Remote Teams Need Connections Not Micromanagement says Team Leader
Beth Carter launched Carter Consultants Ltd. in 1991 after two lay-offs. She positioned the executive recruiting company apart by working on an hourly basis. She and her team work with clients around the world to fill leadership roles.
In 2008, Beth started Beth Carter Enterprises providing executive, business, and career coaching and speaking. She also co-authored Job Search = Love Search, Ten Savvy Search Strategies That Will Help You Find Love Too, and is an adjunct professor at Bryant University teaching a Managers as Coaches course.
What are the advantages of working remotely?
I am much more productive when I work in my home office. I don’t get caught up in the water cooler stuff. In an office, there is wasted down time and people aren’t necessarily as productive.
I’m very disciplined, which is a huge factor. If you’re not, working remotely won’t work well.
How keep track of a team that is spread across the country?
I’m clear on my expectations, but I don’t micromanage because I don’t like to be micromanaged. We’re all adults here.
My team works on a per-hour basis so they submit invoices once a week. Also, they keep an updated log on their projects. That way, I know how things are going.
I try to be available for them as much as possible, but I am out of the office quite a bit. I maintain a Google calendar so they know when they can reach me. I tend to be an early bird, and it seems that my team is as well. We’re generally at our desks very early.
One of our challenges is that because we’re recruiting all over the world so we can work unusual hours. There are times when they may have to work late at night, but I pay attention to their personal situation and try to work around that.
What tools do you use?
We have call sheets with the names of the people we’ve contacted. We used to email those, but we’ve graduated to Google docs, which has been extremely helpful. This way a client can look at the call sheet at any time. We also provide check ins with our clients so they can see how many hours we’ve worked on the search.
We’re flexible. If a client has their own database, we will us that instead.
How do you work with clients when they’re distant?
A lot of what we do is through referrals and we may not ever meet face-to-face. What I find is important is making sure they’re informed about what is going on. I check in with them often. I never just disappear. I typically will check in with them in the morning, but I may check in with them at 7 p.m. if needed.
How do you keep your team motivated from a distance?
Back when we all used fax machines, I’d do a “fun fax Friday.” Of course, now we’re all using emails and online communication, but it’s still important to have that personal connection.
I hosted a luncheon in the fall for current and former employees. That helps to keep everyone connected. Also, I’ll do things like sending them gifts in the mail when they aren’t expecting it. I want my team to know they are important to me.
I pay attention to what is going on with them. If I find out someone is struggling with an assignment, I will shift it to someone else. I support them as much as I can. Many of us have been working together a long time. We’re honest with each other and that makes a difference.
My team will tell you that I’ve made mistakes. But I’ve learned from them.
What is your advice to someone who is considering becoming a remote professional?
You need to know yourself. If you are easily distracted, this isn’t for you. Also, you will be alone a lot. It helps to join a local group that will get you out of the house or find a few friends who are working remotely and meet up with them. At one point, I analyzed my week and realized that no one called on Wednesday afternoons for some reason. So, I would go to a Zumba class then and I didn’t really miss anything.
It helps to have structure. I get dressed up every day. It’s a mindset thing.
Know how you want to spend your time and what are potential time wasters, like going to Staples. I order on line instead.
Be aware that because you work out of your home, people may think you are always available. One woman I know put a note on her door asking that people not ring the bell from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Do what you need to do to set your boundaries.
When you are setting things up, create a space that will let you leave your office at the end of the day. I have a sign on my door. It’s a reminder that you leave the office at a certain time of the day and then you try not to go back