One hot topic in my recent training classes is how difficult it is to manage remotely. As we all know, the days of managers sharing the same office with their employees have faded away largely due to expense reasons. The problem is that remote managers no longer have the spontaneous daily interactions with employees that serve to build trust and confidence. In the virtual world, those interactions don’t occur organically — they need to be intentionally created.
Clearly, the manager’s role has changed. A command-and-control approach no longer works with today’s employees. The current employee in the mortgage industry is too experienced, educated and doesn’t like to be micro-managed. According to Yael Zofi, author of A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams, “today’s manager must be an agent of connection who is constantly coaching.” So the big question for managers is how to replicate “being there” in a virtual way. There are three keys to effective remote managing that are outlined in Zofi’s book:
First, coaching is the key for the remote managers. Does the manager have the competency to coach and manage a team? In companies where the manager’s position is determined by an individual’s production volume, a coaching competency is generally not the strength of a producing manager. While producing managers can be effective coaches, our research shows this is the exception not the rule as most top producers do not inherently possess the coaching competency.
Second, coaching is all about active listening. While the employee can’t see the manager, the manager is challenged to maintain 100% focus on the employee, which is not easy. Managers who multi-task while coaching risk failure of the coaching effort. It pays off for managers to block out time, close the door, close the laptop and prepare questions that will be discussed in the session. It is important to be prepared for the employee interaction.
Third, a core part of the coaching toolbox should be to assess whether the manager possesses the skills, knowledge and behaviors to do the job well. If originators perceive the manager as contributing relevant, interesting ideas, they will be more apt to trust the manager. Does the manager do what he or she says they will do? If the manager promises information, does the manager provide it? And finally, can the originator trust that the manager will consider his or her interests?
Do you have the right person managing your remote sales staff?