Are you managing a virtual or a hybrid team and looking for some tips on how to do it more effectively? Here’s one really simple one. I want you to stop checking up on people and start checking in with them.
What’s the difference? So in a recent Microsoft study, 85% of managers claim to be paranoid that their remote workers aren’t actually working. Ugh! What a horrible message to just assume that your folks aren’t trustworthy, that they’re not doing their job, that they’re slacking off just because you can’t see them actually accomplishing something.
The response when we feel that paranoia is to want to check up on them. You might send them emails asking “What have you accomplished?” Or, you know, “Is this done?” Or “Can you send me this draft?” Or to schedule Microsoft Teams or Zoom calls to kind of pop in on them and say, “Are you getting me what I need?” Checking up on someone is really focused on making sure that you have what you need to be successful.
What happens though, we know from some interesting research done throughout the pandemic that when people’s managers check up on them, we see BIG spikes in anxiety and stress, and actually, unfortunately, it makes their productivity go down. What I want to offer as an alternative is what I call checking in with somebody, as opposed to checking up on them.
Checking in with somebody says, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. I’m paying attention to you. You’re important and you’re a priority for how I spend my time.” What you’re doing is you’re interacting with them on their agenda. You’re saying, “Okay, we’re going to have a 20-minute call this week. And in that call, I’d love to hear how it’s going. What do you love about this current project? What do you wish was true?”
I love using “What do you love?” and “What do you wish?” They’re great questions to get feedback from people who might otherwise not give you feedback. That’s where you’re going to learn about things that they might need. In a check-in conversation, you’re saying, “What do you need from me? Are there any barriers I need to remove? Is there anything that’s not clear?” You’ve held time for your folks to say, “This is important. I care about you.” This can be hard in a virtual team – y’know, out of sight, out of mind. But by holding time for the other person, you allow them to control that time, to fill it with what’s going to serve them.
The BIG difference between great management in a virtual or a hybrid relationship is that you’re doing lots of checking in with your folks, lots of remembering them, paying attention to them, making space for them, and serving them to help them have what they need to be successful. And you’re doing very little checking up on them, which is trying to catch them in that gotcha! moment or micromanaging to make sure that they’re getting things done at the pace you want it done. That creates anxiety and reduces trust, and is going to lead to all sorts of negative outcomes. But checking in with people makes them feel seen, makes them feel important, and is going to really boost their performance.
So one thing you can do differently is schedule your check-ins with folks. Let them own the agenda you’ll see you get much better outcomes. For more tips on how to manage and lead a hybrid or a virtual team, check this one out.