Do You Manage Helicopters? Quit Being a Control Freak and Trust Your Remote Staff

Most supervisors feel the need to closely monitor their staff to ensure that everyone is carrying out their tasks. “Helicopter managers” are leaders whose main responsibility is to closely observe their staff. This form of management is not just present in conventional workplaces, but also with telecommuters.

An Explanation of Helicopter Management

Supervisors who micromanage may have difficulty trusting their staff, and often ask themselves “Am I checking up on my team enough?”. Whilst it may seem that bullying tactics can sometimes increase output, this is not necessarily the case.

They are also often referred to as “helicopter managers” or “micromanagers.”

Initially, the concept of the “helicopter manager” is intended for parents, not employers, when dealing with young people. In his 1969 best-selling book Between Parent and Teenager, Dr. Haim Giott was the first to use the phrase “helicopter parent” to describe a mother who, as her daughter noted, closely monitored her every move.

People later started to use the phrase “helicopter parent” to refer to parents who are overly involved in their children’s lives and pay too much attention to every issue.

In the business world, a ‘bird’s-eye view’ is the equivalent of an overview of a situation. The characteristics of a so-called ‘helicopter parent’ are also seen in the behavior of a ‘helicopter boss’. Managers that closely monitor their team, not allowing them to work independently, are prime examples of this.

I don’t see any problems with showing concern for one’s staff. Why shouldn’t we check their work to make sure it’s fine?

It can be challenging to evaluate the correct amount of supervision and questioning of remote workers without causing them to feel isolated and undervalued. However, if you do not track your actions, you could become an overbearing remote manager, which could potentially have a damaging effect on the performance of your remote team (as well as their wellbeing).

Implications of Being Too Closely Involved in Remote Teams

Working from home offers a number of benefits, such as being your own boss and having control over your schedule. However, it’s important to recognize that there are certain challenges to consider, particularly when managing a team that is spread across different locations. By being aware of these obstacles, you can ensure that you are best equipped to make the most of the advantages of remote working.

As a successful remote team leader, it is essential to understand the importance of structure, communication and enthusiasm in helping to steer a business in the right direction. However, it can be challenging to ensure that all members of the team are working to their full potential without becoming fatigued or disgruntled. Creating a positive and productive culture is one way to achieve this, but it is also important for leaders to take a step back and evaluate if their current leadership style is the most effective.

Micromanagement is a common problem, and many leaders are guilty of it unknowingly.

Research has indicated that employees whose managers adopt a ‘helicopter’ approach to management tend to show lower levels of productivity and creativity than those working in other environments. This type of management often involves an excessive level of questioning and micromanaging, which can lead staff to feel as though their work is not valued or up to standard. Furthermore, persistent intervention in the work of employees can demonstrate a lack of trust in their abilities.

The implications of these issues are far-reaching for businesses operating remotely. Burnout, high stress and low employee engagement can all be attributed to a lack of trust between remote teams and managers who feel the need to constantly monitor their employees.

Gallup claims that disengaged workers share these characteristics.

  • Increase in absence of 37%
  • Decreased output by 18%
  • Profit declines by 15%

Disengaged workers are a drain on the company’s finances, costing an extra $3,400 for every $10,000 in yearly wage.

The 5 Telltale Signs You’re a Helicopter Control Room Supervisor

When reflecting on your leadership style, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions to ensure you are managing your remote team to the best of your ability. You may be confident in your abilities as a remote team leader, or you may not have considered whether your approach is effective.

The 5 telltale symptoms of a helicopter boss, and how to avoid becoming one:

It’s your inability to delegate as a manager that’s the problem.

More power to you! Why? For the simple reason that no one else can replace you.

Your intuition may be telling you something, but it is important to have faith in your staff and their abilities. To ensure that the best people are on your team, it is essential that a reliable process is in place for recruiting and selecting new employees. Taking a haphazard approach is not recommended, as you cannot guarantee the right person will apply the next time.

When hiring for remote roles, consider more than just technical abilities. It is important to ensure that potential employees possess the necessary skills to work independently, communicate effectively and manage their own time. Ensure that they adhere to the values and standards set out in your organization.

It is vital to ensure that quality personnel are employed in order to foster a credible reputation. Furthermore, it is beneficial to recruit those with a higher level of expertise than yourself, as this will allow for the development of innovative ideas. It is important to recognize that, while you may be the leader, a successful organization will involve the collective efforts of all employees.

It is suggested that delegating responsibilities to your staff members could help to permanently eliminate this warning sign. Start by assigning smaller tasks initially and monitor the performance of your employees.

You’re compelled to provide your stamp of approval on everything

You perceive yourself as having a similar role to that of Heimdall from Asgard, who is responsible for watching and guarding the Bifrost. In other words, you take on the role of guardian for the secrets, projects and activities within the virtual office, whilst remaining unseen by those who are unaware.

Without your permission, nothing will happen.

If you have a small team or run a startup, it is understandable to take a close interest in the most important matters and to provide the final approval. However, in larger organizations with multiple employees, relying on one person’s approval is inefficient and can be seen as a lack of trust in their abilities. To demonstrate confidence in your workforce, it is beneficial to delegate authority to those who have already demonstrated they can work under pressure with competence and commitment.

You must always be in control of your projects.

The leader must ensure that initiatives are proceeding in line with expectations. Without appropriate levels of oversight, projects may not reach the desired outcomes. However, it is important to remember that keeping staff accountable may create an atmosphere of tension and unease.

It is important to recognize that not everyone works in the same way, as people vary in terms of personality, work style and mental processing speed. Therefore, it is important not to assume that everyone will work at the same pace as yourself, regardless of whether you are a morning person or a night owl. Rather than continuously requesting updates, it could be beneficial to arrange a weekly meeting to discuss progress and become more familiar with each other’s working habits.

Using project management software, such as Trello or Basecamp, can be beneficial in providing an insight into the progress of a project or identifying any areas where a team member may require assistance.

You’re never happy with anything

Nothing that your staff does is satisfactory. You always feel the need to set them straight, as if they are always lacking in some manner.

As a manager, it is your responsibility to inform staff when their performance of a task is not up to the required standard. However, in most cases they do an excellent job, and if you feel that more improvement can be made, it is important to take a moment to consider the following question:

  • Has the goal been met for the activity?

If this is the case, you may stop nitpicking your staff and move on to other matters.

Conversations at meetings that are all monologues

When it comes to Zoom meetings, do you often find yourself speaking without response from your team? If this is the case, it may be worth considering revising the structure of your virtual meetings.

Holding meetings online can be a great way for teams to come together and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It provides the perfect platform to define the scope of an initiative and generate ideas to further develop it. However, it is important to remember that having just one person dominating the conversation is unhelpful and can be discouraging to other team members who may have valuable insights to contribute.

Using icebreaker questions to break the ice at the start of meetings is one way to combat this problem.

  • A quick question: how is everyone doing?
  • Choose between American Dad and The Simpsons, which cartoon do you like better? To provide only one illustration:

Need Help Leading a Distributed Team?

Remote team management is not a skill you can pick up overnight. It calls for a wide range of know-how, resources, and tactics.

As a remote recruitment company, we understand the challenges many companies face when attempting to recruit the right people. Especially in these uncertain times, keeping track of distributed staff can be a difficult task. If you are struggling to find and hire the perfect individual for your remote team, we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

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