Remote Work and the Rise of the ‘New Manager’

As more businesses embrace remote work, a new type of manager is emerging — one who focuses on results, can easily navigate technology, and doesn’t shy away from distributed teams

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With more and more companies deciding on permanent WFH arrangements, we've identified qualities you should look for in a modern manager who can successfully lead remote teams

COVID-19 is catalyzing important, overdue conversations in all arenas of life — but notably so, at work. Among the many considerations, some companies are asking, do we really need a physical office any longer? For many, the answer is no, and they’re choosing to stick with permanent work-from-home arrangements.

Remote work is productive and satisfying with the right manager and team, and it’s here to stay. This means managers need to be comfortable with managing remote teams — or get comfortable, fast.

“Particularly in a remote environment, managers aren’t going to have the same level of visibility into the day-to-day experiences of their employees and the ‘new manager’ will be able to better navigate this,” said Emily Goodson, Founder and CEO of CultureSmart.

Qualities of the ‘new manager’

Ready to lead remote teams

With more and more companies deciding on permanent WFH arrangements, the modern manager must be confident in leading fully or partially remote teams. They have to balance their focus on KPIs with personalized support and guidance for their team members.

The ad-hoc plan you cobbled together to go remote in a hurry because of COVID-19 isn’t your best chance for long-term success.

Companies can grow remote-ready managers with an organized transition to permanent WFH and the right training. The ad-hoc plan you cobbled together to go remote in a hurry because of COVID-19 isn’t your best chance for long-term success. You have to be purposeful, and you have to train your managers.

Comfortable with technology

The new manager has a high level of tech fluency. They’re confident troubleshooting issues and coming up to speed on new apps, systems, and programs. And technology enables them to be cross functionally capable — maybe they can use Salesforce, write a few lines of basic code, and understand relevant marketing metrics.

Grow tech-savvy managers at your company by creating a culture that hinges on learning. Share knowledge and try new tools. Operate with the understanding that individuals can learn to take on new roles and challenges and that technology can empower them to do so.

Emphasizes relationships

A team’s success is tied to the strength of its relationships, and the new manager understands this and works to build trust.

Build trust by showing that you care. Start by asking questions. “Show you care by creating space. What does that look like? It’s about asking questions and being patient enough to await the answers,” said leadership coach Karen Laos.

Ask questions like:

  • How can I support you?
  • What do you need?
  • What is the best way I can intervene for you?

Then let employees lead. The new manager trusts their people to make the right decisions without micromanaging.

Focuses on outcomes — not hours

Redefine your idea of productivity by focusing on outcomes. Use tools to set goals and measure KPIs to understand who is performing well and who could use some support.

It is very easy with current technologies to set reasonable KPIs and actually track them with relatively good accuracy,” said Justin Grau, Founder of BizDig.

Lean into project management tools like Trello or Asana to monitor the progress of a project and for a sense of shared accountability. Focus on managing the task — not people or time.

Leads with empathy

The new manager understands how to build supportive, constructive relationships with their team by tapping into empathy. They can effectively remove barriers because they’ve put in the work to understand where their employees are coming from.

“I think people who truly have the skills to manage will rise to the top. In the past, you have seen a lot of bias in promotions or in performance management because of who is in the office and who interacts with leaders every day.” 

“Empathy needs to be swapped out for ego in every area of leadership. Leadership isn’t about you. It’s about them,” said MBA instructor Fotini Iconomopoulos.

The new manager knows how to motivate individuals because they’ve taken the time to learn what drives and incentivizes their people.

Goodson says she’s excited for the new wave of work and the managers who will be at the helm.

“I think people who truly have the skills to manage will rise to the top. In the past, you have seen a lot of bias in promotions or in performance management because of who is in the office and who interacts with leaders every day.”

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