4 tips for small firms trying to manage remote or hybrid workers

By Maynard Webb

October 13, 2021

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

Q. We have a small team. Someone is on an extended leave of absence and another person is taking a long trip and working remotely. How do we make sure we keep everything going with no balls being dropped? 

-General Partner at a successful boutique firm

Dear General Partner,

We live in a new world of work where people are working from all over the globe and we are having to span different time zones and collaborating without being in the same office. I’ve long been a fan of having people working from anywhere, so I believe there are ways to manage this effectively. Yes, it will be riskier than normal, and perhaps out of your comfort zone, but keeping everything going successfully is achievable. Furthermore, what matters is outcomes, not face time. 

The best approach here is to plan for everything—consider what is happening now and anticipate what will happen next. In other words: over plan. Think of every contingency and have a game plan for all. That starts with having visibility into the current workload, as well as seeing what is coming as much as you can.

Next, over communicate. It’s necessary to have open lines of communication and frequent check ins. Be prepared to connect more than if you were in the same physical space. Often dropped balls are not things that weren’t done but things that were not communicated. This is easy to solve for—communicate more than you think necessary.

Be ready to adjust. Think ahead of time about what success looks like and what you will do if you are not meeting your demands. How will you reconcile if it is not working? What steps can you take to put things back on track? What is the time frame for this leave and trip? Is it finite or indefinite? It’s helpful to know exactly what you are facing so you can course correct as necessary. It sounds as if this is not a forever thing, which means is will soon be in your rear-view mirror. Take the learnings and lessons for next time.

Plan for success. Have good intentions about where this goes. A positive attitude helps unleash more creativity in solving issues and fosters more grace through the inevitable bumps along the way.

Making this work comes down to planning and communicating and having empathy on all sides. It’s also all about patience and trust. I believe this experience will build trust by allowing people to work how they want and seeing how much you can still accomplish. I hope that you will be reminded that the team is amazing and resilient, and you will successfully navigate this new situation. And if not, having a plan to adjust can ensure that you will be able to stay the course.

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