Management and Remote Work: Can only Superheros pull it off?

Managing and being managed can be quite difficult when you work remotely. But do you really need to be a superhero to pull it off?


Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Wednesday, June 21, 2017



It is now Day 14 of my remote-working adventure (at this point, I can’t simply call it an “experience” anymore!).

Now that I’m halfway into this journey, I find the timing to be perfect for discussing what is arguably the most important and concerning topic that makes remote working so difficult for a lot of people – Management.

Before you think this article isn’t for you, know that I will be exploring both sides of the management coin in this article – how I manage my team as the marketing lead, and how I am being managed by my boss, who expects no less of me just because I’m working remotely.

I know, I’ve used the word “manage” many times in that last paragraph – but don’t give up on this article! The term “management” tends to carry some negative connotations and reminds too many people of that one time they had a boss who micromanaged their every move and drove them insane (am I right?).

But whether you prefer the term “lead” to “manage”, management is a reality in all businesses and the cornerstone for success.

Now that we got the introductions out of the way, let’s address the question at hand: Do you really need to be a superhero to pull off management and remote working?

Being managed remotely:

If you earn a living and don’t run your own business, then you report to someone and are being managed.

Here are what I believe are the superpowers you would need to being the best remote employee your boss has ever seen:

What superpower would you need to being a good remote worker?

1. Communication skills

This is a given – and I’m sure you’re all tired of reading it in every article. But when something is that essential of an element, you can’t fault anyone for mentioning it over, and over, and over again.

If you want to have even the slightest chance at being a successful remote remoter, then you need to have your communication plan with your boss down to a T.

Goals, deadlines, ongoing projects and new ones, all require effective communication with your superiors.

Feedback is also crucial, and could be one of the hardest things to achieve while working remotely, mainly because it’s harder to form a connection through a computer screen.

However, effective communication can certainly be achieved with your boss, and it’s not impossible.

Need a few tips? Schedule recurring (weekly would be ideal) video calls where you can discuss progress, updates, and give each other feedback on how you can improve.

2. Assertiveness

This quality is usually associated with the person in charge, but there are many situations where you will need to be assertive with your boss to make sure you stay on top of your game.

When you aren’t physically present, it becomes difficult to grab people’s attention. And sometimes, you could even feel like a nuisance when you ask your boss for a bunch of things, and would be inclined to think “maybe the boss is busy with more important stuff”.

However, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and demand things from your boss that will allow you to be as productive as can be. Besides, if they are a good manager and leader, then they will recognize that need and will provide you answers and support.

3. Autonomy

If you can’t be autonomous, then you have no business being a remote worker.

Harsh? Maybe. True? 100%

Actually, I’m not even sure you’d want to be a remote worker if you don’t like autonomy (I want to hear your thoughts in the comments section!)

No matter, there’s a lot of self-management involved in being a remote worker. And that is something that your boss will expect of you. Autonomy will definitely need to be one of your superpowers!

4. Accountability

I personally think this superpower could give “communication skills” a run for its money!

I realize that many would argue that it is the leader’s job to make their team members accountable for their own actions. However, when it comes to remote working, there is much to be said for self-accountability.

When you are in an office environment that provides you with workflows, a hierarchy, and a sense of structure, accountability is much easier to achieve than when you have the flexibility of a remote workplace.

How awesome is your team? Read this article and see how your team measures up against these 10 characteristics of an exceptional team!

Your kryptonite: An unsupportive boss

I am lucky enough to have a great boss who has always been an advocate for flexible work arrangements and happy employees. And he has been very supportive throughout my remote working experience (and I’m not just saying that!).

Not only can an unsupportive boss make your life more difficult, but their behaviors will also undoubtedly push you towards burnout or even leaving your job. But before you do anything too drastic, sit down with your superior and talk about their concerns with you being a remote worker.
Managing a team remotely:

My job as team lead requires me to manage a team of four full-time employees, as well as a few contract workers that perform tasks such as translating or proofreading.

I’ll admit that I have not yet mastered all of the superpowers I’m about to mention, but these are the ones that I have recognized so far as being the most important for managing a team remotely:

What superpowers would you need to manage a team remotely?

1. Communication skills

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Need I say more?

2. Leading by example

Leading by example is important for any manager and leader – but it becomes even more vital when you tell your team you’re going to Porto, Portugal for a month!

How can you expect your team to be present, engaged, motivated, and productive when they think you can’t be bothered to do the same?

Make sure you go above and beyond to provide the best example for your team – their success, after all, is a direct reflection of your own.

3. Organization

Marketing is simply a highly collaborative job function in its nature. For anything that we do, we need someone to produce content, one to design templates, one to translate and proofread, one to handle all the integrations and distribution, and the list goes on.

Is it a wonder why organization is so important?

Organization is crucial whether or not you’re managing your team remotely. But when you consider time differences, limited physical interaction, and the need to rely on communication and planning tools to have a handle on things – you can start to see that a lack of organizational skills is simply NOT an option.

4. Trust and Transparency

With every day that passes while I work remotely, it becomes more and more clear to me that trust and transparency are the foundation for a successful remote team.

When you aren’t physically present, it is very difficult to see what your team is doing at any given time. But when you have trust and transparency as your team’s core values, then you can rest assured that everyone is working towards the same goal.

Your kryptonite: Not having the right team

I know it, and you know it – having the right team is the key element for successful teams. Period.

And when your having to manage a team remotely, you can imagine how much more important it is to have the right team in place. A team of people who have the right traits for the right job, and whose characteristics complement one another in a way that makes them do the impossible.

I may still be an amature when it comes to remote working, but as it turns out, these superpowers need to be picked up quickly if you have any chance of making it through! I may not have mastered all of these skills just yet, but at least I know which superpowers I need to hone. So, do you need to be a superhero to pull off management and remote working? It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible!

Can you think of other superpowers that you would need to pull of management and remote working?

I want to hear your thoughts. Use the comments section or social media!

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