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Agile Leadership Secrets on How to Manage Remote Workers

Many people have felt the impact of shifting to remote work as a result of the 2020-2022 pandemic across the world.

There are plenty of articles out there with tips on adjusting to working from home, but what does not get talked about as much is how to manage remote workers. 

Even in a post-pandemic world, remote work is not going away, and what many managers and business owners have found themselves wrestling with is how to make sure their people are productive?

When you cannot see your employees at their desks, in meetings, interacting with clients, how can you be certain they are doing their work?

Keith Ferazzi, chairman and founder of Ferrazzi, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Co., Forbes, and Wall Street Journal, provides an interesting take on this dilemma. 

How to Manage Remote Workers

What Keith says executives should be asking themselves is How do I make sure my people are working together and working well? 

He points out that this question gets to the heart of how leaders manage and design their teams for accountability and moves away from an obsession on each member’s productivity and toward a mutual sense of responsibility.

Peer-to-peer accountability can reduce the workload of managers and lets them do what they really should be doing, leading.

If a manager is having to spend a great deal of their time keeping everyone accountable, they will find themselves overworked, inefficient, and not providing any real leadership for their team.

Delegating the work is only one part of the solution.

Dispersing accountability into the team is the most important part.

How Can Leaders Move From “Overloaded” to a Shared Load?

Keith suggests a commitment to “crossing the finish line together.”

It is not the responsibility of any single team member to meet a goal; it is a shared responsibility for everyone involved.

If one team member stumbles, another steps in to help.

It’s critical that your team shares accountability towards a larger goal or objective.

There are two practices in the tech world that translate well to any kind of teamwork: “Agile” and “Sprints.”

An agile team is a cross-functional group of individuals who define, build, test, and deliver an increment of value in a short time box.

Because communication quality tends to diminish as team size increases, agile enterprises usually tend to gravitate towards smaller team sizes of 5-12 people. 

The presence of people from different departments provides checks and balances throughout the development cycle.

Sprints, on the other hand, involve giving a team a set amount of time to complete a set amount of work. In the corporate world, it’s often a good idea to encourage teams to “sprint” between meetings so that the team members agree on what work needs to get done, by whom, and by when.

Agile Leadership and Sprints Provide a Framework for Team Accountability

The next key is to make sure your members are communicating with one another and that they have the information necessary to hold one another accountable. 

For this, Keith recommends using something he calls bulletproofing.

Unlike typical reporting in meetings, with bulletproofing, each member spends 15 minutes talking about the big projects they are working on, the risks and challenges they foresee, and - this is the critical part - how the rest of the team can help them. 

After each of these presentations, the team splits up into groups of 3 to constructively discuss the presentation.

These breakouts can be kept short.

Ten minutes is usually sufficient.

In the breakout, the small groups discuss 3 things.

What new idea might be beneficial, what challenge or risk should be brought to the presenter’s attention, and what help or resources can we offer to assist?

After the breakouts, the team gathers to share their insights. 

With this method, you provide the presenter with feedback, help mitigate any additional risks surfacing, provide fresh ideas, and you just put a spotlight on the inter-dependencies of the group.

The next time the individual reports back, the team can start to hold them accountable.

The entire team is providing feedback, not just the boss.

Conclusion: Build Accountability Within Your Team

Like any other new process, building peer-to-peer accountability can take some time, but once it starts to grow, your team members will realize they need to own the success of each individual and the team as a whole.

In doing so, they will cross the finish line and finish their projects together, as a team.

Leadership agility is the cornerstone to successful management of remote teams.

faq-frequently-asked-questions

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Manage Remote Workers


How do you manage remote workers without micromanaging?

This question gets to the heart of how leaders manage and design their teams for accountability, moving away from an obsession on each member’s productivity toward a mutual sense of responsibility.

Peer-to-peer accountability can reduce management workload, allowing actual leading to take place.

If a manager is having to spend a great deal of their time keeping everyone accountable, they will find themselves overworked, inefficient, and not providing any real leadership for their team.

Dispersing accountability into the team is the most important part.

How do you manage and engage remote employees?

There are two practices in the tech world that translate well to any kind of teamwork: “Agile” and “Sprints.”

An agile team is a cross-functional group of individuals who define, build, test, and deliver an increment of value in a short time box.

After each of these presentations, the team splits up into groups of 3 to constructively discuss the presentation.

How do you keep remote workers accountable?

After the breakouts, the team gathers to share their insights. 

With this method, you provide the presenter with feedback, help mitigate any additional risks surfacing, provide fresh ideas, and you just put a spotlight on the inter-dependencies of the group.

The next time the individual reports back, the team can start to hold them accountable.

Frequently Asked Questions About Agile Leadership

 

What is Agile leadership?

Here’s a leadership style that embodies true competence, providing real results, optimal performance of teams, inclusiveness, encouragement, empowerment, shared accountability, valuable feedback, and actual success while conserving resources of money, time and effort.  

What are agile leadership characteristics?

Constructive criticism is valued, whether it be towards leadership, team members or the systems in place.

These leaders create trust among members by being honest, transparent and clear on expectations.

Agile leadership integrate the vision of customers into their own to offer the best possible outcomes.

What is an example of Agile leadership?

Agile leaders engage all levels of staff, encourage interaction, communicate effectively and in turn, lead teams to providing excellent customer service and high levels of satisfaction.

By managing systems instead of managing people, they create a functional work environment where responsibilities and accountabilities are shared. 

They lead by example and empower team members to deliver their best work.