Dale Carnegie wrote the classic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People nearly 100 years ago. Here, McKenna Sweazey updates it and adds information to address today’s management concerns. She recognizes that supervising and relating to employees in distant locations is one of the biggest challenges managers face today. Leaders have various tools for effective virtual management, but as Sweazey reports, maintaining relationships as a remote manager demands empathy. She provides insight and advice on many issues that challenge long-distance managers, including how to make teammates feel enthusiastic about working together even if they never see one another face-to-face.
- Empathy makes you a better manager, especially for remote teams.
- Remote work undercuts personal connections, but it does have benefits.
- Virtual management requires understanding how empathy works.
- Distinguish between empathy and sympathy.
- Keep your emotions under control.
- Make yourself accessible to your colleagues.
- Working from home can impede building relationships.
- Virtual teambuilding exercises build connections between the team and individuals.
- Share corporate know-how with employees in remote locations.
- Enable potential hires to show their strengths in your job interviews.
- Boost your capacity for empathy.
Empathy makes you a better manager, especially for remote teams.
Managers must engage their remote team members and get them to cooperate positively with one another even though they may never meet.
“With work from home (WFH) becoming a new norm, we’ve added another layer to the difficulties of being an empathetic person in the office.”
A rank or two up the ladder, executives want to increase the involvement of their best managers – including those with remote teams – encourage them, coach them remotely and make sure they don’t quit.
Remote work undercuts personal connections, but it does have benefits.
One risk of remote work is that people you spend a lot of time with can lose their humanity and become two-dimensional images on a screen.While this personal distancing is a difficult side effect, employees appreciate remote work’s flexibility. Remote workers feel they can concentrate on their work while achieving a better work-life balance.
One result of remote work is that team communication, which once relied on the in-person nuances of body language, facial expression, eye contact and tone of voice, now operates in a whole new arena.
Virtual management requires understanding how empathy works.
Leaders have technological tools that can help them become effective virtual managers, yet their ultimate success depends on developing insight into an essential element of human relationships: empathy,the ability to sense and comprehend someone else’s feelings.
“In a work-from-home setting, empathy doesn’t change at its core, but how we demonstrate it requires some special attention.”
As a manager, consider how you employ empathy – how you tap into your understanding of other people and the emotions they are experiencing. Can you pick up on their signals and read them correctly? The need for empathy prevails whether your employees are with you in the office or report to you from their homes.
Distinguish between empathy and sympathy.
While you need to understand how others feel – that is empathy – you don’t have to agree with them – which would be sympathy.
“Science says empathy starts with babies — children perceiving and then mimicking their parents’ emotions, shown to them by facial expressions, tone of voice, physical gestures, and so on.”
Employees’ performance improves with managerial empathy. Empathetic treatment boosts their abilities, makes them easier to direct and increases their capacity for working “cross-functionally.” When your employees work from home, that makes it harder to have such a direct impact. You can remediate that problem by adopting a popular third option: a hybrid strategy mixing remote and in-office work.
For your employees to be able to work this way, you must structure their assignments accordingly. For example, individuals should have both independent assignments and interactive tasks, but should not have to interact in person constantly in order to achieve their goals. To align evaluations with what people can achieve when they work remotely or on a hybrid schedule, managers should assess their employees based on measurable, numerical outcomes, rather than hours worked.
To help you carry out your remote work successfully, give it a designated chunk of time and set aside space at home that gives you a sense of being in a “work zone,” the same sort of feeling being in an office provides.
Keep your emotions under control.
Your ability to understand what your team members and colleagues feel depends on your capacity to keep your own emotions in check. You can’t assess other peoples’ views accurately unless you can contain your own feelings, so they don’t cloud your judgment. Be aware that “negative emotions” can spread infectiously, because “bad moods are contagious.”
The primary requirement you must fulfill to understand other people’s viewpoints is to listen to them, either in person or remotely. Absorb what they say, consider what they may not be saying and make them feel heard.
“What does energy have to do with empathy?…your emotional state allows you to focus on others. Bringing your best self makes others feel good.”
How you think and feel affects the kind of attention you can pay to others. If you feel happy, others will pick up cheerful feelings from you. Conversely, if you obviously feel down, others may reflect your misery.
When people work in an office, they interact in a human manner. They may fight, become friends, collaborate or even fall in love. However, virtual connections tend to dehumanize participants. To combat this dehumanization, enhance your communication skills.
Leaders may see videoconferencing as a potent tool, but it, too, has weaknesses. For instance, it can make participants feel tired. Your brain must work extremely hard to absorb the information you receive in an online conversation. When you are paying attention to speakers online, your brain processes what they say in an entirely different way than it does when you are meeting with them in person. You must derive all the information you can about another person’s body language and its meaning from the few hints you glean from images on a screen. Digital communication disrupts the natural cadence of a one-to-one conversation, especially when more than two people participate.
Make yourself more accessible to your colleagues.
When you communicate remotely, consider methods you can use to remain aware of your colleagues’ or teammates’ individual humanity. Everything you say or do will convey a message. Be thoughtful about how you present yourself, and be aware of your wardrobe, tone of voice, speaking pace, gestures and facial expressions.
“Just because you can go to work every day wearing just your underpants on the bottom doesn’t mean that we’ve entered a utopia where looks don’t matter. They still do.”
This necessary attentiveness can lead to a lack of fun in shared digital workspaces, which are in danger of becoming more like production facilities than launch pads for teams pursuing creative objectives. Take advantage of the ability of verbal communication to convey a richness of meaning that most business writing can’t convey. And if you send internal written messages, use the tools you have – such as emojis – to lighten them up when appropriate.
Working from home can impede building relationships.
Effective team building fuels prosperous companies. When Gallup studied how teams function or fail,it found that “engagement” – which takes place when employees feel enthusiastic and involved in their work – plays an important role.
The findings of a Google study called “Aristotle” reflects that empathy also plays a pivotal role. The study underscores the importance of “psychological safety” in creating a successful team. Members should feel comfortable moving team discussions outside of subject areas they see as routine or safe. They should feel they can express their thoughts without fear of ridicule or violent opposition.
“The success of any team is rooted in its abilities to achieve its goals. People who are happier and feel safer in their work environment are better able to achieve their goals.”
Teams work better – and meet their goals more effectively – when their members are happy and not anxious. A boss who can create such a work environment has accomplished something singularly important.
Leaders must build a strong culture as the foundation for all work-related activities – at home or in the office. Often, organizations have principles they believe in, but their leaders haven’t considered how those principles become part of their culture. Most people need help understanding the concept of corporate culture anyway, so managers face particular challenges when they try to convey their corporate culture to remote workers and to make them feel like they are an integral part of it. Do not allow the way you define your culture to be turned into an excuse for excluding people who are new or different.
Virtual teambuilding exercises reinforce connections among teammates.
The ultimate goal of teambuilding exercises is to create psychological safety. However, you can define and achieve other, more tangible goals, such as improving your team members’ technical capabilities as well as their emotional connections. Skill-based teambuilding helps develop everyone’s sense of community and shared purpose.
In their book Understanding Management, Richard Daft and Dorothy Marcic suggest that bonded teams have more drive, thanks to enhanced communication and shared decision-making.
“If you don’t have a safe space as a team to allow for imperfection and innovation, no team-building activities will get off the ground because people will be too busy trying to protect themselves.”
To execute virtual teambuilding exercises, consider your goals, timing and the players’ reaction. To plan appropriate activities to build relationships, consider a range of possibilities. For example, think about how often you should hold your team-building exercises. You risk alienating your team members if you don’t hold enough activities, but people also could interpret an excess of meetings as your failure to understand the importance of their time.
To build durable links with your employees, foster a healthy team environment. Show your authentic self, so your connection with your team members can rest on a foundation of honesty and authenticity. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member. Before you talk to a remote colleague, consider how the conversation might go if you were meeting in person. Think about what your employee may need, a factor that could vary substantially among employees.
Share corporate know-how with employees in remote locations.
Sharing knowledge, person to person or in groups, is integral to corporate life. But, unfortunately, much of the potency of communication gets lost when people work virtually. Remote leaders must devise communication methods that deliver appropriate information to the right people.
Fortune 500 companies lose an estimated $31.5 billion a year because they fail to share knowledge properly. Your team should work out the best ways for members to share ideas in an environment where people access information at different times and from different locations. Make sure members can get to the information they need, either in summary or in detail.
“To best optimize for a hybrid workforce, you need to figure out what knowledge needs to be institutionalized first and then how to keep it up to date.”
Effective information sharing clarifies your organization’s work and its environment and helps team members feel safe, certain and confident. When people work amid uncertainty, they are ill at ease. To help your team focus its energy, be thoughtful about what you communicate and work to resolve team members’ uncertainties.
Leaders have to develop methods for capturing documents and distributing knowledge.Make sure new employees have access to your organization’s knowledge, contacts, and other information they need to work effectively, as well as access to their team’s communications.
Enable potential hires to show their strengths in your job interviews.
When job applicants feel nervous in an employment interview, they don’t perform as well as they could. The person interviewing them should recognize that dynamic. Organizations that make job candidates feel at ease may gain a larger pool of candidates. The people you are interviewing need to feel that you are listening to them. Give candidates an impression of psychological safety while acknowledging that your work environment makes demands on employees. Be empathetic but clear about what the job entails.
Boost your capacity for empathy.
Leaders should feel curious about people they don’t know. To work on your empathy skills, use social media sites like Instagram to follow a variety of people with whom you might not ordinarily interact. When they post something you don’t understand or agree with, try to see it from their point of view. To find people looking at issues from different perspectives, check a Reddit form called “Change My View.”Or, to gauge how someone approaches an issue, try to explain a skill or problem you know well to him or her and be aware of the reaction you get.
Consider someone whose life differs from yours. Learn how people of another faith worship, or observe how people live in a neighborhood that is different from yours. Reading literary classics also can help you understand someone else’s point of view. And, for solitary pursuit of empathy, boost your compassion with “loving-kindness meditation.”
About the Author
McKenna Sweazey, a marketing strategy consultant for US and UK brands, is also a remote- and hybrid-management coach and writer. The former head of global marketing at the Financial Times, she also has experience with successful start-ups, including Taboola.
“How to Win Friends and Manage Remotely” by McKenna Sweazey is a comprehensive guide that offers valuable insights and practical strategies for effectively managing remote teams while fostering strong relationships. Sweazey combines the principles of Dale Carnegie’s classic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” with the specific challenges and dynamics of remote work, providing readers with a well-rounded approach to remote team management.
In this book, Sweazey explores the unique aspects of remote work and addresses the challenges that arise in managing teams across different locations. The author emphasizes the importance of building meaningful connections and cultivating a positive work culture to enhance productivity and collaboration in a remote setting.
Sweazey begins by discussing the foundations of effective communication, highlighting the significance of active listening, empathy, and clear and concise messaging. The book then delves into practical techniques for building rapport and trust among team members, including virtual team-building activities, fostering open and honest communication, and leveraging technology to bridge the distance gap.
The author also addresses common remote management pitfalls and provides strategies for overcoming them. Sweazey emphasizes the significance of setting clear expectations, establishing regular check-ins, and providing timely feedback to ensure that remote employees feel supported and engaged. Additionally, the book offers guidance on addressing conflicts and resolving issues that may arise in a remote team.
Furthermore, “How to Win Friends and Manage Remotely” explores the importance of recognizing and appreciating individual and team achievements. Sweazey provides actionable advice on celebrating successes, fostering a sense of belonging, and promoting a positive work environment that motivates remote employees.
McKenna Sweazey’s “How to Win Friends and Manage Remotely” is a well-researched and insightful book that addresses the growing need for effective remote team management in today’s digital age. The author combines timeless principles of interpersonal relationships with the unique challenges posed by remote work, resulting in a practical and relevant guide.
One of the book’s strengths is its emphasis on the human aspect of remote management. Sweazey recognizes that successful leadership in a remote setting requires more than just technical proficiency. By prioritizing open communication, empathy, and relationship-building, the author provides a refreshing perspective on remote team dynamics.
The practical strategies and tips shared throughout the book are highly valuable. Sweazey offers a range of actionable techniques for fostering collaboration, motivating remote employees, and resolving conflicts. The inclusion of real-world examples and case studies further enhances the book’s practicality, making it easier for readers to apply the concepts to their own remote management situations.
Moreover, the writing style is engaging, clear, and concise, making the book accessible to a wide audience. Sweazey presents complex ideas in a straightforward manner, ensuring that readers can grasp and implement the principles outlined in the book without feeling overwhelmed.
However, it is worth noting that while the book covers a wide range of topics related to remote team management, some readers may find certain sections to be more relevant to their specific needs than others. It would have been beneficial to include a more detailed table of contents or chapter summaries to facilitate navigation and allow readers to focus on areas of particular interest.
In conclusion, “How to Win Friends and Manage Remotely” is a highly recommended resource for managers, team leaders, and anyone responsible for overseeing remote teams. McKenna Sweazey effectively combines timeless principles of building relationships with practical advice tailored to remote work, providing readers with a comprehensive guide to successfully managing and motivating remote teams.