Micromanaging your team is one way to damage relationships and eliminate trust. Yet it’s very tempting when you’ve been put in the position of managing your team virtually. You can no longer observe your team in the office and see how hard they’re working. Their comings and goings are no longer visible to you. How DO you know they’re still working hard?

The answer is about managing expectations in a virtual world. In a prior blog post, I’ve outlined the ACTION process for managing expectations.

Since you can’t be present with each team member in person, it’s imperative that you are clear about your expectations and deliverable results. Once you have agreement from your team member that they’ve agreed to deliver those expectations and results, the follow-up begins. Follow-up should not be meetings where you find yourself interrogating them to determine how they’ve spent all of their time. Instead, they should be connection points that enable you both to stay on each other’s radar, talk about challenges, wins, results, and support.

Micromanaging vs. Active Support

For example, a micromanaging statement might be:

“Give me an hourly breakdown of what you did this week.”

No one wants to do that. It destroys autonomy, trust, and engagement. Instead try:

“Share your wins and challenges for the week with me. What do you need from me to help?”

This approach shows more trust and partnership. You’ve still given them the opportunity to talk about challenges and ask for help, but they have the opportunity to initiate the discussion and direction. This doesn’t absolve anyone from an accountability discussion. You can still be direct and ask about specific agreed-upon deliverables. It just doesn’t require a raking over the coals to get there.

Another micromanagement might be:

“Let me tell you how you can get more work done.”

Most people don’t need to be told exactly what to do unless they are complete rookies. Instead, ask:

“How would you rate your work week, 1-10? How could you (we) have made it a 10?”

This active support approach allows the team member to not only share their progress, but to brainstorm solutions to increase their productivity. You’ve made them an active participant in solving any problems they identify.

So approach your one on one connections with team members as a meeting that is all about them and what they need to be even more successful. They’ll get the message that you really care, and that you’re willing to help. They’ll end up working even harder for you in the future.