Managing a team is like looking out for a herd of cows. That makes you, the boss, a rancher of sorts. You’re responsible for their fitness so they’d produce the “best beef” and remain healthy; you have to look well into their working environment so they’d have quality “milk” for the period. Cows have to be grazed where there’s water and fresh grass. There must be staple supply for hay, water and vitamins for them as well. All that stuff.
Heck, I’m so not sure about herding and cows, but definitely I’m making sense here. Of course, this is not to say I treat the Oh!SomeAngels like cows! I actually look more of one than those sweet, hardworking beings. (Read: slightly overweight, often mistaken for a preggy!) I take pride in being a good team manager, though there’s still a lot to learn for me and this young herd. Gee, I feel like a small-time rancher. Where’s my horse and boots now!
Anyways, my point is: You’ve got to make your workers productive. It’s never enough that they’re getting tasks on time and submitting smile-of-satisfaction-inducing output. It’s not just about getting them paid on time and handing out surprise bonuses as well. You’ve got to keep your team motivated, well-organized and happy with your efforts.
Here’s some ideas how to keep them productive:
1. Be a glaring example. Bringing out the best in others must start with the group head. This means you’ve got to walk your talk as a leader, be a shining star of work ethics and be a positive force and source of energy.
If a leader keeps yakking about discipline and doesn’t impose it upon himself, then the rest of the group would be like that as well. But a leader who exudes integrity, dedication to work and compassion for workers would be well-respected. With that respect will result with the team’s desire to work hard. After all, they’d want to earn that same respect as well.
2. Delegate tasks even if you know how to DIY. I’m one to delegate, not for the lack of time, but for the team to learn. While my staff Kirby was a whiz at other things, website management was something new to him. So while there were instructions to learn linking, HTML, CSS and PHP, I was learning as well. For research and data mining, I’d rely on Jones after having shared the advanced search methods. I let Alta and Marie do our articles assignments, even if the topics are like from outer space to them both.
Point? I could actually do all the tasks myself BUT where would that put them? To keep an online team really productive, tap their potentials and delegate challenging tasks to them
They have to be productive, not just at doing what they’re supposed to do, but by doing something new. In the process, they learn while I dig up more stuff for them to learn later.
3. Convene regularly and confer properly. A group of workers would have diverse issues and concerns. There should be a proper venue for this, such as meetings. For OSPs like the ones I work with, online conferencing works well. Those events come weekly to discuss what’s ahead for everyone, like tasks, new things to learn, etc. At the same time, we evaluate the past week’s works. Anyone can raise their specific concerns with work.
I’d like to stress that it’s important to have one-on-one discussions with some workers. There will always be sentiments or issues best for that person and the leader only. Not all things are meant for the conference table. Allow your workers the privilege to confer with you on such matters. Examples of such situation would be request for cash advances, leave from work, etc.
4. Be strict with time management. Deadlines are something that puts off potential OSPs. But it’s something that a worker must deal with if he’s to make a mark on my list. Because we have varying times and schedules, I have to make sure there’s a system for me to be updated with their output or with any developments. While virtual employees do have other stuff to do, like most WAH moms and moonlighters, they mustn’t be excused from deadlines. In fact, they have to be more keen in managing their time because clients are not hearing their reasons of delay.
Each morning I’d send out very short emails to all the Oh!SomeAngels about the value of time. Nothing preachy or prosy; just short stuff like quotes from famous people, lines from movies or my bitchy version of both. That serves as my reminder for their day’s assignments or deadlines. Just an idea for you.
At the same time, I always stress that they device schedules that would work for them as well as the team. With that, they came a-telling me after a month that they’re not as excited to be on Facebook or check emails. Also, I beamed with pride that they actually ask what’s their next assignment even before I’m done scheduling!
5. Communicate positively. It’s always a challenge to stay positive when you’re working all by yourself – and yet work with seven or more people who you only talk to on Skype or get emails from five days a week! In 2006, I worked with an online team who were just rising up while I’m about to sleep. Tempers rose often and patience was hardly found. But bless Katherine, a heaven-sent leader who made sure things worked well. Her only weapon from the predicaments was her ability to communicate positively. Yeah, you guessed it! I learned a lot from dear Katherine.
Today, I’d tell the Oh!SomeAngels and those on trial period that there’s always something positive for every negative. A good start. But when a worker is disgruntled or gossips, that’s another thing. On such instances, you’d have to re-frame expectations. It would help if we dig through the workers’ intentions instead of the unpleasant action or complaints. That would be a positive view as opposed to just seeing that worker as whining or ungrateful.
So then it means the team manager must be careful and concise with instructions. As a leader, that person must express thanks and praises more often. That person must know when to address erring employees and positively do so. Read: look into intentions and not the actions. At the same time, an online team manager must render critiques professionally and position suggestions and instructions in an interesting manner.
CONCLUSION of sorts
If you’re a business owner who employ OSPs or a team manager who look after the growth of the business and workers, it follows you’re expected to produce. Now, you can’t do it alone. I bet even Superman would complain and seek help from the Justice League. There’s just so much to do. But if your goal is all about quality growth, then you’ve gotta make your online workers productive. Always.
Lastly, I apologize to the cows. They deserve much better.