It doesn’t all need to come for you as the boss, but you are an important source of that appreciation and recognition.
While this is true for all of us as human beings, the needs in some cases are even greater for those working remotely. Not because the people are different or somehow “needy” but because their working situation and context are different. And so while many leaders aren’t good at appreciation and recognition in any situation, as more of their people are working remotely part or all of the time, this issue becomes even more important, and the appreciation and recognition even more valuable.
What exactly makes this different for those who are remote? Here are two important reasons:
- Out of sight, out of mind. For you, they may be. But even if they aren’t, the remote employee may believe that they are. If they feel left out, that is their reality. If they aren’t getting any appreciation at all, they may wonder if they really want to be in this job. When you properly share your appreciation, the chance they feel they are “out of mind” will be reduced.
- Living in isolation. This is true, by definition, but is especially important if you have a hybrid team – where some are nearby (down the hall, in the next cubicle) and others are remote. The island that they are on, will lead them to be uncertain of where they stand or oblivious (positively or negatively), and neither of those is helpful for creating happy, successful and productive team members.
If you want to get better at providing appreciation and recognition, consider these ideas:
Be intentional. Perhaps this is the biggest and most important idea of all. It relates to most all that follow, and when your team is spread out, you must be even more mindful and even more intentional about letting people know when they are doing something well and their work is making a difference. At a distance, they might not be able to see it for themselves, and they are certainly wondering if you notice their efforts.
Eschew technology. How about a handwritten note to them, or their family, acknowledging their effort and results? Or a phone call? (OK, that is sort of technology). My point is that email isn’t always the best tool, and it certainly shouldn’t be the only way you share appreciation.
Use technology. You can’t always be face-to-face, because they are remote, so fire up your webcams, using whatever technology your organization uses, and simulate a face-to-face conversation as closely as you can. Looking someone in the eye when you have something positive to say is powerful – especially when that message is coming from the boss.
Say thank you. This is the heart of appreciation and recognition, which is why these are two of the most powerful words in the English language. Are you using them enough?
Be their visible champion. Remote people often feel they will be passed over for promotions, for the reasons listed above, and that they don’t get opportunities to interact with the “higher-ups”. Champion them in ways they can see. Don’t tip the scales so far that your local employees feel underappreciated, but make sure your remote folks have the chance to be seen, and that they see you as their champion in the larger organization.
Keep the individual in mind. Not all people, remote or otherwise, are created equally. Some will be thrilled by a positive comment made to the whole team – others will prefer it privately. While everyone wants positive feedback to be specific, for some that will be even more important. Keep those things in mind when showing and communicating your appreciation to different team members.
Maximize face time. You will likely, have some opportunities to be face-to-face with your remote team members. Maybe you travel to them, maybe they come to the office, or maybe you meet at a conference or Customer location. Whatever the location, make sure that you have time for relationship building when you are together. Don’t make the agenda so tight with “the work” that you can’t have time for casual conversation and the opportunity to build relationships. Your time is limited, and they know it. When they see you choosing to spend time with them, through your actions, you are showing that you care and they matter.
I lead a hybrid team myself and I am challenged by the advice I just wrote and shared with you. Hopefully I am doing “OK” at these things, and I urge you, as I am challenging myself, to get better at them. The greatest possible success for your team (and yourself) is at stake.