Leading a team is about them, not you

2011

Trying to get people to do what you want has never been easy. Trying to get them to pay attention to what you need when they are on the other side of the globe is even harder—after all, they don't have to look you in the eye when they want to weasel out of an assignment. So what's a manager to do? One thing that helps is to remember that it's not about you.

Seriously - influencing people and getting them onboard has very little to do with what you want and everything to do with them. If they don't see why they should cooperate, they won't. If they see why they should WANT to help you, you can hardly stop them. That's the premise of a new book called, It's Not About You- a Little Story About What Matters Most in Business.

Bob Burg is one of the most well-known names in the field of building personal and business relationships. In a recent Cranky Middle Manager interview, we talked about the challenges of leading through influence and empathy. For this post, I asked him some questions specifically about managing remote teams:

One of the key tenets of the book is about striking human relationships and showing you care about the other person. How do you do that in a remote setting where frequent face to face interaction is rare?

While face-to-face is an excellent way to connect, it's not the only way to establish, cultivate and build a human relationship. "Know, like and trust" relationships can easily be take place via the telephone, email and social media.

It all comes down to adding value to another human being, part of that being effectively communicating that you care. And, far less important than the medium is your ability to communicate. You need to use the tools at your disposal effectively.

What are some of the common traps remote managers fall into that damage their working relationships?

The first that comes to mind is what I call "hiding behind the technology." In other words, if you don't want to confront someone with an actual conversation, send an email and try and handle it that way throughout. Yes, you'll avoid the direct confrontation, but this will often not result in a beneficial solution. Really, just the opposite happens and you'll spend more time and have more stress in the long run.

What are some tools and techniques you've used since your own company is largely virtual?

I'm a simple (i.e., non-techie) :-) guy so, as tools, I've kept it mainly telephone, email and Skype. Techniques? Just being myself and doing my best to try and understand the other person and support them as much as possible. Technology is the tool. Human relationships are the critical part. Think about what you're hoping to do and find the tool that helps you do it most effectively.

Follow Bob Burg on Twitter @BobBurg. You can hear the entire interview on "It's Not About You" on the 300th episode of the Cranky Middle Manager Show.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.