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Async management

Apply new ways of managing and leading for async success.

By Darryn King

May 3, 2022

Some of the necessary qualities of effective management and leadership are timeless, and as applicable to the office environment as they are to a remote-first, async-first context. But async collaboration also demands specific new management and leadership qualities, and a recalibration of old ones.

Ensure clarity

A clear workflow is essential to successful async collaboration. But a manager in this setting must create other kinds of clarity with their team: clarity around short-term priorities and long-term objectives, clarity of overall vision, and clarity as to how each team member’s work factors into the larger whole.

Trust

When clarity is in place, trust is possible. Granting team members flexibility and autonomy is a key part of async collaboration, allowing them to do their best work and feel ownership over their projects. Workers require the trust of managers, not micromanagement and excessive supervision.

“Transparency and trust mean less bullshit posturing and [role-playing at work], which means less overall anxiety and situation stress. This was true before the shift to a more flexible work environment, but it’ll be even more true moving forward.”

"You can liberate employees to spend their time doing better work. Or you can implicitly encourage them to spend their days playacting at busyness. Which sounds better for business?"

— Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen, Out of Office

Focus on output

In the office, it was easy to appear to be working, but managers of remote teams are less interested in the mere appearance of work. Instead, with transparent work systems in place, the focus can and must be on real progress and results. The manager that properly recognizes team members’ genuine accomplishments effectively incentivizes more meaningful productivity.

Monitor engagement and wellbeing

Outside of the context of the office, and working across timezones, managers must be intentional about building and nurturing personal relationships with reports, and staying mindful of team members’ level of engagement and wellbeing. Strong interpersonal and socio-emotional skills are required, along with proactive communication.

"You evaluate people’s work on what they produce, not how or when they produce it. Trust emerges as the glue that holds the entire operation together."

— Matt Mullenweg, Distributed Work's Five Levels of Autonomy
Manage your remote team effectively with these templates:
Remote Survival Guide – For Managers
Framework: Building culture for informal communication
Playbook: Anti-racism docs for manager
Script: Internal CEO/Employee 1:1s at Almanac
Interview questions to assess for success in a remote environment
Leadership Interview Questions

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