If you work from home now, congratulate yourself: chances are, you’ll be managing the web workers of tomorrow (if you aren’t already). As businesses move more of their workers out of central offices and embrace the distributed model, even jobs closer to the central core of an organization will be done remotely.
Are you ready for that kind of responsibility? Preparedness is what will separate the simply competent web working manager from the excellent one. But if your company doesn’t have a program for grooming distributed managers, or if you’re working for yourself at this point, then how best to prepare?
Read about management. There are plenty of books on the subject, and they’ll give you insight you might not be able to get just from lived experience. Books alone aren’t a substitute for experience, but they’ll help you evaluate your own approaches, and learn some new tricks.
- “What To Do When You Become The Boss” is a good primer for those who haven’t yet occupied a management role. It’s designed with entry-level readers in mind, so the pacing is good and it has a number of real case studies and interactive elements to keep things interesting.
- “The New Manager’s Tool Kit” is another good book for those just starting out. Special attention is paid to how to keep the human element a part of your management strategy, which is especially important when you’re dealing with people at a distance.
Ask for (or Take) Responsibility
If you’re already working as part of a distributed team and there’s no direct supervisor involved in the group, you have an opportunity. Either put in a request with a superior that you be given extra organizational responsibilities within the group, or, if others are amenable and there’s an obvious need, just step up and take a leadership role. Chances are that people will be appreciative of some direction if it seems to be lacking.
Taking on added responsibility will pay dividends in the long run, even if in the short term it doesn’t actually result in any extra cash compensation. Any experience you can cite later to differentiate yourself from your peers in management competitions will be hugely beneficial.
Get to Know the Tools
How do people even go about managing others online? Look at your field and find out what tools are being used to help distributed teams stay well-managed. Is Basecamp being used to organize projects and keep people on deadlines? Is there a Google Apps component? What tech is being employed to facilitate teleconferences and online meetings?
Find out what the standard is for your organization, and make a point of learning how to make those tools do what you want them to. Then, find out what the next up-and-comers on the horizon are. Do that by asking other companies you work with who their service providers of choice are. Pay special attention to the suggestions of IT professionals and startups. Those will be the ones to watch.
You may not think you’re in a management track at the moment, but if you’re an experienced web worker, or even a not-so-experienced one who’s intent on becoming more so, then you’ve already got a head start on the majority of tomorrow’s workforce. Take the initiative and capitalize on that advantage.
What tips do you have a for aspiring web working managers?
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