Believe in Excellence

Are you a remote manager with a remote team?  If so, do you sometimes get concerned about your level of visibility into the daily activities of your team?  Do you wonder if you are providing the right level of input or are too far removed?  I was asked about this recently while attending our yearly CollabNet Sales and Services meeting last
week..

In the meeting, I had the opportunity to introduce my Community Services team anddescribe our business plans for 2011. For each team member, I highlighted accomplishments, expertise, background, and location – like me, the majority of my team is remote.

After the session, one of my colleagues approached me with some nice accolades. He wanted to comment on my team. He was surprised that a remote manager of a remote
team could have such a high performing team and that level of insight into what they were doing. To which I replied that I believe each person is excellent and I tell them that – and so far, they’ve never let me down.

The idea that I believe in a person’s excellence is the best way I’ve found to promote the morale of people who I only see once or twice per year. How do I know it works? From my mother, of course…

You see, back when I was graduating college, I landed a great opportunity. AT&T was hiring fresh CS grads and putting them through a rigorous 3 month C/UNIX training course called IDT (Initial Designer Training) . The deal was that if you passed the final test you got a job – if you didn’t pass you were fired – no pressure there! The hours were long and I was clearly not the strongest in the herd. But I saw it through to the end. The night before the final test, my mom called to find out if I’d passed the test yet. The way she asked her question really surprised me…how could she be so confident I would pass? While I was spending my time working hard and being nervous I wouldn’t pass, she was 300 miles away knowing that I would. That was a pivotal moment, because it was her belief in me that guaranteed I would pass, which I did. And I’ve always tried to remember the profound effect that simple gesture had.

In fact, if you don’t believe me, just ask my team – I did. During performance evaluations this year I asked each team member to comment on how I was doing. One person told me that he is driven by the fact that I don’t ask him to do good work, I just expect that he will. My belief in him is a success driver, regardless of our geographical location.

The feedback I received also included viewpoints on regular 1x1s, regular team meetings, and status reporting. Each person had varying preferences on how much regular communication was needed to show their accomplishments. But they all seemed to agree with me that regardless of how regular news is communicated, bad news will always find it’s way to those who need to know (Another nugget I learned from my mom!)

So, what I took away from these meetings was a confirmation that engendering trust and encouragement through belief in each team member ensures team members have trust back in me. They know I’m always there to help and not lose faith in them when they really need it.

I encourage all managers to consider how often they tell their people what they find excellent about them. I don’t think you can do it too much. And if you’re a remote manager with little to no physical visibility to your team, let regular praise be your confidence that you can trust your team. In this time of ever-evolving communication tools, you can always be apprised of what your team is doing, but more importantly you can be confident they’re doing what they should through your belief in their excellence.

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One comment on “Believe in Excellence
  1. Stormy says:

    I too am a strong believer in believing in people, giving them what they need to do their job and trusting them to do it.
    95% of the time I think it works well. It fails if the person doesn’t care or if they don’t know how to ask for help and you don’t catch it in time.
    But in general, I think the world would be a better place if we all believed everyone would do their job and focused on communicating!

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