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Remote management: 4 practices of successful leaders


Éric Brunelle, Associate Professor in Management at Montreal’s
Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) business school.
Credit: Réjean Meloche

By Isabelle Paradis

With remote management becoming an increasingly common reality in our organizations, what should managers in this situation do?

Éric Brunelle, Professor in Management at Montreal's Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) business school, suggests four management practices he has observed in his research that successful remote leaders use to do their job effectively.

1- Make face time a priority
Face-to-face meetings are an excellent management practice according to remote leaders. When there are new employees or the team itself is new, the ideal scenario is to organize a meeting as soon as possible. The earlier in the process this meeting occurs, the easier it is for the manager to integrate the new employees. These meetings help build connections quickly and minimize the psychological distances through human contact, learning and understanding about others. This makes communicating easier, which in turn, facilitates conflict resolution, promotes mutual trust, and helps establish a shared experience that promotes the development of a group culture. These meetings seem to be especially effective when managers display leadership and use these opportunities to foster group cohesion.

2- Overcome distances
At times it can be hard, or even impossible, to hold face-to-face meetings. In that case, it's important to try to overcome the psychological distances. To do this, successful remote leaders focus on communicating about work, delivering clear and specific messages and ensuring they're properly understood, outlining each person's roles, expectations and objectives clearly, and following up on them.

3- Address individual expectations
To make up for the lack of direct human contact, which can reveal a wealth of nonverbal information, remote leaders regularly take the time to check in with each member of their team. This is an opportunity for leaders to connect with their employees, get an update on their situation, remind them of certain values of the organization and the team, resolve isolated issues, etc. Successful remote managers organize one-on-one meetings, take the time to know and recognize each of their employees, and talk to them about career opportunities and development.

4- Promote team spirit
Another communication practice that's relatively effective in minimizing psychological distances is sending group messages. These messages serve to highlight the achievements of the team, organization, or a specific team member, and remind everyone of the company's values. In addition, to help encourage connections and a sense of solidarity, successful remote leaders try to create regular opportunities to establish rapport between employees. They tend to be very proactive in terms of interpersonal relationships, and take every chance to create time for sharing without making it feel forced.

Skills of successful remote managers
- Ability to understand the challenges and dynamic of this unique context
- Trust in oneself and others
- Ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity
- Great flexibility 
- A high level of empathy to grasp the subtleties of how each team member feels about  them, their colleagues, and the organization, and consequently be able to intervene appropriately to manage the psychological distances according to each person's needs 

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