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Submitted by US101 on


What other tips, advice, do you have for doing 1-on-1's with remote employees?

I've listened to the podcast and discussion thread, but all I learned was -

1. The manager does the calling, so THEY didn't lose THEIR time with you because THEY were delayed for some reason.

2. Taking good notes is even more important when doing a 1-on-1 with a remote employee

Mark's picture
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Sorry we didn't share more, but the real key is to make most like a normal one on one as you can. There's NOT a lot more.

I've found that there's not a lot of chit chat in face to face O3s, but sometimes I fall into that on the phone. Don't do that... just go right into the meeting. If you want to chit chat, that's great... do it at the end. It's less important than the O3.

Also, I probably put a little more effort into a recap at the end of the session - who committed to what. But you may not need to do that, depending upon your style.

I think one of the reasons there's not a lot more here is that remote employees will be even MORE impressed that you keep to the schedule, particularly if you call them.

Hope this helps!


US101's picture
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Thanks Mark, that really helps.

ctomasi's picture

Yes, good tips Mark. I have three remotes. I'm in Wisconsin, I have one in North Carolina, one in Colorado, and one in Malaysia. I do the US 03s over the phone and use NetMeeting to go over the items that require computer screens. They are typically done on the same day and same time frame as the local 03s. The Malaysian one is trickier since I have to call at (my) night. It's hard to tell if I have his attention and the technology edge isn't quite the same since I'm calling from home.

It's always interesting dealing with another culture. Sometimes the Malaysians like to chit-chat a little more at the beginning and I feel like the rude American jumping right in to the topic.

At least now I have a better idea where to focus and make sure we recap.

Mark's picture
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Thanks Chuck.

Mike and I were talking this week about capturing from our users the various cultural differences. I've started jotting notes, and we'll figure out something to leverage our global reach.


PS: The recap is my favorite "distant O3" tool.

ctomasi's picture

I found that some of the people in Malaysia are more "Americanized" than others. When I talk to my "team member" it is a much different experience than when I talk to my peer (the IT Manager for the Malaysian facilities.)

I say "team member" because he reports to the IT Manager in Malaysia, but I get his time to work on my projects to support the Engineers over there. He's much more Americanized so we can get down to business pretty quickly.

The IT Manager on the other hand, loves to spend the first 15 minutes of a 30 minute conversation talking about anything except what we need to talk about. I need to run through some issues, get time committments, and he is asking about my family, how my trip was last month, and when I'm coming back to Malaysia. Some days are more trying than others. Depends what mood I'm in at 8PM my time.

The trips, although long, are extremely valuable. Nothing beats "face time" even if it means going half way around the world. I just have to figure out if one trip a year is enough for if I should make it two.

I look forward to hearing your cast about dealing with cultural differences. If there is a way I can help, I'll be glad to contribute. Goodness knows I've gotten enough from you guys, I have no issues with giving back. (Sounds like that "building a network" episode coming back to haunt me.)

Mark's picture
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We'll be gentle. ;-)

Here's a thought to consider, one that makes an appearance in my book.

Because most managers haven't had a tool like Disc to affect behavior, and because of the effects of diversity concerns and so on, when it comes to international operations, there is too great an emphasis put on treating someone from somewhere else differently BECAUSE OF WHERE THEY'RE FROM.

But the fact is, people are people. There are Malaysian High I's - like your buddy - and High C's. I'm not so sure that one of our Italian members would get very far labeling you and I and Mike as Americans and treating us the same.

I think there ARE cultural trends, but that's the problem with most thinking about people - we don't see ourselves as a population sample of one... we see ourselves as ourselves.

I think cultural training has been oversold, and individual relationships undersold. I think paying attention to systems and processes that are different is GREAT... but individuals always run the gamut.

Working on this and trying to test it out....


MarcPatterson's picture

I just switched positions in my firm and went from having direct reports in the same office as me, to having directs scattered in four different offices. I have initiate one on ones with these remote employees via phone. I knew it would be hard to duplicate the micro-communication you get with in person conversations. So, in setting up how I would make this work I wanted to maximize my communication and attention. I remember listening to Mark and Mike discuss the horror of having people in meetings pouring over the Blackberries rather than focusing on the subject at hand. So, I decided to make a strict point of locking my PC when I make the call so I will focus on my conversation rather than e-mail or other PC disctractions. I know one of my directs was very surprised I wasn't reading e-mail while we were talking (because during our meeting he sent me something). His tone change after that point let me know that his attention to the conversation was also increased at that point.

smorison's picture

Slightly off topic, but on topic for communicating with remotes:

I spend a huge amount of time on the phone to my remote direct reports, I work very hard to try to create the "water cooler" / "photo copier" effect(do you guys call it that)? My manager constantly quizes me about the cost of my Mobile (cell) phone bills, he doesn't get that the added communications is the key and that its really just the cost of doing businesss when you have remotes.

I would love to visit my remotes more often however I only really get dedicated time twice a year, I like to mix it up and bring them to head office as well to ensure that they get to bond with the whole team.

I find my remote O3 sessions run a lot better and are more productive than my locals O3 sessions. I believe this is directly related to the locals ability to simply wander into my office and have a "chat".

I feel that my open door policy impacts the productivity of the O3's as they don't have nearly as much to share during the time, and there is a lot less that i don't know - how can i improve this?


wendii's picture
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In support of the 'people are people' argument, one of the exercises we had to do when completing our psychometric testing training was to look at the results across different countries.

Before seeing the data, we were asked to make some assumptions about what we would see, and the class suggested things like Americans would be high on competitiveness, italians would be high on measures of socialisation, asians like to please, all the standard assumptions.

The data however, is very different. If you average all the people who ever took the test by nationality, there are very few differences, and where there are, they are only by 1 or 2 points. There are bigger differences within your team than there are by nationalities.

There are differences in behaviour, but not really in personality, and you know if you want to communicate well with people, you have to do it by connecting with their personality, which means listening to them as an individual, not a stereotype.


Mark's picture
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I have been making this argument for years, and WEIRDLY, I have been looked at as slightly discriminatory for my LACK of cultural separatism.

All such generalizations break down when one gets to know another. Good managers spend time building relationships.

This is why (boring repetitive stuff ahead) it's all about people, and more communication is better.


gpeden's picture

I hired my first remote employee last year, and a couple of things have worked. Our main office is in Portland, OR and he is in Denver, CO.

Instant Messaging: Everyone on the team is setup with IM, and it has worked great for enabling the kind of spontaneous/short communication that you might normally happen by sticking your head in the other persons office. I run an IT organization, and some techies will do anything to avoid speaking to a person face to face and us IM to someone in the cube next to them (whatever works). IM also allows me to keep in touch on the road.

Phone: For things sensitive or confidential pick up the phone. Anytime I sense a bit of 'funkyness' on email or IM I'll ring my direct up directly. My radar is set a little more sensetive for my remote report than local, since its easier for things to be misinterpreted via electronically. This is especially important on making sure roll-downs are communicated correctly, rather than through the grapevine.

Onsite Visits: My employee has an office inside our customer's building, and their culture isn't the same as ours. Fortunately we are able to fly him up to Portland (from Denver) once every 4-6 weeks to recharge him. I admit that this model will not scale - but its a luxury we can afford now. When we get critical mass in Denver and we open an office, then I figure i'll fly down, or we would hire a manager for the Denver folks.