In episode two of the new Web Courseworks podcast, Managing eLearning, Dr. Jon Aleckson & Matt Harpold sit down with Jeffrey Gorton, author of The Seven Secrets to Managing Remote Employeesto discuss the source of inspiration for the book, highlight some of the major themes, and walk through the seven steps.

Jeffrey Gorton is a client focused leader and technology enthusiast who gives great insight on how to deal with the current working-from-home phenomenon caused by the pandemic. Remote work has transformed the workplace environment of multiple industries, so Gorton tells us what it takes to successfully manage remote employees. Hint: it involves accepting that remote work isn’t going anywhere! In his book, he stresses the importance of shifting the conversation from “when will remote work stop?” to “how to manage a remote workforce?”.

What are the 7 Secrets to Managing Remote Employees?

  • Purpose

The first secret to managing remote employees is having purpose. Giving your team a common purpose that they can center around is the first step to a happy, healthy remote work environment. When employees are struggling at home, remembering that they have a role can make all the difference between giving up and pushing forward.

Gorton’s technique arose when a former leader of his ended each meeting with the rally cry “go forth and be awesome”. As a previous member of the military, this statement struck a cord in Gorton, because in the military you must have a rallying cry that unites everyone behind a single purpose. Having something as simple as an inspiring statement at the end of each meeting can give your remote employees the purpose they need to stay on track and keep moving toward success.

  • Relationships

The only way to encourage positive working relationships is to communicate with your teammates. Especially in times like these, maintaining strong relationships can be significantly more difficult due to a lack of in-person interaction. Therefore, as a leader, it’s crucial to keep in contact with employees, whether that be zoom meetings, weekly videos, or any other online communication platform, to continue to foster positive remote-working relationships during the pandemic.

  • Empowerment & Encourage Success

The next important aspect of a successful remote workplace is empowerment. A leader must give team members the ability to live out their expertise. Gorton discusses how leaders have the responsibility to empower team members to make the best decisions by giving them their full support. Working remote adds to the uncertainty that comes with any difficult decision. Because it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made, leaders must stand by their employees because it was the leader who empowered them to take risks and step outside of their comfort zone.

“Empowerment isn’t just handing over the reins, what is it saying is I trust you to be the expert and I’m not going to get your way. If something comes up that we need to address you know I want, I want to be open we’ll talk about that in just a minute is this this idea of you know you have control over your workspace you have control over your work,” said Gorton.

  • Tools

Gorton explains how the tools change with remote work, but the purpose of the tools do not. And that’s where it’s crucial to provide your team with the necessary tools, as well as teach them how to use each one to be successful.

  • Availability

Leaders face the challenge of balancing multiple tasks and responsibilities at once, so one of the hardest things, especially while working remote, is to make yourself available. Having the availability to meet up and chat via zoom is crucial to keeping your teammates on track and to avoid any miscommunication errors.

  • Trust

It’s easy for the leader-employee relationship to dissolve while working remote, so it’s crucial that your team trusts you as a leader and that you’ll live up to (or exceed) the set standards. One of the examples Gorton gave is when he took over a team that was struggling. “The first thing I told them is that I need your trust,” Gorton said, “I know you’ve worked for managers and leaders that broke your trust, and it’s going to be hard, but if you trust me I promise you that in three months time, I will have earned that trust.”

  • Managing Beyond

The focus of maintaining a healthy remote-work atmosphere is to focus serving your team, not yourself. It is the job of the leader to give the team what they need for long term success within their position, as well as the company as a whole. Not only this, but managing beyond is also about being a good human being. Being a pleasant manager in times like this can make all the difference between a successful and unsuccessful remote-working environment.

For those who would like to start applying some of the principles…….. Gorton says it begins with trust. He recommends the very first step is to assess your current leadership performance and address any issues the team might have with your leadership style. “If a lot of these tactics are new to you as they were to me as an early manager, I realize I needed to apologize to my team,” Gorton said, “You’ve got to instill trust and let them know that you want to do better.”

As leaders, we often try not to be human; we hide our flaws and make every effort to be perfect. Instead, it’s important to acknowledge any personal wrongdoings so your team needs to know that it’s okay to make mistakes.

“I think we’ve all come to the conclusion that the life we were living may not have been the life that we want to lead going forward. We are all human and we’re all going to make mistakes, we’re all going to have challenges, and we need to be there to support each other.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

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