Remote Management: Managing Processes and Leading People

A couple of years ago Bill Lumbergh was the quintessential prototype of a manager 👇

The attitude, the outfit, the coffee mug. It's perfect.
The attitude, the outfit, the coffee mug. It's perfect. (source: giphy)

In a time where cubicles were the norm, managers were able to manage by wandering around.

Yet when you have to trade the open floor plan for a Zoom grid, your managerial arena morphs from atoms to bytes. The change from co-located to remote needs big adjustment.

In today's post, we will explore one high-level idea for successful remote management 👇

What to Manage?

Intuitively people would assume that managers have to manage people.

But there's an alternative 👇

🏭 Manage Processes: Optimizing the System

Your job as a manager is to make sure that your team can be productive.

In this instance, managers can learn from engineers.

When engineers are building and improving a system they are looking at all constituent parts and making sure that (1) the system is effective in reaching the desired outcome and (2) the system is efficient in doing the work.

As managers we can learn:

  1. Effectiveness: Make sure the system creates value (= doing the right thing)
  2. Efficiency: Make sure the system doesn't produce waste (= doing the thing right)

All of this work starts with questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Is there a better way of achieving our goals?
  • ...

The formula of any high-performing team is simple: great people doing great work under great conditions.

As managers, our job is to empower our team and get out of their way.

As quickly as possible.

You do that by building and improving the system in which your team is operating (goals; tasks; tools; processes; etc.) 🔧

📖 Leading People: Storytelling for Empowerment

Let's unpack the second part of the idea.

Managing people implies micro-management and granular-level involvement with direct reports. You are telling them how to do it.

On the other hand, leadership is about directional alignment.

You are telling them why to do it.

Some of the best remote-first teams started adopting an idea called Optimizing Single-Player Mode.

The basic rationale is that in a remote-first environment where team members are physically distributed (= different location) and operationally asynchronous (= different time zone), everyone should be empowered to get work done on their own.

This is what it means to optimize for single-player mode.

No one can predict the future. Managers don't know what issues their direct reports will run into when they are trying to complete a project.

That's why you need to give high-level/directional guidance:

  • ❌ Don't tell them exactly what to do
  • ✅ Instead explain to them what the goal is and let them figure it out on their own

Top leaders are using storytelling to empower their teams. Stories become cohesive narratives.

Once team members understand the narrative they can execute within that narrative on their own.


Remote Management: Improve Systems & Inspire People

I hope this idea can help you with your remote team management.

Onwards and upwards,


Want to Learn More About Remote?

Check our email-based course The 80/20 of Remote Team Leadership where we teach how to set up scalable documentation for your remote-first team 👇

If you have any additional questions you can:

Additional Resources


NameLink to post 👇Type
Building a Remote Company: Lessons Learned from Idea to Exit
Collaborative Single Player Mode
Communication Disasterclass: Why Traditional Companies Struggle with Remote Work
How to Manage a Remote Team
Managing Remote Teams - A Crash Course
On Workplace Productivity
The Corporate Bonfire: Importance of Stories in Team Management
Zapier's Guide to Working Remotely
Don't manage people. Manage process instead.
Remote Org Leadership