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Managing a group across many miles

 
 
Linkat
 
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 01:47 pm
A manage a small group that is about 1,500 miles from me " this is new to me. In the past, I’ve been rated pretty high in my management skills, promoting team work, positive work environment, etc. We have a new rate the boss sort of thing. I have two managers that directly report to me from this other location. One used to report to me here locally and he moved; the other is newer and I’ve only managed this person long distance.

So my results are mixed " one has rated me pretty well (one I’ve managed in person before) and the other pretty bad. I would assume that is due to me not managing well across sites/via phone and email rather than in person. This individual that rated me low, also did not get a gleaming review " it wasn’t bad; but this person has had some issues managing their time, meeting deadlines and quality work " so it could also be a combination.

Yes this bothers me, as I take my managing very seriously and strive to do my best. You out in a2k land are not personally involved. What are your thoughts? Is it the distance? How do you reach out appropriately via phone, email, etc. Any thoughts or experience with this?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 1,105 • Replies: 18
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Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 01:52 pm
@Linkat,
One of my best friends in Costa Rica is a programmer who used to hate me while I managed him from San Diego. Once I moved down here and managed him directly we became good friends.

Distance makes management very difficult.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 01:53 pm
@Linkat,
Since this one person is the outlier, and got a bad review him-/herself, I'd suggest it's a bad apple.

That's with just the info you've provided here.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 01:57 pm
@DrewDad,
I should have clarified - it wasn't a bad review - just not stellar - it was what you would rate as satisfactory - doing your job; just not doing more. And I've recently had conversations about quality of work, meeting deadlines, etc. We all have a much larger workload (like many companies we have had lots of cutbacks and expectations on workload and performance are high). This person has been having a tough time managing her time.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 01:59 pm
@Linkat,
Oh. Well then, that's different.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 02:00 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I don't care in a sense if you don't like me - just respect me and my work. And never got the impression before that she was having difficulty with me and my management - just the workload itself so it was a bit of a surprise - I did not expect off the top marks because of the work environment itself, but I honestly didn't think her ratings were fair. Maybe some of the comments themself and there wasn't anything really noted in the comments to support the low ratings.

I also found it odd that questions geared toward does your manager do ABC were all yes (except one), but yet when rating how you did things they were low.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 02:01 pm
Oh and the ratings and comments are anomious (sp?) - but since I only have 2 reports, it is easy with what is written to determine who is who.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 03:28 pm
@Linkat,
Linkat wrote:
I don't care in a sense if you don't like me - just respect me and my work.


My point was that there was a lot getting lost in translation. Saying the same things in person made me likable to him but over the phone or by email it wasn't the same.

What I took away from it was that remote management required being much more careful to make sure that it is working out for both of us.

Quote:
And never got the impression before that she was having difficulty with me and my management


I had no idea either till he told me.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 03:31 pm
@Linkat,
Those anonymous 360 reviews are so often fatally flawed. I got my company to stop doing them when I demonstrated to the HR department that I knew who wrote every one of the ones I was involved in, and there were around 20.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 03:50 pm
@Robert Gentel,
It is odd and it is most likely the remote crap - but I am always considered approachable. I would take ok some one calling me a bitch or something - but to say I wasn't approachable seems odd to me. I mean it isn't unusual for a total stranger to come up to me and talk about personal things. I've had a woman tell me about her daughter and her fight for cancer - just while in a starbucks. Usually if some one has a problem with me, they tell me.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 03:53 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I was actually on the committee (not by choice) to promote this to our department - there had to be a couple of saps. And of course I made it clear that it is anonymous, but as we all know there are many managers that have one or two reports so of course it isn't completely anonymous. Maybe I am too straight forward.

Any way this rating thing isn't supposed to be used any where but for the particular manager receiving it to make improvements on their management skills. I will use it this and will make changes that hopefully will be seen even remotely.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 04:02 pm
I agree that the 360 degree reviews have lots of built-in bad side effects. I haven't ever seen then used successfully, and question the management that imposes them.

Physical remoteness does add a great deal of difficulty & complication to professional relationship ( as Robert has noted). In this case you may be facing the interaction of TWO somewhat adverse complications, the 360 degree reviews AND the physical remoteness - and they interact. Hard to know for sure what is causing the problems you encounter.

My best advice is to try to find some way to insert some level of human interaction in your e-mail, on-line & voice communications. The very ease and directness of e-mail in its various forms makes this very difficult, and, at the same time, disguises the lack of the human element from the sender. This may require some extra effort on your part.

As for the reviews, my suggestion is to try and ignore them, recognizing that the relationship is a long-term one, and that it is ultimately the results you deliver that should count the most.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 11:23 am
@georgeob1,
Thanks some good thoughts. I've been thinking a bit about it too lately. I plan on calling more rather than the easier emails. I am making a conscience effort to make sure I thank people more and to point out exactly what I am thanking them for. I always felt I thank people regularly, but I also realize in an email it may not come across the same.

I am also going to formalize my one on one meetings that I hold - with an agenda and send early so my managers can add items they may want to discuss. In the past, I've been more informal with these meetings and they seemed to work very well this way - but I was face to face with people.

Also, in our performance system, we have a working notes sort of area - I've used it in the past with individuals when we had performance issues. You type in items discussed, etc so you have a formal document as you progress through the year - it is not required, but I figure by putting in the notes after our meetings it should solidify any discussions we had so there would be less confusion and to clarify. The manager would also have access to view so it may be a good tool under these sorts of situations.
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 01:21 pm
@Linkat,
Good ideas. The absence of structure, combined with physical remoteness, can be psychologically unsettling to many people. The annoyances that inevitably come from formal agendas and scripts are small compared to the uncertainty and drift that can come from the lack of structure and direct contact.

Don't be afraid to use the "I" word and to task your people to produce identifiable results. Human nature is a perverse thing, and in the absence of direct tasking and accountability, many people can drift into amusing themselves with complaints & criticisms about their boss's minor eccentricities and behaviors. Instead give them something real to worry about - direct tasking for verifiable output and results.

Accompany this with clear statements of your goals and openness with respect to suggestions and improvements. No one is right about everything all the time - you need their engagement and input to stay on track. Constructive disagreement about objective issues is usually good for the group - as long as you stay tuned to what actually works. However, you're the boss and they both need and expect you to act like it.
0 Replies
 
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:07 pm
Great advice so far. Human interaction cannot be emphasized enough though,
and it helps tremendously with employees motivation and work ethics.
Every Monday I spend about an hour just asking various employees about their
weekend and their kids and so forth. It's not a chore, I am genuinely interested,
but I have noticed that employees feel more appreciated and important
if management takes a personal interest too which in essence translates to
loyalty and better job performance.
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:19 pm
@CalamityJane,
I read, some years ago, about how employees at the casinos in Las Vegas in the 40's and 50's were very satisfied with their employers (the mafia) because the mafia took the time to remember the important (to the employees) dates/children's birthdays/anniversaries/holidays etc and that after the mob was run out of town and "corporations" took over, employees satisfaction went drastically south.
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:28 pm
@dyslexia,
Although I am in no way affiliated with the Mafia, I know that it works! Very Happy
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 04:49 pm
One of the many interesting things I learned in leaving the Navy for a career in the Engineering & Construction business was the different approaches to motivation. In the service you can't pay bonuses or give someone a raise (though you can positively or negativel;y influence their future career prospects), and there are limitations on your ability to just fire people. As a result you look to 'everything else' to find means of motivating them. That includes animating their spirit of group identity & competitiveness towards the achievement of concrete goals, and relating to them both as individual persons and by their role in the organization. I learned that, in business, managers often think first, second, and third about compensation (salary & bonus) and firing people - only after all that has failed does 'everything else' come into play.

I found that, if I took the trouble to disguise the military source for all this, I had powerful advantages over my peers in quickly and effectively getting things done through the actions of others.

Basic rules of the game;
1.Know yourself (warts and all)
2.Know your people
3.Define goals and motivate people to achieve them
4.Develop the habit of trying to connect personally with people and see small transactions through their eyes.. It will change your own perspective.
5. Create a spirit of constructive friction among yourself & your principal deputies. Loyal disagreement is necessary - no one is right about everything all the time, and it doesn't matter who provides the right answer.
6. Provide regular feedbact, good and bad. Get people accustomed to objective feedback early, when the consequences are small, so it can be effective in a crisis.
7. Be the boss, but give credit to others.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 11:59 am
@dyslexia,
Good thought - maybe a should strive to become a mob boss - the only problem I am horrible with dates.
0 Replies
 
 

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