Virtual Managers Need Four Skills

Delegating: In 2011, Peter Bregman published 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done to help busy people cut through daily clutter and uncover a way to focus on the most important tasks. Remote managers can heed Bregman’s advice to stay organized and productive by transferring projects to their direct reports.

For example, department store managers who oversee a large workforce must be confident in their employees’ abilities to efficiently track a constantly evolving inventory, respond to customer complaints and design strategies to increase sales. Across all industries, managers should show they trust their employees to finish the projects they are given. By successfully delegating projects and regularly communicating with direct reports, managers can engage employees more effectively.

Offering effective feedback: Frequent, honest communication is essential between managers and their employees. Managers outside of an office must be cognizant of how, where and when they deliver both positive feedback and constructive criticism to their employees. For example, when a baseball team manager scolds a player in front of teammates and fans for committing an error during an important game, that disdain has a lasting impact on the manager’s relationship with that player. The same holds true in any industry when a manager gives negative feedback in front of colleagues and customers. Managers need to be conscious of their word choice and think critically about how their tone and delivery can affect staff morale.

Think critically: Managers in all environments must be critical thinkers skilled at making clear, rational and open-minded decisions. The Society for Human Resource Management, The Conference Board, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Corporate Voices for Working Families partnered in 2006 to survey senior-level HR professionals about the most important skills their employees will need in the next five years. Critical thinking ranked the highest. For example, in the hospitality industry, hotel managers work with employees in a variety of departments. These managers must think critically about how cutting professional development opportunities could negatively impact engagement and the overall guest experience before doing so. Managers should be able to recognize problems before they occur. By considering the big picture before making major decisions, managers will show strong problem-solving skills and a willingness to take ownership for their actions.

Hold yourself accountable: Managers need to set an example by being accountable, especially when social media plays a big role in an organization’s reputation. A 2011 study conducted by Parasole Restaurant Holdings and newBrandAnalytics found what customers say online increases staff ownership of the relationship between employees and customers. For instance, if a restaurant customer’s meal ends unsatisfactorily, a restaurant manager should immediately take ownership for failing to provide the guest with a quality, memorable experience.

Wherever managers oversee their workforce, they must be effective at delegating projects, offering feedback, thinking critically and taking responsibility for their actions. These managerial skills will positively impact employee engagement, customer satisfaction and revenue.

Michael P. Savitt is communications manager at Avatar HR Solutions. He can be reached at