Managing a Team in a Virtual Environment

Having been a manager for over twenty years, I’ve noticed how my management style has changed and matured due to my experiences and the changes in management philosophy.  My first management position was as a restaurant manager in the early 80’s.  Being young, inexperienced, and highly motivated, I tended to hover around my team causing stress for the entire group.  I’ll never forget an employee, who actually did some jail time, pointing a chef’s knife at me and calmly saying “Back off bitch.”  At that point, I knew that I had to change my approach. 

Then I worked as a manager in the high tech arena in a very stressful environment.   Once again, I assumed that my staff viewed the “world” in the same way that I did, which definitely caused friction between me and my team.    Although the tech world has always been a non-traditional work environment (think of software developers pulling all nighters with lots of pizza and beer), we tried to make it fit into the traditional business (nine to five) model, as well as tracking efficiency through call systems, and adding the additional burden of having to build all of our internal systems from scratch.   Bottom line is that it was an environment without trust and respect for the unique skill sets of the team.

Then I worked for a company who had unnecessary layers of management, so I spent an inordinate amount of time tracking the projects and time for myself and my employees.  We actually had meetings about scheduling meetings.  Needless to say, the environment was less than efficient and caused stress for the entire team with a top down “micro management” philosophy.  You know – unless we’re watching them every minute, they (all the employees, including management) will just goof off.   

The workforce has definitely changed, as well as technology.  All of us are used to “logging in” to our “systems” (iPhone’s, email, Facebook, etc.) at all times of the day.    In addition, there is now an accountability culture, in which looking busy just isn’t going to fly.  Now I manage a great team built in a virtual office environment, which, of course, means that I don’t have any visibility into what my team is doing at any given time.  Each team member has collective responsibilities (responding to our franchisees) and individual goals too (knowledge experts and specific administrative duties).     We have had some turnover due to some individuals just not able to produce in an environment unless they have specific tasks outlined each day, as well as the communal aspects of being in an office.   I don’t know if my team is working from the kid’s playground, another state or Starbucks (my personal favorite).  We do meet as a team on a regular basis and we have weekly operations call to help with the internal communications.  I love it because we all know what we need to accomplish each day and we work as a supportive team.  My team loves it because they are able to manage their schedule, which means that they don’t have to “ask” to go to a child’s afternoon school party or to take a few hours off to enjoy the park on a beautiful day.   We just get the job done with a small, focused, dedicated team who understands our mission of making our Any Lab Test Now  franchisees successful.

For those that say “I long for the old days in the work environment”, I say it’s 2010, and time to be accountable for your success, the success of your peers and the success for your constituents. 

For more info on this type of work environment, please check out http://gorowe.com.

Clarissa Bradstock

About Bradstock and Bradstock

Roald and Clarissa Bradstock are happily married and raising four daughters. Roald is a well renowned artist, Olympian, who holds the Javelin Masters Record. Clarissa is a successful executive with Any Lab Test Now. Together they will share their thoughts on wellness, aging, careers and balancing work and family.
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One Response to Managing a Team in a Virtual Environment

  1. You are a true leader, Clarissa. Excellent sharing of a successful model.

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