Guest Contributor Amy Connell has worked in a highly visible marketing capacity for three Fortune 500 companies, as well as for several start-up ventures. I worked with Amy in the 1990’s at Telecommuting Success, Inc., one of those start-up ventures. We worked virtually then and have enjoyed a virtual, professional friendship since. I asked Amy if she would write a post from a seasoned and successful virtual worker and team leader. She shares pragmatic wisdom for the curious and seasoned virtual team leader.
Twelve years ago, I flew into the Indianapolis International Airport to interview for a position as Head of Marketing for a small IT consultancy. I interviewed at the airport tavern with the CEO and his heads of Finance and Sales. Why the airport? The company didn’t have a corporate office. Everyone in this 100-person consultancy worked from home, selling and deploying more HP software than any company in the world except HP itself.
As VP of a Marketing department of one, I managed a quarterly budget of $250,000-350,000, staffed entirely with outside contractors. Within a year, our loose federation of marketing specialists had re-branded, built out a corporate website, developed a collateral library of product and service brochures and case studies, published numerous articles and press releases, and entertained almost 300 attendees at our company party at the HP OpenView Software Forum.
Since that time – more than a decade – I have worked virtually as a consultant, individual contributor, and virtual team manager. I’m asked three questions about working virtually. The question I’m asked most often about this working arrangement is:
“Do you have a hard time disciplining yourself to work from home?”
I don’t. For me (and many others, I’ve discovered), it’s just the opposite. Since my work and office are co-located and available 24/7, it can be challenging to stop working. As a “Type A,” I often find the siren song of pending action items tough to ignore. I can work at 5am. I can work at 10pm. I can work on weekends and holidays. Often I do. But I try to make it a conscious decision. Which is Interesting, since companies new to telecommuting are so often concerned about productivity, the 2nd question I’m often asked:
Frankly, I’ve never found this to be an issue. I manage remote direct reports just as I do external agencies – based on results, not attendance. And, I would argue, because I manage team and individual performance based entirely on timeliness and quality of work product, I’m more fair and objective. I find that helps me answer the 3rd question I’m often asked:
“What happens if a remote employee is not performing?”
The same thing that happens when an on-site employee is not performing: You have a conversation, and if results do not improve, you write up the employee and potentially sever employment.
For me, working from home means I get to my desk earlier, enjoy my preferred heat and A/C settings, reduce noise and interruptions, save gas and lunch money, and vent my frustrations in private. For my employer, enabling telecommuting means less money spent on real estate, furnishings, and utilities, happier and less stressed employees, and increased productivity. And of course, for the community, less commuting means lighter traffic and a smaller carbon footprint.
Virtual Management Works For Me And My Team – IMHO, Here’s Why
If you manage remote workers, simply be a good manager. Provide an accurate job description, define your expectations, respond promptly when asked for guidance. Acknowledge good work and provide clear feedback for work that isn’t up-to-par. Don’t micro-manage. (Micro-management is as annoying and unproductive over the phone as it is down the hallway.) Try to remember that it’s all about how well the work is performed, not where your people are when they’re performing it.
Do you want to learn more NOW? The SMART Workplace has launched our 2nd Virtual Workplace University course, The Powerful Role of the Virtual Manager.
Right now it is only available through The SMART Workplace, so enter the course through our portal to Virtual Workplace University.
I developed and narrated the introductory course based on my book, Working Virtually: Transforming the Mobile Workplace. (Preordered books on sale now!) I agree with Amy, is all about how well the work is performed, not where your people are when they’re performing it. I hope you take the course, tell me what you think, and what you want to learn next!
Amy Connell is a senior marketing professional with extensive experience in B2B strategy and content development, her company, MarketingCounsel.Net LLC, helps navigate complex market and competitive landscapes. They identify white-space opportunities and develop compelling positioning and content to generate interest. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.