After almost three years into the pandemic and changing our entire workplace environment, it boggles our minds that Leaders who consider themselves to be Agile are still insisting on forcing their employees to come into the office for the sole purpose of chaining them to the clocks that hang on dull gray walls.
If the 2020 lockdown taught us all anything, it’s that employees actually work more effectively when allowed to work remotely. Organizations that were already Agile (or quickly became Agile) have known this for a long time—Agile Teams are self-organizing and self-managing, making them the perfect candidates to work remotely.
As we approach a new year, now is a great time to examine your Organization to see if you’re truly Agile and practicing trust-based management,
what is TRUST-BASED MANAGEMENT?
The Trifecta of Trust-Based Management:
1st– AGILE LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES: Let’s first review the three driving principles by which Agile Leaders live:
- EMPOWER your Teams
- DON’T MICROMANAGE your Teams
- – TRUST your teams
2nd – RESULTS-BASED MANAGEMENT: Next, let’s review the three principles that are key to managing your Team Members based on their results (i.e., “results-based” management), instead of focusing on which (or how many) hours those employees work (i.e, “time-based” management). Oh wait…we just did that (see list of “Agile Leadership Principles” above).
3rd – VIRTUAL MANAGEMENT: Finally, let’s review the three principles that are key to successfully managing virtual Teams. Oh wait…we just did that (also in the list of “Agile Leadership Principles” above).
So, yes, we would submit that the three constituents of this Agile Leadership “trifecta” are inextricably linked, but moreover, that it is this particular sequence that most successfully shapes Trust-Based Management.
While it seems relatively straightforward on paper, Trust-Based Management is easier said than done. Agile Leaders don’t wake up suddenly one day and trust their Teams will deliver Products seamlessly to Stakeholders. There’s a high level of comfort with managing virtual employees that comes from time, experience, and training. And while there are challenges to managing a virtual Team, there are plenty of benefits that build trust.
Benefits of Managing Virtual Employees:
- Virtual employees avoid commuting (and with it the associated stress, hazards, costs, fossil fuel consumption and pollution).
- Virtual Employees experience faster personal and professional growth (as a natural by-product of working more independently).
- Virtual employees experience better mental and physical health (as a result of more natural sleep patterns, no stress of commuting, and no stress associated with cramming all personal obligations into evenings and weekends).
- Virtual employees themselves focus on RESULTS instead of TIME. (Virtual employees cannot recount how many hours they work in any given week, but they CAN tell you how proud they are when a project is completed. Additionally, virtual employees very rarely take “sick time” but rely instead on flexing their hours as needed to recover.
- Commercial real estate is EXPENSIVE to own/rent/power. Virtual employees work from home.
- Virtual employees generally report much higher job satisfaction AND a greater sense of purpose on JD Powers’ standardized “Employee Engagement” Surveys.
- Virtual employees earn comparatively higher Customer Satisfaction Scores (generally in the 90thpercentile).
- Hiring managers are able to select from a pool of cream-of-the crop candidates, since a) employees generally clamor for remote positions AND b) managers are not forced to disqualify highly skilled applicants, just because they don’t live in a certain geographic area and/or can’t work 8-5, Monday through Friday.
Challenges of Managing Virtual Employees:
- COMMUNICATION: The importance of body language or “driving by” a coworker’s desk cannot be underestimated, so we’re a strong advocate of video chatting. Additionally, the world of (real-time) file-sharing technology has exploded: Slack, Office365, Trello, Highrise, Jira, Online Quickbooks, MURAL, and Dropbox are just a few applications that make remote/real-time communication relatively seamless.
- CONNECTION: In our estimation, this is the biggest challenge to managing virtual employees. Physical absence can marginalize, or worse, dehumanize remote Team Members. This is where a truly Agile Leader comes in. It is their responsibility to come up with strategies for bonding their Team Members. That can be something as complex as all-staff (face-to-face) meetings/excursions OR something as simple as regular all-staff calls that each begin with a segue question, such as “What is your favorite movie/series on which to binge?” or “Name 3 things about one of your family members that you admire most” or “If you were to overhear folks talking about you, what would you hope they’d say?”. In this way, every Team Member learns elements about each other’s personalities, values, and priorities, which naturally leads to deeper connections.
- TRUST: We consider trust to be at the very core of successfully implementing Trust-Based Management. Managers often fear that if they can’t SEE their employees, and/or confirm what hours they are working, they can’t TRUST that their employees aren’t goofing off. We have two responses to that “dilemma.” First, ask yourself, “Are character and integrity situational?” In other words, if you find that a Team Member is routinely taking advantage of you from home, do you think he/she is less likely to take advantage of you from his/her company office? Second, it is undoubtedly important to hire employees that are INTERNALLY motivated to be personally accountable. That means that rigorous (ideally behavior-based) interviewing is imperative. The bottom line is, with strategic interviewing you can spot internally-motivated folks a mile away, especially once you become versed in what to look for.
All told, it should be clear by now that Leaders must first embrace Agile Leadership Principles, followed by embracing Results-Based management before they will ever be entirely comfortable with managing virtual employees—that’s why we’re referring to it as the Agile Leadership “Trifecta.” Of course, some Leaders struggle to gamble on this particular Trifecta, but for others (truly Agile Leaders in particular), doing so mirrors their ability/willingness to have complete confidence in their Team Members instead of constantly monitoring them.
So are you able to fully embrace virtual and/or results-based management? Or can you only give those ideas a polite hug? What has been your experience with managing remote employees?
If you’re answer is, “I’m not sure?” or “No,” check out our Certified Agile Leadership classes! We’ll help you become a true Agile Leader with a strong, independent Agile Team.