How to Succeed as a New Manager Leading a Remote Team

Agata Antonow

by Agata Antonow

5 min read
How to Succeed as a New Manager Leading a Remote Team
Managing Teams Guides Careers Inspiration
Practical advice to help new managers succeed in a remote work environment

Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to manager. Years of professional experience, your can-do attitude, and your ability to inspire people have you feeling confident about stepping up to this new adventure. And you found a great chair for your new office.

There’s just one tiny, little detail. Inside, you’re screaming, “Help! I’ve never been a manager!

On the fly, you will be learning how to succeed as a new manager. And, according to SHRM, you’ll now be doing this while your organization figures out how operations will continue in a hybrid work environment.

It may feel like you’re heading for the final frontier, but the skills that got you this far can motivate your team, help you crush the work, and even let you have some fun along the way.

Welcome to Your Real Job Duties

Managing a team for the first time (usually) comes with a contract and a formal job description, but here’s what you’re really signing on to do:

  • Build trust
  • Get results for your supervisors, their supervisors, and (possibly) shareholders
  • Manage up, by letting your supervisors know what your team of high performers is doing
  • Create both momentum and accountability

Note that this list is all about the shift from thinking like an employee to thinking like a manager, since your job is now to help others accomplish their goals. But how? Consider reading a couple of these books to help you get started:

When you sit down with your planner and look at the realities of each week as the manager of your remote team, start with the following steps.

Schedule the Right Number of Meetings

One-on-one meetings are crucial, and you’ll want to get them on your calendar right away. Though you don’t want to schedule too many meetings, you do need to develop a personal rapport with each team member and establish regular lines of communication. Use meetings to set expectations, create goals, and start fostering trust. Regular meetings also help you shape a high-performance culture and allow you to see the role each team member plays.

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New managers should remember two things: First, avoid overdoing meetings. Second, be flexible. One team member may work best on the phone, another may prefer video chats, and a third may be able to meet only on Friday afternoons. Find out what works for everyone and meet your team where they are. But do meet your team individually and as a whole. Especially when you’re remote, regular checkpoints keep everyone on track and give you a look-see into what (and how) everyone is doing.

Master OKRs

If you haven’t been handed any objectives and key results to accomplish, create your own. Or sculpt smaller goals from larger OKRs your company has in place. And be sure to let your boss know what you and your team are working on. As a new manager, you need something to measure right out of the gate—something you can strive for as a leader and as a team. What is your next team goal? Write it down and let everyone know what you’re aiming for.

Let Them See You Sweat

Well, maybe not literally. But do dive in and let your team see you working. Don’t just say, “We’re going to prepare the best proposal for our new marketing client this week,” and then leave your subordinates to do the heavy lifting. Show up with ideas and mock-ups; start drafting some ideas along with your employees. When you show up ready to work, particularly on the tough stuff, you build respect and collaboration yields success. As Business News Daily puts it, “Bosses are above the team; leaders are a part of the team.” No one likes a diva … unless you can sing like Beyoncé (and even then, be ready to work hard).

Give Your Team Work They Can Control

Your remote sales team members can’t control how many people accept an offer, but they can control how many calls they place. You may not be able to control how thrilled clients are with a service, but you can help your team develop specific actions to add that “wow” factor.

When leading a remote or hybrid team, remember to delegate. Delegating gives your employees control (and ownership) of their work. You need your team to trust you, but you also need to trust your team by truly turning work over to them.

A recent study found that 40 percent of surveyed managers were not confident in their ability to manage a remote team and had concerns with how well their team would perform. According to this research, 21 percent of workers felt “constantly” monitored and another 11 percent felt “very closely” monitored by their managers.

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Trust is a circle, not a one-way street. That said, building trust and confidence (on both sides) through delegating is one of the steepest learning curves new managers face. So set expectations and watch high-performing team members to meet the challenge. Harvard Business School offers tips on why, when, and how to delegate.

Keep Track of Your Team

Consistently and fairly assessing behavior and performance creates a strong and accountable team motivated toward long-term success.

Develop your own style for tracking and assessment but make it transparent and equitable. No matter the tools you use, the goals are the same:

  • Confirm that your team is meeting goals and expectations
  • Inspire team members to achieve results
  • Provide evidence to your supervisors that you and your team are succeeding

Look at your tracked data at least weekly. You may be a new manager, but you’re getting stuff done. Maybe Beyoncé really should be worried.

Build Positive Morale

No, you don’t have to stay up late baking cookies. But you do need to remember employees need support and encouragement (when things are not going well) and praise (when they are). Keep in mind, building morale doesn’t automatically mean raising salaries. Again, develop your own style, but think about fast, fun ways to keep your team energized, positive, and productive. Ask for feedback about what enjoyable things your team is interested in trying and plan to implement a new idea regularly.

Take Care of You, Too

While you’re busy helping your team succeed, don’t forget you also need support and encouragement. Make learning a part of your daily practice. Get a mentor. Be vigilant about self-care. Incorporate ways to re-energize into your schedule. As the airlines say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” Burned-out managers may be the stuff of hit TV shows and movies, but outside of Hollywood, they’re no fun.

You’ve gotten this far by being an outstanding employee. Now use that same enthusiasm, charm, and hard work to become the standout manager your team and supervisors value and respect.

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