Most virtual leaders struggle with managing the performance of those they can’t see. Would they be more effective managers if they had “super-vision”? Some organizations install software so leaders can randomly check the screens of their employees. Some leaders even whisper that they want remote video cameras at employee’s desks.
Here’s the reality. If you need super-vision, you are not leading, you are babysitting.
How to really lead remote employees? Start by shifting your mindset.
- Know your role. You are not an Olympic judge holding up signs to rate a performance. Your job is to help employees contribute to your organization’s success today and develop them to contribute more tomorrow.
- Recognize that over monitoring leads to malicious compliance, not enthusiasm and extra effort.
Second, look for ways to improve the measurement and tracking of contributions.
- Make sure you are monitoring outcomes and results instead of activities.
- Consider setting targeted, shorter goals. Explore work planning concepts like Agile Strategy. Use two to four week goal sprints to provide prompt recognition and spur innovation to increase productivity and results.
- Seek out data sources where employees can monitor their own results. Try to model the automated school zone boards that report your speed as 34 in a 25 mph zone. Build in systems so both you and your employees receive automatic feedback for recognition and improvement. Don’t make them wait for their quarterly review to get feedback.
- Develop your measures collaboratively. Even if you previously performed an employee’s job, some aspects of the role have probably changed. Work together to identify what real success looks like. It builds commitment and increases the accuracy of performance measures.
Work—particularly virtual work—requires us to re-think our notion of leadership and re-imagine our performance management systems. None of the recommendations provided here are easy to implement. The alternative, though, is for our leaders to struggle and our employees to be hampered by that struggling. In the long run, relying on super-vision gets us nowhere.
About the author
Carmela Sperlazza Southers is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Her posts on increasing organizational, team, and leader effectiveness in the virtual work world appear on the fourth Monday of every month.