these strategies to learn how to stop micromanaging and lead your teams to success.

Micromanagement has always been a taboo in the business world. Everyone knows it when they see it—managers breathing over your back, watching your every move, taking frequent opportunities to point out faults and give criticism.

In a regular workplace, it’s relatively easy for managers to recognize and change these behaviors. Remote managers, on the other hand, have less of a structured system, causing them to micro-manage without knowing it. Learning how to stop micromanaging in a virtual work environment requires new strategies.

If managers want to keep their remote teams happy and productive, it’s time to focus on building a responsible team and setting expectations ahead of time.

Managing remote teams the smart way: setting reasonable expectations for a structured work day

The pictures that come to mind for distributed teams is a slightly blown out of proportion. People who never worked from home before usually assume the following:

  • You can work any hours that you want.
  • You’re free to go at your own pace, so long as the work gets done.
  • Everything works fine without a strict routine. You work from home!

The truth is that remote work environments (at least productive ones) are very similar to traditional models: you show up at the same time every day and work regular hours. If you don’t, you’re probably a contractor and not an employee.

There are exceptions, of course, but when you manage an entire team, it’s best to nail down the parameters. This way the workflows are kept intact and communication between everyone happen at optimum times.

Working within the same timeframes every day. It might be a little tricky if you manage team members in different time zones, but so long as everyone is consistent, there can be harmony. Does it take away the fun of sporadic “make your own hours” work weeks? Yes, but remember: you don’t run a team of freelancers; you run a team of employees, and they need structure.

Using tools for daily communication and collaboration. If you’re distributed team uses digital tools like Slack, Trello, Google Drive, Dropbox, Basecamp, or a CRM, it’s important that everyone signs in and follows the workflow. When they start their day, these are the tools they use to keep in touch and get work done.

Want to stop stressing and start micromanaging less? Subscribe to Sophaya’s Virtual Leader membership. You’ll receive immediate access to a series of courses that train you to be a more effective remote team manager. You’ll also get access to a monthly virtual coaching sessions, access to our virtual leadership webinars, the Remote Nation Community Forum and our newsletter. Sound good? Let’s get started.

Let others know when you’re unavailable. Remote teams rely on constant communication. Working at the office, you can take your scheduled lunch break without having to alarm everyone to your absence. However, working from a home office is a little different. If a team member is planning to be away from their computer for more than fifteen or twenty minutes, update the team.

Be available for video conferences. Committing to scheduled meeting is paramount. There are only so many times that remote teams get to see each other on live conference calls, so it’s important to be available at those times. Managers can set a date two weeks in advance, or simply have it on a recurring pattern each month.

Update team members on completed tasks and workflows. Implement a system where your team can update everyone on completed tasks, especially if there is a workflow going from person to person. It’s smart way to stay on top of everything and keep employees accountable for deadlines.

How to stop micromanaging: 5 situations to handle differently next time

Setting daily expectations makes managing remote teams less of a struggle. Plus, it’ll teach you how to stop micromanaging in the moment, and instead, rely on your team to be responsible and accountable for their work.

Let’s say you manage a remote employee named Mark. He’s part of your six-person team and a relatively hard worker. Below are a few situations you might run into, along with examples of micromanagement and also proper ways to handle it.

Situation #1: Mark takes his dog to the park. He updates everyone that he’ll be unavailable for about an hour. After two hours, still no sign of him in Slack, and you need to talk to him about something important.

Remote micromanagement: You stress out about Mark not being available when you need him. You message him several times asking where he is and why he hasn’t signed into Slack.

Next time: If Mark regularly works during normal hours and completes projects within expected timeframes, why get on his case about taking a long break one afternoon? Message him with the questions and accept the fact that he will get back to you later.

Situation #2: Mark has a deadline every week for recurring tasks. He missed last week’s deadline by a few hours, and his current deadline is at the end of today.

Remote micromanagement: Keep reminding Mark about his deadline. Ask him several times if he’s on track to hand-in his work on-time. Explain to him the consequences for late work.

Next time: Does Mark consistently hand-in work before his deadlines? If he starts to miss his deadlines a few weeks in a row, mention it to him and ask what the issue is. He may be suffering from burnout at work. Otherwise, trust your employees to maintain expectations. If you want to learn how to stop micromanaging, you have to develop trust in your team.

Situation #3: Mark had an uneventful weekend and decided to get some work done ahead of time. Everything for Monday and Tuesday is finished, so what will he do for the next two days?

Remote micromanagement: You hound Mark for the next two days about making use of his free time. You tell him not to work on weekends because now he doesn’t have anything to do. You assign additional work to keep him busy.

Next time: Mark decided to get ahead and got all of his work done ahead of schedule. That show initiative, if anything. Give him a break and let him do whatever he wants for Monday and Tuesday. So long as the work is done, everyone is in good shape.

Situation #4: Mark likes to start work early in the morning and take the afternoons to care for his family’s needs, such as picking up his kids from school and cooking early dinners. He always gets his work done, but he’s not always available in the afternoons to talk.

Remote micromanagement: You tell Mark to only work during the nine-to-five hours. You understand that he has a family, so you allow him exactly one hour to pick up his kids from school. He must be available before and after that task until 5:00 p.m.

Next time: Work with your employees so they can stay productive. If Mark likes to wake up early and complete all of his tasks before 1:00, that’s great. Don’t measure the time he’s allowed to care for his family during work hours.

Situation #5: Mark is currently working on a project within a shared folder drive. You’re wondering about his progress because you have to look it over before presenting it to a client tomorrow morning.

Remote micromanagement: You sign into the shared folder and look over Mark’s project as he’s working on it. You ask him repeatedly to give you updates and get it done on-time.

Next time: Don’t assign Mark a deadline of a day before your presentation. Plan ahead account for edits and let Mark complete the project without any input or disruptions. Trust that he’s a hard worker and will deliver his work at the appropriate time. If you need an update, ask him politely about his status. Ask once and then let it go.

Do have advice on how to stop micromanaging remote employees? Share your tips in the comments!

Want to stop stressing and start micromanaging less? Subscribe to Sophaya’s Virtual Leader membership. You’ll receive immediate access to a series of courses that train you to be a more effective remote team manager. You’ll also get access to a monthly virtual coaching sessions, access to our virtual leadership webinars, the Remote Nation Community Forum and our newsletter. Sound good? Let’s get started.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

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