While Yahoo Calls Teleworking Troops Back to the Office, the Opportunity Lies in How Employees are Led, Not Where They Work, According to Leadership IQ

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Yahoo's CEO sparked a firestorm of debate with her recent decision to call teleworkers back to the office. But in order for the company's move to succeed, she may need to focus as much on how these workers are being led as where they are located.

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Yahoo's CEO sparked a firestorm of debate about the value and productivity of remote workforces and teleworking teams with her recent decision to call Yahoo's own teleworkers back to the office. For the company's bold move to succeed, she may need to focus as much on how these workers are being led as where they are located.

"Marissa Mayer made what she believes to be the best choice for her company to create the dramatic performance changes they need," says Mark Murphy, former turnaround specialist and founder of the research and leadership training company Leadership IQ. "But her move in no way represents a mass change for the many companies that will continue to build and thrive with telecommuting workers and often long-distance separation of leaders and employees."

In fact Murphy's company sees a steadily increasing demand for strategy and management advice around how to manage remote workforces. Advanced technology is leveling the field, allowing more companies than ever to operate in the global economy. Management concerns around managing remote employees remain a top worry for leaders worldwide.

"Employees want leadership," Murphy explained. In a Leadership IQ study of co-located and remote employees, 66% of employees studied said they have too little interaction with the boss. And it's not just positive feedback or praise they're looking for. Because while 67% of employees studied said they don't get enough positive feedback, 51% said it's actually more constructive criticism that they want. Whether employees are in the office down the hall, across town or halfway around the world, Murphy says there are three key issues managers must focus on to effectively manage a remote workforce: connection, alignment and accountability.

Connection: There are relationships and bonds managers must make with their employees. This is more difficult in remote environments. The best remote leaders are true company evangelists. "They need to be pro-company kind of people if they want evangelism to spread across a phone line, video conference or email," Murphy says.

Alignment: It's up to managers to ensure everybody is reading off the same page; that they're focusing on the right things. The strength and clarity of message naturally degrades daily when employees are located at a distance from their leaders. Remote managers must increase the frequency and focus of their communication so employees know exactly what they're intending and can respond.

Accountability: This is one of the biggest challenges in face-to-face environments. It is exacerbated in remote situations. Managers must balance the obvious autonomy that comes from working remotely with the need for transparency to achieve significant accountability with remote workers.

"We have to remember, Yahoo was one of the leaders in deploying technology and allowing workers to telecommute," Murphy said. "Bringing those employees back to the office is a decision more indicative of the drive for fresh innovation and performance than a harbinger of a new workforce trend. CEOs must assess specifically what their organization needs to deliver results and ensure their managers are equipped to lead effectively."

For more tips on managing remote employees, see a Q&A with Murphy on the company's blog: http://www.leadershipiq.com/tips-for-managing-remote-employees/

About Leadership IQ
A top-rated global research and management consulting firm, Leadership IQ provides employee engagement surveys and leadership training and management development (both online and onsite) to the world's most successful organizations and their leaders. Leadership IQ is headquartered in Atlanta, GA with offices in Washington DC, New York City, Chicago and Shanghai. For more information, call 800-814-7859 or email info(at)leadershipiq(dot)com.

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Lyn Adler