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Summary:

If you work from home now, congratulate yourself: chances are, you’ll be managing the web workers of tomorrow. As businesses move 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.

remote-manager

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 Books

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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  1. Great article. Having been a web worker for 3 years, that’s exactly the direction in which I want to go. A very important of web management is to keep your workers engaged. Even if your work doesn’t demand it, make it a point to talk to them every couple of days. Have frequent team meetings. Your virtual teams needs the regular infusion of motivation to foster a feeling of being involved and part of a team.

  2. Is this dejavu or what..because what you wrote is already happening in my case. What was once a desire to escape the bounds of the corporate setting and work on my own – is now becoming a shift to a digital corporate workplace. Now, I’m not only responsible for myself but for other freelance workers as well. I’m not complaining though as I know the consequence of accepting such a huge responsibility. One thing I will agree with you is — yes, we’re lucky to be the first here!

  3. Great article and I whole heartedly agree that it is essential that managers learn how to manage virtual or distributed teams and remote workers.

    The comforting thing is that you don’t need to throw out all your old management techniques and know-how but instead make small adjustments to the tools you use, becoming a more conscious communicator, and finding ways to encourage informal communication to help your remote workers and team members bond so that you build and maintain trust on your team. This plays a big part in the “human element” as you mentioned. It is often though that most virtual team work issues are technology related but it’s important to remember that virtual teamwork is at it’s core a human endeavor and people need to work with others they know, like, and trust.

    Most companies do not provide training in this space which is why we developed an on-demand webinar called The Art of Virtual Leadership that helps managers make the shift to leading virtual teams. It is encouraging that we have found great interest from many companies who are starting to realize the value in providing this type of training for their managers rather than the “sink-or-swim” mentality that often leads to challenges with people learning to work remotely.

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