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You have a lot of managers that don’t enjoy being in charge of distant teams. Managing remote employees goes against their very nature. It seems to be the polar antithesis of everything they’ve been taught about leadership and management.

Many of your managers will search for a way out if you continue to push them to embrace remote and flexible working methods. Indeed, numerous high-profile studies have lately shown that unprecedented numbers of individuals are seeking for a way out – dubbed the “Great Resignation” by the media. The reason for this is because they are ill-equipped, unprepared, and unsure of how to operate in a flexible manner.

I heard of a leader, a middle management, who exemplified this approach a few weeks ago. He held a team meeting to examine the matter after receiving a lot of requests to work from home. “Given we are a unique project having to deliver some big work on tight timelines, my preference is to have people in the office as much as possible,” he said later in an email. He highlighted how the Work From Home schedule will be kept to a bare minimum.

You can imagine how well this went down with this leader’s team, given the enormity of the desire for flexibility among workers and their expectation that they would be enabled to work flexibly. They were irritated. One of them, in particular, was taken aback and went out of his way to tell me the tale.

This circumstance exemplifies what I’ve seen since I began working with corporate leaders in 2011 to help them create flexible workplaces. The capacity of an organization to be flexible is only as good as its skill in a variety of areas. These talents, at their most basic level, are in the domains of thought, meeting, and movement.

Based on my experience, I believe this boss hasn’t formed his mentality for flexible working arrangements — he hasn’t been comfortable managing remote employees. He’s presumably having trouble managing based on results and is instead depending on more subjective commitment indicators.

It’s also probable that he hasn’t fully developed his ability to take use of internet communication options that would allow his team to interact, cooperate, and exchange information in a variety of ways. He isn’t comfortable supervising his staff when they are working remotely, towards the end of the day.

When attempting to build flexible methods of working, the most frequent error made by corporate leaders is failing to address all aspects of the office experience. They prefer to concentrate on physical infrastructure to achieve mobility, leaving two important competencies in the dust: 1) the correct mentality for flexible working styles, and 2) the right meeting behaviors, which include communication.

Isn’t technology, you may argue, the most important capacity for flexible working? Of course, technology plays an important role in flexibility. People can’t alter their habits of working without these crucial facilitators, therefore workstation design is also important. In a meeting with her executive colleagues, a member of my executive team asked me the same question.

She wanted to know whether I agreed that technology was the most essential facilitator of all. That’s impossible for me to accomplish since it’s just not true.

Technology is important, but only in the sense that it enables one fundamental capability. Nonetheless, it is the ‘hard stuff’ that permits mobility that causes individuals to get trapped in their thinking, and it is at this time that their interest about how to establish flexible working environments tends to wane.

Because they lack a comprehensive grasp of the present working experience, some workplace leaders will be unaware of how much work has to be done on their other two capabilities: meeting and mentality. Slack and McKinsey are two prominent voices denouncing the disparity between what corporate workplace leaders believe their people are experiencing and what they are really experiencing in the workplace.

Another argument I’ve heard is that technology and workplace design alone aren’t enough to create flexible working environments. Shift managers, according to this viewpoint, may easily change mindsets and meet capabilities. I’ll have to write another blog article to dispute that point of view.

So, what can you do if your supervisors are apprehensive about managing remote teams?

  • Examine your managers’ and other workers’ present job experiences – how well do they feel supported in their ability to manage or operate flexibly?
  • Examine the learning and development opportunities you’ve provided for your managers to assist them acquire the mentality and skills they’ll need to effectively manage remote teams.

Consider an experiential learning opportunity, in which managers may actively test and change their abilities over the course of a few months while receiving assistance. This experience learning is included into our Emergent Change strategy.

Even though some of your managers are hesitant at this stage, we have learned that implementing flexible methods of working effectively in your organization is absolutely achievable.

Thanks to Nina Fountain at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.