Knowing Your People: Having a work force distributed across different time zones is invariably one of the more difficult obstacles to overcome. Being onsite, a manager has the benefit of daily interaction with his work force, knowing them on both a professional and personal level. This type of socialization helps to develop relationships, build trust among the staff, and create and instill a "team" environment that fosters collaboration among the team as well as with the manager.
When some people are offsite, managers must find a way to instill a similar sense of belonging and inclusion. Building teams is about building trust, the importance of which is even more stressed when potentially key individuals are not immediately accessible to the manager.
While individuals located offsite should generally be self-motivated, knowing how to motivate them is still an important managerial role, as people respond to different communication approaches. Ensuring that your team is working as efficiently as possible is more than just knowing their strengths and weaknesses as professionals, but as people as well. This is instrumental in retaining talent - a serious concern for many organizations in the IT security sector - for the long term.
Metrics and Accountability: Evaluating the efforts of a distributed team can be challenging for managers. Ensuring that projects are delivered on time and have a positive impact on the business as a whole is an important metric that provides insights into how a team is faring.
Consequently, if a team or some of its members is falling short in the evaluation process, they must be held accountable for their efforts and a correction plan must be developed and implemented. That's why tracking workflow is so important. It allows managers to have visibility into the specific work being done by individual team members. If trust is the fundamental building block of creating a team, failure to hold those team members accountable for their lack of production can create a negative impact on other team members.
Distributed teams within an organization are the products of an interconnected increasingly global reality. The benefits of having a work force available to work around the clock, hiring talent regardless of location, and the agility a distributed team enables an organization can directly impact productivity. But a team is only as strong as the individuals that make it up.
Former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy once famously said, "Employees are a company's greatest asset - they're your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company's mission."
Even if the paradigm has shifted since Mulcahy was CEO, the sentiment is the same. But getting the best people regardless of location is only one part of our responsibilities as manager; knowing how to manage them successfully is the bigger challenge. Devising strategies around implementing these four goals is a good place to start.
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