So you’ve been telecommuting for a while and things shifted; the department is reorganized, your manager moves on, you are moved to a new project, or one of several other things change your cozy telecommuting relationship.
How do you maintain your status and reputation as the world turns? Here are five core steps to helping others see you from a distance.
BUILD TRUST FROM THE GROUND FLOOR . . . AGAIN
This one appears easy, but takes a different set of skills; build a repeatable process of trust. Start by knowing that when things change you can’t expect anything to transfer forward. Your new boss may not know you, your last boss may have left without detailing your brilliance in your personnel file or you may be the new team lead, except you aren’t known by the new team. So, like it or not, you need to start at the ground floor and build again.
Telecommuting adds a layer of challenge. People like to see the new person, to look them in the eye, watch them react with others, determine whether they are a kindred spirit or not. In short, they want to say hi and shake your hand. It is an unchanging trait of human nature, so face it. When the ground changes you can fast-track this process but you can’t ignore. So, make the effort to meet the folks on your team, even if that means you pay the ticket.
PLAN TO PAY FOR YOURSELF
Some telecommuting policies lack an allowance for impromptu travel. Prepare for this and sock away some of the savings you are getting from not commuting to the office for this occasion. Then when it happens make plans to meet the team at your expense. The company has already saved you money by freeing you from the office so don’t cheap out now and make expense demands. Step up and it will pay off.
SHOW LEADERSHIP WITHOUT SEEKING RECOGNITION
Use this as an opportunity to test out the new landscape. A new manager worthy of your respect will offer to bring the team together, but some don’t and have a variety of reasons for not doing so.
That cannot stop you from footing the bill and being in town. As a matter of fact, the process of organizing your trip will more than likely catch on and the team will self-organize.
Other new players will want to meet you and if your team is geographically split you may be the catalyst for a meeting of the minds. Don’t be surprised if this event turns into wholesale reimbursement for the team and translates into a very good experience for you.
If you plan your time in the office well you will leave with your manager’s appreciation and a check covering your expenses. If there is no check, suck it up and think of it as an investment in your career.
GIVE CREDIT TO OTHERS
New teams and new projects start with one common thread, insecurity.
Even the “Rah!Rah!Rah!” projects are really just railing against the fear that they will fail or be mediocre at best. Knowing this gives you a leg up. If everyone is insecure, how can you help?
Remember you are only in front of them for a short time before you fade into the background of your home office. So, find ways to give them credit for stuff you do while you are there. If you make them shine in the office they will remember you out of the office. Remember, you have already achieved telecommuting status. They have to face the coffee breath of their cube mates.
So give them some kindness – you will build your new relationships and set up the pathway to trust if they know that you aren’t there to stab them in the back.
WHEN YOU GO HOME, STAY AVAILABLE
There is a tendency in all of us to think once we’ve done a job it’s done. But for the telecommuter that is not true. Office folks turn up together the day after so the bonding continues. The telecommuter is not there so the bonds become more tenuous.
What people like after meeting you is to meet you again, a replication of their normal office experience. As a telecommuter you need to make that happen for them and you do it with the telephone, IM, and video chat.
Don’t rely on email during this time. Email is a cold task driver which has only three decisions for us; reply, delete or diarize. All of these are work related.
You are building bonds so don’t make work, make rest. Let them see you, hear you, and interact with you. It doesn’t take long to make a bond and only a bit of work to maintain it, so make the effort. The bond with your colleague builds trust. With it, you will become part of the new landscape.
Work as hard at rebuilding trust with your new workmates as you would if it was your first day on the job. Despite your tenure and accolades, it is your first day. Make it a great one.