5 tips for remote management in uncertain times

April 6, 2020
3 minute read

This article was first published in Psychology Today

Remote management has been increasing steadily over the last decade, and now it has exploded, out of necessity. With one big extra twist: It’s being done for safety as well as efficiency. Remote management has always had its own set of distance-related challenges—and in these anxious times, there are added complexities as well. 

Given that context, here are five best practices for managers to bear in mind: 

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Good communication is always integral to management. As I’ve said (and written) before, “I never met a good manager who wasn’t a good communicator.” Add to that an uncharted environment where employees, contractors, and just about everyone else need reassurance, have questions and understandable uncertainty about the future … and it only amplifies the need to communicate. Robustly. The more, the better. 

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2. Project confidence and a positive attitude.

In the best of times or the worst of times, employees want management they can look up to and trust. Managers who project confidence and a calm, positive outlook. These attributes are now more valuable than ever. In a sea of uncertainty, people naturally respond to a safe harbor.

3. Establish credibility.

To expand on the point directly above, all the confidence in the world amounts to nothing without serious credibility underlying it. In short, a strong positive attitude needs to be tempered by realism. If management is perceived as untrustworthy, it will always be (to use a fly fisherman’s metaphor) a trout swimming upstream. There’s no substitute for credibility. It’s job one, especially in uncertain times. It’s fundamental.  

4. Set clear expectations.

While managerial clarity is always important, in a period when so much else isn’t clear, its value is amplified. Thus, clear management expectations, both formal (the objective performance results expected) and informal (the everyday actions and behaviors desired) will likely be both necessary and appreciated.

5. Keep people connected.

Keeping remote workers and teams connected has been an increasingly vital skill as the workforce has dispersed—a skill for the 21st century to be sure—and these abilities are even more helpful when large numbers of people have become suddenly disconnected, cut off from normal social interactions. It doesn’t matter much how it’s done (phone, video, text, email, etc.) so long as it is done. People want to be connected, and suddenly such bonds have been loosened. 

Good management is often about consistency. In these times, it can help restore predictability to an unpredictable world.

Victor Lipman is a management trainer and author. His online courses on Udemy include The Manager’s Mindset and his book is “The Type B Manager.” He has more than 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience. He has contributed regularly to Forbes and Psychology Today, and his work has appeared in Harvard Business Review.