publication date: Feb 23, 2012
When most people hear the term "remote worker," they imagine
someone physically located far away. Yet the reality of nonprofit achievement
is that even in a small, local charity you may depend on volunteers and board
members to accomplish vital work without frequent personal contact. You must
maintain a top-notch working relationship with your board chair even though she
isn't on site and doesn't see your daily work. And sometimes, in larger
organizations or international agencies, you manage staff in another location.
From Spain, CEO Michael
leads an Internet company based in Poland with collaborators in Japan
and the USA - oh, and one person in Germany. With such a scattered work force,
he's well-qualified to address the challenges you face in managing people you
seldom see. Fortunately, as an Internet specialist, he's got the technological
tools and solutions to make your challenges manageable. His five top tips work
just as well for nonprofit leaders.
You won't be able to give everyone a weekly review. Choose
those who are leading projects, staff teams or programs and spend an hour with
each of them every Monday. Hyatt says it will help you focus, summarize last
week's achievements and set priorities for the coming week.
Host a weekly team
This needn't be in person, but it should involve everyone. A
conference call keeps everyone informed, promotes bonding, allows questions,
and creates a chance for the informal chat that helps everyone get to know one
Schedule your own
Hyatt warns that managing people who aren't there can easily
put you in "response mode" all the time: feeling that you must answer every
email message or phone call right away so other people can stay on their work
plans. Set aside time for your own creative and analytical work, and make it
known that you should only be interrupted for emergencies.
In the same way, create a generous window of response time
every day. Let your team know that during these hours, they're your priority.
You'll be answering their emails, scheduling meetings, responding to their
calls and available for brainstorming.
online collaboration apps
Email wasn't designed for online collaboration, Hyatt
explains. His team uses Dropbox, GoogleDocs, Socialcast and its own project
management application to work together online.
Control is good,
trust is better
Trust your team to deliver, urges Hyatt. People work better
when you trust them. Trust yourself too. You'll notice if someone isn't
delivering - you don't need to be on top of them. Hyatt's team enjoys a yearly
retreat with plenty of time for working and socializing. You may be able to
bring your people together physically more often for shorter periods of time.
Just make sure it happens regularly and that there's time for bonding and
relaxing as well as working.
You'll also need to go out of your way to create individual
in-person contact with your team members. Whether it's lunch or just a coffee,
those contacts build trust as well as moving your work goals forward.
Leading a remote team is never easy. But it is doable, Hyatt
concludes, with the right technology and above all, an unflagging intention.
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