This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

December 12, 2000

Remote Management: New Skills for Managers

19 Days until January 1, 2001

How well could you manage people you never see?

As the number of telecommuters increases, we've seen the beginning of this change. More companies are expecting their employees to travel, "hoteling" at various company facilities. Other employees are operating in customer locations or are continually on the road. Still other workers are contingent employees who won't respond to the same kind of relationship that managers have with permanent staff. And we haven't even begun to explore how we'll deal with employees of contractors, outsourcing suppliers, and in-sourced resources.

The new set of skills will be much different than the traditional skills applied by managers to get things done. No longer will supervisors monitor what time people show up for work, how many breaks they take, or whether they make personal phone calls. If a boss can't see the subordinates-who are located at home or in a remote facility, the familiar directive and controlling styles won't work. The emphasis will shift to results, rather than activity, with a greater reliance on measurements that have yet to be developed in many organizations. No longer will monitoring activity be sufficient; a new approach will be required.

A massive retraining of managers and supervisors looms before us as we transform relationships between workers and their employers. Managers of the future will rely on skills like persuasion, negotiation, and complete communication. Are you prepared to manage people in remote locations? How well do you lead using e-mail, faxes, telephone conference calls, and files shared over distance? Can you imagine leading people you've never even met?

Will management of remote workers and resources be expected of all managers? Or will this skill become a specialized field, a new competency to be taught in schools and corporate training programs? What challenges will we face, and how will we deal with them as more and more of our workers never even see each other? Will we miss the social interaction? Can we function without human-to-human, face-to-face bonding? What will corporate culture be like when we don't know each other?

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