By Adrian Johansen
Anyone working in a management position is aware of the value of an employee who doesn’t need to be overly-managed. They also likely know the importance of good communication, even when things are going well. While self-management traits like independence and communication are both critical factors at all times, they’ve never been more important than in the remote-work-focused coronavirus era.
If you’re a project manager trying to adapt to running a remote workplace, here are a few tips and suggestions to help you, as a leader, cultivate a deeply connected team of self-managing individuals.
Lead by Example
If you can’t walk the walk, then don’t talk the talk. As a leader, if you want your employees to embrace and cultivate self-management principles and skills, you should expect similar commitments from the highest echelons of your organization.
This, in essence, means running things as smoothly as possible. Strive to remain well-organized and communicative, and try to keep uncertain, complicated, or disruptive situations from impacting your staff as much as possible.
Prioritize Self Management in Hiring and Retention
If you want to cultivate a staff that can thrive on both an individual and a collective basis, start by setting hiring and retention standards that properly prioritize self-management and communication.
As you hire new employees, always make sure to gauge their abilities to work on their own — especially if they’ll be remote. Look for past examples of workplace performance in which they took initiative, met deadlines, and or went above and beyond. Also, observe your transmissions throughout the hiring process to see if they’re efficient, effective, and timely in their ability to communicate.
Establish Clear Communication Standards
Leading by example and hiring qualified individuals are both important aspects of creating a self-management- and communication-oriented culture. However, you also need to consistently encourage your existing staff to embrace and uphold the culture as well.
A key aspect of this cultivation revolves around establishing clear communication standards. How do you expect your employees to interact as they work remotely? It’s important to stress basic communication skills, such as:
- Active listening: The classic ability to focus on the speaker and respond thoughtfully must be upheld, even when working remotely.
- Responsiveness: Employees must respond to messages and notifications in a timely manner.
- Flexibility and respect: Employees must also be able to remain respectful of their coworker’s flexible work-from-home schedules as they interact.
If proper communication can be maintained among your team, it sets the stage for everyone to boldly go about their own tasks, knowing that they can access information, answers, permissions, and any other form of help whenever the need arises.
Delegate, Empower, and Don’t Micromanage
A key element of self-management training is for you, the boss, to allow your employees to actually, you know, manage themselves. This is more difficult than it sounds, as it requires you to avoid the temptation to micromanage activities and fix minor mistakes.
Instead, as a leader, focus on formally delegating tasks and empowering your employees to take ownership of their responsibilities. If you struggle with this, it can be helpful to view each employee not just as a specialist in their field, but also as a logistics professional for your company as well. This means they should be seen as someone who can and should:
- See the big picture.
- Exercise people skills in their own interactions.
- Manage their own time efficiently.
- Think critically and analytically as they go about their work.
By fostering this attitude — and even encouraging your employees to see themselves as logistics coordinators — it can create an environment that empowers even the lowest person on your org chart to step up and take charge when necessary.
See to the Details
As a project manager, don’t just foster a desire to self-manage in your staff. You must also make sure that they’re equipped to do so, as well. When you leave your employees to set up their remote-work equipment on their own, it can quickly lead to communicative confusion, isolation, and an inability to collaborate when necessary.
With that in mind, make sure that your team has all of the tools that they need to both communicate properly and work independently. This includes basic collaboration tools like document sharing, e-signatures, company calendars, and to-do lists.
Additionally, make sure your employees can get both the hardware and the software required to operate productively off-site. Sometimes this involves providing quality equipment, such as a work computer or a license to certain software. At other times it may mean providing a per diem for employees to pay for their internet, headphones, or even basic workwear like a laptop bag to keep their equipment stored and safe on the homefront or as they travel.
The point isn’t what perks or items you choose, but rather that you see to it that each employee has what they need to both work on their own and stay in touch with everyone else.
Fostering Communicative Self-Management in Your Employees
The ability to manage one’s self is an essential element to a properly functioning remote team. Effective communication is also critical and directly serves as a supporting feature of a self-managed team.
Much of the responsibility to self-manage and properly communicate falls to each employee. Nevertheless, there are many ways that project leaders can also step up to the plate to set the stage for healthy communication and cultivate a culture of self-management. If these two elements can be properly developed, they will serve as the bedrock of your team’s long-term remote success.