How asynchronous management changes leaders’ role in managing people and performance

by Guest
async remote team management

Setting up systems and processes that give employees the freedom to work where and when they’re most productive, without being locked-in to the same 9-to-5, lets you run an efficient and scalable remote business. But asynchronous management also depends on a new style of leadership. 

To enable autonomous workflows, you need to make plans, information and results easily accessible to everyone. While managers don’t become expendable, they do need to learn how to relinquish control—and embrace different ways to hone the performance of their teams. 

To help companies new to managing remote teams, we delve into how leaders can best contribute to an asynchronous work environment to improve overall performance. 

In service of the system: inhabiting rather than owning positions

To make asynchronous management work for your business, it’s essential that each team member can operate as an autonomous ‘node’ within your overarching system. That means leaders, from the CEO through to frontline managers, can no longer act as gateways to critical information (the platforms/tools you introduce do the heavy lifting here).   

How can organizations help leaders adapt to this new paradigm? It’s helpful to reframe your hierarchy to view people as ‘inhabiting’ leadership positions (or any role), rather than owning the position. A sense of ownership doesn’t always mesh with the imperative to cooperate and communicate with others in the interests of getting stuff done.

Asynchronous management is not compatible with leaders motivated by ego who want to micromanage, hoard information, or make snap decisions that create false urgency.

At any point, you should be able to delegate responsibility for an activity to another team member—and that person can find the information and direction they need documented, such as within project management software, and complete their work without unnecessary disruptions. 

In this way, workers become like cogs in a well-oiled machine, meaning your system can operate without interruption across a global team. Interchangeability of roles and workloads helps you create a truly resilient organization.

When leaders foster autonomy, your business can adapt and thrive

In some respects, empowering remote teams working asynchronously requires that managers ‘get out of the way’, by giving employees the trust and resources they need to operate independently. But this also lets leaders redirect their energy in incredibly helpful ways for boosting performance.

That’s because platforms replace many classic tasks performed by leaders in a traditional, on-premise organization. For instance, effective asynchronous management should include establishing systems to capture data on everyone’s activity and outputs to surface quantifiable metrics.

When every team’s performance measures are automatically documented and distributed via shared tools or dashboards, it means:

  • Everyone’s work is aligned towards defined goals, increasing accountability;
  • Managers are no longer the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to determining results;
  • Managers don’t waste time synthesizing information to send up the chain of command.

Each team member can essentially gain the same level of visibility as the CEO when it comes to understanding progress towards your business objectives. Team members can independently deep dive into metrics to assess performance and productivity for themselves. 

For leaders trying to cultivate a high-performing team, the main consequences of this transparency are threefold: 

  1. Less effort required to understand what’s already happening enables a focus on improvement; 
  2. It provides an objective starting point to initiate open and sometimes difficult conversations;
  3. It frees managers to spend more time helping solve human and hard-to-gauge problems.   

More time for problem-solving keeps your business on the path to success

When everybody knows the targets to be hit, and can see whether they’re being hit or not, leaders can take a more nuanced approach to dealing with barriers and issues impacting your company’s success. Some key ways this benefits your business include:

  • Addressing poor performance is more straightforward: The ‘numbers’ become an objective third-party source that leaders and their direct reports can dissect, without being in conflict. Difficult conversations can be framed by what’s best for the company’s success, rather than a personal judgment. 
  • Uncovering systemic, multifaceted issues becomes possible: Some performance problems have deep-seated origins that involve a range of connected factors that, on the surface, seem unrelated. Managing the fast-paced interplay of technology, processes and people with diverse worldviews, skills and personalities is complex. It’s always been complex, but leaders don’t always have the headspace to optimize how teams function. With asynchronous management, they do.  
  • Displaying empathy and boosting wellbeing is easier: Workers are human beings and need holistic support to excel. Perhaps an employee is underperforming due to a trauma that has impacted their child. A cognisant leader can organize professional psychological support for the family — making the employee feel appreciated and relieving a burden that allows them to re-focus on work. Time-poor leaders focused on gathering metrics have less capacity to demonstrate this kind of compassion.

Remote teams perform better when leaders embrace asynchronous management

Leading remote teams guided by asynchronous management approaches creates a work environment shaped by seamless workflows, explicit metrics, and strong accountability (where people own their work, not their roles). 

That lends itself to a more meritocratic organization, where respect is earned as the best ideas and people are advanced based on achieving desired results. Leaders that can adapt quickly gain a greater scope to positively and enduringly influence the contributions and performance of others, to drive your organization forward.

Of course, performance of remote teams is also boosted by the way asynchronous management enhances an organization’s efficiency, collaboration, culture and engagement. 

Discover more practical tips on asynchronous management and how to lift performance in your business by watching this discussion with Running Remote Author, Liam Martin.

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