Q As a manager, I am accustomed to managing experienced professionals who do not need much day-to-day guidance on performing their tasks. I now have a new entry-level position on my team. The person we've hired is intelligent and motivated but needs a different level of engagement from me to be successful. To add to the complexity, he works in an office six time zones from mine. What is the best way for me to approach this?
A Put a strong communication plan in place, maintaining it as one of your top daily priorities.
The inner game
Start with reflecting on the reasons this position was added. Since this is a new role, you may not have a fully defined set of expectations and plan to figure it out as you go along. That's never ideal, but in this case it may be setting your employee up for failure. So develop a short list of key goals so that he'll know if he's being successful.
Next, consider your new employee's needs. To what extent do you understand his work style, his preferred manner of training and communication, and his level of knowledge related to his specific tasks? Putting yourself in his place, think about what you'd want from your boss and your work environment.
Also look at yourself and your level of skill as a manager of a new professional. Consider your ability to help him learn to break down tasks into manageable components, teach the necessary technical skills, and understand the company. Also recognize that you're responsible for helping him develop in terms of general professionalism.
Finally, give some thought to the resources available to help your new team member, particularly at his office location, whether it's training or mentoring.
The outer game
Most of your efforts will focus on your direct interaction with your employee. For starters, set a time for a phone call that fits within both your business days, say, 9 a.m. for you and 3 p.m. for him. Try to identify a time that will be easy to protect from other meetings so you can count on having frequent interactions.
Establish a standard agenda for these calls. Use these questions as a starting point:
What are you working on?
What's going well?
What are you concerned about?
Also make time to check on the social aspect of work so that you can be sure he isn't feeling isolated.
Get on a regular visiting schedule, and have him visit the home office from time to time, especially if he is your only team member in the field location. There's nothing like some face-to-face time; it'll help the phone interaction be more successful.
Also ask him what he needs from you, and then provide it. If he needs more detailed guidance, figure out specifics that'll help. If he needs more training or would like local mentoring, find a resource for him. Expect to invest time, adjust other responsibilities if needed, and seek advice or training yourself if you don't have all the skills you need.
The last word
Make time for your new employee so that he becomes a successful member of your team.