For many working professionals who work remotely, much of your productivity and success are reliant on your interactions with and relationship with your manager. It goes without saying that then having a good relationship with your boss is critical. One component of this is maintaining regular check-ins and ensuring that they are productive.
Maybe you’re a full-time remote employee, maybe you work remotely once in a while so don’t always have your meetings in person, maybe you work from an office but for whatever reason– you’re sick, your manager is sick, it’s the holidays, she’s in another location, whatever!– you’re having your check-in over the phone. Simple, right? Ehhh… Not always. Read these tips before you connect and you’ll showcase your ability to effectively communicate over the phone.
- Come prepared. To have a successful check-in with your manager over the phone solid preparation is key so that you can use your face-time–sans face–best. Preparation can be as simple as a list of topics or questions. For every check-in spend some time on your own reflecting on what you want to cover since your last check-in; this can include reviewing your current workload, development, areas (and/or people) in which you’re hitting roadblocks, upcoming vacations– anything. List it all off for yourself. If you have an agreed upon way to structure the conversation follow that but taking “inventory” of all the topics you would like to cover is important.
- Organize your thoughts. After I lay out what I want to cover, I like to email something to my manager. This is usually not the exact same list I captured during my prep, often what I send my manager is shorter and a bit more high level. Try to keep it a manageable list for the length of time you have. Again, follow your manager’s and company’s preferences but I find this especially helpful during a phone check-in since your manager is likely in front of her computer so has the opportunity to multi-task. Whatever it is, having something down on paper (err– on a screen) helps minimize the chance that your manager is doing other things and helps her focus on you.
- Control the conversation and set expectations upfront. So now that you know what you want to cover and have communicated the topics in some form to your boss, ensuring you clearly express yourself to get what you need to get out of the conversation is key. Even if you have your manager’s undivided attention it’s easy to get off track and for whatever reason this seems to happen more over the phone. Combat it by ensuring you stay on relevant topics that you want to discuss. If something warrants a longer conversation but you still do really need to get to a few other “agenda items” it’s completely fair to recommend you have a separate, dedicated conversation about a specific item at a later point in time.
- Gut-check you’re spending your time the right way. My favorite thing to do during check-ins with my manager is to share what I call my “time allocation.” I literally share the main projects I am working on (bucketing similar, smaller ones together so to not get off topic) as well as what percent of my time I have been spending on each. I then ask my manager to confirm that he agrees I am using my time correctly. It’s essential for all professionals to ensure they are on the same page with their boss regarding priorities and how their time should be spent, but for telecommuters who don’t physically see their managers daily it can be even more important. Early in my career, while working from an office location, I would often connect with my managers on priorities two or three times a week, if not daily. But in recent years while working remotely I’ve noticed this just doesn’t happen as much so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.
- Brag. This is another one that’s important (though also hard!) for everyone but perhaps even more so for fellow remote workers: you must toot your own horn. Because you don’t see your manager as frequently as you would in the office it’s even more important to share your successes so he knows about them. Remember no one is as invested in your career as you are. Even the very best managers are not. Nor are the very best manager’s aware of what *exactly* you’re doing day-to-day. You must tell them.
Truth be told you should be doing all of these things during your check-ins whether you’re remote or not but it’s extra important to be upfront and communicative about your work and what you need from your manager. Your check-in should be your time, use it wisely!