We all remember our first boss. For me, she was one of the warmest, most sincere people in my life who demanded the best effort and sincerity to match. She was also my first boss who worked remotely. Sandi, a sought-after marketing manager, lived in the Dallas, TX area and for the most part telecommuted from home while I worked at headquarters in Boston for a major publishing company before it merged with another. Sandi, our team and I managed a list of books nationally.
A sales force, editorial staff, authors, educators and readers from around the country and world relied on our services in marketing. We had support from designers, copywriters and other talented people, but Sandi was the core of our team, providing strategic and tactical input on organizational decision making. How was Sandi able to balance these responsibilities working remotely? How did things work out between us?
Remarkably well – and the major lessons learned made a lasting impression on me as an employee and later, as a manager in my own career.
1. Hire for attitude, problem solving and skills. At my interview it was clear my boss would be seeking a person she could believe in, shared a commitment to the work, and would represent the department well. Having the right skills to do the job are essential, but some skills can be developed or training can be provided. It’s much harder to train for a positive, productive attitude and problem solving.
From a telework or remote working viewpoint, it’s helpful to ask a prospective employee how he or she resolved a challenge at work and how he or she would resolve a realistic scenario. She gave me great perspective on what a day in the life would be like working there and with her through anecdotes and her questions.
2. Empower those you hire. Hiring someone is giving him or her the tools and means to do the work and help solve the needs of an organization. My boss had time for big-picture items by delegating some of the day-to-day management when I proved I could handle more responsibility. That in turn developed my leadership skills to coordinate and run meetings on our behalf and offer suggestions to staff seeking our point of view.
3. Seek their input. Making informed decisions means getting valuable input from those around you, and Sandi would regularly seek mine – which encouraged me to obtain her input as well. Employees’ perspectives are among the best sources of input on customer or client needs and experience, given that not everyone will complete a survey. Seeking input also grows trust as well as productive communication between managers and staff.
Working remotely or with a telecommuting boss is an experience that can grow one’s management ability, worldview, perspective, flexibility and leadership experience. I learned an incredible amount that enlightened me as a manager in the modern workplace later on, as well as my ability to help solve today’s workforce challenges.