How to stay informed without micromanaging remote teams

It’s common for leaders to feel out of touch with their team. This can happen when teams grow and when you promote team members with more autonomy and responsibility. But, with good processes, you can stay informed and not micromanage.

My friend, a director level manager in higher education, reached out to me recently with this exact question.  She was returning from maternity leave and felt out-of-the-loop.

She didn’t want the overhead of micromanaging. And felt resistance when she tried to inject herself back into her team’s daily processes that they’d grown to own.

I experienced a similar feeling after promoting 4 new team directors in my organization as they naturally spent more time with their teams.  I lost track of what they were doing.

I solved this with short & specific daily Updates for my team.

Ask questions in daily Updates

Every Monday I send a list of 3 questions to each of my direct reports. I ask them what their focus is for the week. I ask them how they’re contributing to their KPIs. I end it by asking them how I can help them hit their goals for the week.

  • On Tuesdays we have our weekly 1:1s where we review these in person.
  • On Wednesdays I ask them how they’re progressing to their goals.
  • On Thursdays I send a “checking in” message.
  • On Fridays I ask them if they hit their goals for the week and what they’re carrying over to the next.

Here’s the trick. I ask them. I’m not telling them what they need to do for the week. They tell me what they’re working on. I know the goals of our company and our department.  So if their focus is off I redirect them. I ask questions. I remind them of something else. 

Most importantly I’m empowering them to tell me what they are doing, their goals, and their focus.  Then a redirect is effective because it’s just a nudge in the right direction.

When I rolled this out I was worried that it would require additional time from the team and that they’d see it as “just another meeting”. 

But most days it’s as short as a 5-minute chat message.  And delivers a lot of insight.

This actually made our 1:1s more efficient, cutting some in half because I already knew what was going on. By the time we get to our 1:1s we talk about solutions rather than new ideas or problems.

Your best employees want you to be informed

Here’s another kicker. People want to be held accountable. At least your top performers. 

The feedback I received from my team was overwhelmingly positive. Because I knew what they were doing on a daily basis it contributed to consistent feedback, praises, and redirects so we could stay on track to hitting our goals as a team.

If you’re worried about resistance to the idea, it’s helpful to introduce it at times of change like new promotions, hires, or quarterly updates.

Present this as a process to help you be a better manager. It’s not to improve your team, it’s to help you understand their days and support needs.

Could a daily Updates process help you? 

What questions would you ask in your Updates?

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