A recent Gallup research shows that while Managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement, only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work. It’s key to train leaders on how to provide meaningful and timely feedback, especially if some team members are working remotely.
Are you a micromanager?
The micromanager is a leader who wants the job done their way, but provides little advice. During a hard time, leaders tend to micro-manage more than usual, but that doesn’t mean they help more.
With a remote team, micromanaging looks like doing long meetings, or multiple meetings every day, where only the manager speaks. He or she is continually asking for the tasks’ status and provides feedback after the job is done, focusing mostly on the weaknesses. The when and how-to of an assignment is not agreed as a team. Every decision is made top-down and has to be executed at the pace defined by the leader. In the long term, there is no relationship of trust.
Employees on their side feel frustrated and are usually disengaged at work as they don’t find ways to collaborate or speak up their minds. They work a lot to try to satisfy all the changing demands of the leader, but they are never having a clear picture of how work should get done. Problems and tasks, in the end, seem to belong to the manager, not the employee. And the worst part is that creativity and improvement are reduced as team members don’t feel valued. They tend to stay quiet and follow instructions. They either have low performance or leave the team.
Are you an abandoning leader?
On the other side of the coin, you have leaders who “trust too much” the employee that they don’t even bother to check-in. They only have the required monthly meetings to report results.
The problem with this abandoning leader is that technical aspects of the job may not require continuous feedback from them, but the personal side of the employee has left aside. And, in case technical feedback is offered, it’s delivered too late.
Employees are better able to manage their time and how the job gets done, but at the end of the day, again, employees feel frustrated. When they get to talk to the leader or receive their feedback, the job is already done, and there is nothing they can do to improve what happened; they can only improve in the next assignment. Feedback sessions then hardly ever felt rewarding. Just like the micro-managers, they fail to provide timely advice.
Problems seem to belong to the employee solely, and they have to keep solving them on their own. Team members have frequent thoughts about leaving the company or fear that they may not need them anymore. If they are terrified of being laid off, they may work harder for some time trying to compensate, but this won’t last long. In the long term, these employees get the job done, but avoid presenting new ideas or challenging the status quo as they don’t feel rewarded.
The role of the leader is not to micro-manage or to delegate all the tasks, but to facilitate interactions. Main tasks are:
• improving communications
• eliminating other meetings or distractions
• identifying impediments
• highlighting and promoting quick decision-making
• improving the team’s level of knowledge
Autonomy is crucial, but it is also necessary to provide support and celebrate progress. Instead of keeping the ownership of the tasks, or giving up on them completely, leaders have to let the team own those tasks. Leaders focus must be on promoting two-way communication with the team member, within the team, across the company and with customers, suppliers and community as well.
When working face-to-face, a leader can determine how an employee feels by looking in the eye or paying attention to new behaviors. In remote work, though, employee’s feelings can be harder to perceive. That’s why leaders should organize periodic meetings to check in one-on-one, especially in times of uncertainty. Understanding employee challenges and concerns is vital. Coaching sessions should be even more often than when working in the same office. Leaders have to build an environment where they can ask questions, offer continuous feedback and receive feedback, questions and concerns. Remember that employees are close to the customer than leaders are, so feedback can be not only about themselves or their work, but can also be about the process and the customer.
Leaders need coaching to help them start the change and create an online environment where people feel safe to provide updates, offer ideas and ask for support.