When you find yourself in a managerial position, you soon find that you end up with a lot less time than you had before. Meetings, deadlines, managing, and other roles you need to fulfill can make it feel like you don’t get to actually engage with your colleagues in the same way that you used to. Scheduling goal-setting sessions to help remote employee management can seem like a bit of a luxury that you just don’t have time for. But really, this is the wrong way to think about the situation. Setting goals has a lot of knock-on effects that perhaps don’t show up right away, but pay off in the long run. Happier, more engaged, and fulfilled team members produce the best work and enjoy doing it. So, squeezing these sessions in with your remote team is really critical. This is even more so important for us as remote workers, especially when we’re managing remote employees. You don’t get the chance to bump into your colleagues in the hallway, or have a quick glance at what they’re going up to. This is why it’s essential for us in the remote world to conduct regular goal-setting sessions! It’s an essential part of how to manage virtual teams. We’ve broken the process down into 4 easy stages that you can begin to implement into your working week straight away.
Stage 1: Get to know your employee
Knowing your employees or colleagues on a more personal level really helps in understanding what drives them, and what doesn’t! Remote employee management requires you to go the extra mile to make up for the distance that we experience from our team members. Obviously we all like to think we know a lot already about the people we work with, but it’s worth going beyond the surface. Remote monitoring and management requires delving deeper and taking the time to do so. Set up a “virtual coffee break” to spend 10 or 15 minutes chatting about your day, what’s gone well, and what’s not gone so well. No need to talk about goals here, just dive a bit deeper and understand what makes your team member tick when they’re working. If you find out what motivates them, whether it’s intrinsic like helping others, or extrinsic like a promotion, then you can use this later on in your goal-setting sessions. It’s also worth your time finding out about their past challenges and triumphs. You can really learn a lot about a person when you understand what they are proud of, and what struggles they still continue to have.
Stage 2: Connect Ambitions with Obligations
After you’ve found out a bit more about your team member’s ambitions and drive, you should now figure out the best way to combine this with their obligations. Throughout your time as their manager, you will need to finely balance the wants and needs of each team member with the needs of you and the company. When you enter into a goal-setting meeting, you should keep in mind both these sides of the equation. Only by doing this can you bring everything together so that everyone thrives. Ask them what they want to do for their own growth, and make sure you take careful note. See how this fits in with the obligations you have for them and look for the cross over. From this, you can begin to create a list of goals that meets everyone’s needs.
Another method to try is to encourage your team member to think in terms of dreams rather than goals. Remote monitoring and management doesn’t just have to do with the goals of the business, but also of the employee too. Dreams can be more personal, and don’t have to necessarily be work related. Putting one of these into their long term plan is another way to help keep them engaged at work and develop their own personal goals. You’re more likely to gain some personal insights into each team member, and they can develop skills for their dream that will almost surely help in their current job. It ends up being a win-win situation, as people grow towards their dreams and feel supported by their employer.
Stage 3: Create Action Plan
Once you have a list of agreed-upon goals, it’s time to make an action plan. You can start this by creating a table with four columns for you both to fill in. On the far left-hand side, we have a column to write down the goals and skill sets needed for them. Your employee can fill this on based on what you have already discussed.
The next column is for your team member to assess their current capabilities and progress towards it. It could be that they already have most of the skills, or relevant experience necessary. Thoughts on where they can improve can also be written down.
The third column is for you as a manager to fill in. Here you should check what has been noted down in the first two columns, and give your own opinion on what’s been noted down. Maybe you agree with some of their points, but perhaps you think there is still room for improvement or that they are not at the level they think they are. Be totally transparent, it’s the only way that your employee will grow and truly be able to achieve their goals.
The final column on the right is where the action plan comes into play. Here, the team member takes and reviews your comments and creates their own actionable points to work on. They need to be specific and detailed, so it’s worth reviewing them together to see if you have any input or comments. Once this is done, your team member has something concrete to take away with them from the meeting, and can refer back to it at your next 1-on-1.
Stage 4: Schedule a Post-mortem
Once you’ve completed a goal-setting session, it’s time to think about when you should schedule a post-mortem to evaluate whether the goals have been reached. Ideally each employee tracks their own progress weekly, where they revisit what was agreed upon and reflect on what they still need to do. Not all goals can be accomplished in a week of course, but without frequent evaluation it’s easy to go off track. Encourage them to set topics for their next 1-on-1 with you, like celebrating progress if they have achieved something, suggesting changes to a goal that isn’t so reachable, or whatever they feel is most suitable.
At the end of a goal period (the amount of time you’ve given for a goal to be achieved) it’s time to reflect on what hasn’t gone so well and refocus attention on where more work is needed. Take time to give praise where it’s due too. This is all done in another 1-on-1 post-mortem session with you as their manager and the team member. You can of course adjust goals, give rewards according to their motivations, or provide constructive criticism for improvements. By the end of the session, you should have reconfigured the original plan to account for missed targets in preparation for their next session.
Goal-setting is a Two-way Street
A goal-setting session with your remote team member is an opportunity for you to both feel excited about what you can achieve together. It’s really an integral part of how to manage virtual teams. Too often managers give out tasks, and assume they know what it is that their employee wants and should be doing. In reality, it’s better for the whole process to be a two-way street. If your employees feel supported in their goals and motivations, and can also meet your requirements then too, then we all come out the better for it. You can expect to have a happier, focussed, and more driven workforce if you master the goal-setting session.