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How to keep your team working hard, even when you are out of the office.


As the old saying goes, "when the cat's away the mice will play" and that is just what usually happens when the boss is out of the office. You have to expect a little change in performance when you are not there to crack the whip, however, you should also expect that this change in performance does not affect productivity. In order to keep your team working hard when you are out of the office, you have to set company standards and you have to have a great management staff.

Years ago, I worked at UPS as a loader. It was a hard job but I learned some things about business management from the experience. One thing I learned is that the numbers can be an effective manager if the absence of management. In that job, "miss-sorts" were recorded and we were held accountable for them. That means that when I accidentally sent a package that was supposed to go on the Chicago truck on the Sacramento truck, I would hear about it with in a day or two. I learned to be afraid of miss-sorts. When no management was standing outside of my trailer, I might build weak walls, or not use my load stand but I was always diligent to double check each package and make sure it belonged in my truck.


When you need to be away, there should be some empirical goal that employees are responsible to. This goal will not change in your absence and even though you are gone, the obligation to that number will act as a proxy-manager. You can set sales goals, time goals, productivity goals, or whatever other kind of goals make sense in your business. Make sure that the employees get regular feedback on those goals so that they know the standard and know that they are responsible to it.

Another thing you can do is hire and train good managers. The better your management team is, the less important it will be for you to be in the office all of the time. By grooming each of your managers to manage their departments the way that you would, all you have to worry about when you are away is your management team. It is easier to try to focus on your handful of managers than it is to focus on your boatload of employees. If it is possible, stay in contact with your managers while you are out of the office. Put someone in charge so that there is still a hierarchy of management. There has to be someone at the helm to preserve the feeling of "business as usual".

Consider rotating the managers that run the show while you are away. People will be more charitable with the acting boss if they know that their chance at the job is coming up. It will also give each of your managers great experience. Who knows, maybe sometime you will want to take a year off to sail around the world. You will only be able to do that if you have a crack management staff and somebody who is experienced at running the whole operation handling things while you are gone.

If you haven't spent much time away from the office, break away slowly. Make sure that things can run smoothly while you are away for a couple of days, then a few days. Work up to being absent for a week before planning any extended departures. Be sure to be debriefed on everything as soon as you get back. If there were any problems related to your absence, investigate. Find out exactly what went wrong and get feedback about how similar problems might be avoided in the future.

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